I work at the Bavarian International School, a large private school outside Munich city centre. Getting there usually entails an hour's commute for staff and students alike. My own journey involves me taking an underground train, then an S-Bahn train and finally riding the final 4km on my bike or taking the bus - the bus usually wins.
Munich is wonderful and a fantastic place to teach contemporary history, but living in Bavaria is not quite like living elsewhere in Germany. I realised this when I attempted to use the smattering of German I'd acquired on a friendly shopkeeper, only to receive an answer in an impenetrable local dialect. I now have great sympathy for the plight of non-locals visiting my home town of Newcastle.
As many might envisage, Germany has a rule for most things. One such rule is the number of teaching minutes I can work per 10 working days - 2,360 to be exact. The rest of the 9am to 4pm day is allocated to planning and preparation. This allows for dedicated CPD opportunities through friendly discussion and debate with colleagues from around the world. At least, that's the theory. In reality, we are like every other school with competing claims on our time.
My timetable is a bit mix and match. I teach International Baccalaureate (IB) history up to grades 11 and 12 (16- to 18-year-olds) and facilitate the theory of knowledge course.
It is slightly disconcerting to begin the academic year in mid-August when everyone in the Bavarian public school system is still on holiday, but this challenge is somewhat mitigated by the wide array responses the 11-year-olds I'm teaching offer to the question "What is culture?"
In the IB middle years programme we can study local issues as part of the curriculum. Our units on transformation look at Munich's River Isar and our enquiry into leadership compares Ludwig II of Bavaria and the hierarchy of the Nazi Party.
We recognise that we are a school with students from all over the world and we value our different backgrounds, but that is not to say we shouldn't take advantage of the specific qualities of Munich.
I am also a member of the works council, an in-house body representing the employees and working with the school to discuss recruitment and agree terms and conditions. It is a day-to-day manifestation of German social democracy and the value placed on fairness in German society. Unlike in the UK, I genuinely feel that the voices of myself and my colleagues are heard in the decision-making process. It is a very attractive benefit for anyone considering working in Germany.
On the surface, what makes our school special is the quality of the facilities, such as the one-to-one laptop scheme. But in reality these don't affect learning outcomes nearly as much as the teacher. That is what I really value - the diverse experiences and skill sets of my colleagues. Every afternoon, before my long, weary commute home, I chat to my colleagues about our work and I think: "I learned something new today."
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