How do you expect American school life to be?

campus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_University

We chose “American school and youth lifestyle” as the topic for our project. Since we are going to spend the next three weeks with our exchange students at the Bartow High School, we will spend most of the time experiencing their daily routines and school work.

In the beginning we realized that there are quite a few differences between Bartow and Wattenscheid. We are excited to compare our expectations with reality. So let’s go into it!

We arrived with a lot of expectations:

To begin with, we thought that the students get to school by bus. Through many movies we knew these yellow school buses and our hope was great that we would have the opportunity to ride one of these buses.

Every student has got her/his own table and there are mostly relaxed teachers who have a good relationship with their students.

red-cup

Foto: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solo_Cup_Company

But we also thought that American students would party a lot and would always have their drinks in the typical red cups.

Besides, there is a hierarchy in the hallways and cafeteria with the cheerleaders in their short skirts and football players, who wear college jackets. Everyone wants to be friends with them, even though they hate them and they will choose what position you will take. That is also why we thought that all cheerleaders are arrogant. Moreover, we thought that the cheerleaders wear their outfits

cheerleader

Foto: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Defense.gov_News_Photo_041203-D-2987S-025.jpg

the complete school day.

Another expectation was that the school building is built like a college campus. A tall building with a large number of students, a lot of rooms and space, in which you will get lost as it feels like a maze. Moreover, we imagined that they have to wear uniforms and that there are American flags everywhere.

We imagined the cafeteria lady to wear a hairnet and that she is mean and old, like it is portrayed in the picture. Furthermore it is a stereotype that the cafeteria only serves fast food.

Another expectation is that all students visit clubs after school e.g. cheerleading, football or debating.

Our last stereotype is that Americans only eat fast food, but we also thought that American families cook and eat breakfast or lunch together at home.

At first, we interviewed three American students in order to find out what their school day looks like. After this, we interviewed three German students so that we are able to compare their daily routines.

Our first American interview partner is Tianna M. She is a student of Bartow High School.

  1. School morning

When do you get up? At 5:00 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready?  1 hour.

Do you have breakfast before school? No, I usually don’t have breakfast.

How do you get to school? By car.

How long does it take you to get there? 15 minutes.

  1. School day

When does school start? At 7.00 a.m.

How is your school schedule? It is a rotating schedule. We have A and B days and at A days I always have the same subjects and at B days as well. There are always 4 classes per day (Annotation: like A and B weeks in Germany).  I have the subjects German, English, Algebra, Probability and Statistics, Nurse Assisting, Medical Skills and US History.

How many breaks do you have? We only have the lunch break.

What do you eat at school? I eat in the cafeteria.

When does your school day end? At 2.00 p.m.

Do you join any clubs after school? No.

  1. Free time

When do you get home? At 2.20 p.m.

Do you eat something after school? Yes.

Do you have to do homework? Yes, I need about an hour every day.

What else do you do in your free time? In my free time I work at McDonalds, watch movies or go to the gym.

When do you get dinner? At 6.00 p.m. and normally it’s something warm.

When do you go to bed? 10.30 p.m.

  1. Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? No, not really.

What would you like to change? I like to see my friends at school, some teachers are really good and the school is nice but the lessons are boring.

 

The next American interview partner is Christian S. He is a student at Summerlin Academy (a military academy).

1. School morning

When do you get up? Around 4.00 a.m. / 4.10 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready? 15 to 20 minutes.

Do you have breakfast before school? Yes, most of the times a sandwich or cereal.

How do you get to school? I take the bus.

How long does it take you to get there? One hour and 30 minutes.

2. School day

When does school start? It starts at 7 a.m.

How is your school schedule? A days – Periods 1, 3, 5 and 7.  B days – Periods 2, 4, 5 and 6.

How many breaks do you have? I only have one break and that is lunch at 11.25 a.m.

What do you eat at school? I like to eat salad in the cafeteria.

When does your school day end? My school day ends at 2 p.m.

Do you join any clubs after school? No, I don’t.

3. Free time

When do you get home? I get home at 4 p.m.

Do you eat something after school? No, I don’t.

Do you have to do homework? Yes, I get a lot of homework.

What else do you do in your free time? I like to listen to music, to Netflix: generally I just do some teenager stuff.

When do you get dinner? About 7 or 8 p.m.

When do you go to bed? At about 8.30 / 9.00 p.m.

4. Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? Summerlin academy is based on discipline and you can get kicked out easily if you don’t follow the rules, but yes, I am happy with my choice.

What would you like to change? I have to wake up at 4 a.m. in the morning. I would like to have more time to sleep.

 

The last American interview partner is Valory V. and she is an IB student. IB is the abbreviation for International Baccalaureate.

1. School morning

When do you get up? 5.20 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready? 40 minutes.

Do you have breakfast before school? No.

How do you get to school? I drive to school with my car.

How long does it take you to get there? 40 minutes.

2. School day

When does school start? 7 a.m.

How is your school schedule? It is painfully long.

How many breaks do you have? One break for lunch.

What do you eat at school? Salad or chicken.

When does your school day end? 2 p.m.

Do you join any clubs after school? Yes, Key Club, National Honor Society, Art Club, French Club, HOSA, FBLA.

3. Free time

When do you get home? 6 p.m. or 9.10 p.m.

Do you eat something after school? Yes.

Do you have to do homework? Yes.

What else do you do in your free time? Watch Netflix or eat out with friends.

When do you get dinner? Some time between 6 and 8 p.m.

When do you go to bed? I don’t. Just kidding! At 12 a.m.

4. Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? Could be better, could be worse.

What would you like to change? Less homework, more sleep.

 

In the following we interviewed three German students. Our first interview partner is Natalie K. She is a student at Maerkische Schule in Wattenscheid, Germany.

  1. School morning

When do you get up? 6.45 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready? 50 minutes.

Do you have breakfast before school? Yes, depends on what we have at home (e.g. granola, scrambled eggs).

How do you get to school? I take the tram at 7.45 a.m.

How long does it take you to get there? 10 minutes.

  1. School day

When does school start? 8 a.m.

How is your school schedule? It depends on the day. On average, 7 hours a day. I take the subjects German, English, Spanish, Literature, P.E., Maths, Biology, History, Religion and Educational Studies.

How many breaks do you have? Three, and each one is around 20 minutes long.

What do you eat at school? Bread.

When does your school day end? It depends. Some days school ends at 1.20 p.m. and on other days it ends at 3.20 p.m.

Do you join any clubs after school? No.

  1. Free time

When do you get home? At 1.45 p.m. or at 3.45 p.m.

Do you eat something after school? Yes, I eat lunch after school. It is always something warm.

Do you have to do homework? Yes, most of the time it takes me an hour.

What else do you do in your free time? I go to volleyball practice, to the gym or I meet friends.

When do you get dinner? I only eat some fruits or yoghurt after practice.

When do you go to bed? At 10.30 p.m.

  1. Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? Yes, I am quite happy that I don’t have ten hours at school.

What would you like to change? I would like to have different teachers in some subjects.

Our next German is Stella M. G. She is a student of the Maerkische Schule as well.

  1. School morning

When do you get up? If my father drives me to school, I get up at 6.30 a.m. If I have to take the train, I get up at 5.45 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready? 1 hour.

Do you have breakfast before school? Yes, normally I eat some fruits or something sweet like a piece of cake.

How do you get to school? I get to school by car or by bus and train.

How long does it take you to get there? With the car it takes me 15 minutes and with the bus and the train it takes me 45 minutes.

  1. School day

When does school start? 8 a.m.

How is your school schedule? It depends on the day. On average 7 hours a day. And I have the subjects German, English, Spanish, Maths, Social Sciences, Literature, Physics, Religious Education, Geography and P.E.

How many breaks do you have? Three. The first break is 15 minutes long, the second 20 minutes and the third half an hour.

What do you eat at school? That depends. I eat bread rolls, salad, rice or sweets.

When does your school day end? That’s completely different. One day school ends at 11.20 a.m. On another day every second week it ends at 5 p.m. and the other days it ends at 1.20 p.m. or 3.20 p.m.

Do you join any clubs after school? No.

  1. Free time

When do you get home? It depends on how many lessons I have at school. But I am always at home one hour after school ended.

Do you eat something after school? If I have time, I eat lunch after school. But I often have no time for it because I have to go to the stable or to driving lessons.

Do you have to do homework? Yes, most of the time it takes me half an hour to one hour.

What else do you do in your free time? I go to the riding stable, to driving lessons or I meet friends.

When do you get dinner? I get dinner between 7 and 8 p.m. If I have eaten lunch, it is only something cold. If I had no lunch, I eat something warm in the evening.

When do you go to bed? Most of the time at 11 p.m.

  1. Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? Yes. I am not so happy that I have ten hours at school, but all in all it is good.

What would you like to change? I would like to improve the technical equipment and the school could be more modern.

 

Our last German interview partner is Lukas W. He is also a student of Maerkische Schule.

  1. School morning

When do you get up? 6.10 a.m.

How much time do you have to get ready? 1 hour.

Do you have breakfast before school? Yes, normally I eat bread.

How do you get to school? I get to school by bus.

How long does it take you to get there? 20 minutes.

2. School day

When does school start? 8 a.m.

How is your school schedule? It depends on the day. On average 7 hours a day. I have the subjects Maths, German, English, Latin, History, Geography, Literature, P.E., Religious Education and Physics.

How many breaks do you have? Three. The first break is 15 minutes long, the second 20 minutes and the third half an hour.

What do you eat at school? Bread rolls with cream cheese.

When does your school day end? On my longest day every two weeks school ends at 5 p.m., but normally it ends at 1.20 p.m. or 3.20 p.m..

Do you join any clubs after school? No.

3.Free time

When do you get home? It depends on how many lessons I have at school. But I am always at home one hour after school ended.

Do you eat something after school? Yes, I eat lunch. Normally it’s something warm.

Do you have to do homework? Yes, most of the times it takes me half an hour to one hour.

What else do you do in your free time? I do thai boxing, play the guitar or meet friends.

When do you get dinner? I get dinner at 8 p.m.

When do you go to bed? Most of the times at 10.30 p.m.

4.Conclusion

Are you happy with your school life? Yes.

What would you like to change? Nothing.

 

These are our results:

Our interviews show that there are a few major differences in terms of daily school life and daily schedules in general. American students have to get up a lot earlier, especially the ones who live far away from school. But compared to German students, high school also ends a lot earlier. German students also have a few more classes (American students: 6 / German students: 10-11).

IB students can be compared to German grammar school students. They have a lot of work to do for school and are mostly quite busy. Us German students can definitely say that we get the same amount of homework. Some of the regular high school students as well as some of the Summerlin students do not seem to have that much work to do. But compared to the American students, we have a lot more free time to do our homework or to meet friends, etc. We got to know many American students who participate in after school clubs or sport clubs that the school offers and they get home a lot later than us. In contrast to this, German students go home right after school ends, as our school only offers a few clubs and most of them are designed for younger kids.

In our personal opinion, we think that the German school schedule is a lot better as we don’t have to get up as early, get home earlier and live closer to the school. But on the other hand we really like the after school activities the school offers and the short breaks in-between classes that shorten the school day a lot.

 

Let’s get back to our first topic of stereotypes, behavior and people we expected in America. All these information are based on our own experiences and views of the past three weeks.

We would like to continue with the stereotype about the hierarchy in American schools. This will always be a stereotype and is shown in the famous high school movies.

Most of the students actually go to clubs after school. But we found out that mostly IB students take clubs and most of the high school students do not seem to do so. Bartow High School has a variety of after school activities so that the students can individually decide what they would like to do. The students who join the clubs have to spend a lot of their free time at school. That is also why they do not have enough time for their homework. To a certain extend, we believe that the school clubs in America replace the hobbies that we have in Germany.

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Foto: Lydia Brandt

The stereotype that Americans eat a lot of fast food has been confirmed. Most of our families tend to go to the next fast food chain and order something there. They also do not follow specific eating times as they eat spontaneously. They only try to eat dinner together. First of all, one of the reasons why they eat so much fast food seems to be the fact that they do not have enough time to cook, have a lot of fast food chains, but also because the supermarkets offer precooked meals.

The prejudice about yellow school buses is definitely true but many of the high school students also take the car to go to school. Most of the students that take the school bus seem to be under 16 and not allowed to drive a car.

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Foto: Martin Hessbrueggen

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Foto: Natalie Kordt

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Foto: Natalie Kordt

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Foto: Natalie Kordt

The Bartow High School buildings look like a tiny campus, but definitely not like one of a big college or university. One can find a lot of narrow hallways, low ceilings, big and bright classrooms. But none of us has gotten lost yet. Moreover, we spotted American flags in each room and the students have to follow a dress code, even though most of them get away with breaking these rules as they still wear pants, dresses or skirts which end above the knee or wear flip-flops and sandals.

As you can see in the picture, each student has got his own table and, as we expected, the teachers and students seem comfortable around each other, make jokes, ha

img_9969

Foto: Natalie Kordt

ve fun and laugh a lot in classes.

Even though most of our exchange partners like parties, we never saw any red cups (except for at home & at the Putnam Ranch)  or alcohol. American high school students do not seem to party a lot compared to college students.

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Foto: Natalie Kordt

While we were eating lunch in the cafeteria, we realized that all of the cafeteria ladies wear hairnets and are a bit unfriendly. The food they served was pretty good and they offered a variety of foods you could choose from (chicken sandwich, fried chicken, salads, milk, carrots, fresh fruit, fries, jellied fruit…).

All in all it seems that American and German school life are both characterized by a lot of differences not only referred to the classes but also to buildings, teachers, students, schedules and food.

For a better understanding of the findings we would like to briefly compare the systems of American high schools and German schools.

First of all a short summary of the German system;

➡ primary school for 4 years

➡ Starting in 5th grade, students are divided into those who go to Gymnasium (grammar school), Realschule (junior high) or Hauptschule (practical modern school). Each of these school types has its own focus and curriculum, which is pre-determined for the students. Depending on which school system you choose, it takes about 6 – 9 years. If you go to the Gymnasium you have to take 8 years to get your Abitur. But there is the possibility to leave school after 10th grade.

A Realschule only offers you 6 years. After that the students have to decide how they want to continue their studies. They can either choose a Gymnasium to get their Abitur as well as the Gesamtschule or they can start a training course.

Another opportunity is to go to the Gesamtschule. It is like a Gymnasium, where you can get your Abitur. The only difference is that you can finish your studies within 8 years at a Gymnasium and in 9 years at a Gesamtschule.

The last school system is represented by the Hauptschule. This is the most basic school type we have which actually is concerned with teaching basic mathematics and grammar as well as focusing on training for trainee positions.

Each state has created individual laws for the compulsory education. Even though some of them are very similar, you can still find differences. In North Rhine-Westphalia, where our school is located, kids have to go to school at the age of 6 and you have to stay in school for at least 10 years. After that, you can start an apprenticeship or do your „Abitur“ to go to college.

American system:

➡ elementary school for 6 years until 6th or 8th grade.

➡ middle school from grades 7 to 9

➡ high school from 9th to 12th grade or 10th to 12th grade.

Students begin school at the age of 3 in which kids attend Pre-K. At the age of 5, students move onto elementary school, ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade (age 11). Middle school consists of grades 6-8 before students move onto high school- grades 9-12. A few high schools have programs that focus on different educational specifications. Bartow High School focuses on the International Baccalaureate (IB) and Summerlin Academy systems besides the general High school studies. Most students move onto four years of college after that; however, a generous amount decide not to attend college. If students decide to pursue a specialized career, they can attend school for additional years at an institute that provides further training in their desired field.

 

When you compare the systems, one can see that there is not a trinominal systemin America as various talented children visit one school (e.g. Bartow High School with its three different divisions ; IB, Summerlin Academy and High School). In contrast to this, German parents can choose which school their child should visit. Starting in 5th grade, students are divided into those who go to Gymnasium, Realschule, or Hauptschule. Each of these has its own focus and curriculum, which is pre-determined for the students.

All in all we’re really happy that we were allowed to go to Bartow High School and had a lot of fun comparing the different school lives and proving or disproving prejudices.

 

Annika Jeyasingam, Stella M. Goerz, Natalie Kordt, Greta Dümenil