In Germany “teacher” (Lehrer) is an honored profession. How refreshing it is to see that!
My wife Vickie taught school for over thirty years. Like too many American educators she was overworked and underpaid. As the years went by the imperative to “teach to the standardized test” robbed her teaching of much of its creativity and joy.
Here in Germany because of the exhibit about Vickie’s mother we have made more than a dozen visits to schools and spoken with more than twenty teachers. Without exception they felt their work was respected, important and appropriately compensated.
The USA could definitely take a lesson from Germany in this regard.
Last year the exhibit stayed in one school, the Holstenschule in Neumünster. For weeks we worked hand in glove with the teacher in charge of the project, Wolfgang Henke. For us Mr. Henke is the epitome of the German teacher. He is modest, soft-spoken, extremely well schooled and supremely competent. He treats the students with respect and caring, and they treat him the same way.
It is easy to see why.
He spent months preparing for the exhibit with Pastorin Ursula Sieg. Together they set us a Jewish Wohnzimmer (Living Room) in a classroom set aside for that purpose in the Holstenschule last year. Students could come there and chat informally with Vickie and me during certain times when we visited.
This year he spent an additional untold number of hours as a volunteer helping coordinate the visits of the exhibit to several other schools in the area. His dedication is inspiring.
Mr. Henke is also an excellent tennis player, and he graciously invited me to hit with him on an off day at the Tennis Halle in Neumünster.
After five summers as a tennis instructor in a private club in New Jersey and at the famous Concord Hotel in the Catskill mountains, I believe I can tell more about a person’s personality by watching him or her for fifteen minutes on the tennis court than I can if I were to interview the individual for half an hour. My observations have nothing to do with how well a person plays but everything to do with his or her demeanor on the court.
In the case of Mr. Henke, all of the qualities I had already observed (and noted above) while working with him were evident when we played. It was a most enjoyable hour that confirmed for me that Wolfgang Henke certainly deserves one of Germany’s most honorable titles: Teacher!