I just got home from my final day of an intensive four day block seminar (spread out across two weekends, two weeks apart) and am glad that it's done, but am also feeling reflective about the impact of the course and my intentions, methods, etc. The course is one I have taught four times already, but only as a weekly seminar, so the format of four very intense days was new and different for me. Miracle of miracles, everyone actually showed up for the full course, except for one woman who told me in advance. Because mandatory attendance was voted out of existence by student councils across Germany over the past few years, it is now illegal to actually expect students to come to class, which I find insane and very frustrating (and as the article linked above shows, it *shockingly* has led to lowered grades). Since I wrote to everyone in advance for the block seminar that we would be doing required in-class work each day, that seemed to motivate them to actually attend.
And yet, they were still as reticent to actively participate as in past semesters. I have learned over the years that there is a stereotype about teachers in training that they are not interested in academic work, just want to be told what to do, and don't do the reading. This is perceived as particularly true among those training to work in elementary education. This, combined with all of the stereotypes about Brandenburg, doesn't paint a great picture of my students. What I have experienced in the classroom does not do much to push against these negative stereotypes, but I also know that many of my colleagues give in to them and have low expectations, don't require any reading, and just rely on student presentations to get through the semester. As someone who tries to live by bell hooks's Teaching to Transgress, I try to actively recognize my part in fostering an environment of high expectations, interest, equality, and engagement in the classroom.
But damn, that's not always easy. Especially when one of my key aims is to get them to critically self reflect and think about how their own identities, experiences, and socialization will affect their future teaching and students. In doing so, I am constantly thinking about my identity as a white US American immigrant woman, and how each of these aspects plays a role in how I am perceived and the weight my knowledge is given. In reading through a reflective writing task I had them do after the second day of the block seminar, I was once again reminded of how much resistance there is by so many people to breaking down their identities and thinking about how we engage with the world around us. But as I read their writing reflections from this afternoon I was able to see some small changes already - some appreciation of our individual and societal socialization, of the impact of inequity and inequality, and some acceptance of the evidence-based practice I was attempting to promote. So perhaps there is hope yet. But for now, rest.