Willich Welcome

June 5, 2012 at 9:45 am 1 comment

Willich Welcomes us!

Our welcome to Willich was warm and enthusiastic as we sampled delicious foods at our welcome BBQ dinner and engaged in conversations with the men and women, (and their spouses) of the RC of Willich.

My first vocational experience in Willich began with Martina Heikenfeld, an elementary teacher, and her husband Joerg, as they shared their knowledge and experience with the educational system. Martina provides specialized assistance to those students experiencing difficulties learning within the classroom. Her position is similar to that of a learning assistance teacher in B.C. She works closely with classroom teachers to develop alternative ways to deliver content to struggling learners utilizing a variety of strategies and supports.

My second vocational experience in Willich was thanks to Ute Bartz-Fanter, a principal at Schule im Muelenfeld. We spent several hours discussing similarities and differences in educational structures and systems of both of our countries. Topics such as budgets, scheduling, staffing, student needs/motivation, cultural diversity, impact of poverty/unemployment, the varied role of parents, parent advisory councils, the role of teachers’ union in education, and political realities facing frontline administrators and teachers were just the highlights!

We discussed how the demands upon teachers continue to increase as societal, budgetary and political issues, directly impacts classrooms. For example, education in Germany is changing, primarily due to economic pressures, as they are in the process of phasing the 13 year graduation program out in favour of a 12 year program. They are also moving towards a fully integrated system of inclusion of all students within the regular classroom. While this move will be positive for some students, others will lose the educational benefits of being in a classroom or school with highly specialized personnel when they join a regular classroom. Teachers and administrators alike wonder if they will receive the staffing and resourcing required for a meaningful and adequate educational program for these integrated students.  (I was able to provide my experience as our district offers a fully integrated model of inclusion, a model that is well intentioned, but one that many B.C. teachers and principals will say is underfunded, understaffed, and one that cannot fully meet the educational needs of all integrated students—but this issue would require its own blog!)

One of the biggest surprises (on both sides of the pond) surfaced around the areas of funding formulas and staffing. I was as surprised to learn that in this part of Germany, substitute teachers are not provided when a teacher is ill or absent as my German colleague was to learn that they were provided in Canada. We discussed the difficulties of providing coverage and meaningful instruction for absent teachers when most principals also have teaching responsibilities themselves. We shared supervision of instruction processes and discussed issues of an aging workforce, many of who are looking towards retirement in the upcoming decade (their retirement age has also been extended.) Since many teachers, in both countries, are not wanting the responsibility of being a principal or assistant principal (due to the lack of wage differentiation at the assistant level, the increased work day/work year, and the increased responsibilities all figured greatly in this) so the question of who will replace the principals when they retire was another question for discussion and speculation.

The similarities between our Country’s principals, teachers, students and their parents out weight any differences we have! Caring involved and passionate teachers and principals are found, in abundance, in both countries. There is a definite solidarity of purpose and passion amongst educators in our two countries! What fun! What a great experience!


Martina & Joerg Heikenfeld

Frau Ute Bartz-Fanter, Principal



Entry filed under: Team Blog.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. billrobson1  |  June 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Who knew??


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