A Day with... Paul Browne,
teacher at the SIS Swiss International School, Stuttgart
7:00 a.m.: Paul Browne puts down his briefcase in the teachers’ room at the SIS Swiss International School in Stuttgart-Fellbach. Since his family lives fairly close to the school, it only takes him 15 minutes to get there every morning. The path that brought Paul to the SIS, on the other hand, was a long one. In his younger years, the England native and his German wife emigrated to New Zealand. They started a family there, and Paul studied parks and recreation management before earning a degree in pedagogy. After 20 years had passed, they decided to move back to Europe to his wife’s home country. From the other side of the globe, Paul applied to the SIS, which was how he found his way to Stuttgart. “The open, international concept appealed to me right from the start,” he recalls. “It was quite similar to what I was doing in New Zealand, which was a good fit for me and my personal concept of teaching.”
8:30 a.m.: Class begins just as it does on every school-day morning. While the school schedule doesn't allow for much variation in the daily routine, each day is never quite like the one before. “The kids are always changing,” Paul explains. “They see and learn new things and bring it all with them to class.” As an international school, the SIS designs all of its classes to be bilingual. Every primary-school class has two teachers who alternate between German and native-level English. In many cases, children have not yet mastered either language when they start out at the SIS. Their countries of birth include India, Spain, Korea, China, Portugal, and the Netherlands. “Every child makes his or her own special contribution,” Paul says. “They’re very open in how they interact; they make friends quickly and teach each other about their own particular cultures.”
For class 3B, the first lesson of the day will be maths. Paul presents the day’s learning goals: What are we doing today, and why? “We want the kids to understand the purpose behind each class,” he says. As a state-recognised school, the SIS follows a set lesson plan. During the primary-school years, however, the teachers and students still enjoy a certain amount of freedom. “If we notice that the children are interested in a different topic at the moment, we can explore it further,” Paul offers as an example.
I can’t do the same thing every year. The children would find that boring, and so would I! That said, things wouldn't work without some routine, either.
12:00 p.m.: The first lesson block has just finished, and Paul is using his lunch break to coordinate with his German counterpart. Whether it's maths, general science, or PE, one thing is very important: “We have to do a good job of aligning what we cover so the kids don’t get bored or overwhelmed,” Paul points out. Every week, the pair comes together to plan out their lesson units and discuss their students’ development. According to Paul, flexibility is a key aspect of the job. “I can’t do the same thing every year. The children would find that boring, and so would I!” he admits. “That said, things wouldn't work without some routine, either. The kids also need to know what they can expect from us as teachers.”
1:00 p.m.: The second lesson block is beginning, this time for class 3A. “In the afternoon, eight- and nine-year-olds have a much harder time concentrating,” Paul reveals. That's why this part of the day is usually set aside for PE and creative subjects like art or music. Paul believes that the SIS has changed since he started working here in 2010. The school's own lesson plan for IT is an example of this evolution. Starting in the next school year, Paul himself will be responsible for implementing it throughout Germany. He and a colleague from Switzerland will then visit SIS's German locations twice over the course of the year to present the new lesson plan to their colleagues.
3:00 p.m.: Class is dismissed for today. When asked whether his job is fun for him, Paul’s reply is quick and to the point: “If being a teacher isn’t fun for you, then you’re in the wrong profession.” Paul spends two years – the third and fourth school years – with each of his classes. The progress the children make throughout that period is a constant source of motivation in his everyday work. “Lots of kids come here without knowing a word of English, and after just a few months, they’re already reading, writing, and speaking,” he says. “It's difficult for all of them at first, but children learn really quickly.” Paul adds that parents trust in the success of the SIS's immersive concept. And he should know: One of his sons earned his German Abitur upon completing high school at the very same institution.