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Teacher experiences German education

Lakeland High School teacher India Meissel recently traveled to Germany for a fellowship with the Transatlantic Outreach Program meant for STEM and social studies educators.

While other educators had to apply for one of the 100 spots, Meissel was invited because she is the president of the National Council for the Social Studies.

The all-expenses-paid, two-week trip gave Meissel the chance to experience the German education system and how Germans have been handling immigration.

“Our trip was a look at education systems and how Germany handles theirs. We went into several schools and looked at how they not only ran their school but how they treated immigrants,” Meissel said.

The most noticeable difference for Meissel was how the Germans handled students after secondary education. For Americans, it is expected that students will go to a four-year college or university, but that is not the case in Germany.

“We went to several places that offer apprenticeships. Germans are not big sticklers for every kid going to university,” Meissel said. “They realize not everyone is a university kind of person. They offer programs for everyone.”

Meissel and the rest of her group had the opportunity to see students working in their apprenticeships at a plastics factory.

Meissel has seen the tendency within the American education system not to send students off to trade schools or the military after high school.

“Schools are considered to be failing if we aren’t sending students to a four-year college. I’m sorry, but not everyone is cut out to go to college and get a four-year degree,” Meissel said.

However, Meissel doesn’t believe that this is a big problem in Suffolk.

“We do a beautiful job pushing for trade schools, and Suffolk Public Schools is working with businesses to come up with more internships,” Meissel said. “We are moving in that direction, but it’s like Germany beat us to it.”

Along with a look at the German education system, Meissel got the opportunity to experience a classroom full of refugee children.

“One of the things we were looking at was immigration. We looked at how they integrated into the education system and how they handled them,” Meissel said. “We got to meet some amazing children.”

Part of the experience is to continue after the school year begins again. Those that attended have to submit a lesson plan on an aspect of contemporary Germany by mid-September and have a professional development meeting with their colleagues.

Meissel was an invited guest and doesn’t have to technically participate in the activities, but she insists on still being a part of the team.

“I went with an amazing group of people and I felt, not as NCSS president, I was part of a team, and I want to be a part of that team and do what my team was doing,” Meissel said. “It was a wonderful two weeks.”