Throughout this trip, we have been seeing two faces of Berlin. The first is tourist side of the city, including the boat tour, the tour of the Bundestag, and the bunker tour. The second face is more personal, including the guest speakers at Humboldt, discussions with refugees and community members, and the individual exploration of Kreuzberg and other districts. The first is often dominated by the mainstream German narrative, and the second has shown us a fuller range of the people living in Berlin. Sometimes, the two cross over like our tour guide at Sachsenhausen. She brought a specific awareness of all those who were victims of the Holocaust, including the Roma/Sinti people, and worked to bring multiple layers to the story. She got away from historical facts of war or the nation and told the stories of a diverse group of people. She stood out to me as telling the stories of those who have been considered “others” and whose stories aren’t often told.
On the personal part of the trip, I want to reflect on my experiences at Jens-Nydahl-Grundschule. Before the trip started, I didn’t even know what a social worker at a primary school would do. After getting to observe their work, I see that it involves dealing with social and behavioral issues, but also teaching all the children about how to solve their problems and express themselves. The two social workers come into many classes during the week to teach these lessons. To give an example, on Wednesday the social workers taught an interactive lesson about where people feel emotions. They asked the students where they felt certain emotions, and wrote them all on a drawing of a person. If someone said they felt anger in their fist or faust, they would write it down. Yet, it wasn’t simply going through the list. They would often ask questions to clarify what the students were saying and promote further exploration of these feelings. Most of the social classes I have observed are in this discussion format, which seems to encourage children to reflect on themselves and practice communicating their feelings. These skills are important for understanding oneself, but also in working with others and finding compromises. Having staff devoted to teaching communication, teamwork, and emotions brings those topics to the forefront of primary education that an American student might only receive if s/he had already gotten into trouble. This opportunity to learn about German education is so much more specific and meaningful than a normal trip to Berlin. Getting to interact with the students and instructors (even if they don’t speak any English) whether it’s opening a door, sitting next to them in class, or talking to them during the soccer games is so insightful, and honestly fun. The students and staff alike have so much character, and the energy is reflected in how the school runs. Even in the little things, like a girl doing a magic trick for a social worker when we walk out to recess. Sharon Otoo’s commentary on society using the little details comes to mind here. I hope to use the little details of my experience to paint a picture of the school and my time there. There are many impactful moments to illuminate.