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William Huster

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Travel Update #10: Part II of the Oberschule Saga

Okay, I owe you the rest of the story….

Well, after a while, the two girls had a pretty good idea of what they were doing. I still had to walk them through a few questions, but they were very productive even without my help.

But Patrick still could not focus. Either he was bothering the kids in the row in front of him, or they were twisted in their chairs talking to him. I wasn’t really bothered by this, I’m not the strict teacher type. Occasionally I would turn to Patrick and the others and give them a mock-stern look and then point at their papers with a smile. They seemed to respect this for as long as their attention spans lasted.

Well, the crux of this story has lost its punch in the past week, but I’ll tell it as I experienced it anyway. At one point, Patrick tried to ask one of the boys in front of him a question. He blew him off, saying, Shush! Halts Maul! Denk an Döner! - Shut up! Think about döner!

Now döner is a “Turkish Specialty,” which as far as anyone can tell was invented in Germany. It´s essentially falafel meat wrapped in a pita and laden with salad. All the döner stands in Berlin are run by Turks. Initially, I was unsure about how to handle this situation because on the surface it appeared to be an incidence of racism (the kid actually said it twice). I also considered the possibility that these kids were friends, and that this statement may not have been malicious. Still, I didn´t want to take any chances and so I paid more attention to Patrick and kept him focused on his work.

As it turned out, Patrick and this other kid whose name, I learned, is Klaus, are actually good friends, so the situation was probably not as bad as it seemed. Still, it´s worth pointing out that racism and xenophobia are just as much a subject in Germany as it is in the United States.

Anyway, the school periods are just too short. The two girls hardly finished correcting their mistakes - I say mistakes, but they really left huge tracts of their test incomplete. They checked-out before the period ended and sat in the corner giggling, when I asked them to answer the last few questions.

My host sister told me about her math test yesterday in what appeared to be Pre-Calc. She told me that she probably “wrote a six,” which is the equivalent of a big fat F. She said it was fun, though, because she had time to just sit there and daydream. “So you just gave up?” I asked. “Yes, of course,” she said, “Math´s just not my subject….”

My conversation with Stella reminded me of the girls at the Oberschule and their attitude towards their English tests. It seems that if a student feels like a subject just “isn´t their area,” then they won´t even try. They will simply accept the failing grade and concentrate on their strong subjects. I think that in the United States, the mentality is different. The focus is on the average, so one cannot afford to let a grade slip below a C.

That said, it is also easier to get good grades in the American school system due to the widely accepted phenomenon of “grade inflation.” The differences in attitude can also probably be traced to the fundamental differences between school systems. But as this post is getting too long, I think this will need to be a discussion for another time and another post.