During the two weeks I spent in Germany visiting friends, colleagues and our “second” family, I taught classes in three different schools: a German Gymnasium, a German Realschule, and a German elementary school.
Children in small towns and villages in Germany enjoy the many freedoms of childhood such as playing with friends, taking walks or riding bicycles or going to the local swimming pool. There is always a friend or family member who knows where the children are but they do not hover over the children like some parents do in the US. Everyone pitches in to help out with homework if a parent is working for example. Meals are readily available for the children as well. I had forgotten how pleasant it is to simply sit with friends outside on the patio while children play about. On one occasion, a quick phone call determined that a young boy who was thought to be with us was simply with another family member. No alarm was necessary. Since the villages and towns are relatively small where I visited, everyone simply walked where they needed to be. Bicycles are also abundant and available to go across town if necessary. People get out in nature and walk much more than most Americans.
The school year was finishing on July 30 in Baden-Wuerttemberg and in Bavaria where I taught, and like American students, the German students were looking forward to summer vacation. I was able to introduce some American culture this time as well by bringing along ingredients for smores which were very popular. The graham crackers actually fared the journey in my suitcase very well as did the marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and special smores sticks. Everyone roasted marshmallows over the open fire pit in the evening with all the family gathered about.
There were dance and horseback riding lessons nearby, and it was not necessary to have parents drive their children about. The pace of life was less complicated and more relaxing for all concerned. There is much to be said and praised about the small neighborhood schools within walking distance in Germany where classes are traditionally 45 minutes long with reasonable time allotted between classes and for longer breaks.
After teaching a 9th grade class at the Härtsfeldschule in Neresheim, I traveled to an elementary school in Alerheim, Bavaria where I taught a combined class of first and second graders. We sang and danced to some American children’s songs.
What I enjoyed most during the trip was experiencing German Gemütlichkeit again. The dictionary definition is geniality, friendliness and unhurried pace of life.