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Inspirational Moments in an Educator‘s Life: It Is All About Responsible Relationships, Important Learning, Philosophic Imagination and the Will to Move Ahead



The Irish poet and philosopher John O‘Donohue writes in his book Anam Cara: ‚Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year; seeds sown in the spring, nurtured by the summer, now yield their fruit in autumn. It is harvest, the homecoming of the seeds‘ long and lonely journey through darkness and silence under the earth‘s surface… The fertility of the earth yielded its fruitfulness. Correspondingly, when it is autumn in your life, the things that happened in the past, or the experiences that were sown in the clay of your heart, almost unknown to you, now yield their fruit. Autumntime in a person‘s life can be a time of great gathering. It is a time for harvesting the fruits of your experiences‘ (p. 207). Anyone who has accumulated wide ranging experiences in teaching faces a creative choice in putting that legacy to paper. The author in this case chose to use a series of photos with text to illustrate formative and inspirational moments from his several decades as a dedicated teacher, and father. His account begins with university studies in special and gifted education, followed by years of teaching school while living a rich family life with his wife and two boys, and it ends with his pedagogical and research activities in the field of higher education coupled, in part, with retrospective reflections during these later years. The author closes the volume with a description of an intergenerational learning project that served to put him in touch once more with his own roots. ‚Kampen, Sylt, where the idea for this book originated, and Hartland Quay, Devon, where I finished this work, during my walks on the South West Coast Path, in the years 2014 and 2015,´ J. B.
This book is dedicated to my wife Karin Anna Jung-Bröcher, in deep
gratitude for her loving companionship and support through all these
years. She herself is a long-time dedicated special education teacher in
an inclusive elementary school and at the same time always a devoted
mother to our two sons.
Manufactured and published by
BoD – Books on Demand
Norderstedt, Germany 2015
2nd Edition
ISBN: 978-3-7386-2302-4
Foreword… 7
1. The University Years… 9
2. The Teaching Years… 35
3. The Family as Learning Community… 85
4. Fatherhood… 127
5. The Years in Higher Education… 163
6. The Intergenerational Learning Project… 183
References… 201
The Author´s Writings… 201
The Author´s Biography… 203
The Irish poet and philosopher John O´Donohue writes in his
book Anam Cara:
`Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year; seeds sown
in the spring, nurtured by the summer, now yield their fruit in
autumn. It is harvest, the homecoming of the seeds´ long and
lonely journey through darkness and silence under the earth´s
surface… The fertility of the earth yielded its fruitfulness. Cor-
respondingly, when it is autumn in your life, the things that hap-
pened in the past, or the experiences that were sown in the clay
of your heart, almost unknown to you, now yield their fruit. Au-
tumntime in a person´s life can be a time of great gathering. It is
a time for harvesting the fruits of your experiences´ (p. 207).
Anyone who has accumulated wide ranging experiences in
teaching faces a creative choice in putting that legacy to paper.
The author in this case chose to use a series of photos with text
to illustrate formative and inspirational moments from his sever-
al decades as a dedicated teacher, and father. His account begins
with university studies in special and gifted education, followed
by years of teaching school while living a rich family life with
his wife and two boys, and it ends with his pedagogical and re-
search activities in the field of higher education coupled, in part,
with retrospective reflections during these later years. The au-
thor closes the volume with a description of an intergenerational
learning project that served to put him in touch once more with
his own roots.
Kampen-Sylt, where the idea for this book originated, and Hart-
land Quay-Devon, where I finished this work, during my walks
on the South West Coast Path, in the years 2014 and 2015, J.B.
A touch of Italian ease wafts through this Cologne rear courtyard. These were the stu-
dent years, a time of transition, of loosening old familial ties, of experimenting and tak-
ing soundings, of exploring and testing ways that ranged from art through meditation to
psychoanalysis, and of dealing with emerging life themes. Throughout, it was also a
time for earning educational qualifications, markers on the way to building both his pro-
fessional and personal lives.
A Touch of Italian Ease
Wafts Through this
Cologne Rear Courtyard
We traveled light as we explored Italy’s Renaissance towns and art treasures, from Tus-
cany to Sicily. Financial resources may have been very tight, but it was also a time of
great freedom and youthful joy. Studying pedagogy at the university of the 1980s was a
wide open expanse, with great substantive possibilities, from the writings of Sigmund
Freud or Erich Fromm to those of Henry Miller, all books that we carried in our ruck-
We Traveled Light as
We Explored Italy’s
Renaissance Towns
Exploring Sicily
The Balearic Islands and Italian coasts at times also became places for contemplative
inquiry by artistic means. Back then, I experienced time as a here and now that could
run on practically forever. The professional life of a special education teacher that I
would embrace after matriculating at the University of Cologne still lay far in the future
and had hardly any definite contours. Regular vacation jobs in the metal industry during
my high school years, however, at least equipped me for my journey with vivid images
of how I did not want to work. With the student life in Cologne also having its share of
hardships while working as a waiter and night shift taxi driver to earn a living, those
sojourns by the Mediterranean served to plumb and capture the pauses in my biography.
They let me merge with time.
Places for Contemplative
Inquiry by Artistic Means
`The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in the
world. It is a very sacred temple. To spend time in silence before the mystery of your
body brings you towards wisdom and holiness… To talk to it as a partner; and to thank
it for all it has done, for what it has suffered and to ask forgiveness of it for whatever
pressure it may have had to endure. Each part of the body holds the memory of its own
experience… There is a wisdom in your physical, bodily presence that is luminous and
profound´ (O´Donohue, Anam Cara, pp. 74-75).
The 1980s were the time of the `therapeutic societySelf-discovery in realms like yoga,
meditation, Zen, Tai Chi and breathing or bioenergetics therapies all belonged to the
trove of experiences of many university students in those days. Starting from Rogers
`pedagogy of freedomit was thus not much of a leap to even more liberated designs
(e.g., Neill; Osho) and to why these ideas, experiences and concepts should not also
benefit students with emotional and social needs? Contemporaneously, within human-
istic psychology there developed the so-called `holistic´ or `gestalt therapeutic´ action
models (e.g., Perls) extending to music therapeutic or body-centered spiritual approach-
es. These currents also found their expression in German pedagogies. A friend sent me
this picture with greetings from her workshops in Poona, India, where she did studies in
meditation and creative arts.
Self-Discovery in Realms
Like Yoga, Meditation,
Zen Belonged to the Trove
Of Experience of Many
University Students in
Those Days
Considering that I am the son and
grandson of South Westphalian black-
smiths, as were many generations be-
fore including the two great-uncles
who emigrated to the United States
around 1850 it was in some ways a
poignant social and cultural leap when,
in 1984, I flew to Michigan to work in
David P. Weikart’s HighScope Inter-
national Summer Camp. Here I took
on teaching duties and the occasional
art project with highly motivated
young people from around the world.
After the two months in Michigan I
explored parts of the United States,
e.g., the Museum of Modern Art in
Washington D.C.
Leap when, in 1984, I Flew to Michigan
To Work in David P. Weikart’s
HighScope International Summer
Modern Art
Offers Plenty of
Possiblities to
Broaden Your Own
Perception and
Restructure Your
Thinking Patterns
Time to Plan and Reflect in the HighScope Staff Room
The HighScope Summer Camp offered the youngsters a plethora of opportunities to
learn from each other in an emotional, social, and communicative respect, be it through
professionally guided instruction, clubs, or workshops in physics, computers, theater,
music, art, literature, and more.
The Barn, HighScope Camp´s Cultural Center
We danced barefoot on the Barn’s wooden floor. The light fell in green, yellow, and
orange onto the dance floor through the windows in back; the side windows were open,
above our heads were fans that turned sedately to stir the warm Midwestern summer air
with refreshing effect.
The summer program that David P. Weikart founded was all about thinking productive-
ly, designing creatively, and building constructively while developing shared ideas and
social responsibility. Young people from all over the United States, from South Ameri-
ca, Asia, and Europe lived and worked in the HighScope Camp with a team of dedicated
Transcending of My Own
Potentials, Self-Development and
Continual Learning
In 1984, I took part in a HighScope
Summer Camp as a student counselor
and while there took on pedagogical
responsibilities. I offered professional
subject matter as art counselor and had
additional pedagogical duties, such as
room counselor or table counselor. For
me, personally, these duties were inter-
twined with a transcending of my own
potentials, self-development and con-
tinual learning.
I prepared myself as best I could for
the practical work in the HighScope
Summer Camp by putting together an
artistic and subject didactic English
vocabulary and putting down the col-
lected ideas, technical terms, and fig-
ures of speech in a blotter that accom-
panied me throughout the summer.
There Was No Slacking Off,
No Sliding into the Approximate,
Or the Unstructured
Charles Hohmann picked me, and Sab-
ine, a female student traveling with me,
up at the Detroit airport and took us to
spend a day and a half with Jackie
Kann, his colleague at the HighScope
Foundation. Jackie suggested we should
just rest and sit outside on the wood
framed house’s porch a bit to get accli-
matized, saying that we had `seven very
challenging weeks´ ahead of us.
We returned to this white frame
house on the outskirts of Ann Arbor
once more for our weekend off midway
through our time at the camp. Although
my fellow student and I enjoyed the
breather at Jackie’s house, at the same
time we missed the structured and intel-
lectually stimulating atmosphere of the
camp as run by David P. Weikart and
his crew. It was always about exhaust-
ing our own mental, technical, artistic,
or handicraft abilities and potentialities
no matter the topic or problem on which
we were working.
There was no slacking off, no sliding
into the approximate, the unstructured,
the unmotivated, or the mediocre. The
all-pervasive motto of that Michigan
summer was `high expectations.´ Even
social and communicative situations
were framed around this standard,
whether it involved reviewing the day
with my room group in the evening or
my encouraging the youngsters, as their
table counselor, to trade current experi-
ences and thoughts during mealtimes.
Diversity of Language,
Culture, and Ethnicity
There was considerable diversity of
language, culture, and ethnicity among
the 44 youngsters at the HighScope
Camp in the summer of 1984. Besides
participants from various US states,
including Hawaii, heavily represented
were Europe, with England, Germany,
and Austria, South America, with Co-
lombia and Peru, and Asia, with Japan.
All of the world’s skin colors could be
seen in camp. You could hear a babel of
dialects, with those from the US South-
ern states standing out as unique. Here,
diversity, a cosmopolitan attitude, and
global thinking were accepted as part
and parcel of the pedagogy and required
no special mention.
This diversity found expression in
poetry, music, dance, and art. Some of
the youngsters wrote poems and recited
them. Others wrote and performed a
play. Still others, like Karen from Chi-
cago, sang before the whole group in
the Barn, the camp’s cultural center.
Our world’s cultures were also experi-
enced, sensorily and holistically, in
communal folk dances that Phyllis
Weikart organized.
Not least, this cultural variety could
be experienced by tasting delicacies,
such as when Paki and Penny, both
from Hawaii, received a package with
specialty foods from home and shared
dried fruits, nuts, and more with the
camp community.
HighScope implemented a scholar-
ship program that permitted it to take in
learning motivated girls and boys from
socially disadvantaged milieus. In the
summer of 1984, we worked with youth
recommended by a teacher or principal
from the ghettos of New York, Chicago
and New Orleans. Thanks to a full or
partial HighScope Foundation scholar-
ship, they, too, could attend the Michi-
gan camp. At the same time, youngsters
from the upper social strata took part,
for instance, from Colombia, Peru, or
Japan. This was never much of a subject
during the daily pedagogical work.
Here, the youth mingled regardless of
the differing backgrounds and learned
from one another.
Having Every Last One of Them
Exhaust His or Her Learning
Potential, Visions, and Dreams
Learning side by side, and the experi-
ences tightly linked to the learning pro-
cesses, was uppermost, as was the ob-
jective of having every last one of them
progressively exhaust his or her learn-
ing potential, visions, and dreams and
take charge of their lives while taking
high responsibility for the whole com-
munity. Although everyone, whether
youngster or counselor, was obligated
to exhaust the full range of opportuni-
ties that presented themselves every
day, ultimately it all dissolved in the
social collective, the camp community.
The preliminary findings from every-
thing that had been studied, explored, or
produced always entered into the life of
the entire group; whether it involved a
technical experiment, a physics project,
or an artistic work, something was al-
ways reported on the creative process,
any difficulties encountered, solutions
tried, and insights gained along the way.
Whatever had been achieved, includ-
ing process results, was respected and
honored in this manner. Often, the larg-
er group provided feedback regarding
further work on the particular topic. On
any given day, we would always set
aside specific time windows for these
presentations and sharings. No one
could therefore become isolated or drift
off to the margin. The counselor team
promoted a thoroughgoing, inclusive
togetherness. There was no unstructured
time to let individuals lose themselves
in problem behavior.
The HighScope Summer Camp of-
fered the youngsters a plethora of op-
portunities to learn from each other in
an emotional, social, and communica-
tive respect, be it through professionally
guided instruction, clubs, or workshops
in physics, computers, theater, music,
art, literature, and more, or be it in the
room groups, the table groups, in sports,
cultural evenings, or field trips. There
was no room for exclusivity between
individuals in the life of the HighScope
community. That was ultimately the
reason why we had no conflicts in the
group. The forming of cliques or close
relationships between the sexes was
absolutely taboo.
During staff training week, through
role play, we worked out tactics for how
we could intervene if a flirtation budded
between individual youngsters. The aim
was to divert them from such desires for
the entire summer and to steer them
back to the program contents in the nat-
ural sciences, the arts, sports, and so on.
Also, no conversations were held be-
fore third persons in any language other
than English, to keep anyone from get-
ting the sense that something had to be
hidden from him or her. This naturally
required a special degree of self-
discipline. But by applying these prin-
ciples, the breeding ground for the con-
flictual undercurrents that otherwise
often predominate in youth groups was
Instead, daily communal singing in
the dining room welded the group to-
gether. Karl Wheatley, himself an avid
singer, gradually taught us a broad rep-
ertoire of songs on which we then
worked every day. That this was the
second or third time at camp for some
youngsters naturally benefited this
communal singing, because the reper-
toire of songs was already familiar to
them and so we had a few lead voices
already at hand.
Individual Responsibility for Self
And for Society as a Whole
The pedagogical philosophy entailed a
large measure of individual responsibil-
ity for self and for society as a whole. In
this regard, the camp community was
regarded as representing the global
community. What mattered was creat-
ing momentum for constructive changes
and development in all areas of
knowledge, to be an example and be
forward thinking.
Karl Wheatley and Cindy Embry,
appointed program directors by David
P. Weikart, personified this posture to a
special degree and we student counse-
lors did our best. Team spirit would be
developed in project work and through
sports. Sometimes, it was also simply a
matter of endurance, of continuing,
even in the face of adverse conditions,
such as during a three-day hike in a na-
tional park.
Even under a mostly blue summer
sky, we had to fight against a host of
difficulties in this particular outdoor trip
that included a whole day of pouring
rain, mosquitoes that would bite day
and night even through thick jeans, and
then the heavy backpacks with tents,
blankets, cooking gear, and rations on
our backs. Some of the youngsters start-
ed to falter, sat crying in the mud by the
side of the road and did not want to go
on. They had to be motivated and
brought along.
In all this, the camp directors and
counselors served as role models. They
continually lived a constructive, social
cohesiveness themselves and stimulated
this on the side of the youngsters. There
were specific pointers and examples in
the HighScope Staff Training Manual
how this could be accomplished.
During sports, for instance, it was
important to give praise and recognize
good team work, successful effort, or
even just a good attempt at it, by saying,
for example: `Mike, that was a good
try!´ We had practiced such supportive
speech patterns and turns of phrase dur-
ing the preparatory week through role
play and in group discussions.
A Place for Spinning Ideas
And Professional Sharing
Boys and girls were housed in two sepa-
rate country cottage-like buildings. The
girls were in the Brick building, the
main building, where the staff member
meetings also took place, with directly
attached kitchen and worksheds.
The terrain sloped down behind the
Brick building into a valley. Here stood
a few tall, old trees. A few years earlier,
a project group had built a platform
with benches half way up one of these
trees. This airy and shaded spot could
be reached via a suspension bridge and
was popular with the youngsters and
counselors as a place for spinning ideas
and professional sharing.
During `self-scheduled time,´ when
individual ideas and projects were to be
actively pursued, this was also a favor-
ite venue for composing poems or
sketching with pencil and drawing pad.
In the valley bottom flowed a creek that
brought a bit of refreshment to the
warm Mid-west summer. This creek fed
a small lake, created by damming up the
creek, in which we would go swimming
every three or four days as part of the
afternoon sports program.
The boys slept on the height across
the way in a so-called stucco building,
Stucco for short, and a few of them
were in a smaller building off to the
side, the Annex.
Being Liberated From the
Steady Media Drumbeat
All media, including TV, radio, or mu-
sic players were completely banned
from the HighScope Summer Camp.
Neither the youngsters nor the counse-
lors had even the least access to such
media. The camp leadership, however,
listened to the news and informed the
camp community about the most im-
portant political events.
Being liberated this way from the
steady media drumbeat created room for
independent thinking, for developing
ideas, and for in-depth, concentrated
topical analysis. This helped a new way
of perceiving the communicative and
social life inside the camp community
to grow.
One of the main effects, however,
was that the youngsters, because of be-
ing shut off from the media world, be-
gan to go draw on their inner resources,
creating culture of their own to be
played on the piano and on the guitars
some had brought with them.
They built their own instruments in
one of the workshops, wrote songs, po-
ems and plays, and began to perform
them after dinner in the dining hall or
during the evening program in the Barn,
and they developed and formulated
from within themselves social, cultural,
and political themes that the community
then would discuss.
Freedom and Important
Learning Through Structure
Every day was tightly structured down
to the smallest detail and all schedules
were scrupulously adhered to. This pro-
duced clarity, order, calm, and relaxa-
tion, and it fostered concentration on the
matter at hand. David always said that
structure is a precondition for personal
By contrast, without structure, every-
thing would devolve into chaos. This
structure was everyone’s guarantee of
discipline, self-discipline, and a high
level of accomplishment. Freedom pre-
vailed instead in choosing activities and
content to focus on. The individual
found freedom by selecting an approach
to a topic, by embarking on his train of
thought and by further developing his
learning process.
The youngsters could always choose
from a palette of instructional topics,
clubs, workshops, projects, or sports
offerings and, even in the scientific and
artistic program elements, there was
latitude for own ways of thinking or for
individual projects. The creative and
inventive was realized within these lim-
its in the HighScope pedagogy. Seen
from the outside, it seemed narrow;
seen from inside, broad.
We had absolutely no discipline
problems for six weeks, not even argu-
ments not even any about an individu-
al youngster taking part at all in a cer-
tain program element. These youngsters
had deliberately decided on this de-
manding, highly-structured program,
and faithfully honored this consent and
voluntary commitment. Thanks to the
tightly timed program, they were all
carried along and all were able to grow
beyond themselves.
Thinking for Yourself
One of the core pedagogic principles of
HighScope Camp was thinking for
yourself and to emphatically inspire the
youth to do so. `What do you think?´
We could hear this question from David
over and over, and he posed it with a
smile on his face, as if he wanted to say:
You know more. What are your ideas
and preliminary assumptions? Dig
`Turn questions back on the ques-
tioners and make them think for them-
selves.´ Something like this recommen-
dation was in the Staff Training Manu-
al. For example, when you were after
helpful sentence patterns for giving im-
petus for problem solving, you could
read there: `Can you think of any other
way to attach the arm to give it more
Perhaps I still remember these sen-
tences 30 years later, and they are still
so alive in my pedagogical thinking,
because I heard or read them for the
first time back then in an emotionally
positive, engaged, and intellectually
highly stimulating atmosphere, because
David, Cindy, and Karl created a sup-
portive training framework not only for
absorbing these verbal interventions but
also this attitude, and because I then
applied these interventions multiple
times and achieved pedagogic successes
in working with the youngsters.
It was Cindy, David´s daughter, who
stepwise helped me to flesh out, elabo-
rate, and develop my preliminary art
didactic considerations, so that they
fitted into the temporal and methodical
formats of the HighScope program.
`Instruction´ was given in 90 minutes
periods and provided an introduction to
a topic, such as a certain printmaking
technique. Each counselor conducted a
total of seven of these short offerings
during the six weeks. Available to the
entire group was a choice of seven or
eight instructions in the areas of theater,
dance, computers, physics, music, and
so on.
After that, it was my responsibility to
offer four `clubs´ over the course of
those weeks. These consisted of three
90-minute units and permitted more in-
depth treatment, like how to throw pot-
tery on a potter’s wheel.
Toward the end, there followed a
specialized `workshop´ made up of
eight 90-minute units. I built figures
made of wire mesh and papermaché
with the youngsters.
Yet, that was only the outer struc-
ture. Cindy now pushed for the formula-
tion of concrete objectives that the
youngsters should attain in every single
unit. Then came the question whether
there was any guarantee that an active
learning process would take shape, in
which the youngsters handled the mate-
rial themselves, where they could try
and discover something on their own.
To what extent would the youngsters’
own thinking and experimentation be
stimulated in all of this? How exactly?
And how long does each step take?
How are the results safeguarded? How
about their transfer? In which contexts
can what was discovered, experienced,
or realized be placed? What other per-
spectives are fostered?
I learned a great deal here that was
useful to me, later on in preparing for
the teaching profession and working in
schools, and that benefited the children
and youth we aimed to educate there.
Being a Learning Guide
To the Youngsters
While the pedagogical and didactic ap-
proach to planning and executing in-
structions, clubs, and workshops comes
relatively close to the classic activities
of a teacher who teaches in an explora-
tive, activist, and action-oriented man-
ner, in monitoring the `project´ the pri-
ority was much more on being a mentor
or learning guide to the youngsters in
the development and implementation of
their own ideas.
Although the project group was pre-
structured subject-wise, and was formed
of the likeminded to, perhaps, build a
tree house, the `self-scheduled time´
that was on the schedule every three
days for 90 minutes was all about indi-
vidual ideas and goal setting that the
youngsters were to pursue on their own
or with others.
The structure that the counselors
normally held the students to was large-
ly rescinded here and the responsibility
for learning given to the students them-
selves. I recall David saying that the
self-scheduled time, in his years of ex-
perience, was one of the biggest chal-
lenges for the youngsters to actually
produce work during this phase of the
HighScope pedagogy was marked to
a special degree by a hands-on ap-
proach. Practical work using materials
and tools played a key role. It involved
segmenting projects and tasks into
small, manageable steps, with the group
pondering whether each step made
sense, if it had a satisfactory result, and
then collectively thinking up the next
At all times, we kept the focus on our
objective. In this way, every one could
transcend him or herself while collabo-
ratively working with the others. For
instance, the topic for an evening pro-
gram might be the creative combining
and assembling of meter-long alumi-
num tubes that a HighScope alumnus,
now working as an engineer in industry,
made available.
Ideas how to do it were developed in
several small groups, which led to the
erection of what were, in some cases,
very artistic structures. The tubes were
tied together with ropes, applicable
physical laws were discussed and the
sculptures – for example, an inverted
pyramid standing on its head were
positioned and fixed in place with cords
and metal hooks.
The Intellectual and the Practical
Always Went in Tandem
There were also two `maintenance
counselors´ in the expanded team. They
mowed the lawns, trimmed hedges,
felled trees, and kept the buildings in
good repair. They participated in all
mealtimes and the cultural evenings.
Head and hand, the intellectual and the
practical, always went in tandem in the
HighScope community.
Sports, as bodily and social experi-
ence, also played a big role. The folk
dances that Phyllis Weikart taught
meant learning through movement. We
danced barefoot on the Barn’s wooden
floor. The light fell in green, yellow,
and orange onto the dance floor through
the windows in back; the side windows
were open, above our heads were fans
that turned sedately to stir the warm
Midwestern summer air with refreshing
Phyllis had us practice dances from
Israel, Greece, Poland, and many other
countries. There were line dances and
circle dances that briefly dissolved into
pairs and then reformed into the group.
Folk dance was another way to experi-
ence and shape social interaction.
Schoolchildren and students of all skin
colors from North America, South
America, Europe, and Asia came to-
gether here in concentrated, cultured
and at once happy fashion.
A Psychological Group Exercise
One evening David staged a kind of
psychological group exercise. All
youngsters were asked to stand in a long
row, sorted by height. This instruction
set off a bit of consternation and glee
among the youth, but they started im-
mediately to gauge and compare heights
and then gradually lined up accordingly.
Here and there, places in line were
switched in a kind of fine tuning and
then the line was ready, with the tallest
youth on one end and the shortest
youngster on the other and everyone
else in between in descending order of
height. David praised the result appreci-
atively and thanked the group.
Then he asked the youngsters to line
up again, but this time in terms of their
helpfulness. What then happened was
revelatory. After an initial surprised,
even irritated, phase, the youngsters
became wrapped up in a lively discus-
sion. Smaller and larger groups changed
places and tried to develop criteria for
helpfulness. Then they pondered how
helpfulness could be estimated in relia-
ble fashion from outside and how it
could be gauged in another person. The
question also surfaced what was more
meaningful: nominating yourself, being
nominated by others, or some combina-
tion of the two, and how, in fact, com-
parability between the individual
youngsters with respect to helpfulness
could be established. As it turned out,
the names of some very helpful young-
sters were mentioned, but that evening
no lineup could be effected. David,
smiling benevolently, had watched it all
closely and listened in but without in-
volving himself in the conversations; he
had succeeded just by getting the entire
group of youngsters to think intensively
about the subject of helpfulness and
exchange opinions about it.
Gardening and Nutritious Eating
The HighScope grounds not only hosted
the summer camp for teenagers and the
conference center for developments and
meetings of the HighScope Foundation,
it was also a large farm with extensive
acreage, pasture, and a large vegetable
In the mornings, right after breakfast,
every one of us counselors went into the
garden with our table groups to pick
tomatoes, zucchini, or cucumbers, to
pull weeds, turn over the soil, or water
the plants. Gardening formed part of the
pedagogical program, combined with
nutritious eating and doing without
stimulants of any kind. The adults were
only permitted coffee.
For many USA big city youngsters,
harvesting vegetables in the morning
and then have them appear on the table
for lunch after being prepared by Da-
vid’s mother, Catherine Weikart, and
her kitchen helpers was a completely
new experience. Naturally, most things
had to be supplemented by shopping in
order to feed the entire camp communi-
ty adequately, but the garden work had
pedagogical significance.
In the beginning some big city kids
balked at doing this work. For instance,
Fran, a black girl from Brooklyn, totally
annoyed, yelled across the zucchini
beds: `Damn it, what do I need this gar-
den for and this... work here? When I’m
hungry and need food, I just go to the
supermarket, that’s all!´ But, over the
course of the summer, even Fran devel-
oped a more natural, reasonable attitude
toward the garden. It made an impact on
me, seeing her better grounded through
the gardenwork.
Good, nourishing, varied, and plenti-
ful food was a key component of the
HighScope pedagogy, to let the young-
sters as well as counselors store up the
energy necessary for the intensive men-
tal and physical work. If we had an un-
scheduled staff meeting late in the even-
ing, David’s mother used to bring fresh-
ly baked goods in to us on a baking
Field Trips
Occasionally, the entire camp commu-
nity went on field trips, such as to the
Black Sheep Theater in Manchester, a
tiny town not far from the HighScope
grounds, to watch a play there. Another
field trip took us to Detroit, to a muse-
um with engineering and historical sec-
tions, which we explored at length.
We took our field trips in a school-
bus driven by none other than David,
the camp’s president. A three-day hike
through a national park had a special
significance, as we followed the Pota-
watomi Trail. Here, too, David drove us
to the hiking trail’s starting point. Then
we agreed on a destination where he
would pick us up three days later.
We had formed groups of about 10
youngsters, each of them accompanied
by two counselors. A counselor who
knew the trail from having walked it
during a previous summer took the lead,
the other counselor brought up the rear.
That way, no youngster could get lost.
We carried tents, sleeping bags, cooking
utensils, and rations on our backs. The
distance to be covered every day was
There were certain places in the na-
tional park that were particularly well
suited for camping, for they had water
and wide open clearings on which fires
could be safely built. One of these plac-
es lay on the shore of a fairly large lake.
We all were looking forward that even-
ing to a cooling dip. But the swarms of
biting mosquitoes that attacked us pre-
vented it. We built fires, whose smoke
chased the mosquitoes out of our im-
mediate vicinity, and, when the logs had
burned down a bit, we set frying pans
on rearranged rocks and made pancakes.
Then everyone put up their tents in a
semi-circle around the firepit. There we
sat under starry skies, listening to the
nightly frog concert.
A Philosophically-Oriented
Conversation in the Dark
In the bedrooms it was lights out at 10
pm. As room counselor, I had to ensure
that this rule was scrupulously obeyed. I
do not recollect any sort of difficulties
with respect to it. At 9:30 pm, people
started getting ready for bed and I was,
in fact, able to turn the lights out at 10
I slept in the assigned room with the
six youngsters who were in my charge.
My last pedagogical assignment of the
day then ran from 10 pm to 10:30 pm;
with everyone lying in bed already, I
led a philosophically-oriented conversa-
tion in the dark in a quiet, relaxed man-
ner, during which we reviewed the
day’s events and the youngsters also
addressed more fundamental issues and
problems of life. The Staff Training
Manual contained helpful model sen-
tences for these conversations with the
youngsters during that half hour as day
turned into night.
The tight structure of the HighScope
Camp carried the individual through
both day and night. Never during those
six weeks did I hear of disturbed sleep,
bad dreams, or night fears. For the most
part, my wards fell into deep, sound
sleep at 10:30 pm or shortly after.
Exploring Globally Important,
Ethically Relevant Issues and Deeper
Existential Questions
`Council´ was another form of philo-
sophical reflection, an evening program
for the entire camp community that reg-
ularly took place in a woody clearing.
We sat on tree trunks around a camp-
fire. A framing topic had been prepared
that Karl Wheatley or another counselor
then would initiate and develop discur-
sively; it might deal with questions such
as the good and the bad in people, how
people from differing cultural and reli-
gious backgrounds could live together
more harmoniously on this earth in the
future, or if there was life after death.
Employing an old Indian ritual called
the `Indian stone,´ whoever happened to
hold the designated stone in his hand
would be allowed to speak and share
personal thoughts on the topic of the
moment. Another person would raise a
hand, receive the stone and then would
speak in turn. The atmosphere was one
of utmost concentration and close atten-
tion being paid.
While dusk sank slowly in Michigan,
youngsters and counselors from around
the globe sat there by the fire, shoulder
to shoulder. We explored globally im-
portant, ethically relevant issues and
deeper existential questions, while the
flaming wood crackled and the smoke
curled upward. The entire thing hap-
pened like a kind of associative sharing
of personal thoughts.
The youngsters relished the feeling
of unity that was created this way. The
idea was to contribute some relevant
personal insights and preliminary un-
derstandings to a larger whole that none
of us had as yet grasped in all its dimen-
sions and deeper truth. In this clearing
in the woods grew a kind of collective
cosmic consciousness.
As night descended slowly, and the
first stars appeared in the sky, we went
back to our sleeping quarters. A refresh-
ing coolness infiltrated through the open
window. Crickets chirped. The creek
gurgled softly. The rest was silence.
The Camp Terrain, over the Years
Became Part of a Story that Built
From One Summer to the Next
The rambling camp terrain, with its
meadows, pastures, fields, gardens,
patches of forest, creeks, and ponds,
over the years became part of a story
that built from one summer to the next.
The HighScope Camp was overarched
by ideas and stories of many genera-
tions of youth and student counselors,
many of whom returned multiple times
to spend the summer in Michigan.
Certain places, a clearing in the
woods, the meadow where we played
sports, a garden with fruit trees, a tree, a
spot by a creek, a hollow on a hill from
where you could gaze directly into the
sky, the studio with the potter’s wheel,
or the dancefloor in the Barn popped up
in tales, entered into diaries, poems,
songs, or works of art.
David P. Weikart as Educator
David was a down-to-earth farmer. He
had not the slightest academic preten-
sions. On one occasion, he had to fly to
Phoenix during the summer to give a
lecture. We were all glad to see him
return. It was already evening, I was
examining an old tractor along with a
group of youngsters and we were dis-
cussing something related to its axles
and something to do with the tractor’s
drivetrain, when David came and knelt
beside us and joined in, contributing a
thought now and then. It seemed that,
out here in the open, surrounded by
farming machinery, the Barn and the
workshops, he was completely himself.
He seemed relaxed. He was home.
David’s calm, and his firmness as
well, had something winning, as when I
posed some critiquing questions during
staff training week on the topic of pre-
venting flirtations between the young-
sters. With all of my 23 years, the need
for this intervention was not quite evi-
dent to me, even though I, of course,
subscribed to the HighScope principles
and supported them. I had emerged
from the German university culture of
the 1980s, where a different concept of
freedom prevailed. It was more about
freedom through living large, about
liberation from confining structures.
Here, by contrast, it was all about
freedom through structure, through a
self-imposed regimen of rules. David in
no way put his convictions up for dis-
cussion and he husbanded his words. He
simply lived his values. He was a keen
observer, sparing with his interventions
that he always initiated warmly and
benevolently. He left us space to find
our own way.
A snapshot from the Creative Summer Camp modeled on the American
prototype that I set up together with Karl-J. Kluge, and Eva-Maria
Saßenrath-Döpke, University of Cologne. Paralleling the pedagogical di-
mension of this international project is its political import: The picture was
taken in 1986 and shows a Polish boy and a German girl 31 years after the
end of the Second World War. It was a moment of summery ease.
The images are of brush drawings made by a Polish girl participating in the Creative
Summer Camp for highly motivated children and youth that Karl-J. Kluge and I found-
ed in Germany in 1985. The girl’s picture conveys an atmosphere of lightness, of play,
and of social closeness. After four weeks at camp, Agnieszka returned to Stalinism-
imprinted Poland, where she was supported in the arts field by the Warsaw Palace of
Bettina von Grandidier
The picture shows Joanna
Piekarska and Bettina von
(on the right
side) who
taught Creative
Arts in the German summer
camp for highly motivated
and gifted children and ado-
lescents, 1985-1987
Agnieszka Returned to Stalinism-
Imprinted Poland, Where She Was
Supported in the Arts Field by the
Warsaw Palace of Youth
Communicating Across Language Barriers
And Working Toward Shared Goals
`… the reverential mind is respectful of the presence and difference of each person and
thing… it continues to relate to life with a sense of mystery and respect. To engage life
in a reverential way is to maintain a sense of proportion and balance. You acknowledge
that there is a depth of presence in every person that should never be reduced in order to
satisfy your own selfishness and greed. You cannot have a personal integrity of pres-
ence without recognizing and revering the presence of others… The reverential mind
can let things be…´ (O´Donohue, Eternal Echoes, pp. 109-111).
Scenes from an inclusive German-French-Polish-Hungarian summer camp for young-
sters and young adults with and without disabilities that we conducted near Passau in
Lower Bavaria. Visually-, physically-, and mentally-challenged young people augment-
ed each other with their respective abilities, learned also to communicate across lan-
guage barriers and to work toward shared goals. The Grimm Brothers fairy tale of the
Bremen town musicians provided inspiration for the hands-on oriented project activi-
Bettina von Grandidier and I, joined by a small team of other university students, led
this inclusive summer camp for the erew-Academy Viersen, with support from the
Franco-German Youth Office. Richard (seen here in mid-picture), a colleague from a
special education institution in French Alsace, was a dependable collaboration partner
during three summers in the practical implementation of the camp and in completing
projects. He was always ready to pitch in with energy, perseverance, ideas and humor.
Writing in the Remote Forest Hut
Belonging to the Klett Publishing Family
After completing my doctoral
studies came the time of stu-
dent teaching and preparation
for working in a school. At the
same time, the first designs for
new researches that were to
flow into a post-doctoral thesis
took shape. And I became a
first-time father, with a small
family. The photo shows a
scene in the remote forest hut
belonging to the Klett publish-
ing fami
ly, where founding
publisher Ernst Klett sat by the
fireplace with his authors and
discussed ideas for books with
Hartmut von Hentig, among
others. This is where my peda-
gogical preparations for school
work and scholarly work were
interspersed with chopping
wood, fetching water from the
brook and firing up the stove.
My student teaching time was not only
exciting and inspirational, it was also
an occasion for intensive learning. Syl-
via Mandt, a highly experienced special
education teacher, acted as my mentor.
It was a challenging time occupied with
problems like: What is a good structure
for living and learning in a classroom
of students with emotional and behav-
ioral difficulties? How can I build
good, supportive pedagogical relation-
ships with the students in my class?
What does a good lesson look like in
this field? How can I teach successfully
when severe behavioral difficulties pre-
sent themselves? How do I plan an ex-
periential learning field trip or excur-
sion? How can I make it through the
school day in one piece? How do I get
through an entire school year with my
health intact? How do I stay in touch
with myself in a thoroughly turbulent
work situation?
Here from my student teaching days is a
picture of students in a classroom for
youth with emotional and behavioral
difficulties I engaged with in hands-on
learning. Using wood, sheets, and plaster
of paris, together we built a model of a
specific Alpine region, the area around
the Zugspitze Mountain. We calculated
the altitude relationships, the height of
the mountain tops, the distances between
the individual mountains and then trans-
ferred them to our home-
made model.
Finally, we added detailed features such
as mountain lakes, trees, shrubs, huts,
summit stations and ropeways.
Using Wood, Sheets, and Plaster of
Paris, Together we Built a Model of a
Specific Alpine Region, the Area
Around the Zugspitze Mountain
Shown here is a school camp located on the small southern tip of the island of Sylt in
the North Sea, between the foam-capped Atlantic Ocean to the west and the calmer
Wadden Sea to the east. It was a place of special experiences, discoveries and encoun-
ters with school classes from other parts of Germany. The older parts of the buildings
with their heavy wooden doors and wood floors date back to the Third Reich when
troops were stationed here.
Rainer Lüders led generations of children and youth by the Wadden Sea and on the
southern end of Sylt, including some of my own classes from alternative schools for
students with behavioral difficulties. This teacher was an expert teller of tales and sea-
man’s yarns. Holding out the prospect, say, of finding weapons dating from World War
Two in the tidal flats, he motivated youngsters that scarcely ever walked any distance to
set out on long hikes.
A School Camp Located on the Small Southern Tip
Of the Island of Sylt in the North Sea
An Expert Teller of Tales
And Seaman’s Yarns
Teacher and students encounter each other in new and different ways in a unique land-
scape such as the one the Atlantic Ocean and the Wadden Sea offer here by the island of
Sylt. Flying kites, digging canals with shovels, damming up water, we route and reroute
it, only to realize that the movement of tides, the counter play of ebb and flood obey
higher laws beyond man’s power to modify.
Teacher and Students Encounter Each Other in New
And Different Ways in a Unique Landscape
Children with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties
Experience the Wadden Sea Biosphere with All Their Senses
`While the home may be a powerful cradle influencing mind and personality, the lack of
home is also a huge influence… Imagine how difficult it must be for these little vulner-
able ones to develop minds and hearts where they can rest and feel the warmth and shel-
ter of self-belonging. Being deprived of intimate shelter at such a crucial time must cast
a lonesome shadow over their future struggle to belong within society´ (Donohue,
Eternal Echoes, p. 43).
Students sit in the little church in Keitum
on Sylt during a class trip. It is about
making contact with spiritual spheres in
a raw landscape dominated by ocean and
the wind. The children of contemporary
society react in quite different ways to
such a place. While the boy at left front
in the picture retreats into himself and
realizes that this church from the late
Middle Ages is a place for contempla-
tion, the student in the middle of the
church nave takes bodily possession of
the place. In this second case, the peda-
gogic distance to be covered is consider-
ably longer.
Children with emotional and behavioral
difficulties experience the Wadden Sea
biosphere with all their senses. Coming
by ship from Sylt, they dock at Hallig
Hooge and ride on horse-drawn carts to
the individual dwelling mounds, rocked
by the horses’ slow trot along the way.
They picture how the inhabitants of Hal-
lig Hooge would bring themselves and
their livestock to safety on the raised
dwelling mounds and in their houses
before an approaching storm tide. The
boys would hang on the wagon driver’s
every word as he told the tale.
What Grammar School Boy Would Not Enthuse
Over King Arthur and the Holy Grail
This snapshot came to be when I devel-
oped a thematic framework for a hands-on
learning project in a specialized classroom
for students with emotional and behavior-
al difficulties that I based on the Grimm
Brothers children’s and household tales.
We knocked together a witch’s house us-
ing discarded construction wood and
knocked-down old furniture that we then
could crawl into and read fairy tales out
loud. Building the shack offered a rich
array of chances to communicate but also
of technical-practical learning. Since only
one student in that learning group had an
intact father relationship, for the rest of
the boys I facilitated some belated experi-
ences that they otherwise might have ex-
perienced in a family environment with an
active father of their own.
What grammar school boy would not
enthuse over King Arthur and the Holy
Grail, over knights jousting and what it
was like to live in a castle? The same
holds true in a specialized school for
boys with emotional and behavioral dif-
ficulties shown here. We lined two walls
of our classroom with butcher paper
which we then covered with Middle
type imagery. In play scenes, the
boys used halberds, shields, capes and
other props, some of which they had
made. I started the instructional units
with a general overview of works of art
or movies that might show a market in
the Middle Ages, for example, or by
playing recordings of typical music of
the times. A collection of picture- and
non-fiction books, such as an account of
the training a squire or knight had to
undergo or of life in a castle, let the boys
access the topic individually and in
Then, in an instant, it happened: The sun shade in that compartment was torn out
the window, flapping wildly a few times and then the metal rod inserted at its bot-
tom suddenly stabbed like a dagger from outside back in through the window
panes doubled-up one behind the other. The rod remained firmly stuck in the
glass. All around the puncture the glass was splintering.
Before we proceed with reading the
story, I want first to set the stage with
three things, so that especially an inter-
national readership will have the neces-
sary background for integrating that
which took place.
First: In Germany, as in many other
countries, you can buy first class and
second class train tickets. First class not
only offers more comfort but also costs
50 percent more. Occasionally, it is also
possible to book first class for a group
at a price that beats the regular second
class fare.
Second: Westerland, the principal
town on Sylt, is located in the island´s
midsection, right on the North Sea and
can be reached directly by train that
practically runs through the Wadden
Sea over the Hindenburgdamm cause-
way that was built during the Weimar
Third: By virtue of its location in the
extreme northwest of Germany on the
Atlantic, Sylt Island has an especially
salubrious open ocean climate. This is
why spa tourism developed there as
early as the 19th century. The breathtak-
ingly beautiful beaches and dunescapes
attracted artists and intellectuals, but
particularly the very well-to-do.
Kampen on Sylt, with its picturesque
thatch roofed houses, boasts Germany´s
highest-priced real estate. The boutiques
there offer women´s handbags or jack-
ets for sale that would cost an elemen-
tary school teacher her entire month´s
salary. For the wealthy and the jet set,
Sylt is an investment and status symbol.
People from Germany´s socially de-
prived areas could never in their lives
hope to set foot on this marvelous island
on their own.
However, there is another Sylt and
other ways of getting there. Several
former military barracks located in the
island´s southern part were converted
into school camps and youth hostels
after World War II. That made it possi-
ble for large numbers of children and
youth to come to Sylt regardless of their
parents´ sociocultural or socioeconomic
situation, by going there on school trips
or experiential pedagogy projects. So it
was also for the group of nine- and ten-
year old boys from a special school for
children with emotional, social and be-
havioral difficulties at the center of our
Kids from Society´s Margin Riding
First Class Through Germany
This is not about the year when the only
option for a train trip to Sylt I had left
due to time constraints was to book a
block of first class seats, because my
colleague, who had joined me with his
class, had needed so much time to get
the money together that his girls and
boys owed and when we then faced a
situation on the return trip from Wester-
land to Cologne wherein society´s well-
heeled and pensioned sat in our seats in
car 13, because car 14 had a problem
with its electronics and so was off lim-
First class, it seemed, was these la-
dies´ and gentlemen´s due, simply be-
cause, unlike us, they were first class.
At first glance, it looked we seemed to
be nothing more than social free-
loaders, but fortunately we had valid
tickets and demonstrable seat reserva-
tions. And so it came about that these
kids from society´s margin did wind up
riding first class through Germany, in
April of 2004, once I had negotiated
emphatically with the well-heeled folks
sitting in our seats, insisting that my
students in fact got their seats in first
The Smooth Functioning of
Our Railroads as a Symbol for
Reliability and Well-Planned
Forward Progress
However, the story I really intended to
tell dates back to sometime before that,
to May of 1993. It, too, involves a class
trip to Sylt, to Hörnum, to be exact, that
picturesque town on the island´s south-
ern tip, where, if you clamber up the
tallest dunes, you can see the ocean on
both sides of the forty kilometer-long
island, the foam-capped Atlantic to the
west and the calmer Wadden Sea to the
Some odd experiences transpired
during the train trip there. The smooth
functioning of our railroads can be re-
garded as a symbol for reliability and
well-planned forward progress. The
train can be seen as emblem of social
normality, functionality and productivi-
ty, however, only so long as no individ-
uals board the train that are already sand
in the gears and that can disrupt a
train´s steady progress or delay the train
travelers from their business.
Nonetheless, there are children in
this society that, by reason of their chal-
lenging behavior, are referred to special
schools mostly because for deficits in
emotional attachment and lack of an
appropriate, supportive upbringing and
education. There, with the help of a
special pedagogy, they are to be brought
back reeducated, really to the right
Our Intent Was for These Kids,
To Be Exposed to New Experiences
And Insights in the Fresh
North Sea Air
After my colleague and I had attempted
various influencing and fostering
measures, with the involvement of the
immediate school environment, on be-
half of this band of rascals, a term I use
humorously here, arrived the high point
of the teaching program at that time: a
one-week class trip to Sylt.
Our intent was for these kids, social-
ized by cell phone, computer and
Gameboy, to be exposed to new experi-
ences and insights in the fresh North
Sea air, during group hikes along the
beach and mudflats, on a boat trip to
Hallig Hooge and the trotting of car-
riage horses on the Hallig.
So it was that we found ourselves
with that unruly troop of nine- and ten-
year old boys once again riding on a
train from Gummersbach in North
Rhine Westphalia through Cologne to
Westerland, in North Frisia, Schleswig-
Holstein. They were ten in number this
time, these boys from a special school
for children with emotional, social and
behavioral difficulties, and each of them
was like handling three of them when it
came to rendering necessary supervi-
sion, care and attention.
We took over several adjoining com-
partments. The month was May. It was
a warm, sunny day full of anticipation
for the beach life, North Sea air and fish
rolls. Naturally, there was no way of
keeping the boys in the compartments
for more than half an hour. They obvi-
ously felt confined and within minutes
already the first conflicts and squabbles
started. They wanted out into the corri-
dor. We put them off until later. They
tried again and kept at it relentlessly.
Finally, we let them out of the com-
partments. There simply was no other
way. They ran up and down the car´s
corridor. Then some of them opened the
windows. We closed the windows again
and pointed out the potential dangers.
Soon after, I don´t know how, the first
few boys escaped into the neighboring
open seating car.
Breathing Harder by the Minute,
I Hurried Through the Corridors
Of the Fully Booked Cars
Angelika, my colleague, went in one
direction and I in the other, to corral the
boys again. Marita, the social education
teacher, held down the fort outside the
compartments. Breathing harder by the
minute, I hurried through the corridors
of the fully booked cars. Toward the
front, I glimpsed a blond boy who be-
longed to our group; then he was gone.
I ran a gauntlet of travel bags and
sneakers that stuck out into the corri-
dors. The glass doors hissed shut behind
me. The trek through the cars seemed to
me to take an eternity. Just before I
reached the front of the train, it started
to slow down.
We entered the Bremen train station.
The doors opened and out ran some of
my students down the train platform
toward the middle of the train; maybe
they were looking for the Bremen Town
Musicians? Was this then the result of
the fairy tale projects that we had done
in class? One of the boys cheekily stuck
out his tongue at me through the train
window. Then he took off, running
along the train platform. A fun game.
Hopefully, they would get back on
the train in time, it pounded in my head.
I longed for this day to end and wished
myself into the counselor´s room of the
school hostel, there to find solace in
conversation with Mrs. Moll, a col-
league from Cologne, over a cold Fri-
sian beer. Mrs. Moll traveled to Hör-
num with her classes every year around
this time.
All right, back the whole way. Peo-
ple began to notice me and regard me
part sympathetically, part with annoy-
ance and disquiet. Then, after a re-
freshment cart blocked my way and I
somehow managed to squeeze past it,
out of breath I finally arrived back at the
three compartments where I had started
my futile chase after the students.
In the meantime, Marita had done a
good job and gotten about half the run-
aways back into the compartments.
Lastly, we corralled the remainder in
the open seating car next to ours. When
the train had ground to a halt in Bre-
men, I made my way quickly along the
platform toward the front to the engine
and then systematically combed back
through the train, to keep the boys from
having any chance of escaping again.
It Seemed that the Entire Train
Had by Now Become Affected by
Our Ruckus-Causing Presence
I happened straight onto a melee. One
of the boys had jostled an elegantly-
dressed woman having coffee. Her dress
was covered with brown spots. Sudden-
ly, there was a huge hue and cry, be-
cause an older man was pulling at the
boy and cursing at him. I excused my-
self for the boy´s behavior, pressed
some Euros into the woman´s hand for
getting the dress cleaned, mumbled
something about special children by
way of more excuses and pushed the
little group ahead of me and out of that
It seemed to me that the entire train,
regardless whether it was in first class
or second class, had by now become
affected by our ruckus-causing presence
and was suffering because of it. My
stress level kept rising. As the responsi-
ble classroom teacher, didn´t I have to
do a better job of keeping them in
check? Was it a mistake after all to take
troubled children like this on such a
long trip?
Instead of an eight hour train ride,
perhaps I should have just taken them
on a ten minute bus ride to the nearest
youth hostel. I simply could not expect
this well-set, well-heeled crowd, head-
ing for their snug vacation houses, vaca-
tion apartments and hotel rooms in
Westerland, Kampen or Keitum, to put
up with something like this.
Weren´t We All Responsible
For this Young Generation that Had
Gone off the Track?
On the other hand: Weren´t we all
somehow responsible for this young
generation that, in some respects, had
gone off the track? Could these people
sitting here in the train, representing the
larger society, simply avoid any respon-
sibility? Could they just delegate it all
to us special educators and social educa-
tors? Should they have peace and relax-
ation, at the cost of our energies being
used up and having our nerves ruined?
They wanted to travel, live, lead a
pleasant life. And us? Did we really
deserve to be sidetracked? I read it in
their accusing faces: How could you
travel with these children on this route
to this destination? Venomous looks
castigated me. Sylt, including the way to
get there, belongs to us. Please stay
home where you belong, in your social-
ly deprived areas. No. Resentment sud-
denly welled up in me: You are co-
responsible for the social and cultural
change process whose results and con-
sequences I unfortunately have made it
my job to suffer. From now on, feel free
to experience some of the effects of your
own politic or impolitic behavior, your
lack of social engagement! I’ve had it
with trying to shield you!
At a party recently a lawyer´s wife
had said to me, with a mixture of pity
and incomprehension and a smug smile
on her pursed lips, `Why on earth would
you sacrifice yourself like thatas I was
telling her about my work as special
education teacher.
Fortunately, by now all boys were
seated in the three compartments again.
With the glass doors shut, both my col-
leagues and I stood in the corridor and
assessed the situation. The sun shone
brightly. We were drawing nearer to
Hamburg. The train was barreling
along. I listened to the loud, rhythmic
clatter of the wheels.
Then, in an Instant, It Happened
Satisfied, I looked in on the compart-
ments in turn. To cheer them up, I had
treated the boys to a round of Cokes.
Lost in thought, they were sipping from
the cans. I was glad that quiet had been
restored. Only, it turned out to be a de-
ceptive peace.
In one of the compartments, the stu-
dents had pulled down the orange col-
ored sun shade. What I had failed to
notice was that the window behind it
had been pulled down all the way to the
lowest stop. The train was hurtling
along at top speed through the plain
south of the Elbe. Then, in an instant, it
The sun shade in that compartment
was torn out the window, flapping wild-
ly a few times and then the metal rod
inserted at its bottom suddenly stabbed
like a dagger from outside back in
through the window panes doubled-up
one behind the other. The rod remained
firmly stuck in the glass. All around the
puncture the glass was splintering. I
immediately tore open the door. A
warm blast of wind hit my face. Small
glass fragments threatened to come
loose from the Ping-Pong paddle-sized
I pushed the boys out into the corri-
dor as quickly as I could and locked the
compartment door to prevent any harm
to the children from flying glass splin-
ters. Then I ventured in search of the
conductor, to whom I described the sit-
uation. The uniformed man reacted with
extreme irritation, even anger: `Can´t
you properly supervise your students?´
We were nearly in Hamburg. The train
had slowed and was already on the
bridge across the Elbe. So, then the
conductor phoned the chief conductor
who decided to uncouple the car with
the damaged window on safety grounds.
This was done at the Hamburg-
Dammtor train station. The passengers
were told to detrain from the damaged
car and to find another seat somewhere
else on the train. The voices in the cor-
ridor and by the exits sounded angry.
Suitcases were heaved about. Com-
plaints rose about the lack of seats. Out-
side, on the station platform, furious
looks came my way, mostly from men
and women 55 years old and over, an
embarrassing, reproachful and some-
times downright aggressive atmosphere.
Finally, all of our charges were ac-
commodated again in an open seat car
at the tail end of the train. Thirty
minutes behind schedule, the Intercity
resumed its journey north. The students
were nervous and agitated. My col-
leagues and I had our hands full trying
to calm them down and to stabilize their
An Incensed Business Man
Claimed Damages for the
Train Delay
Suddenly, an incensed man rushed up to
me, demanded my address and phone
number and claimed damages for the
train delay from me. It had caused him
to miss an important business appoint-
ment in Westerland that, supposedly,
involved millions. We had spoiled it for
him. He would not stand for it. Sweat
broke out on my forehead. I thought
about my professional liability insur-
ance. If worst came to worst…
The other passengers in the open
seating car listened intently. I didn´t
know how to react right away. I had just
let myself fall exhausted into my new
seat. Finally, stammering, I replied that
it had not been my decision after all to
uncouple the car because of the window
damage. Of course, I also regretted the
train´s delay, but that was the chief
conductor´s decision.
Snorting with rage, the man planted
himself by my seat and repeated his
demand. But then the mood in the car,
where many of the other relocated pas-
sengers had found seats, seemed to
Moral Support
That Came My Way from
The Fellow Travelers
Suddenly, a group of women was stand-
ing in the aisle in support of me. `Look,
can´t you see what kind of work these
young people are doing here? How
would you like to be the one to do it?
Come on, now! Do you really want to
do this? What´s this nonsense about
millions? Stop it already. We´ve had it
with your arrogant rudeness!´ they went
after the man. `Get lost, why don´t
you!´ a woman called out to my accuser
from further back. `The people from the
special school have enough on their
hands taking care of these kids!´
Irritated, the man who had harassed
me mumbled something to himself,
looked around nervously and finally
went away. I was very grateful for the
moral support that suddenly came my
way from the fellow travelers, especial-
ly that group of women, all of them
These women also gave us practical
help by talking in a friendly way with
the boys, paying attention and being
considerate to them, responding to them
and from time to time asking them how
they were doing. This helped calm the
boys down, and they started to relax.
So, in this way, my two colleagues
and I received active support in looking
after the students during the last seg-
ment from Hamburg-Dammtor to West-
erland, which took the train another
three hours. A pleasant warm feeling
filled me. I started to relax, too. There
was after all something like solidarity
among this group of people rattling
along on the rails, a common sense of
responsibility. We were not alone.
In Touch with Society
I also heard nothing more from the rail-
road regarding this incident. Someone
familiar with insurance matters told me
that the railroad had largely replaced the
metal rods inserted at the bottom of sun
shades with plastic ones. Apparently,
the metal rods had long been considered
safety hazards.
Late that evening in the counselors´
room of the school camp in Hörnum, I
told Mrs. Moll the whole story. As ex-
pected and hoped she, too, was there
again. `That is why I always take the
train with my classes,´ she said, `be-
cause it gets me in touch with society.´ I
allowed myself a Frisian Pilsener. It had
a nice, tangy taste.
Joining the Youngsters in Reconstructing
Their Cultural Orientations in the Form
Of Pictorial Design or Text Productions
The photo shows a class scene from an
alternative school for students with emo-
tional, behavioral and learning problems.
The immediate object was a reenactment
of the Snow White fairy tale. The stu-
dents could make use of a stock of cloth-
ing, shoes, bags and other props. In this
scene, the play acting had suddenly
achieved its own dynamic of enacting the
birth of a child. The back story for this
was that a student had experienced just
such an event in his family. In this way,
the subjective contents of the students’
real lives find their expression in an in-
structional setting that offers the means
and room for play.
A good way to start a conversation with
youngsters whose educational biography
and way through life are marred by the
multiple burdens, conflicts, and crises
that we frequently encounter in the con-
text of emotional and behavioral difficul-
ties, is by joining them in reconstructing
their cultural orientations in the form of
pictorial design or text productions.
What takes place behind the surface of
their behavior in terms of identity-
forming and emotional processes be-
comes visible, at least incrementally,
and, within limits, accessible to pedagog-
ical thinking and adaptation.
Children Who Seemed to
Tune out or Ignore Their
Teacher’s Verbal Messages
Paid Attention to What the
Puppet Poised on My Hand
Had to Say
I made this hand puppet from a
wooden spoon, a bit of fabric
and a piece of rabbit fur. I used
it over the years in the field of
special education and inclusive
education, particularly when
working with
young children.
With this little fellow, I would
get children talking who at first
did not communicate with any-
one. Children who seemed to
tune out or ignore their teach-
er’s verbal messages paid at-
tion to what the puppet
poised on my hand had to say,
and eventually they also re-
sponded to it.
That a boy in third grade who
at times exhibits severe behav-
ioral problems is nevertheless
capable of special creative
achievements as long as he is
intensively supervised and con-
structively counseled and sup-
ported in his strengths and abil-
ities is shown by this highly
original purse lantern that he
designed. He fashioned it from
chicken wire on which he then
pasted translucent colored pa-
per. He proudly carried his
lantern in the St. Martin’s Day
parade that the school put on in
the city neighborhood.
In Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, the hero lets the other village kids give him their little
treasures in return for allowing them to help him paint a long wooden fence. It was a
very unusual deal that astonishes today’s children. Still, this literary work provides a
motivational instruction to pay attention to the little treasures that children learning in
an inclusive setting in elementary school keep in their junk drawer. A little museum can
easily be arranged with them, in a paper-lined shoe box top. A story goes with every
object that a child contributes that can be shared, verbally and in writing.
In Mark Twain’s Tom
Sawyer, the Hero Lets the
Other Village Kids Give Him
Their Little Treasures in
Return for Allowing Them
To Help Him Paint a Long
Wooden Fence
Working Conditions
At the School
Brief handover talk with the departing
classroom teacher... I am taking over
five of his students, with three new stu-
dents from outside to be added, all of
them between 14 and 16 years old... I
will teach for 27.5 hours. Weekly...
three schoolyard supervisions of thirty
minutes each... I work alone in my
classroom throughout. Every week, I
can send a small group of students to
departmental colleagues in the media
classroom and shop classroom. There is
a... billiards room... gym... foosball
room and... school kitchen (day 2)…
Student Behavior
Leon (all names have been changed) is
busily filing away... at a piece of wood
that he found outside in front of the
school. He is making one end pointed
like a spear. As file, he is using a screw
that he had fished out of my junk draw-
er. Working with such simple means, he
says, reminds him of the survival strate-
gies of the Huns... he wraps one end of
the piece of wood with bast fiber, and
now he has an archaic-looking hand
weapon (day 13)…
Problematic Patterns
Of Student Behavior:
Not Abiding by School Rules
Patrick takes off without permission
after recess (day 11)...
Max drops out of sight, Patrick also
disappears (day 16)...
Acatey walks out of the individual
class set up for him after a few minutes
(day 28)...
Dominic, Max, Tim and Leon for
days already have been leaving the
school grounds during yard recess and
roam around the shopping street (day
Jonas presumably has been truant for
days already. He has a cough, he says
on the phone. During the past year, Jo-
nas has missed more than 70% of
school days (day 33)...
Patrick's cell phone rings, and he is
gone (day 80)…
Acting Aggressively
Toward Other Students
Acatey holds Fabian's book bag out the
window and drops it... Acatey hurls the
ball... straight into Tim's face... to the
bike shed with Fabian, to unlock his
bike for him; Acatey squeezes in be-
tween us and rides off on Fabian's bike,
disappearing into the city (day 7)...
Acatey strikes at Patrick's head as he
stands in front of the window. The lat-
ter's head hits the window frame. Furi-
ous, Patrick attacks Acatey (day 14)...
Acatey... tries constantly to provoke
Leon, by hitting or kicking, or waving
his hands or fist in front of his face,
pretending to kick his head... gets very
close to Leon's face, gathers spittle in
his mouth and makes as if he is going to
spit it at him... hurls curses at Leon:
'Fuck your mother! Your mother is a
whore. You freak! Your mother crapped
you! (day 15)...
The computer network cables are
ripped out. Loud yelling and carrying
on (day 30)…
Actively Rejecting
Curricular Learning
Nobody wants to work on the assign-
ment sheets passed out (day 3)...
The first one refuses. The next one
reads a couple of sentences and stops...
then Max throws his notebook, nearly
hitting my head: 'Here, you can have it
back!' Three, four more notebooks land
on my desk (day 4)...
The boys work maybe three to eight
minutes. Max complains his sheet is too
easy. 'I won't do it, don't want to, give
me something more difficult; naw, now
that is too difficult for me, I'm not doing
it,' throws the sheet on the floor... It's all
over with the others, too (day 6)...
Leon protests... when I pass out the
homework (day 14)...
The boys refuse to take out their
work folders and books... Fabian gives
subtraction on paper a try, but gives up
already after five minutes... He will not
accept any help (day 15)...
'I want to get on the PC and play; I'm
bored'... that Fabian has not filled out a
single part of the English Level 1 work
book from the previous school year...
'So what, it's all boring, can I go now?'
(day 18)
Acting Aggressively
Toward the Teacher
Patrick swears at me: 'Hey, you jackass!
You mongoloid!' (day 11).
Max... turns up his cell phone, it is a
screeching, shrill piece of music...
'What's your problem? I'll punch you in
the face in a second!' (day 15)...
Acatey... 'What did you talk about
with my mother? I'll sock you!´... (day
While I sit next to Fabian to show
him written division, Acatey waves the
broomstick behind my head (day 19)...
Patrick attacks me, 'what's with all
this queer jabbering, and what do I care
how they are doing. Tim... he would
love to beat me up good for all the 'crap'
we are doing during class here... moves
his hands and arms karate-style. 'You're
just fucking with me'... Acatey demands
to be returned to regular class. 'Freak!
German potato! Rat fag!' he hisses at
me (day 28)...
Leon says to me: 'Freak, you can
suck my big one!... I have nothing to
say to you, you joker!´ (day 32)...
Leon threatens to beat me up if I dare
to give him a new weekly lesson plan
(day 33)
Destroying Learning
Materials and Objects
Numerous objects fly out the window...
the classroom is on the 5th floor and
ceiling is very high... dishes, books,
paper, notebooks... food... the sink is
plugged up with glue and overflows
(day 3)...
Acatey rips a door from the cabinet
that has a locker for each student (day
Fabian with a piece of wood knocks
stucco off places where the walls are
already damaged. 'So what, what's your
problem? They're going to renovate in
here anyway' (day 10)…
Disruptive Behavior in the
School´s Environment
While I pay, Acatey and Fabian steal
cones behind the ice cream seller's
back... Fabian jostles an oncoming
man... Fabian, with a smile, asks a
woman if he can pet her dog... then
pulls the yowling beast by its tail... the
boys want to go to the cathedral... go to
a side altar and blow out dozens of can-
dles... Acatey has seized on an offering
box and is shaking it... to get at the
coins inside... heads over to the candles
again and spits the flame out on two of
them... by the Rhine river promenade,
they pull each other into a fountain (day
Acatey tears open the door to a mid-
day care center. Children are playing
with beads and blocks... Acatey sweeps
everything off the table (day 14)...
Acatey... puts down fifty Euro and
says: 'From a cell phone, with camera,
ripped off... in... sold… (day 15)...
Leon, Max and Tim... threatened the
owner of a health food store... when she
asks them if she can help with anything
else, they say no, but still do not leave
the store... when the owner asked the
boys to leave the store... Leon walked
up to her and said: 'You're about to get a
punch in the mouth (day 31)...
Fabian... gives a parked car a kick. A
colleague reports... that he had slammed
a shopping cart against a parked car;
then he jumped on the hood of another
car (day 80)…
Not Following Teacher
While driving the pedal cars, Acatey
once more disregards the rules, crosses
the threshold, purposely crashes into the
others, drives trough the door out on the
street (day 11)...
Max, during recess, climbs on top of
the toilet house, and runs around on it
(day 12)...
Acatey shows up too early, he is try-
ing to sabotage the new class schedule.
He is also not ready to leave again (day
As soon as the computers are up
games are booted up: Counterstrike and
Döner-Mafia (day 30)
Engaging in Highly
Dangerous Behavior
Twice, Max tosses a chair (with iron
frame) against the wall (day 3)...
Acatey runs over a first grader with
the heavy pedal car while the teacher
was crossing the schoolyard to the gym
with her charges (day 6)...
Leon is at the window sill... sudden-
ly, a giant flame almost sets the curtain
ablaze. He had wrapped a ping pong
ball in aluminum foil and... lit it with a
lighter (day 18)...
Leon opens firecrackers, pretends he
wants to examine the powder and final-
ly pours it into a tennis ball. He fills the
remaining empty space with thin paper
and mounts a fuse on it (day 29)...
Leon carries hair spray in his pock-
et... A... jet of fire shoots through the
room (day 31)…
Positive Patterns in Student
Behavior: Willingness to Engage in
Curricular Learning
Tim and Dominic participate in a half
hour of English instruction (day 7)...
It goes well for about twenty
minutes. Then the boys want to get on
the computer (day 13)...
They actually begin to do math (day
Acatey works along well today dur-
ing the individual mentoring. After for-
ty minutes, the air has gone out of him
(day 30).
They mostly take the weekly lesson
plans home now and work on them
more or less thoroughly... between 5%
and 70%, and on the daily plans 5% and
40 %... (day 72).
Communicating Positively
With Other Students
Some of the boys have not breakfasted
and want to go buy buns and cold cuts.
When they return, they set the round
table in back of the classroom (day
Leon has brought buns to be heated...
Because no one had yet done the dishes
and cutlery, an improvised breakfast is
served on a stolen tabloid newspaper on
my desk, because the boys opine that it
was the cleanest place. Margarine and
chocolate spread... are ladled on with
the finger, `just like in a Hun encamp-
ment´ (day 18)…
Reflecting on Own Behaviors
And Life Backgrounds
Can you picture it, how he beat me, my
father? For years... He drank his fill and
then he always started in... I swear,
nothing was going on between that man
and my mother... There my father stood
in the doorway, legs apart... my mother
told him that she was so tired... `Yes,
from screwing!´ says my father... He
goes for her. `Don't you hit her,´ I said,
`I'll kill you!´ But, he keeps after her
and hits her in the face, several times.
She is bleeding... she tears open a draw-
er... takes out a long knife and says to
him: `All right, come on!´ I run outside,
take my cell phone and call the police...
my father is lying on the floor, gur-
gling... I was totally out of it, my moth-
er in the corner, totally done in, shak-
ing, crying (day 25)...
Tim asks me, if I knew what `psy-
chological stress´ is. A friend of his
supposedly has it, so his doctor had told
him. And that's why he still bed wets at
night, at the age of thirteen. He himself
had the same problem for quite a while.
Did I have any advice for his friend by
chance? (day 90)
Building a Positive Relationship
With the Teacher
Patrick shows me a picture of his attack
dog... Then he offers me peanuts (day
Leon tells me about his life as part of
a Hun horde... that his identity was
largely that of a Hun... his shock of dark
hair, standing up on his head, long in
back and shaved at the temples, empha-
sizes it (day 12)...
I am invited to join an improvised
breakfast. Tim insists that I also take a
bun (day 13)...
leafed through the Guinness Book
of Records with Patrick and Leon. Leon
lies to left of me on the side table and
Patrick stands immediately to my
right... we... comment on the pictures...
Patrick smiles... friendly... there follow
tentative touches to my hand, my arm or
my shoulder (day 13)...
Leon rides a skateboard... constantly,
he calls out to me. 'Look at me... look at
me...' (day 15).
Leon meanwhile crisps his bread,
and then mine also. He insists on doing
this for me (day 16)...
Leon rides skateboard again and con-
stantly wants my attention, also physi-
cal touching, with me pushing him. This
moves him to pat me on the back and
shoulder several times; this, from the
same Patrick who usually avoids all
physical contact (day 17)...
Leon asks me if I have any chap
stick, his lips were so dry (day 26)…
Asking the Teacher for Help,
Assistance or Shelter
The new students seek sanctuary and
protection with me, even if in disguised
fashion (day 3)...
Leon says he is afraid of getting into
fights and so want to stay close to me
all the time (day 10)...
Leon is still afraid and wants to sit in
the office when I am not on the yard
(day 11)...
Leon... stays... in my vicinity in the
school yard (day 13)
Exhibiting Successful
Emotional Self-Control
Acatey can't get on the PCs, because of
passwords set by the other students. He
succeeds in maintaining control of him-
self(day 30).
Positives and Negatives Lie Close
Together and Interlock
Acatey invariably buys breakfast only
for himself; now and then he shares
some candy, but tosses it over so... con-
temptuously... that the others do not
accept the stuff. Max, Dominic, Tim
and Leon, in contrast, develop solidarity
arrangements among themselves; dif-
ferent students alternate, even if irregu-
larly, in bringing something to eat and
sharing with the others... When Acatey
sits at his desk and eats whatever he has
brought... he does so with loud smack-
ing noises, something the others have a
hard time putting up with (day 20)…
The Positive Can Quickly Tip
Into the Destructive
Leon devises a plan for a 'cozy kitchen
corner,' with food in the refrigerator to
be bought out of a common kitty. 'When
the others are ready, I mean, when they
don't destroy or throw stuff around,
then'... Acatey... provokes Leon... This
time, Leon loses his cool and he shouts
furiously at Acatey: 'For once, just shut
your mouth, you damn foreigner! They
must have crapped you out, huh? One
of these days we'll wipe all our damn
foreigners out!' and raises a chair and
threatens to throw it at Acatey (day
in the billiard room… We have
been playing for three or four minutes,
when Acatey's constructive mood sud-
denly turns. He hits the white ball so
hard that it bounds over the table edge
and shoots in the direction of my face.
All the while, he grins at me out of his
dark, glittering eyes. Acatey changes his
stance, so get a better shot at me. Then
he waves the queue in front of my face
as if about to hit me with it (day 23)
Ambiguous Situations Can
Be Productive but Require
Coolness and Vision
Leon has brought in a condom, fills it
with water, knots it and plays with it...
He reads attentively what I write on a
poster, while he sits cross-legged to my
right on the table... Leon raises the wa-
ter filled condom to his mouth and
sucks on it... Leon suddenly stands be-
hind me and touches me on the throat,
ears, neck with this phallic symbol... He
does all this in a joking... way. Then he
splats the water filled condom against
my thigh so that it bursts. Leon contorts
with laughter, but at the same time he
seems embarrassed, and he apologizes
(day 24)...
Then Leon takes two... tables...
shoves them up against the sides of my
desk, lies across them... pensively sucks
and draws on the water filled condom...
Then he says: 'Oh, crap, my life is really
messed up. I'm in an institution and then
here, in this school, what kind of life am
I going to have?... I've thought about
jumping off a bridge'… (day 25).
Behavioral Progress Takes Time
Fabian is eating candy again and drops
the wrappers on the floor. He picks
them up unwillingly at the end of the
class, but instead of throwing them into
the waste basket purposely misses it.
Finally, he does pick up some of the
papers again. He leaves the rest on the
floor (day 16)...
Max is still spitting pumpkin seed
shells on the floor, but more and more
frequently directly into the waste basket
(day 85)
In a few instances, a student helps
the teacher clarify his pedagogic con-
cern, however, in a language suitable
for precipitating the next conflict among
the students… Patrick: 'You idiot, you
bastard, you fly shit, didn't you get it?
He means that you are responsible for
what you learn here! Get it?!'…
Managing Disruptive
Student Behavior
The boys... are kicking the ball around
the classroom. I... lock the ball up again
(day 4)...
then I grab the chair and pull it
down... to the floor again (day 10)...
I announce that I will send Max
home immediately if he tears my seat-
ing arrangement up again... it is not ac-
ceptable to speak with me in that tone
of voice... I ask him to turn off the mu-
sic (day 15)...
This time, I insist that Fabian pick up
all the candy wrappers (day 16)...
I approach Acatey determinedly and
tell him that I do not like his game (day
I plant myself in front of Acatey...
will he manage today to abide by three
rules: no insults, no physical contact
with another, no damaging anything?
(day 25)...
Acatey demands to be returned to the
regular classes. I tell him the conditions
(day 28)...
one day suspension from school
for Leon, for reason of the hairspray and
flame jet (day 32)
Fostering Curricular Learning
I choose a text about friendships in a
clique and ask the students to read (day
pass out math sheets at differing
levels of difficulty (day 6)...
test his knowledge and skills in
math and English... grade Leon's first
homework assignment... exchange a
more difficult text book for Leon's Eng-
lish book (day 10)...
propose to delve into the Hun sub-
ject as part of school work (day 12)...
try to be in better tune with the
boys' actual math skills, test Tim's
learning level (day 15)...
Leon is interested in geometry, so we
skip around in the book a bit (day 18)...
I come up with the idea of taking
what Leon said... developing it... into
questions for research (day 24)...
I engage the youths... in discussions
about computer games... what they
think about the effect of games on per-
ceptions and behavior of the players
(day 30)...
discussion about Preußler's book
Krabat... how far they have read in it,
what they find interesting in it, where
they are having difficulty understand-
ing, I paint a poster... with the names of
the fictional characters (day 33)...
Next... step by step got the students...
used to a weekly lesson plan, with re-
gard to homework... The challenges...
are widely varied, so that there is...
something for every ability level in it...
Later, I introduced... additionally daily
lesson plans, in order to give the morn-
ing a firm but flexible structure (day
I spoke about performance evalua-
tions... that there would be objective
content requirements for the various
subjects, and I provide an overview for
math, biology and English... to give
them a chance to recognize their own
performance level (day 75)…
Exploring and Reflecting
The Students´ World
I start by talking about getting acquaint-
ed. I thought about a kind of chart for
self-presentation... categories like inter-
ests, neighborhood, and age (day 3)...
a discussion about experiences
during summer vacation (day 5)...
I speak extensively with Leon about
the Hun horde... to which he belongs
(day 12)...
I ask the new arrivals how they are
doing, how they spent the afternoon the
day before and the evening (day 16)…
Teaching and Acknowledging
Positive Behavior
I thank Dominic for his cooperation
(day 5)...
Acatey worked for ten minutes on
problems he picked out himself from
the math book. I praise him for this (day
I repeatedly speak with Leon about
not letting himself be lured into a brawl
with Acatey and give him praise for
already having restrained himself for so
long... Later, corrected Fabian's essay. I
praised him for doing the work (day
To Max: Did you not see a chance to
come to Gerrit's aid or to at least exert a
calming influence on the situation? (day
To Leon: Your great strength is that
you can think so well about yourself
and about everything that goes on inside
you, that you are aware of these things
(day 25)...
I boil water... and rinse the breakfast
dishes... Does he ever help out in the
kitchen at home, I ask Acatey... Would-
n't you like to sweep up? That way, you
also have something to do. Besides,
then I'll be finished faster and we can
read something together (day 27).
I brought a Jiujitsu trainer to class
with me. The trainer and I acted as if we
were provoking each other, then used
different defensive techniques, he from
Jiujitsu, me from Tai Chi... we dis-
cussed aspects such as... inner strength,
controlling one's own aggression, self-
discipline, protecting one's own private
space, and simply walking away at
times (day 90)…
Developing Learning Motivation
And Future Perspectives
I take up the wish of resuming school-
ing in a mainstream school and encour-
age the boys not to let up from applying
themselves to their work (day 7)...
Asked Max today about his perspec-
tive on job prospects, wants to 'turn
tricks as whore at the train station' (day
talk with Leon about his career
goals... I suggest looking into which job
specifications touch on his interests...
electric equipment installer, electronic
technician for drive technology, what
the job descriptions are for these profes-
sions, what the training prerequisites
and requirements are (day 25)…
Creating and Maintaining
Classroom Order and a Healthy
Learning Environment
In the cabinets, I lock up anything I can
grab, so that everything does not go
sailing out the windows... there is still
sweeping up, with a borrowed broom
(day 3)...
I set up a schedule who can go when
to the shop room and the media room
(day 9)...
I inform them about the new regime
with the second time-shifted lesson plan
(day 11)...
I take Tim and Dominic with me... to
buy... broom, hand broom, dustpan,
rinsing bowl, dishwashing liquid, soap
and a new binder for each student (day
I obtained green plants and put them
on the windowsills. In the back of the
classroom, I put up natural science
maps of fauna and flora and a teaching
poster with all ship types (day 24)…
Building Positive
Teacher-Student Relationships
I invite the boys out for ice cream (day
I continually get... students from the
two classrooms adjoining mine on ei-
ther side. I take the opportunity to start
a conversation with these boys as well
(day 4)...
I absolutely must sit down for this... I
bring a teapot and buttered bread with
me and sit down with the four of them.
Tim insists that I also take a bun (day
I ask Max and the others how they
are getting along (day 15)...
Leon crisps his bread in the mean-
time, later mine as well. He insists on
doing this for me (day 16)...
I bring more green plants to the
classroom, sweep, wipe bookshelves,
window sills, and tables with a moist
cloth, rinse drinking cups, boil water,
make lemon tea for the boys... create a
familial ambiance (day 85)…
Clarifying Group Conflicts
Back in the classroom, I try to unwind
the conflict between Acatey and Patrick
(day 14)...
After a short rest period the oppo-
nents spend in separate classrooms, we
succeed in clearing up what happened
and the interior process (day 17)...
We end the talk with the agreement
that they would avoid each other and
should their paths cross, not to start ar-
guing (day 19)...
I also prepare two posters, one in or-
ange, the other in yellow. This time
with the headings `External complaints´
and `Inner complaints´ (day 24)...
As I am trying to pull apart two scuf-
flers tied up in each other, Leon tries to
stop me from doing so. First, I have to
shake him off before I can intervene in
the heated struggle of the two boys now
fighting on the ground, already ringed
by... spectators (day 30)
Collaborating with Fellow
Teachers and the Principal
The boys are now asking me for a soft
ball... to play soccer in the hallway... I
check this out with a colleague and
learn that it is customary, for relaxa-
tion... to let the students... play soccer in
the hallway... and the colleague from
the media room asks... if we had book
requisitions (day 4)...
here, all colleagues advise against
bringing valuable items to the class-
rooms (day 10).
Once again, a colleague had her new
cell phone stolen from the teacher's
lounge... The students are to arrive in
shifts after the weekend in order to rec-
tify the situation. The tip came from
colleagues, all supported it in the teach-
er conference, including the principal
(day 10)...
Case consultation. I ask the col-
leagues to tell me about the four old
students in my class (day 12)...
The principal's view is that it is not
about exerting power, but instead about
acting consistently, for example: If you
are going to break off the cabinet door,
you will have to pay for it. Then we will
ask your father to come and discuss
what else remains to be done. So, think
about what you are doing. This way,
you put the responsibility on the young-
ster. The principal counsels against
breaking ground in too many places and
to concentrate foremost on the subject
of reparations... The next subject to be
thematized could be leaving class with-
out permission. If I am not in a position
to devote myself intensively to this con-
struction site then I would do better... to
hold off for now (day 13).
The teacher next door needs a clean
cloth... I send one over to her (day 15)...
Visits during class time must be re-
duced. As a tentative solution we settle
on leaving the doors open for a quarter
of an hour before class starts to leave
the students space for contacts... with
each other (day 18)...
Together with the principal and
teaching staff, I decided that Acatey
would no longer take part in regular
classroom instruction. He will get three
hours individual support from me... oth-
er than that, we will let everything that
to date has functioned continue to run
for him..., an hour of soccer with anoth-
er class and the Mofa course (day 27)
Collaborating with
Parents or Guardians
Leon's mother tells me this evening on
the phone that I've gotten too close
emotionally to her son, which he is hav-
ing to compensate for by stepping up
his aggressiveness (day 13)...
Conference with Fabian's foster fa-
ther, in the principal's presencewe
discuss the damages... The father says
I'm responsible, because I failed to pre-
vent the escalation. He says: 'If the hotel
guests are dissatisfied, the host gets
replaced!' I... invite him... to see for
himself... I raise the possibility of set-
ting up an individual learning plan for
Fabian, that we can supplement jointly
with the father's inputs... A call from
Max's mother. He has now been thor-
oughly tested by a psychologist. 'A tick-
ing time bomb,' was what she said.
'We'll be lucky if he only kills himself.'
The psychologist advocates close child
and adolescent psychiatry (day 17)...
Conversation with Acatey's parents.
Only the mother came... she knows it all
by heart already... Why does Acatey act
the way he does?... then she talks about
the beatings that Acatey... received as a
child... explanations, that have to with
an unwanted pregnancy... back then, in
eastern Turkey... In any case, it was
difficult to love the child... the father
has no emotional connection to the son.
'Neither of us cares about him any
more,' says the mother. Contact with a
psychiatric clinic... Acatey did not want
to talk with the psychiatrist. He said that
the boy was filled with hate and vio-
lence, something needed to be done
urgently. But we did not get a new ap-
pointment (day 18)...
Class open house evening... the par-
ents read the subject roster on the wall...
express agreement with the subjects I
am emphasizing... Leon's mother says,
her son has a big problem with being
allowed to make mistakes. He had ur-
gently to practice writing. He had
been... covering up his weaknesses for
years... During recess... a visit. The do-
mestic partner of Leon's mother and a
Hun friend, brass rings on his fingers,
T-shirts with pit bull portraits. They
came to see who is always beating up
on Leon and to read the boys the riot act
(day 28)...
When I place a call to Jonas, loud
Hip Hop music by a band greets me... A
few days later, the phone line is discon-
nected... Acatey says, his parents had
filed a grievance with the education
office because he only gets nine hours
of class (day 33)...
Sent a list of all the unexcused ab-
sences by Jonas to the mother (day
Interdisciplinary Work and
Relationship Between School
And Community
Evening... phone conversation with Fa-
bian's therapist... that Fabian acts almost
'submissive'... in the three or four thera-
py sessions to date... and tries very hard
to do what is asked of him. When it
comes to school... he appropriates the
victim role for himself. To the therapist,
he selectively reports things that under-
gird this victim image (day 23)
The school-community subject area
is reflected in the following passages…
It is my birthday, and so I invite the
students out to a Turkish pizzeria. When
we get there, the door is still locked.
Acatey beats with his fist against the
glass. An old Turk runs over and tells
him to knock it off... On the way back
to school, a few boys get into an argu-
ment with the scaffolding crew on the
church. Tim apparently had climbed up
a ladder. I mediate. Then a group runs
into the church... I herd the boys right
away out of the church, after the experi-
ence at the cathedral (day 17)...
The windows of an apartment across
from the school are repeatedly broken
with stones. Some of my students seem
to know something. The principal has
numerous conversations. The perpetra-
tor is never identified (day 80)
The Teacher's Thoughts,
Emotions and Reflections:
Seeing Through and Beyond
The Student Behavior
Why the wanton throwing of stuff out
the window? ... Establishing a hierarchy
among one themselves?... To let go... of
the teacher left?... Find out how I react
to these things? (day 3)...
Neither of the two budges. Perhaps it
would mean a loss of face... Acatey
hangs on... to Patrick, although... physi-
cally the weaker. It is as if he was invit-
ing... the punches and kicks... every few
days he has blue splotches on his face
(day 14)...
The first, deeper-going relations take
root among the students over the com-
munal breakfast... that Acatey will not
be asked to join in anymore, because he
has blown it with this group... It is also
possible that he does not find a model
for this kind of social interaction within
himself (day 20).
Leon has now emerged for good
from my protective shadow and has
changed sides. He starts to continually
attack and insult me in front of the other
students... he wants to arrive once and
for all in the group of classmates and be
accepted in it (day 30)
Reflecting and Clarifying
Self-Perceptions and Own Emotions
I'm becoming uneasy (day 3)...
The boys are as big as me and even
with Tai Chi and fitness training, I do
not want risk any physical altercations
(day 5)...
near-chaos (day 10)...
Acatey takes my backpack, and, stu-
pidly, in that class that day my valua-
bles happen to be in it... the students
have several times removed my bundle
of keys from the desk. A... game, that...
is nerve wracking (day 14)...
The situation is improving... Hope-
fully, Acatey will not come in early
again... recess is relatively peaceful (day
For a few minutes at least, no outside
violations (day 18)...
Still, it makes me nervous. Some-
how, I blame it on the system for not
remedying the chronic staff shortage
and seemingly being unconcerned with
how I'm going to survive each round
under these conditions (day 19)…
Pedagogical and
Didactical Planning
Locking the door and sending the boys
who do not belong to my own class
away... would... signal rejection (day
In this group setting, which themes...
deserve to be stressed?... I visualize
what I observe... I describe moderation
charts... and hang the charts in the...
topic tracker: to really make an effort
and learn something, set goals for your-
self, leave all things intact, make use of
the teacher's learning offerings, every-
one here is special, everyone here is
likable, respect others... follow the
rules, rule violations have consequenc-
es, respect the other's boundaries, be on
time for class, formulate learning inter-
ests, feel secure, feel good, be polite, do
your homework, help each other, be-
come a group, be at ease sitting around
in a group, be in the present moment
here. See how the boys react to this?
(day 20)
Evaluating the Effectiveness
Of Own Actions
I start with a success, a bit of order... to
be maintained (day 15)...
It is hard to pull the two bodies
locked into each other apart. Finally, I
succeed (day 17)...
I hold out the prospect that every
properly completed assignment sheet
will get credit for grading purposes.
This seems to motivate some (day 18)...
Acatey... furious 'I'll slug you!'... 'No,
you won't,' I tell him loud and clear. At
the same time, I assume a defensive
posture derived from Tai Chi. The mes-
sage hits home (day 19)…
Planning Behavior-Related
slam the door shut, stick the key in
the lock and lock it from the inside.
This all has to happen very quickly... It
is important that no one feels locked up.
Locking a rampaging student out is a
matter of self-protection and protection
of the other students (day 19)...
perhaps, make a start by preparing
a meal together with Acatey and then
eat it together with him and... then in-
vite another student and another (day
Analyzing Teaching and
Learning Processes
Holding a regular class is still out of the
question (day 11)...
that Max simply just copies all re-
sults... for the moment... is secondary, I
think... homework... For all the others,
this is still out of the question. They
would do nothing with it (day 14)...
I regard... the external chaos caused
by the students as a reflection of their
inner psychic situation. It makes no
sense at this point to ask them to keep
themselves in check and to help with
sweeping, etc. (day 19)...
Acatey... is excluded from the circle
of the other classmates, because he
simply cannot manage to control his
destructive impulses (day 20)...
The learning and work behavior had
to be built up among the students...
from scratch (day 72)…
Dealing with
Pedagogical Dilemmata
What effects would my working with
the police have on the quality of my
pedagogical relationship with... the...
boys, when almost every one of them
engages in small-time criminal actions?
(day 15)...
Max goes to the bathroom... for a
smoke? I am glad he is so peaceable
today (day 19).
Still urgently have to study... the
files... On the other hand, I shy away
from it, because after reading these...
statements, reports and expert opinions,
all the notations about crimes and court
dates... I no longer regard the boys
without prejudice (day 19).
Prohibit... Counterstrike... or thema-
tize it? (day 30)...
Döner-Mafia... Was that game... the
template for the boys' performance in
the health food store? (day 31)...
The past year, Jonas has missed more
than 70% of school days. Would a
mandatory court appearance even do
any good? (day 33)...
Patrick is becoming softer, more
trusting toward me... his father comes
on like a Mafia boss. Meanwhile, I've
gotten credit from both of them because
I relegate everything that is not imme-
diately related to... school to being a
family matter, which I steer clear of
completely. It is harder for the social
worker... Patrick says the man talks too
much (day 80)…
Reflecting on Teacher-Student
...small... talk with the boys from the
class next door... this way they feel that
I am paying attention to them (day 5)...
I sit down in the reading corner with
Acatey... some days he appears to be
downright fragile and to need support
(day 13)...
Max... sits cross legged on my desk...
As if he wanted to say: Look at me!
Here I am!... He never dared come that
close to me before. He acts as if he
wants to ram his fist in my face (day
I made this drawing during a long teacher conference. I had been teaching for nearly
five years and had profoundly spent my self through highly engaged work in an alterna-
tive school for students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. A longing for peace,
for stepping back, contemplation and mental stock-taking is what speak to me from this
picture. But there is also the wish for a professional change, for a new start, as my skep-
ticism grew about school culture, leadership and collegial compatibility.
A Longing for Peace,
For Stepping Back,
Contemplation and
Mental Stock-Taking
`Each one of us is inevitably involved in deciphering who we actually are. There is no
other who can answer that question for you… Who are you behind your mask, your
role? Who are you behind your words? Who are you when you are alone with yourself?
In the middle of the night, when you awake, who are you then? When dawn rescues you
from the rainforest of the night, who are you before you slip back safely beneath the
mask and name by which you are known during the day?´ (O´Donohue, Eternal Echoes,
p. 145).
Contemporaneous with my work during the 1990s in specialized schools for children
and youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties, I taught a recurring continuing
education course focused on the creative arts. It was an in-service training program for
individuals who had already been active in social and pedagogical fields for some time.
This activity as group moderator over the years put me in touch with many fascinating
people versed in life and their professions. All along, it was I who also learned in these
While my students, inspired by Tom Sawyer’s little
treasures arranged objects from their junk drawer in
a shoe carton top, I was digging through my own
desk drawers and boxes, where I came across these
assorted address stamps from my time as a neophyte
teacher that hark back to a few moves and changes
of residence I had made. The fountain pen and
stamps function as symbols of the letter correspond-
ence that I still actively carried on with friends and a
few persons in academia. The discarded watch could
be understood as allegorical of the passage of time.
This Activity as
Group Moderator
Over the Years Put
Me in Touch with
Many Fascinating
People Versed
In Life and Their
Together, the Participants in these Creative Arts
Workshops and I Worked Through an
Abundance of Living-Learning Processes
As action guide framework models served the encounter groups that Carl R. Rogers had
led at one time as did Ruth Cohn’s theme-focused interaction. I always emerged from
these seminars newly inspired and energized to return to my own classrooms in special-
ized schools for youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Inviting artists to take part in pedagogi-
cal work at school can open up new per-
spectives. This student with behavioral
and learning difficulties is working with
Gunhild Lorenzen-Golby on the subject
of right-
wing violence. The youth had
fled with his family to
Germany from
the Balkan wars. Anti-foreigner tenden-
cies in German society in the mid-1990s
gave rise to fears in the boy that he is
expressing here and reflecting on togeth-
er with the artist. The photo above shows
art therapists Barbara Rühl and Shirley
Listening to the Hum of Bees,
Letting the Eyes Wander over the Flower Beds,
Watching a Brimstone Butterfly,
Gazing at the Blue Sky,
Following the Clouds
`When you find a place in nature where your mind and heart find rest, then you have
discovered a sanctuary for your soul´ (O´Donohue, Eternal Echoes, p. 21)… `Our
minds are over-saturated and demented. We need to rediscover ascetical tranquillity and
come home to the temple of our senses. This would anchor our longing and helps us to
feel the world from within´ (ibid., p. 4).
When two special education teachers come home after school is out, it is wonderful to
relax for a moment in the garden, to close eyes for just a bit and let what transpired in
school that day pass in review. All the time, listening to the hum of bees, letting the eyes
wander over the flower beds, watching a brimstone butterfly, gazing at the blue sky,
following the clouds we also briefly meditate on a trail of ants as they transport small
loads with enormous intensity and hustle according to what seem to be some hidden
plan. The ants’ liveliness brings our thoughts back to lesson planning for the next day
and sets us to reflecting on our own work as part of a greater plan.
Many of these Students Had
Lost the Spontaneous Childlike
Delight in Pictorial Storytelling
And Self-Expression
When I look back on my years as a
teacher in the field of educating students
with emotional, social and behavioral
difficulties, in both specialized and in-
clusive settings, and on my observa-
tional classroom research conducted at
the juncture of education and special
education, it was primarily the students
with emotional, social and behavioral
difficulties at the secondary school lev-
el, and especially those in specialized
alternative settings, who frequently ex-
hibited scarcely any spontaneous access
to drawing, painting and other artistic
Some lacked confidence for drawing,
others had little previous artistic experi-
ence or knowledge, or they dodged es-
thetic-creative assignments entirely.
Many of these students had lost the
spontaneous childlike delight in pictori-
al storytelling and self-expression or, in
some cases, depending on the individual
socialization backgrounds, it seemed
they had never known it at all.
Rather than putting something on
paper that did not measure up to their
own inflated expectations derived from
media models, they chose not to make
any picture at all and refused to cooper-
ate in class.
Already a problem that is encoun-
tered in this age group generally, it was
that much more pronounced in students
with emotional and social difficulties
and posed extreme challenges for me as
a teacher who wanted, and was obligat-
ed, to make art with this audience.
Students Who Completely Refuse
To Draw Can Easily Be Guided into
The Artistic Terrain and Encouraged
To Have Fun Producing
Pictures on Their Own
To deal productively with this situation
and get these youngsters to make pic-
tures anyway, over the years I devel-
oped a kind of Movable Layout, in es-
sence a collage-assisted drawing tech-
nique. For this purpose, I took availed
myself of a series of pedagogic and ed-
ucation precepts whose effectiveness
research in the field of teaching students
with emotional and behavioral difficul-
ties had confirmed, i.e., breaking up the
task components, explicit and direct
instruction, choice-making, and oppor-
tunities to respond. With this research-
based technique, students with emotion-
al and social needs, who often exhibit
difficulties with pictorial exposition or
who completely refuse to draw because
of the fear of failure, can easily be guid-
ed into the artistic terrain and encour-
aged to have fun producing pictures on
their own, never mind any obvious dif-
ficulties. The academic intervention
undertaken in this way also turns out to
be a behavioral intervention.
The First Thing that Happens
Is a Simplification of the Perspectival
And Compositional Relationships
And Demands
However, this is not merely about re-
ducing the task load. What it does call
for is a special way of structuring the
problem presentation and ways of solv-
ing it. To simply make tasks easier
would undermine the curricular educa-
tional requirements for this group of
students and also not challenge them
enough so they can develop. What the
students need much more is stimuli for
That is why breaking up the task
components, splitting up the workload
into steps, and adapting the task so that
the respective steps are of shorter dura-
tion is crucial. These strategies lead to
more on-task behavior. Tightly tied into
this is the teaching of component skills.
In classroom work with the Movable
Layout, the first thing that happens is a
simplification of the perspectival and
compositional relationships and de-
mands. Given the chance to arrange the
figure elements against a background
initially on a trial basis, then to manipu-
late them in new and different ways,
makes perspective and the pictorial
space concrete for the student as fore-
ground-background, in front of-behind,
etc. and dynamically tangible, compre-
hensible and adjustable. In addition,
teacher input can help students under-
stand this step better and complete it
Combined with the principle of sub-
stitution for missing representation
schemes or for deficits in existing cog-
nitive figurative representations, de-
pending on an adolescent’s individual
learning level, previous aesthetic social-
ization and learning biography, this re-
duction of complexity on the formal
level of the perspectival picture compo-
sition corresponds with by a high de-
gree of complexity of visual narrative
and visual message on the content level.
By using this method, the student is
guided step by step to a pictorial crea-
tion that is in most cases very satisfying
for him or her.
Providing Students
Clear Statements About
What Is to Be Learned,
Proceeding in Small Steps
With Concrete and
Varied Examples
The second factor by which the Mova-
ble Layout also contributes to academic
learning and behavior improvement lies
in the way it integrates explicit or direct
instructional practices, with an empha-
sis on providing students clear state-
ments about what is to be learned, pro-
ceeding in small steps with concrete and
varied examples, checking for student
understanding, and achieving active and
successful student participation.
The More Confrontational
A Student's Behavior Is, the
More Important and Effective
Choice-Making Is as an Entry to a
Productive Learning Process
Third, the Movable Layout despite, or
perhaps because of, its high degree of
pre-structuring, allows the students with
emotional and social needs choice-
making in various ways. The positive
effects of choice-making as interven-
tions that reduce problem behavior are
accepted as givens in research.
The more confrontational, the more
disruptive a student's behavior is, the
more important and effective choice-
making is as an entry to a productive
learning process. Movable Layout,
however, was specifically developed for
adolescents with very disrupted behav-
ior patterns, such as those encountered
in specialized settings in alternative
schools or in the Tier III area of a
school-wide model.
Here choice-making, in conjunction
with other precepts for example,
breaking up the task component as well
as explicit or direct instructional prac-
tices, etc. is of fundamental im-
portance for dismantling learning re-
sistances in adolescents.
In this, different types of choice-
making can come into play, from pref-
erence and choice of activity through
within-activity choices to a choice of
task sequences. With Movable Layouts,
the youngsters can choose from many
different picture backgrounds and pic-
ture elements, as provided for in specif-
ic lesson plans.
Depending on circumstances, they
may also freely choose the subject of
their art work, or I may give them a
choice of two ready-made, combined
background-and-figure sets. Next they
have the opportunity to choose the ma-
terials and artistic technique for doing
further work on a copy of their pictorial
Offered Now Is the Possibility
Of a Complex, Many-Layered
And Detailed Picture Message
Or Picture Story
Fourth, classroom work with the Mova-
ble Layout includes a variety of oppor-
tunities to respond, understood as in-
structive stimuli that occasion the stu-
dent responses. We need to take into
account that higher rates of opportuni-
ties to respond are associated with in-
creased on-task behavior and decreased
disruptive behavior, and also be clear in
connection with the Movable Layout,
that besides teacher-directed individual
responding, production responses are a
given, particularly in the creative pro-
cesses themselves.
In this way, the Movable Layout
gives every individual student a chance
to tell a story using pictures to share
about himself and the world of his
thoughts and lived life and, beyond that,
to communicate verbally, either in con-
versation with the teacher and/or the
other students.
On the content level, thanks to the
tools provided, offered now is the pos-
sibility of a complex, many-layered and
detailed picture message or picture sto-
ry. The students get the opportunity to
communicate in an artistically sound
manner and at the same time to present
an altogether respectable whole artistic
This means that the youngsters now
are able to express considerably more
pictorially than they could using just
their intrinsic artistic abilities. With the
Movable Layout system they step up to
complex picture composition and spa-
tial organization that is capable of meet-
ing their own demands far more than
might a free-hand drawing or a free-
hand pictorial design.
Problems and Fears About Artistic
Expression Are Circumvented and
Then Dismantled Step by Step
Thus, problems and fears about artistic
expression are circumvented and then
dismantled step by step through repeti-
tion of successful picture making expe-
riences. The build-up of frustrations or
aggressions, which often lead to the
artistic activity being dropped or not
even begun in the first place, ceases to
be a problem.
The outcome is quiet, disciplined
creative activity, enjoyable pictorial
experimentation and a gradual expan-
sion of native drawing and design abili-
ties. This in turn has a positive effect on
learning motivation and the learning
and working behavior of a youngster
with emotional and social needs.
To Begin with, Discussed Are
Perspectival Issues, Drawing or
Printing Techniques, Possibilities of
Computer Image Processing
Even if life topics are likely to be ad-
dressed directly or indirectly in the pic-
tures, it is recommended that these be
acknowledged in this early phase but
not dwelled on as subject for discussion.
Only when a greater degree of behav-
ioral confidence is attained with stu-
dents with emotional and social needs
and develops in parallel with successes
in the field of academic learning, can I,
as a teacher, carefully begin to address
the picture contents and thus possibly
also begin making the contents of a stu-
dent’s special life experience a subject
of discussion, at all times in line with an
pedagogic focus.
But to begin with, discussed only are
perspectival issues, overlaps, size pro-
portions, contrasts, drawing techniques,
printing techniques, possibilities of
computer image processing, etc. This is
safe ground for all participants, students
as well as teachers.
Movable Layout Is a System
Of Manipulatable Picture
Backgrounds and Elements
The idea of placing individual figurative
elements on a background, to move
them around until a desired effect is
achieved and then to photocopy the fi-
nal arrangement and then continue to
work on it is basic graphics technique.
Movable Layout is a system of manipu-
latable picture backgrounds and ele-
To make working with this method
possible, the first thing to do is assem-
ble a basic assortment of pictorial ele-
ments and backgrounds, for instance, by
copying drawings by famous artists,
figures from how-to-draw books, and
the like. Many documents can furnish
details that can be enlarged or reduced
or otherwise adjusted with image edit-
ing software. The elements are then
printed and or cut out.
The picture backgrounds are mount-
ed or laminated on poster board to make
them more durable. Among the image
backgrounds the following might be
found: Gentle hills rising out of fog, as
well as dense forests or barren, craggy
rocks in an otherwise empty appearing
landscape. On some of my backgrounds
I have used white-out to delete central
figures, animals etc. from the printed
I have views of villages, which can
stimulate both representations of idylls
and tranquillity but also boredom and
sadness. Some background scenes I
keep deliberately very amorphous and
indistinct, specially processed in part to
leave as much room for imagination as
They virtually invite the projection
of subjective imaginings onto them. The
city scenes show tidy avenues as well as
street canyons, apartment blocks and
dark subway shafts. There are also
house or apartment interiors, e.g., a
kitchen with dining table, living room
with sofa, home office, teenagers’
rooms, bedrooms; in short, rooms where
a relevant event or imaginative content
can be staged. The set of varied pictorial
elements should span a broad spectrum
from the aspects of content and motifs.
I derive the selection criteria from
my knowledge of the age-specific inter-
ests of the learning groups that I work
with. Accordingly, I compile my en-
semble in different ways depending on
age but also the youngsters’ conflict
burdens, severity of behavioral issues
and emotional experience.
The repertoire of figure cutouts can
be made up of pictures of men, women,
children, adolescents, parent-child
groupings, and so on. They can be
trimmed with scissors before being
placed into the picture to achieve an
optimal fit with what the student per-
sonally intends to depict. Further, there
are pictures of bicycles, motorcycles,
cars, trucks, trains, planes, carriages,
furniture, houses, animals and all sorts
of implements and furnishings, from the
living room chair all the way to the
Acquiring some light, easy to carry
cases is highly recommended. One case
can hold as many as 150 of the back-
ground images mounted or laminated on
poster board. The other case is dedicat-
ed to the movable figures. By continual-
ly adding to the collection over the
years, newly copying or printing out
damaged items and in between con-
stantly making a few copies, enlarging,
or shrinking drawing elements that you
come across out and make their way
into the case, within a few years it is
easy to accumulate 6,000 to 8,000 ele-
With this collection it is possible to
work cogently and in a richly varied
manner. But to start with, I will only
have a much smaller collection that I
gradually build up. Occasionally, the
students will also help to cut out newly
copied picture elements. To enhance the
chances of finding suitable motifs and
elements, the students themselves also
get to choose images from art books,
catalogs, other printed images or the
Internet. They copy, enlarge, or shrink
them and then add these supplementary,
found elements to their own composi-
tions and then enhance them by drawing
on them.
Didactical Considerations
When I present too many mixed-up el-
ements to a given study group, it may
be asking too much from the individual
children and teenagers in the way of
sensory overload. I therefore went on to
set up folders arranged by element sub-
ject matter, for instance, by images of
children, adolescents, adults, wild ani-
mals, domestic animals, buildings or
It also lets me hand the students just
the folder with child figures and ani-
mals and specify the topic as `An expe-
rience with an animal.´ I started out
with backgrounds in the DIN A3 for-
mat, but I soon noticed that many stu-
dents with emotional and social needs
later found it difficult to artistically en-
hance the entire picture surface. The
area simply looked too large to them.
They lacked the endurance.
As a complementary alternative, I
therefore put together a smaller set of
backgrounds reduced to DIN-A4. From
then on, I let some students decide for
themselves whether they wanted to
work with a smaller or a larger format,
making another instance of choice-
making a part of this process.
When students first start working
with the Movable Layout system, I rec-
ommend not posing a topic at the start.
Usually the motivation is strong enough
without it, i.e., they very eagerly search
through the picture elements, try them,
arrange them, so that at the early junc-
ture, they would hardly pay attention to
a subject assigned. Later on, it may be
useful to offer something along the fol-
lowing lines: `A weekend at my house.´
`Something that happened here in the
school,´ `Recently something strange
happened to me,´ `On the go with my
Through these and similar topics, the
students receive stimuli as well as basic
ideas through which a pictorial explora-
tion of an experiential content can be
achieved. A topic could also deal with
`When I really got upset at school´
could also be a topic on the basis of
which it would be possible to work on
the applicable emotional or social issue
with students that are already exhibiting
more stable behavior.
The Creative Process with
Movable Layout Technique
In the creative process, a series of oper-
ations play a special role, the first of
which consists of ordering, experiment-
ing and arranging. The creative process
unwinds in a similar manner regardless
if the assignment is free-form without
subject or tied to a specific topic:
First, the youngsters select a back-
ground, followed by a series of drawing
elements. They arrange, experiment,
move, latch on to an idea or discard it.
They move pictorial elements, e.g., fur-
niture, animals, people, etc. back and
forth across the chosen background un-
til they arrive at a pleasing arrangement.
It happens from time to time that a
student, in follow up to this introductory
experience, desires to change the back-
ground to a different one from the one
chosen initially. I advise making this an
option. It has also happened to me that a
student would rather design an entire
background on his own against which to
position the prepared picture elements.
This type of initiative taking should be
supported anytime, with the rule of
thumb being: As many rules and pre-
structuring by the teacher as necessary,
as much independent creativity by the
students as possible.
Anyone not needing the Movable
Layout who would rather work free-
hand should be allowed to do it! The
method is designed as an aid in inde-
pendent composition and should there-
fore not be experienced as confining.
But cases like this are the exception to
the rule.
Next is selecting and then attaching
the picture elements, followed by pho-
tocopying the layout. The loose ele-
ments are attached with small strips of
double-sided adhesive masking tape and
one or more photocopies are made of
the prepared layout. These copies are
then enhanced using various artistic
The image backgrounds and moving
elements are reusable and find their way
back into the cases or folders. When
enhancing the copied composition with
artistic means, one possibility for fur-
ther creative work on the picture is to
complete drawing it or adding draw-
Students who have learning prob-
lems or learning disabilities in particular
usually begin by coloring in their pic-
tures or over them with felt tip markers.
Variations here might consist of offer-
ing the children and teenagers crayons,
oil pastels or water colors.
Even just coloring as an entry into
higher artistic compositional processes
is worthwhile, because the almost al-
ways handsome and brilliantly colored
resulting pictures give satisfaction to the
students who are often accustomed to
failure; they fill them with pride and so
motivate them to go on.
In my experience, youngster with
behavioral problems especially like
working with black felt tip pens. Wher-
ever possible, I encourage the students
to draw in missing shape parts or simple
lines, extend them or to add entirely
new details to the pictures by drawing
them in.
Another possibility for artistically
enhancing the copies besides drawing
with felt-tip pen, pencil, fountain pen or
nib is painting on them with brush and
opaque colors to the point where the
contours of the graphic elements are
covered to the extent possible, perhaps
gradually becoming completely invisi-
Other artistic options are to be found
in transforming, experimenting and ab-
stracting. Based on many years of ob-
servation, students with behavior prob-
lems as opposed to those with severe
learning difficulties tend to do more
spontaneous drawing on the copied
compositions and so transform the con-
Transformation to some extent corre-
sponds to their natural tendency, a cir-
cumstance that can be honored as thor-
oughly positive in this context, for this
natural tendency to transformation that
numerous students with emotional and
social needs evidence here is put in the
service of artistic work.
Impressively original results can be
achieved with the help of monotype or
flat screen printing. In this process,
sheets of plexiglass (real glass is not
used for safety reasons), have a thick
coat of water-soluble ink rolled onto
them. The layout copy with the picture
side facing up is deposited lightly on the
inked surface and then the contours of
the landscape, houses, people, or ani-
mals are traced firmly with a pencil so
that they are pressed into the ink.
The sheet can also be placed step-
wise on differently colored plates. Once
again, the image produced by the mono-
type can be painted on by dissolving the
water-based remaining paint for a
clouded or fogged appearance or adding
a new color accent. To encourage such
experiments and playfulness, it is best
to make several copies of the previously
created template.
In addition, several computer-based
image processing applications offer the
ability to twist scanned-in compositions,
to distort, manipulate and change them
by using various filters. The resulting
images can once more be painted or
drawn on, both on the computer screen
and also on a paper print. The picture
versions can also be cut up and assem-
bled in new or different ways.
Also, experiments on the copy ma-
chine or on a scanner can be done by
turning the template during the expo-
sure process or pulling it out sideways.
This produces abstraction and distortion
effects. Depending on which direction
you pull the sheet, it results in stretch-
ing or compressions, twisting of figures,
buildings, etc.
From these copies, complete new
pictorial compositions can be collaged
and overpainted again. In this way, an
increasing degree of freedom is experi-
enced in handling the original design.
Another alternative is creating a short
picture story or sequence of pictures
from several individual pictures, as in a
comic strip. It need only have the same
characters and elements differently ar-
ranged from scene to scene and each
time it is copied or scanned, then varied
and combined into a story.
It is also conceivable that a certain
composition is varied in different ways.
This can lead to staging a kind of sym-
bolic trial action or also creative action
on the picture level that could also play
a role later on in helping the young
people deal with real-world tasks con-
fronting them.
Multiple references to the world of
art are given. The history of art is filled
with examples of pictures, which can be
used by way of introduction, concur-
rently, in conclusion or in comparison,
etc. The topics of abstraction, working
in series, or confrontation with art
works already pose markedly higher
intellectual demands on the students.
For many of them, this is unfamiliar
territory, but the Movable Layout with
its rich set of variations provides an
orientation that also gives youngsters
with emotional and social difficulties
the confidence to explore this terrain
step by step.
Pedagogic Integration with
School Instruction
The method can be used in different
teaching contexts. Hence, I successfully
made the technique the focus of a
teacher-guided series of classes and
systematically worked through the work
steps and variable possibilities with the
student in a formal course. This method
is useful, for example, when I teach art
as subject teacher to a specialized class
for two hours per week. It works simi-
larly in an inclusive setting, where I
mostly work in a class as a part-time co-
As a class teacher in a specialized
school I also have the option of making
available to my students the picture
backgrounds and picture elements over
several weeks during specific class
hours as part of course offerings under
daily and weekly lesson plans. The
Movable Layout system here is part of a
broader overall palette of curricular
offerings which the students can choose
The first phase of choosing and ar-
ranging of picture elements is easier
when done with the study group as a
whole. It requires the use of all availa-
ble tables for two hours on which to
spread all the material. I think it is ad-
visable to do further enhancement work
in more open learning processes. In this
way, more opportunities are provided
for individual guidance discussions with
the students.
It is also a fact that not all students
show the same degree of perseverance
when it comes to working on the pic-
tures. The first phase of choosing and
arranging usually proceeds in a highly
motivated way. When faced with a copy
of their own composition, it already
starts to look more like work.
Some students, particularly those
with severe behavioral problems, often
only color the pictures very cursorily or
in a fragmentary way or soon break off
their artistic activity again.
The parallel installation of other
learning stations with different contents
and methods allows these learners to
easily switch from one activity to the
another and relieves me of the pressure
of having to make the students continue
working against their will or forcing me
to come up immediately in that situation
with an alternative way of occupying
those still unsettled, hurried, impatient
Often, after ten or twenty minutes
doing arithmetic on the computer, they
return to their picture to continue work-
ing on it for a while. In this connection,
too, choice-making is operating as a
fundamental pedagogical principle.
The Movable Layout allows the con-
struction of complex visual narratives,
so the chance to discuss the students’
compositions should definitely be
grasped. There are opportunities to re-
spond on several levels here, through
conversation but also in the form of
mini essays.
During inclusive instruction in pri-
mary schools, I have usually let the
whole class write stories about their
finished pictures. In classes with up to
thirty children, this is often the only
way to get to hear something from eve-
ryone and to learn. Depending on the
specific setting, the texts can be read in
small groups and discussed.
I gave special support to the groups
of students with emotional and social
needs, so that an active participation by
all and a constructive working atmos-
phere in working with the pictures and
self-written stories prevailed. For stu-
dents with emotional and social issues
that have concurrent learning problems,
it is often useful to specify beginning
sentences fragments that they then
complete or to let the students talk
about their pictures while I record them.
The text that I write down and then
type up I hand back to the student to
read, add to and develop further. Fun-
damental here is assessing the written
expression skills carefully case by case
to avoid provoking any refusal reactions
stemming from negative expectations
regarding success.
The Bridging Function of
The Movable Layout
Even students with emotional and social
difficulties who initially very much
shrink from aesthetic-creative tasks or
learning opportunities or reject them
vehemently be it because of the task’s
high complexity and the resulting ex-
pectations of failure or because of un-
settling gender identity issues that are
associated with art unexpectedly find
themselves in a complex process of de-
signing, experimenting and composing
thanks to the Movable Layout system.
In this way, escape-maintained dis-
ruptive student behavior can be circum-
vented, by substituting missing artistic
potential and, when it comes to the pro-
cess of creating pictures, by reducing
the complexity of pictorial composition
and segmenting it into steps that the
students are capable of mastering.
By employing this method, work in-
terruptions triggered by frustration can
be avoided. Students with serious artis-
tic difficulties or refusal attitudes are
easily and successfully guided into the
artistic terrain and encouraged to inde-
pendently lay out pictures and creative
compositions in a fun way. It opens up
ways to freer forms of artistic work.
Movable Layout Technique: Work Results from a Specialized Classroom
Movable Layout Technique: Work Result of a University Student
Jaqueline Rosenbaum, University of Cologne, Germany
Movable Layout Technique: Work Result of a University Student
Isabella Giehler, University of Cologne, Germany
Be it Campania, the Basilicata, Apulia, Calabria, Sardinia or Sicily, southern Italy was
and remained throughout the years of teaching school a longed-for destination, a world
to retreat to, to slow down in, to contemplate it all froma counter world to my solid-
booked professional and familial existence. One time I traveled to Procida, Ischia or
Capri, always combining it with a shorter stay in Naples; another time it was to Bari,
Monopoli, or Lecce. Learning the Italian language also served this tapping into and nav-
igating this alternate world.
Southern Italy,
A Counter World
To My Solid-Booked
Professional and
Familial Existence
The murals I discovered on one of these journeys in the small coastal town of Diamante
reflected at once the story of economic and social hardships of my cherished Mez-
zogiorno and the resulting great wave of emigration to the United States that took off in
the 19th century.
The Murals in the Small
Coastal Town of Diamante
Reflect the Story of Economic
And Social Hardships of My
Cherished Mezzogiorno
Having Chalked up Many Quite Varied Experiences as Teacher
And Vice-Principal over the Years with Respect to Leadership Styles
and School Organizational Cultures, It Was a Wonderful Chance to
Translate My Own Leadership Philosophy into Action
I capped the last phase of my active teaching career by leading a specialized school for
students with emotional, behavioral and learning difficulties. Having chalked up many
quite varied experiences as teacher and vice-principal over the years with respect to
leadership styles and school organizational cultures, it was a wonderful chance to trans-
late my own leadership philosophy into action. I developed this philosophy on the one
hand through extensive reading, but also by taking continuing education courses in this
field and, of course, also from my own experiences gathered in all those schools through
the years. Above all, I fused together a school community, i.e. the teachers, students,
parents and other stakeholders, into a network whose hallmark was mutual trust and
support. It included the cleaning crew and the janitor. How often these individuals func-
tioned as effective social helpers who engaged students in informal situations and con-
versed with them!
`The well of your mind flows
out of ancient ground´
(Donohue, Eternal Echoes, p. 19).
For seven years I had worked on my postdoctoral thesis while I was
employed, i.e., while I was teaching school after completing my
teacher training. I had used the many class room periods in the
schools for reconstructing the life worlds and life themes of children
and youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties and/or learning
problems on the basis of their drawings, other pictorial design and
youth culture productions. The scene shows me with some of the
well-wishers after my inaugural lecture as a private docent at the
University of Cologne. Second from right is Professor Dr. Hans-
nther Richter, advisor for my postdoctoral thesis and my mentor.
In Stendal, in the City of
Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s Birth,
I Spun Many a Thought and
Penned Many a Sentence
The photo shows my kitchen that doubled as my study in the back of a roughly 300 year
old half-timbered house in Stendal, East Germany. Here, in the city of Johann Joachim
Winckelmann’s birth (1717-1768), I spun many a thought and penned many a sentence.
Sitting at this table, I also read a great number of literary works, to unlock other worlds
and for a while lose myself in them. From here I had a view of a rear building that had a
great hall in it and had stood empty for years. From the year 1900 on, when the house in
which I lived was still a parsonage, this hall had served as a church assembly room.
Now all was silent the piano and the organ that stood in it, the cabinets with dishes
and hymnal books had been untouched for decades. Of course, you had to climb a bit
because the stairwell’s rotten woodwork had collapsed. In those cold Stendal winters,
fern frost collected on the tall windows. It was a suggestive place that gave wings to the
What Tales
This School Building
In Stendal,
In the State of
Alone Could Tell
About the Times
What tales this school building in Stendal, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, alone could
tell about the times since it was built! About the Bauhaus style developed in the archi-
tecture and art of the 1920s and 1930s, then all that happened during the Third Reich,
and, after the Second World War, life in the Soviet occupation zone and then the GDR
until the Wall came down and the transition that followed. Then came my collaboration
as professor with the Comenius School, mentoring a group of university students and
helping its teachers work with children and youth with special learning needs. Bicycling
through Stendal in the summer, it was easy to imagine yourself back in the 1920s!
`One of the most fascinating questions about your thinking is
why do you have the thoughts that you do and why do you link
them together in these patterns? The secret bridges from thought
to thought are invisible´ (Donohue, Eternal Echoes, p. 38).
Occasionally, there materialized complete unexpected sojourns,
such as one in Scotland’s Aboyne. My older son in the middle of
his volunteer social year landed in a special education institution
near Aberdeen. And since our younger son was in Colorado for
a year of school and living with a host family in Fort Collins, we
simply relocated our Christmas and New Year celebration to
Scotland. The heavy snows that fell that winter ennobled the al-
ready very beautiful landscape at the foot of the Highlands. We
spent restful and also companionable days in this house by the
River Dee, and I also profited from the unique, white clad natu-
ral beauty surrounding us for taking notes, writing, and spinning
my thoughts.
I also Profited from the
Unique, White Clad
Natural Beauty
Surrounding Us for
Taking Notes, Writing,
And Spinning My
When Your Heart Is
Confused or Heavy,
A Day Outside in
Nature´s Quiet Eternity
Restores Your Lost
`Nature calls us to tranquillity and rhythm. When your heart is confused or heavy, a day
outside in nature´s quiet eternity restores your lost tranquillity´ (O´Donohue, Eternal
Echoes, p. 22)… `In the inner landscape of the soul there is a nourishing and melodious
voice of freedom always calling you. It encourages you to enlarge your frames of be-
longing – not to settle for a false shelter that does not serve your potential. There is no
cage for the soul. Each of us should travel inwards from the surface constraints and visit
the wild places within us. There are no small rooms there´ (ibid., p. 145).
I rode my bicycle to the banks of the Elbe from Stendal while I was teaching there. I
found a still countryside, almost devoid of humans, a singular, meditation-inducing flow
of water – just me, my bicycle and my thoughts.
The Terminal
For Flights to America at
Frankfurt am Main Airport
Here Assumes Symbolic Importance,
As My Own, Salutary
Human science departments in German universities can at times be very politico-
ideologically stamped, intellectually narrow constructs with only a modicum of academ-
ic freedom left in them to think and act. Instead, micropolitical tactical maneuvering,
power struggles and intrigues condition the daily academic routine and the work atmos-
phere. Having involuntarily found myself in such a situation for a number of years, I
began to seek out collaboration partners in the USA as a positive counterweight. The
transatlantic work, the appreciation for freedom and pragmatism of my American part-
ners reinvigorated me, gave me new meaning and perspectives. The terminal for flights
to America at Frankfurt am Main airport here assumes symbolic importance, as my
own, salutary Luftbrücke.
Luftbrücke refers to the Berlin Airlift organized by the Western Allied army air forces in
1948-1949 to break the Soviet blockade of Berlin.
Working Together with View
Over the Roofs of Cologne
And the River Rhine
That afternoon the group went to the
Cologne Teachers’ College where the
university students that become teachers
get a practical training for eighteen
months. There we had a three-hour
workshop with a team of instructors,
from the English department, all experi-
enced teachers, and their student teach-
The team of the Cologne Teachers
College and the faculty from Lenoir-
Rhyne University, North Carolina, and
University of Applied Sciences Magde-
burg-Stendal, collaboratively planned
that workshop, during pre-trip planning.
The topic, that was supposed to in-
clude all the sub-groups, was: `How can
we put individualized learning into
practice in schools The Teachers Col-
lege’s team developed the details of the
meeting, pre-arranged tables, cards with
tasks and themes, and flip charts for
presenting and sharing the results in the
rotunda of the historical building. They
also graciously provided coffee and
Contact between the group members
was facilitated by an opening `Contact
Bingo´ game, followed by small group
exchanges with the Cologne students
sharing their experiences in teacher
training, and also whole group opportu-
nities with the mixed group reading and
discussing a common text in English (a
scene from a play taking place in a
The sizes of the groups were small
enough to allow the students to ask
questions and have verbal exchanges
easily, and `best practices´ were dis-
cussed and critiqued. The exciting result
of this pre-arranged didactical structure,
was 100 people working together in the
rotunda with an outstanding view over
the roofs of Cologne and the river
Dinner on Board of
A High Speed Train
To the East
A visit to the old city of Cologne con-
cluded this part of the field trip. The
group continued their trip to the East of
Germany on a high speed train. The
train ride provided an excellent time for
the German and American students and
faculty to have dinner on board and
continue learning about one another,
and to discuss experiences from the
Cologne program…
Exploring Schools,
History and Culture in Stendal,
Prior to visiting Halle and Weimar the
American and German students and
faculty explored the city of Stendal,
Saxony-Anhalt, in-depth, where the
university is located. This city of around
25.000 inhabitants has much to offer,
from the historical buildings from the
late Middle Ages, the Baroque and
Classic period to the uniform and mo-
notonous buildings from the Soviet
The group also visited different types
of schools in that East German city,
such as preschools, elementary and dif-
ferent types of secondary schools,
watched teaching and learning process-
es in the classrooms, and talked with
principals and teachers. At times, bi-
national smaller groups visited different
institutions. At the end of the day, back
at campus, the various groups ex-
changed experiences and thoughts.
Changes in the
Educational System in
Former East Germany after
The Fall of the Wall
One afternoon, in a large secondary
school, one of the partner schools of the
University of Applied Sciences Magde-
burg-Stendal, Campus Stendal, a dis-
cussion was held with the complete
school staff including the principals, the
teachers and social workers. Topics of
discussion were the changes in the edu-
cational system in former East Germany
after the fall of the Wall; how the teach-
ers and other school staff personally
experienced that transition, and finally
managed to deal with the new situa-
Cooperative Planning
Of the Field Trips
When planning the field trips of 2010
and 2012, key themes were developed
cooperatively. The actual cultural and
educational programs were then de-
signed around those themes. Both field
trips included the exploration of the
German educational system in compari-
son with the educational system in the
United States, in particular that of North
During the first field trip additional
topics included political and historical
themes from the Third Reich to the
Cold War to the fall of the Wall and the
realignment and transition processes in
East Germany.
The second field trip included an ex-
ploration of the German classical period
but also the corrupting of the Weimar
myth by the Nazis. In the evenings stu-
dents and faculty sat together over din-
ner at the youth hostel and discussed the
events and impressions of the day. Es-
pecially the American students ex-
pressed detailed, profound and mean-
ingful thoughts about their observations,
impressions and experiences.
Value of School-University
The support and cooperation of princi-
pals and teachers of the German schools
participating in the transatlantic work-
shops were extraordinarily good. I had
built a network of partner schools in
Stendal, Saxony-Anhalt, to make educa-
tional institutions accessible for my own
students. Now these schools generously
opened their doors to students and fac-
ulty from the United States, on the basis
of these already existing professional
Several of the German schools of-
fered the American students and faculty
the opportunity to come back for a
longer internship or for their research.
Indeed, several student teachers from
North Carolina returned to East Germa-
ny to work as assistant teachers at ele-
mentary and secondary schools, under
supervision via Skype from faculty
from the United States. These students
more quickly picked up elements of the
German language. They really accessed
the foreign setting and moved on to an
in-depth experience.
Students Deeply Immersed
While Exploring the
City of Weimar
In Weimar, during the guided tours of
the homes of Goethe and Schiller, the
rococo ballroom in the Anna Amalia
Library, or the Wittums-Palais, one
could observe the students deeply im-
mersed with the audio guides moving
from room to room, pausing for exam-
ple in Schiller’s office, or the famous
dining room of Anna Amalia, where the
intellectual elite of that time used to
The students were also deeply moved
by the exhibits and the extensive
grounds of the concentration camp
Buchenwald, where everybody could
move with German or English speaking
audio guides in an individual manner. In
addition to the scheduled tours in Wei-
mar, there was also sufficient time for
self-scheduled activities for the stu-
Bi-national groups of students ac-
tively explored the city, e.g. the famous
crypt. Some single students also made
their way to the Nietzsche-Villa. And
always there were small conversations
inspired by these places and by the
young people exploring them.
Informal Student Activities
Happened on the Green Meadows
By the River Ilm
Perhaps because of the beautiful and
sunny May weather, a great part of the
informal student activities happened on
the green meadows by the river Ilm,
very close to the castle and the Anna
Amalia library. While students of both
nations sat by the cool water of the river
to refresh themselves, they vividly dis-
cussed the devastating fire in the library
in the year 2004. Or they contemplated
about the rock of fortune that can be
found in Goethe’s garden. It seems that
learning can happen very individualized
and informally during such a field trip.
Residents of Stendal Extremely
Helpful in Hosting the
American Students
The residents of Stendal were extremely
helpful in hosting the students and tak-
ing them to the various program sites.
While the American guests were in
town, one had the impression that the
whole population participated in the
international exchange program. Almost
daily the local newspapers reported
about the program and the next steps the
group had taken.
During the first year the mayor gave
a reception. He would have done the
same during the second year, but the
time was needed for the field trip to
Weimar. The American students per-
ceived this closeness to and with the
residents of Stendal as laudable and a
very positive aspect of their experience,
regardless if they were hosted in student
apartments, family homes with both
parents and small children, single adults
or elder couples, where the children had
moved away and now there was a bed
In some cases, the American students
became so attached to the host family
that communication between the two
individuals continues nearly two years
later. In two cases, German students
came to the United States to visit with
American students they met during the
transatlantic workshop.
Values that Guide My Actions:
Reflecting on Insight, Knowledge, Truth and
Responsibility for the Societal Whole
On this Planet Earth
What are the values that guide my actions as holder of a university chair in a small
specialty field of pedagogy? What can, may, and must I convey to the young people
who come to study in my department? These questions came up as I recently stood in
Rome before this balcony from which the Pope broadcasts his messages to the world.
Even if my area of responsibility fortunately is much smaller than the Pope’s, I, too,
have to reflect on insight, knowledge, truth and responsibility for the societal whole on
this planet Earth.
Leaving the Conference Hotel
Across from Chicago’s Hancock Tower
After Lectures and Workshops,
I put on Jogging Shoes and
Ran down the City’s Wide Avenues
All the Way to the Loop
Leaving the conference hotel across from Chicago’s Hancock Tower after lectures and
workshops, I put on jogging shoes and ran down the city’s wide avenues all the way to
the Loop, the city’s heart. The run induced a wonderful sort of euphoria as did my entire
stay in this city. I reflected that our American lineage - my paternal forebears, emigrat-
ing in the 1850s from South Westphalia - helped build this, too. And, of course, so did
the Irish who color the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s day every year and make
music in the streets: such dynamism!
These sculptures in a fountain on Rome’s Piazza Navona remind me
of the pitched battle that I had to wage as vice-principal at a special-
ized school for children and youth with emotional and behavioral dif-
ficulties, against the malice, intellectual limitation, lack of imagina-
tion, cynicism and resultant inhumane pedagogy of a female school
principal, her coterie of teachers that she had suborned by privileges,
and the politicians and bureaucrats who gave aid and comfort to this
system from behind the scenes out of micropolitical motives. The
struggle went on for years, but ultimately it succeeded.
The Pitched Battle that
I had to Wage as
`Over the edge of the mountain you can hear the chorus of the ocean´ (O´Donohue,
Eternal Echoes, p. 22)…`Each day that is given to you is full of the shy graciousness of
divine tenderness. It is a valuable practice at night to spent a little while revisiting the
invisible sanctuaries of your lived day. Each day is a secret story woven around the ra-
diant heart of wonder´ (ibid., p. 110).
Being permanently bound up in the institutional processes and compulsions of schools
and universities invariably produced in me the need to leave it all behind, at least for a
limited time, to come up for air, to clear the head, to open the perceptions and con-
sciousness again for things other than the professional details and to strip away the insti-
tutional conditioning and psychic deformation that can result. For this, backpacking
trips on the South West Coast Path through Cornwall and Devon were the highly con-
ducive means. The photo shows the view from a bedroom in a cottage near Porthleven.
The Atlantic Ocean breakers roll in right behind those hills.
To Open the
Perceptions and
Again for Things
Other than the
Details and to
Strip Away the
And Psychic
Deformation that
Can Result
Suffering Damage
After Being Active in
Pedagogical Institutions
For Periods of Time
Is Unavoidable
Unless now and then
A Time-out is Taken
Suffering damage after being active in pedagogical institutions for periods of time is
unavoidable unless now and then a time-out is taken. Its survival value resides in con-
templative phases, breathing fresh air, movement, mountain ascents, or looking into the
distance. Sils-Maria is an auspicious starting point for this.
It is About
Stepping Back
From the Many
Small Impositions
Of the Pedagogic
Be It in Schools
Or in Universities
It is about stepping back from the many small impositions of the pedagogic workaday,
be it in schools or in universities; about distancing the self from the many small admin-
istrative acts which we must contribute simply in order to secure our livelihood. The
mountains surrounding Lake Sils in the Upper Engadin are highly conducive places for
me in this respect, because of the region’s special character that so many intellectuals
experienced before me.
I visualized the library in the Hotel Waldhaus as a place for conversation and reflection,
for thinking through discrete episodes from schools and universities. The idea was once
more to have the various stages of professional and familial life pass in review with an
attentive conversation partner.
Thinking Through
Discrete Episodes from
Schools and Universities
In Review with an Attentive
Conversation Partner