I like to talk to my students about the differences between Germany and Syria or Iraq. It helps me to understand why they are struggling in the German school system and more and more often I realize that the german school system has to change to be able to adjust to students with a migration background.
Some of those students have gone to schools in their home country for 7, 8 or even 10 years and now they have to adapt to the german and very different system from theirs.
“German school is strict”
There are some students that find school in Germany is too strict. Like one of my students who came to Germany a couple of years ago. In his home country, Syria, it’s normal to be hit in school, he told me.
When you are not listening or forget your homework, you be hit by the teacher.
He was lucky. His dad had a high position, everyone respected him a lot. When the student screwed up in school, he wouldn’t get punished. His parents had to go to school, the teachers told them about his misbehavior and his dad just told him that he should never do that again – until next time.
“I could do what I want” he told me and smirked.
That’s over now. German values like punctuality and reliability are required, regular participation in class, follow rules. Things he never learned, never had to learn.
But he knows what to do. He has contacts, he is, like I like to say “socially smart”, he knows what he has to do to survive.
He walks beside the conform (not illegal!) way, uses his contacts to get where he is supposed to be. That’s not really accepted by society. But it’s not about being accepted by society. It’s all about find a place in society, a community – although you are not playing 100% by the rules.
“Why do students don’t get hit here? That would be way better!”
And then there are other student who think that school in Germany is not strict enough and their statements just blow me away (in a negative way). Because they firstly don’t fit in my moral beliefs and because I as a pedagogue was struggling to find words and explanations.
It was even more difficult for me not judging her but trying to understand,
to accept her statement, but could I also respect it?
So what was the conversation about?
She complained that some students in her class sometimes scream at their teachers and misbehave. “There is no such thing like that in Iraq. You have respect for your teachers. Otherwise you will get hit. And then she told me that she used to have way better marks (in Iraq) because she was scared to be hit. It would be good to be hit because “then you make an effort and obey”.
There I was. A 15 year old girl sitting in front of me
who thinks it’s good if she would be hit in school.
I’m very understanding and empathetic. But when it comes to “hitting or slapping” as consciously chosen educational method I’m in a fighting position and only have one goal: To convince my opposite that there is another way.
How should I explain this girl that it’s (in my opinion) wrong what she has experienced her whole life (and is probably still experiencing).
It would be a devaluation of her belief system. In Germany it’s forbidden to hit students! Damn it, I was stuck. So I explained to her the german rules, explained that teachers will be taken to court for assaulting students and would lose their job and might go to jail.
And the same time I tried to get to know more about her reasons and how I could change her learning type (learning success by hitting) and integrate it in the german system. That’s not going to be easy…
„As a man you can do anything – as a women nothing“
In another conversation one male student and one female student told me about life in Iraq. The young man was raving about moving to Iraq in the future because with a german apprenticeship you can do good money there. But also being a man makes you having power and you can do anything you want.
The young woman expressed that she doesn’t want to live in Iraq. “I can’t even go outside alone”. She enjoys to be in Germany where she can do whatever she wants because “in Iraq you have no rights as a woman”.
Holidays in the warzone
I was shocked when I got to know just before school summer holidays that one of my students was already on vacation – in Syria. What the hell…?
I asked myself the whole time “why do parents take their children to Syria or to Iraq, INTO THE WARZONE (!), to go on vacation?”
Two of my students clarified: To visit their family. To see relatives that are not allowed to leave the country, who couldn’t make it or didn’t want to make it.
“I don’t like it but it’s the only way to see my family” explained one of the girls.
I got their point but I was still angry about the fact that parents intentionally endanger their kids and expose them to possible traumatic experiences.
The two girls talked about that it’s just normal for them to go on holidays to Iraq. Where everything is destroyed.
“When a bomb explodes the whole house is shaking”
Yes, she has seen soldiers, said one girl, and tanks. That would be normal. It’s also normal that everything is destroyed. “If you have never been there you will be, of course, shocked. But we know it because we went there since we were little.”
I asked if they were not scared to walk through the streets but they denied. They wouldn’t go outside when they’re there. In Iraq girls are not allowed to go outside alone and it would be too hot during the day. But the houses would be very big and that’s why they don’t care to only be inside.
By now it would be too dangerous to travel to Iraq, their parents said. So they decided to visit relatives in Turkey. “Holiday in Iraq is visiting family. Holiday in Turkey is a real holiday“, she explains to me.
That was before the coup.
„Is it still like holiday in turkey at the moment?” I ask myself all the time
I told myself over and over that it would be better to not read the news in the next 6 weeks about Syria or Turkey to avoid being worried. But also have the question on my mind “will they return from Turkey and Syria?”
To dive in to new worlds you don’t have to travel
Often it’s enough to just open your eyes, look around, discover the other, the unknown in your direct environment and make a step towards it. Be open for the differences that are right next to you in the adjacent world.
Of course, I was shocked, angry, worried. Torn out of my tunnel view. Torn out of my dissatisfaction there wouldn’t be nothing new to discover and explore in my environment. I have to admit that experiences during traveling, during diving into new landscapes, new culture are more likely positive.
But what would life be if we would only have positive experiences? “Beautiful” will some of you say. But it’s part of life that we also experience the negative and the confrontation with something that makes us feel uncomfortable.
So how to deal with something that makes us uncomfortable? Ignore it? No, deal with it.
Everyone has different strategies. My strategy? Get to know more about what makes me feel uncomfortable, deal with the other, engage with the unknown and try to get more information to be able to understand.
It also helps me to share my experience and information, hoping others will open their eyes and look around. Explore the unknown, explore it, dive in and reflect on their way of thinking.
So: What’s in your environment you don’t know yet? Something that is new and unknown to you?
Step outside your comfortzone and search, explore and learn about the unknown!
Enjoy to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things! You won’t regret it 😉