We conducted an interview with one of our school's teachers as part of our project "Building a Democratic School Culture", which we carried out under the European Union Programme for Education, Youth and Sport.
First of all, we would like to thank Mr Michael Schmitt for taking part in the interview.
How did you feel about the fact that a project on "Building a democratic school culture" was carried out at your school? What do you think about this topic?
Democracy is our greatest asset. Therefore, this project was a wonderful opportunity for our school to reflect on the topic and to work with European partners and now friends on selected issues. Through a successful evaluation, it was possible for us to take up new impulses.
You have been working at this school for five years. In total, you have been a teacher for seven years. Considering the many years you have spent in education, can you say something about the shortcomings you see or feel in terms of democracy in the institutions you teach?
The structures of German schools provide for the democratic participation of teachers, children and parents in decision-making processes. The challenge is to recruit pupils and parent representatives and also to motivate teachers to participate constructively.
What tasks do you think teachers should take on in a democratic school?
Social developments in the last decade, such as the rise of right-wing populist currents, the increase in agitation, insults and fake news in public discourse, religious extremism and the increasing willingness of certain groups to use violence at demonstrations raise the question of whether the democratic culture and democracy as a democracy as a form of government (not only in Germany) are in danger. In the school system, we teachers play an important role as key players - as we are jointly responsible for teaching key democratic competences.
By this term I mean competences that are necessary to participate in democracy as a way of life and to actively shape it in community with other to actively shape it in community with other people, to commit oneself to a democratic form of society and to help shape it through participation and involvement.
Are you involved in the decision-making processes at school? If yes, do you consider this sufficient? If you are not involved in such a mechanism, do you consider this a shortcoming? If you were part of this formation, what would it bring to you and its democratic culture?
By all means! - As a voting member of both the general and school conferences, I am jointly responsible for school development, the budget and study trips, for example.
Can you create a suitable democratic environment for your students in class? Can you explain this with an example?
There are, of course, subjects such as politics that are more suitable for discussing concrete questions and topics regarding democracy in class. Possible questions could be: What is democracy? When does democracy work? Where is democracy heading? How democratic is the internet?
Ultimately, however, it is the task of every classroom and thus of every teacher, quite independently of subject content, to work towards proactive democracy-building. A simple and best example of grassroots democracy is the election of class representatives (or course representatives) at the beginning of the school year.
What do you think school governance should look like in an institution with a democratic school culture?
For me, a democratic school culture includes democratic design, discussion and dispute culture. Organisational and administrative processes should be managed according to the principles of participation, delegation and transparency.
Who do you think has the leading role in creating a democratic school culture? The central government, the local government or the school management?
The legal framework is set by politics in the form of the School Administration Act. For a successful implementation, all members of the school family are important. Only when everyone is pulling in the same direction can it be right and productive.
Do you think that this and similar projects contribute to creating a democratic school culture?
Absolutely! A very good way to establish a democratic standard in schools across Europe.
We would like to thank our guest Mr. Michael Schmitt for participating in our interview and for sharing her feelings and thoughts with us.