I have had the privilege of visiting several schools and universities on this trip. It has been a wonderful experience to visit the schools, meet with the faculty, and work with the students. It is nice to know that we share some of the same issues and concerns, and it has been interesting to learn what is similar and what is different. So, a few observations...
German students and teachers have a shorter school day. Classes often start by 7:30 AM, and the day finishes somewhere around 12:00 or so. Students then go home for lunch, and some older children might come back to school for some activities, but most spend the afternoon at home with their parents or doing some activities in the community.
If teachers or students don't have class, they can leave. Both teachers and students often finish work at home in the afternoons and evenings, but they do not have to stay at school if they don't need to stay. When German students raise their hands, they point their index fingers up to the ceiling. Why? I don't know, but it is definitely different.
It is not unusual to see students running in the halls and classrooms at school. This is seen as normal behavior for children. If a child falls, it is assumed the child has learned a lesson. Kids also have a very large snack (it looks more like a meal they bring from home) and recess everyday at mid-morning. They are supervised outside, but they are not micromanaged. (It was only the language barrier that prevented me from telling the students not to run in the halls! )
It is normal to see students unaccompanied during the day for short periods of time such as in the hallways and even in the classrooms. This was so surprising to me, and yet the children took it in stride and did not take advantage of it. Students generally stay in the same room, and the teachers move to the different rooms. The teachers also have a teacher's room they go to for breaks, announcements, mailboxes, etc.
I did not see computers in the classrooms, and there were only two for the staff in the teacher's room. Teachers usually use a computer at home, and the school has a computer lab, but it is not a focus.
German college students knock on their desks at the end of a lecture to show their respect and appreciation for the professor. I had never seen or heard of this before, so it was a bit of a surprise.
Teachers can choose how much time they will work during the school year. A teacher can teach full time, 28 hours, or any variation of part time work. This allows for flexibility, and teachers who are older often teach a bit less than the younger teachers. Teachers who are involved with teacher training classes or student-teachers are given the time to do this in their schedules during the week, and they are paid for it. Student-teachers are also paid during the 1.5 years of supervised teaching they do as well. However, teachers are not usually supervised after they finish their training unless they are modelling something for new teachers. It is expected that teachers will turn in a log of all of their lessons and what was covered to the principal every six weeks.
So, these are just a few things I have noticed... not a comprehensive list, but still interesting. It seems kids are kids wherever you go in the world, and teachers seem to be teachers, too!
In the end, it is nice to know that we are all in this together somehow!