By Mr Mark Iacampo ( Hohenfels )January 20, 2012
HOHENFELS, Germany -- The second phase of Hohenfels Middle/High School's partnership with the Parsberg Gymnasium kicked off recently when several Parsberg teachers were invited to lead classes at Hohenfels. (Gymnasium is the equivalent of High School in Germany.)
Gymnasium director Eckard Fruhmann attributed the creation of the partnership to Lt. Col. Kevin J. Quarles, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels commander, and the County of Neumarkt.
"In November, (HMHS Principal Daniel) Mendoza and his teachers visited our school in Parsberg and now we are coming here to have a look at your system, which is quite different. You can't compare it in hardly any aspect," said Fruhmann.
Hohenfels instructor Paula Oesterreicher, who has taught within both systems, agrees.
"I taught in the German system for four years," she said. "After 28 years in the American system, I wouldn't trade, but I sometimes have my flashbacks and a bit of a wounded heart. I miss the very structured way we teach in German system, but we have a very different way of teaching in the American system."
Visiting teachers led classes in math, Spanish, language arts, computer technology, Latin, and history.
"The biggest problem was getting German teachers fluent enough in English to teach," said Mendoza.
Computer technology teacher Florian Thomann ruefully agreed. "I don't really talk that much in English. It was difficult for me to teach in what is not my native tongue."
Hohenfels teacher Mini Delamarter-Lefebvre, who had participated in the earlier exchange, sat in with her German counterpart and said the class was well received.
"The (Hohenfels) students at first reacted just like the German students had to us -- they were not engaging and were very stand-offish, but once they got going, students are students," she said.
Sabine Schmieder taught a class on German history and said she was amazed at what the students already knew.
"I was doing something on the two Germany's, and I thought they've never heard that there were two Germany's -- but they knew all about the wall and the fence -- actually, they knew everything already!"
The advanced placement students in Language Arts were exposed to Latin for the first time by Doris Auer. Latin is still taught in German schools and is necessary to pursue many subjects.
"They were surprised that so many English words were derived from Latin," said Auer, whose instruction also included the influence of Roman culture on present day America and American language.
Fruhmann said one of the major differences he noted was in math class.
"My impression is (American) pupils are accustomed to a more practical approach to mathematical matters, and the German system is normally to approach in a theoretical way," he said.
Parsberg mathematics teacher Sabine Mueller mixed her lesson between theory and practical work.
"I enjoyed it," Mueller said. "(The students) were pretty interested. They really had to rearrange things and they weren't prepared for that."
"The purpose of today was to expose American students to the German way of teaching, their philosophy of teaching, and … I think it's been a great experience," said Mendoza. "That's exciting."
Teachers from both countries agreed that American schools are more technology oriented, and the Parsberg instructors were surprised at the small class sizes at Hohenfels.
"But the students look the same; they are the same," said Schmieder. "I don't think the students are any different."