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TAMARA ABOUT TEACHING ADULTS VS. CHILDREN

Meet Tamara! Some of you have already taken classes with our lovely Tamara. At the moment, she is teaching an A2.2 evening course with us and will also be the teacher of the our new weekend course starting October 26. Read more about our WEEKENDER HERE 

Tamara, in addition to your work as a German teacher for adults, you also did a traineeship as a primary school teacher. How similar are the two areas, how different are they?

An essential difference is that the children's mother tongue in the primary school is usually German, whereas the adults in Transmitter learn German as a foreign language. Both in science and in practical training, the acquisition of mother tongue, foreign language and second language is separated, even though this is not entirely possible. In primary school, children discover, practice and strengthen the use of a language they have already learned. In class, we find rules and peculiarities together, expand our vocabulary, read books and write our first texts. In this context, the children get to know different types of texts and communicative situations: How does a diary entry differ from a newspaper article? How does the newscaster speak on the radio and how do we present a poster that we have created ourselves? Working with a dictionary and using sources for research in a clever way, including the Internet, is also part of German lessons in primary schools. Of course, learning methods is also a topic in the groups at Transmitter: What forms of presentation are there for the range of language, how do I learn vocabulary? All in all however, Transmitter participants have a learning biography of their own that spans over many years and therefore usually know how learning works well for them. The children in primary school still have to learn that. The content, methodology and competences that need to be acquired in primary school are of course adapted to the appropriate class levels, similar to the way foreign language learning is regulated by the European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Especially with children in first grade, we learn through play: we sing, speak in chorus - we combine language and body, so ultimately learning and movement. But I understand "playfully" as completely positive and consider it to be a fruitful approach for every learning age and almost every learning area. Through practical and interactive learning, which is fun, so can therefore lead to a kind of emotional participation, the contents can be easily memorised and retained in the mind. In my opinion, the material should be prepared and offered in an interesting way. And it often isn't: texts, tasks, even entire layouts in textbooks are unfortunately often horrible - far removed from everyday life. I think this also applies to some materials used in foreign language teaching. In this context, I would like to refer to an instructor of mine at Freie Universität who always preaches that one can and should absolutely have confidence in and even expect something from children (even the younger ones) - to challenge them. So even in primary school to dare approach demanding, literary texts. It's hardly surprising that children are more moved by Orpheus & Eurydice than by a text titled "Tim plays football with Tom". I don't want to belittle the latter, which has its justification too. But it can and may also go beyond that. For example, one can beautifully depict the lexical field of the verb "go" with children: How does someone go who strolls? And how does someone go who runs? And how does someone go who hurries? And how does a woman walk who ambles around? And the baby that crawls? Of course, all this can be applied to adult education as well.

Are there situations in which it helps to get an insight into both areas where they complement each other well?

It is incredibly valuable for me to have taught both children and adults. This has taught me about different approaches and learning types. The more you teach, and the more different the people and therefore the constellations within the groups are, the more flexible you become. Especially during your studies, you learn to plan your lessons meticulously: in small parts, step by step. I don't believe in that. Of course, the teacher needs to know about content and background and have an approximate plan in mind as to what could happen when, but the most important thing is to be able to improvise and deal with the unforeseen. I understand that writing a plan at university and in the traineeship is justified, because only when you have gotten to know a colourful bouquet of teaching steps you can spontaneously combine individual elements in class and use them flexibly. But to stick to a plan is of no use in my opinion. And I only learned that with time and especially in the lessons for the primary school. In the beginning I stood there, with a heap of materials, copies, plans. . . And was therefore inflexible, almost incapable of action: "But this was supposed to go differently . . ?!« Working with children made me much more relaxed (at first much more tense, in the long run more calm :)). Not everything work out immediately, sometimes not at all, and that's the way it is. Not everything I consider suitable and good for the children, do they perceive this way themselves. And sometimes an idea of mine develops into an unexpected direction I could not have imagined. Working with the children has also altogether reduced inhibitions. For instance, the fact that I sing and speak in chorus with them a lot, especially in language development, i.e. with children who speak little or no German, has increased my willingness to do the same in adult courses. And to "endure" the fact that perhaps not everyone participates (immediately) but can still benefit from it.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a German teacher for adults?

I think it is always a challenge to find a good balance between relaxed learning in a casual atmosphere and at the same time maintain a high standard. It is also not always easy to do justice to different learning types and to motivate people who have, for example, completed a long working day and then come to the evening course. The real challenge for me, however, lies with the children and not in teaching: it is the educative aspect, which is part of my duties in primary school and which I don't really like to do.

What do you enjoy most about working as a German teacher for adults?

After my first course of studies and several internships as well as various part-time jobs in different areas, I realized that working exclusively at the computer, sitting at the table and in meetings or standing at conferences is definitely not for me. I also found the mentality in many companies, the interaction with employees and the handling of working hours unconvincing, to put it mildly. I also wanted to be able to work more directly, not wait for a result that might never come. I particularly enjoy teaching the A1 course because the participants come with little or no knowledge of German and can already speak their first words and even simple sentences after the first day. After an intensive course they already have conversations - that makes me very proud.

Also in primary school: I have taught children who initially had great difficulty using a pair of scissors or even holding a pen. By practicing together we made it work. Or children who grew up in Berlin, but only within their neighbourhood. With them, I drove out of Kreuzberg and went to Zehlendorf to the domain Dahlem. There they had to get to know the smell of farms :).

The work at Transmitter is great, because I can get together with people from different countries and also professional fields. It is interesting to see how each group works uniquely and which dynamics are created. It is never boring. And of course it's great that I can bring Buki, my dog, to Transmitter. She has also been able to improve her German considerably since then :).

The daily work in the classroom can often be very strenuous. How do you make up for it?

I spend a lot of time outdoors and out and about, and do a lot of sports. I also enjoy singing and go to a concert at least once a month. Last time I went to Jose Gonzales, again. Such a great guy. I can really recommend him. Just by the way. Eating well and sleeping enough also helps to be fit for the classroom again.

You have now been working for Transmitter for almost two years and have taught mainly with a focus on conversation courses and beginner classes. How have you experienced your time here?

I am always very happy about the friendly, pleasant and ultimately humane interaction at Transmitter, both in the team and among the course participants. In the team, everyone really cares about teaching people German and not "processing" as many people as possible, for example because of the money. I also think it's great that Transmitter offers cultural events and thus combines language and culture. For my part, I have very much enjoyed every single course I have been able to give at Transmitter - I have met interesting people who sometimes do a lot of exciting things in their lives. It is fascinating to hear with which motives people come from all over the world to Berlin, to Neukölln and now to Kreuzberg. The reason I like to teach the conversation course so much is that I intensively deal with current topics: What (doesn't :)) happen in Berlin and why? What are the views on incident "XY" and what should be done in the case of "YZ"? I also learn a lot here, especially when it comes to parallels and differences to the home countries of the participants. To hear what others think about the big questions of life is always exciting for me, anyway. These are always valuable moments that won't come back in this form and that I won't forget.