How I Became an ESL Teacher in Germany & How You Can Too
Robert Ryan went to study in Germany and fell in love with the country. Everything from the people, culture and cities appealed to him and so when he had to return home to the UK he was quickly making plans to return to the country full time. In this article Robert shares how he become an English teacher in Germany and how if he can do it, you can too.
Are you thinking of teaching English abroad? Don’t think. Just do. Trust me. Here is my experience...
Starting My Journey
I had always had an interest in living and working abroad since I was young and when looking at options the idea of going to teach in Europe sounded really interesting. I went to study in Germany for a year in 2011 through the ERASMUS Programme, (Another story altogether!) and like most who do that… failed to integrate into German society in the slightest or improve my awful, awful German. Like most students who study abroad, the dreaded post-Erasmus depression (PED) set in. I really wanted to get back to this country which I loved visiting previously. Fast, and even better this time. The mission? Teach in a German Mittelschule. I then started filling out appications hoping for the best.
In August 2012 I got the letter in the door. Getting mail is exciting enough, but when it’s in another language you feel another level of excitement, giddy like a child but so very, very grown up. I had received my teaching placement in Germany. It was on.
Arrival in Germany
I flew to Germany and quickly settled in. The absolute terror of walking into a class the first day was fantastic. The absurdity of being intimidated by a class of Ten year olds! The first thing about German schools is they aren’t like what we have in Ireland. Watching their little faces recoil in horror and disbelief as I told them (slightly exaggerated…) tales of single-sex schools with school uniforms and religious iconography on the walls, Never got old.
The Reality of German Schools
German school takes a little getting used to. For those poor kids, school starts at 7:30am, there’s no such thing as a snow day and they all seem to get along. Strange. The harshest thing about the system, aside from the early starts, is their streamlining system. Kids are told at ten (the age they leave primary school) what level of class they are in. This will determine if they do their “Abitur” exams and even if they will ever go to University! At ten! My flabbergasted questioning of this would generally be met with shrugs. It’s worked so far? Fair enough…
What is it like to Work as a TEFL Teacher in Germany
I was accepted as quickly as I arrived, living in a small town outside the city helped, where a trip to the shop would generally involve running into a dozen or so students. Being Irish definitely helped, It might be stereotype but…people genuinely do love us for some reason. It never ceased to amaze me that geography teachers of all people were painfully unaware that I wasn’t in fact British. “Mr. Ryan, could you now say that in the British way?...emm… No?” Questions about how things were done in England never ceased to amaze me!
By the time I left that school I had to be dragged out, from my beer swigging class 10s (perfectly normal in Germany) to my little raincoat clad class 5s I really loved those kids. The experience of working in Germany was amazing and I really enjoyed the experience.
If I Can Do It So Can Anyone
Did I learn to speak German? Yes! Out of necessity, The best way to learn is to push yourself and also book a German language course in Germany. Don't let the language barrier put you off.
Did I do things I never would have got the chance to if I hadn’t been at this school? Yes.
If you are thinking about working abroad and you like the idea of teaching English in Germany I would highlt recommend you take the chance to do what I did. Applying isn't that difficult - look up the programmes online, there’s plenty or take a TEFL course. Then do yourself a favour and go. You won't regret it!
By Robert Ryan