What kind of substitutes do teachers like

To be honest, I would have quit if it had taken longer

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Third entry

The past two weeks have been exciting. Since then, I've been working at a district school for two days. I would now like to withdraw all my complaints about the preparatory work at the grammar school.

I'm not allowed to prepare anything at the district school. Only in the morning do I read in an app what the working day will bring. I have no idea about math lessons in 7b or the religion course in grades 5a and b in the 6th period. No idea what their subject is, no idea who the kids are and how they feel. I have no idea where the room is. I have no idea what to do if the sick teachers haven't left me any materials. Which has always been the case so far. What can I do if I have no idea? Have homework done, prepare presentations?

But of course my first course had nothing to do with it. At least that's what the seventh graders said. In the end, I got to see a breakdance performance. Jerun and Asif danced to house music in front of the class. The music came from the smartboard.

They thought the hour was cool. But it made no pedagogical sense at all, neither for her nor for the rest of the class, who listened to music through headphones or played on the cell phone.

I was also in a special class for foreigners. They are called "International Preparatory Classes" in Hamburg, or IVK for short. The first time I was there as a supporting second teacher and actually just watched. The children come from Albania, Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Senegal, the Czech Republic, Poland, Egypt. Many are refugees. Language level and age are extremely different. Even the simplest instructions in German can be a problem.

It was really fun on Tuesday. It really makes sense that two teachers always go to one IVK. But I - a 23-year-old, completely inexperienced, nowhere near fully trained teacher - was all alone. Without material, without a clue of what level the students are at.

After all, it was a music class and I like music. But I didn't know at all how to make any announcements. Ultimately, I took out bongos, timpani and bell rings in the music room and set the rhythms. We then all drummed together and at the end of a chaotic double hour we sang along with a few German pop songs. After all, it was used to learn German. Was that a loud, exhausting mess!

But at least I wasn't threatened with being beaten like an experienced teacher who had to replace a colleague in an eighth grade. Nice to hear something like that in the staff room on the side.

I now appreciate my high school students even more!

Fourth entry

For the time being, the teaching profession is over for me. I'm going back to university, to M√ľnster. I worked in the district school for four weeks because I was only needed that long because of the high sickness rate. To be honest, I would have quit if it had taken longer. That was not for me, killing time with the students so unprepared.

The experience there definitely helped me to better classify and appreciate my performance at grammar school. I got to know a lot of interested, intelligent or friendly-cautious students and some sympathetic and funny troublemakers. I had a great time especially in the high school courses. The older the students, the more interesting it was for me and the easier it was for me to learn. But in the end I also took the little ones to my heart. The fifth years did goodbye selfies with me and there were some hugs.

What is stuck? Probably the moment when I offered the chalk water drinker Tim a euro in case he would eat a whole piece of chalk. Of course I won the bet, he only made half a bet. It's also an educational lesson, isn't it? The sixth graders called a class council meeting to plan my departure. At the last hour they invited me to ice cream. The higher grades gave me a certificate: They thought I was nice, friendly, in some cases even too demanding (yay!) And thought that I was good at explaining things.

The teachers also trusted me: my contract was extended until I had to go back to university. On my farewell, the school management praised me for commitment, independence and all that interpersonal relationships. I blushed all over. In all that time, a colleague never came to my class to check whether I was getting along. I was fully entitled to take part in the certificate conferences, wrote and corrected exams and was responsible for the half-year grades of my students as well as for the material on which a subsequent colleague must build.

However, I was left completely alone with the preparation and organizational matters, such as thinking about conferences and preparing and following them up. I am not the most structured person; it was very stressful for me at times.

I can well imagine a future as a teacher - but as a plan B. There are other ideas. Working for an NGO? Or in education policy? This half year of practical experience has shown me how poorly my studies prepare and train me for the real demands. Maybe I could somehow work on improving these structures?

We will see. In any case, I am optimistic about the future with Plan B. And want to thank you a thousand times for your trust. The high school will see me from time to time, for sure.

* Names have been changed by the editors