To start, I would say the German classrooms I have been in have been are more relaxed in the teacher to student relationships. It is true that the teachers expect a lot of responsibility from the students, but the students carry this out very naturally. They rarely have to be told twice to do something. Yes, we have this in the States, but teachers at home tend to need a “teacher voice” for children to react to what they are being told. In Germany, it is more of a casual conversation. The teachers do not vary their tone of voice or level of volume too much from just a regular conversation to asking a child to stop interrupting, or whatever it may be. It is almost treated as if they are just talking to a friend. Perhaps this makes the students feel more grown up and respected, which I know I would personally thrive off of in school. Another more relaxed aspect of the classroom that I have noticed is the way the children interact with the adults. It is not unusual for the children to run and jump into the teachers arms as they would do to a parent. They may hang onto your arm, legs, hug you at the waist, and this is an acceptable greeting, in fact it is considered to be very cute! I have also seen a lot of children sitting in the laps of teachers. These are just a few things that may be frowned upon and cross some lines in the US.
As far as the educational aspect. The students at the primary level only have a few lessons a day. They are relaxed and their school day is not six hours long, with only small breaks, such as our own. It is typical to have at least a five minute break to run around outside between each class, and many times there is one longer break as well, normally 45 minutes. This is so impressive and smart to me as we know that getting kids up and moving can actually help to increase their focus. I don't believe children ages 6-10 need to sit at one desk for hours on end, we need to get the blood flowing! Once the students come back inside, they are ready to work. It really is quite impressive. The teachers move easily into their lessons without much need to quiet anyone more than once, if that.
The lessons themselves can be very casual as well. There is a lot of singing and dancing to learn things like the numbers and English. I have always believed that music in the classroom is so important, it has been so nice to see so much of it over here. This is one thing I really want to emphasize in my future classroom. One thing I have talked to teachers about is making sure they are getting all of their material covered in the lessons they teach. What I found is that they do not base these off of state standards, or sometimes not even school standards. Instead they move at the pace they are comfortable with and they feel is most appropriate for the class as a whole. Sometimes there is more English taught than sciences, sometimes more math than German. It really is up to the teacher. I love that this is not restricting and they are trusted to do what is best for the child and teach them as much as possible. They are not rushed into learning about something if they are still having trouble with the prior subject. This may seem like a simple concept, however I do not feel as if we have this in the states. For us, it is always a race against time to figure out how we can move onto the next standard as quick as possible to ensure we get through all the material that will be on the test.
I truly am amazed at how relaxed, yet efficient the German classroom is at the primary school age. It's hard to explain without seeing what I’m talking about first hand, but I just wanted to share a few of my very first impressions and the things I have been thinking about the most. Overall, I’m really enjoying this experience so far and can’t wait for the rest of my days in the classroom!