Sunday, July 13, 2014

Understanding the Meaning of Vocational Education in German Context

At a vocational school where students were learning and
special make-up effects.
July 13, 2014. Hamburg, Germany. By Anita Lamoureux.

What a week it has been!  There are so many additional benefits that extend beyond the primary educational purpose of our interactions with the German educational and work system.  These are the benefits that helped us grow and develop as individuals and professionals.  Our cohort was a diverse group of educators and program managers that share a passion for student learning within CTE.  We all came together and experienced a new culture, all the while exhibiting patience as we helped each other maneuver through this foreign environment.  Our acculturation did not take long!

Collectively, we agreed that the German people we had the privilege to interact with might have initially appeared curt; however, as we acclimated – we came to understand the confidence of being forthright and factual…”no beating around the bush” as we Americans would say.  We all came to appreciate this trait.  One particular waitress comes to mind from the Bremen Ibis…the initial thought I had of her was “she scares me” – her outward sternness and commitment to doing her vocation was clear.  Yes, she was committed to her job – but, she was the dearest sweetest hospitality employee I have come in contact with during our stay in Germany.  Nothing/no one would stand in the way of satisfying her customer/client!  As I mentioned my initial “fear” to other cohort members – they expressed the same reaction to her as well. Other interactions proved to be similar during our stay this week.  All the students we had the privilege to interact with were proud to share in the value system of Germany – and were confidently and clearly direct in their message.  Only once did I hear a student ask permission to “speak frankly” about his success within the educational system.  Certainly, that was unusual!

Another impression that I take with me is the idea, or concept of, “beruf.”  This German word for “vocation” is the antithesis of its American term.  “Beruf” is not just a word for job/work/position – it is so much more.  It combines a belief in the value of work for self, community and soul.  This word represents a way of life, not just a means to an end.  This is but one valuable lesson I bring back to my CTE students – life’s work is not just about the work, it is your whole person, and the benefit that comes with being positively connected to your society.

As I reflect back on this journey, I am blessed to have been invited and I am blessed to have come to know so many wonderful people in this one short week.  The beauty of social media is that we will remain connected personally, while striving to share and continue to compare our passion for student learning within the context of CTE.  To this end, I appreciate the richness of this journey and look forward sharing my experience when I return home.

Wiedersehen für jetzt deutsche Freunde! (Goodbye for now German friends!)
Anita Lamoureux is Teacher Leader/Business Department Head at Mariner High School in Cape Coral, FL.
She is also a master student in career and technical education at the University of South Florida.