Time for a New Schulranzen!

It’s that time of year in Upstate New York to get ready for school. Some Southern states are already back to school in the U.S.  In Germany, each state has its own school calendar so that when we arrived in Bonn back in July 1990 for the Fulbright orientation days, I was given tips for a successful year as a teacher.  Little did I realize that I would also have a new set of vocabulary words to use when it came time for school for my two children.  Our son had to get a Schulranzen which I thought would be just like our book bags in the U.S.  Far from it.  First of all, the cost alone shocked me.  When it came time for our daughter to get one for second grade, I was no longer shocked.  The cost was more than $100.   Why are they so expensive compared to U.S. backpacks?  Well, for starters, the construction is sturdier.  I was informed that the hard plastic interior was meant to keep school papers in good condition plus it was healthier for the back to carry them rather high up as compared to our book bags.

The list of needed supplies continued with an Etui or pencil case.  It was meant to hold more than pencils, however.  Also inside were a pencil sharpener, colored pencils, a fountain pen and ink cartridges  (Füllfederhalter), an eraser (Radiergummi) and a Tintenkiller(ink slayer) or Tintenhai(ink shark) which I have shown in a photo.  It appears as a two-sided pen/marker.  One side contained a white felt tip which magically made the fountain pen ink disappear.  The other end had a blue tip with which corrections could be made.  However, a second error required the use of the whiteout product which was smeared over the error and then allowed to dry before a correction could be done.  German school classrooms did not have pencil sharpeners so each student brought the small hand held one.

Our son began first grade in Germany, and I went to the stationery store with my supply list in hand and asked for the DIN A4 and DIN A5 paper not knowing what to expect. These are standard sized paper used in German  schools in addition to graph paper.  Many American parents are used to purchasing three hole punched paper for notebooks.  In Germany there was a choice of either two or four holes.  German paper is longer and narrower than the standard lined notebook paper used in the US.  Elementary children normally use wide ruled paper.  I have included a photo of the paper both our children used to being cursive penmanship which was taught in first grade.  If you observe closely, there are four lines instead of the standard wide or college lined notebook paper.

Also, on day one of first grade, students brought Hausschuhe(slippers for in school use)and came with a Schultüte, a large cone of sweets and supplies.  Parents were expected to attend the first day of school with their children  which happened to be a Saturday morning at the end of July.  The first graders were given a task to complete and a picture to color.  The teacher then spoke with parents about what would be taught during the year.  We were expected to communicate regularly with the teacher and sign off on homework assignments and tests.  Additionally, we were told to purchase a Blockflöte or recorder. I observed the combined first and second grade classes, and  they all played their recorders and took turns singing either the melody or harmony.

The Fulbright Exchange Teacher experience was more than simply  learning to be flexible in teaching and to learn from other German teachers. It was also an enormous cultural immersion for my children.  I did not make adjustments for my children but let them learn by doing, by immersing them in school and the language.  Children learn quickly and are resilient.  By December and the mid-year parent meeting, the teacher complimented all of us on the quick transition to using Hochdeutsch or High German from using the dialects spoken at home.  Any German I had used with our two children had been High German with is the standard all Germans used.  Most children arrive speaking a dialect and then have to learn High German.  The parents explained to the teacher that because our son had only spoken High German, their sons and daughters had to learn Hochdeutsch so that they could communicate with him.

So, no matter the country, I wish much learning and teaching success to all students and teachers around the world.


Note:  my models to show off the German Schulranzen are neighborhood children who were very happy to pose for me.



This entry was posted in German school supplies, Schulranzen, Schultüte and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Time for a New Schulranzen!

  1. Emily says:

    Wow fancy photos!! You were able to get models haha! Nice blog post and hearing about the German back to school experience!

    Liked by 2 people

    • All the neighbors wanted to know if these were their new backpacks. No, the German Schulranzen were purchased in 1990 and 1994. They still look brand new. I went to amazon.de to see what current prices were, and they appear to be similar. Less expensive ones are not made as sturdy. Thanks for the comment, Emily.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Annika Perry says:

    Lovely to read about you and your children’s experience in your first months of German schooling. Some similar to here in the UK and Sweden. The bags are so sensible but crazy money! Here all the local primary schools offer special backpacks at a reduced rate. I love stationary so these pictures are a delight and used to enjoy shopping for new pencil case, pens etc each year…The children modelling look like real pros! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Annika for your comment and insights into Sweden and the UK and backpacks. Our neighborhood is filled with such sweet children and these twins were excited to model today. Their friends asked if these were their new backpacks. Their mother is also an elementary school teacher and helped me out by “walking” the girls to school which is quite logical in Germany with neighborhood schools. No yellow busses as we have in the U.S. Thanks again for your insightful comment. Happy Writing to you! ^__^

      Liked by 2 people

      • Annika Perry says:

        Oh I’ve seen serveral Yelow buses here this week and chuffed to bits – only ever seen them in TV before. In the UK we still walk the children to school in primary school if you live close enough (luckily we did for my son). A great feeling and we shared many fun chats going to and back…that is until he was old enough to go himself once I’d seen him across the road. There again they do start at four and a half!

        Liked by 2 people

      • We also refer to them as the yellow fleet. So you are currently in the US, in FL? I am mystified by your use of chuffed. Is it similar to guffaw or chuckle? Laugh? Germany has neighborhood schools. It is quite the norm for older students there to use public transportation to get to high schools. I was shocked to hear Germans give so much responsibility to young students in Kindergarten which our daughter was during the first Fulbright. I helped her across streets and walked her the block up the road to the Kindergarten. It takes young people longer, perhaps 8 or 9 yrs. old before they know to look both ways before crossing the street. I must admit that my first time in London, I looked both ways several times before I was able to decide it was safe. Good for you for helping your son across the street. When I showed students in Germany a photo of new yellow busses, they laughed long and hard and said the busses looked so old fashioned. Perhaps they do. For once we are in the same time zone, I think. Enjoy your visit and happy writing. ^__^

        Liked by 2 people

      • Annika Perry says:

        Chuffed = proud! The buses might look old fashioned but I love the sight of them and much nicer than the wrecks my son gets on for school! Yeah, same time zone, although my body clock is currently set mid Atlantic I feel! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • It took me one week for my body clock to get back to EST when I had been three hours earlier in Washington State. Now I have a new word. Well, we also say puffed up with pride. Puffed and chuffed rhyme. Nice. It’s a hot one today. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Arno Bode,cologne ,Germany says:

    Liebe Mary Ann,
    beeindruckede Schilderung zur Schulzeit Deiner Kinder und zu den Eigenarten des deutschen Schulwesens.Dinge die von uns als normal bewertet werden, sehen beim Vergleich zu US-Verhältnissen sicherlich anders aus.Mit einem Scout-Schulranzen zur Schule gehen zu können ,galt seinerzeit als Kult.Deine geschilderten Details kann ich durch unsere beiden Pflegekinder intensiev nachvollziehen.Meine eigene Schulzeit liegt zu weit zurück.Zu meiner Zeit gab es noch andere Sorgen in Deutschland.Schulranzen und Schreibmappen hatten noch nicht den Stellenwert wie heutige Statussymbole.Beeindruckend ist die Leistungsdokumentation Deiner Tochter.Tolle Dokumente zur Erinnerung.
    Das deutsche Schulsystem ist derzeit in einer großen Umbruchphase.Wohin die Entwicklung geht ist abschließend noch nicht zu beurteilen.
    Es muß für Dich eine Herausforderung gewesen sein ,an einer deutschen Schule zu unterrichten.
    Aber aus Deiner Schilderung entnehme ich,das Du mit Freude und Begeisterung diese Aufgabe gemeistert hast.Dafür kann ich nur meine Anerkennung aussprechen.
    Liebe Grüße ,und weiterhin alles Gute zur Veröffenlich solch interessant gestalteter Berichte.
    Dein Arno

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for such an insightful comment filled with historical details about the school system. Both times as a Fulbright teacher, the second time in the former East Berlin, I found the schedules intense as well as the grading system. I understand from former colleagues that there are major changes underway. I became the native expert on resolving questions of the English portion of the Abitur exams in Berlin. Intense work of about 2 hours per exam to resolve the questions my German colleagues had. During my two years of teaching in German schools, I can say that for me personally, it was like teaching in “heaven” because I was there to teach and the students were ready to learn. I know there are exceptions to everything, but I was most impressed with my German colleagues. I also liked that the principals were also teachers. I wish we could have some of the German system in the US. Today, education is very political which I find a shame. The feds should get out of education and the states should be in charge. Those are the reflections of a retired German teacher of 48+ years. Thanks, Arno, and enjoy the weekend,
      Mary Ann ^___^

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank goodness I have Grandchildren so I can continue to enjoy the ritual of back to school supplies. I found both the photos/essay and the commentary to be so interesting. A good sturdy backpack can provide many years of utilitarian companionship. Thank you. 🐞

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tom says:

    Very cool point of view. Not just a teacher but a parent overseas as well. I didn’t know the part about Hochdeutsch. The experience of cultural immersion stays with you for life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tom, for this thoughtful comment. I had to laugh at the December parent meeting in Germany when I heard how quickly the class had learned Hochdeutsch. You were the reason too. Yes, it’s also true that cultural immersion remains for a lifetime and changes a person forever in the process. That’s a strong argument as a teacher and parent to recommend study abroad. People truly understand better what it means to be a citizen of the world. Danke sehr! ^__^


  6. Bun Karyudo says:

    The bags sound very expensive, but perhaps they’re cheaper in the long run if they’re more robust and last longer. The models from your neighborhood look like very well-mannered children, incidentally. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Schultaschen says:

    Thanks to know about which types of bag should give to the child. You tell us which kind of bags is better for the child.

    Liked by 1 person

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