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It’s All Foreign to Me: Teaching at a German University

Wow! Administratively, it is night-and-day different from Missouri State University! This was probably my biggest surprise: I figured that Germany would be at least equally technologically advanced, but my university has no electronic registration to speak of. Some departments don’t even announce their class schedules until the week before classes start. Obviously, this makes the first few weeks of classes part teaching and part student juggling. They need to find a way to take all the classes they need, and instead of being able to figure out their schedule months in advance, they are still figuring it out come the second week of school. Fortunately, a system has been set in motion to create some sort of electronic registration system in the English Department, and I have been told that compared to the past few years, this semester beginning has been orderly.

There are two types of students, modularized and non-modularized. Modularized students are working towards what we would call a bachelor’s degree, while the Non-Mods are collecting “Scheine” (“shine-uh,” or certificates). There are two types of Scheine, graded and ungraded (like auditing a class). Non-Mods can take a class as many times as they like and can take which ever courses they want. They can spend as many years as they like taking classes, and when they are ready for a degree, they take all their Scheine to an office who sorts through them to determine which major they have. Thankfully, because of standardization required by the EU, that system is being phased out. Until it gone completely, though, I will have sometimes all of the class who just need the ungraded Schein, and therefore don’t have to do any homework or take the final exam. Again, very different from American university, where you have a list of courses that you will be taking to earn a degree you (are supposed to) decide upon early in your college career, and try to finish as quickly as possible to avoid large student loans. But German students haven’t, until recently, had to pay for college at all.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because the teaching part is the same: Spend several hours preparing for a class, get up in front of the students, and try to engage them and keep them interested. The only difference from Missouri State is that now I’m doing that with six different sets of students instead of two, and instead of 50 or 75 minutes, each class lasts 90 minutes. It’s all this administrative stuff that is new to me, that I am learning more about every day.

My schedule did change a little bit this week, and, for me, in an exciting way: I am now teaching a grammar course! I won’t go into the long story of how this happened, but I am glad it did! As much as I love grammar, I know this course will be challenging: it is one thing to learn grammar as a student, but quite another to learn grammar to teach it. I think I will be staying “one step ahead of my students,” but at least it is in a subject I enjoy!

5 thoughts on “It’s All Foreign to Me: Teaching at a German University

  1. Linden

    31 Oct on 2007 at 3:20

    Ha ha! I’ll try to work it in! :)

  2. Jill

    30 Oct on 2007 at 12:48

    He used it for diagraming sentences a few times. It crossed between “Bob dropped the damn potato” and “Bob jumped over the damn potato.” Either way… awesome ;-)

  3. Linden

    30 Oct on 2007 at 11:49

    Why don’t I remember what that example sentence is from?! Remind me, Jilly-o!

  4. Jill

    30 Oct on 2007 at 11:24

    OH MY GOD, LINDY, YOU HAVE TO USE “Bob dropped the damn potato” AS ONE OF YOUR TEACHING EXAMPLES! Haha, I loved Dr. Ellis :)

  5. Beth

    29 Oct on 2007 at 20:06

    A grammar class?! What more could a girl ask for :)

    I am COMPLETELY surprised about the lack of technology. Even my Guatemalan ghetto country has everything technologically up to date….