Immer wieder habe ich meinen Schülern Folgendes erzählt:

„Stell dir vor, du wächst auf in einem Landstrich, wo man viele Kartoffeln isst – Pellkartoffeln, Bratkartoffeln, Kartoffelsalat, Kartoffelpüree … Und später lebst du in einer anderen Gegend mit neuen Kartoffelrezepten – süßer Kartoffelsalat und Bratkartoffeln mit Speck, und du lernst vielleicht auch noch Pommes Frites, Kroketten und Rösti kennen. Komm aber nur nicht auf den Gedanken, dass du jetzt ein Kartoffelexperte bist. Auf deinen Reisen in ein fernes Land stellst du nämlich fest, dass es Hunderte von verschiedenen Kartoffelsorten gibt und du isst Süßkartoffeln und kleine Kartoffeln, über die vor der Ernte der erste Frost hinweggezogen ist, und du lernst köstliche Kartoffeln kennen, die in einem Loch in der Erde unter heißen Steinen gegart wurden. Jetzt weißt du fast alles über Kartoffeln, aber dann lebst du in einem anderen Erdteil und plötzlich lachen die Leute über dich, weil du Kartoffeln isst, denn sie essen nur Reis und sie streiten mit dir, weil sie die Kartoffel, dieses Nachtschattengewächs, für absolut gesundheitsschädlich und ekelhaft halten. Wer hat recht? Wenn also jemand zu dir kommt und dir etwas erzählt, was du nie gehört hast und was du nicht glaubst, dann verdamme ihn nicht, sondern bleibe freundlich, hör zu und ziehe in Erwägung, dass alles vielleicht ganz anders ist als du bisher geglaubt hast und denke daran, was Hamlet einmal gesagt hat: ‚Es gibt mehr Dinge zwischen Himmel und Erde als sich unsere Schulweisheit träumen lässt.‘ “

(Vorwort meiner Autobiografie: UND IMMER WIEDER SCHULE – Ein Lehrerleben zwischen Äquator und Ostsee) Waxmann 2007

My philosophy

I hold the belief that a school must first of all be a school for all its students and help all of them to develop their talents and build the competences to master their lives. It has always been a big mistake when the teachers have just been there to find out what the students cannot do and will never achieve. The motto should be: Help everyone to reach his/her full potential. “Do what you can do best. If you are interested in plants and flowers you can become a biologist but you can also try to become the best gardener of the town.”

I have often been asked: What makes a teacher a good teacher? And I have told people that I have modified my opinion in the last three decades in the teaching profession. At first I thought that the most important trait of a good teacher should be his knowledge, his expertise and the enthusiasm with which he teaches his subject. In the second decade of my teaching career I thought that it should be equally important to know how to teach, to master the tricks of the profession and to know a lot about methodology. But in the last fifteen years there has been added a third important trait that I consider to be indispensable for any good teacher: It is an optimistic conception of life, a positive attitude towards other people and the wish to help young kids find their way in our world. Of course the three aspects are important, but I must confess that I think the last one to be by far the most important. Moreover a sense of humour, the capacity to kindle a flame in the young learner and much patience, a lot of patience, are also excellent ingredients to make a good teacher.

In the last ten years my message to the teachers I have worked with has been: “Forget that you are a Math/English/History- etc. teacher. First of all you should be a person who wants to help young people in their lives. Only after that you should ask yourself how your knowledge and (hopefully) enthusiasm for the subjects which you have studied can help your students to succeed and lead a happy life.” My publications and my work in this last decade have centered on this motto and wherever I worked I have concentrated on helping to develop schools where there is no gap between the school subjects and the real world but a synthesis, based on cross-curricular, hands-on, task and student- oriented teaching and learning. This means of course that a school must open itself to its environment in order to receive and to give. The participation of the parents is not only welcome but it is necessary in a school that is no longer an ivory tower but the meeting point and the cultural center of a community. In an environment where students, teachers and parents work closely together, everybody can be a learner or a teacher: parents who bring into school their real life experience and know-how by assuming the role of teacher, lecturer and leader of a workshop; parents who study together with the teachers in a workshop on education organised by a psychologist; parents, teachers and students who sing together in a choir or who work together in a theatrical performance side by side.

One important aim for me as a teacher has always been the goal to make my students become open-minded, and tolerant and never lose the curiosity which all of them possessed when they were kids.

It is the task and the challenge for the Head of School to unite all the different constituencies which belong to the school behind a common goal and help to create a corporate identity which students, parents, the staff and the community can be proud of. This, however, can only be achieved in a climate of transparency and mutual trust.