To return to the oddities and wonders of the German school system, I’ve noticed something that my Gesamtschule does (and presumably others do) quite well. In Germany, it’s typical to have an “SV-Stunde” every month or so. SV = Schülervertretung, or ‘student substitution’, an hour set aside for the students to take over and voice their opinions in an open discussion. The kids talk about everyday issues that affect their homeroom class, from interpersonal conflict to the events and activities they want to plan for their class. Then there is time for the students to voice their compliments and concerns regarding their main teacher or any of the other teachers.
What amazed me when I sat in on one of these class periods was how bluntly honest the students were without being unfairly judgmental or exaggerating their opinions. It’s especially useful when the students truly feel that the teacher has a problematic teaching style or is doing a bad job disciplining other students. Simply because open space is created, the dialogue happens peacefully. Issues are addressed upfront and varying solutions are debated and implemented.
This SV-Stunde partially explains the root of two common stereotypes of Germans: their efficiency and directness. These methods of handling situations are imprinted into their brains at a very young age. They save time and leave everyone happier in the end. The students take these skills with them into the workplace and use them unconsciously, both in private and public circles. Perhaps it gets lost in the haze of lies that is the political world, but the positive stereotypes Americans have of the German business world must mean that it’s doing some good.
The downside? Directness can be misinterpreted as rudeness. So, the next time a German girl tells you that you’re underperforming in the bedroom, don’t lose heart…she’s probably just optimistic that you can fix the problem and get on to the good stuff…
By the way, I flew a plane today. And I’m in Luxembourg. More on that in the next post!