“My daughter felt accepted,” a father said to me during this year’s graduation ceremony, and I was moved. His daughter came to us only for the Secondary Level II, frustrated by the lack of interest in her as a person at her former school. My school, Marienhöhe, helped her regain her ability to enjoy studying. She met teachers that were interested in her and encouraged her.
I am very grateful for these teachers, who also devise good and interesting instruction and who are dedicated and motivating coaches. They will leave positive tracks in the lives of their students. Many children and young people enjoy the experience of flourishing at our school. The best witnesses for this statement are former students at class reunions who speak of teachers that broadened their horizons, of life in the dormitories, of friends for life and sometimes also of spouses for life they have found at Marienhöhe. Time and again I hear the words “Marienhöhe was my school for life” at these meetings.
In the 2017-2018 school year, we started the year with the mission statement “School for Life” which we had developed in meetings and pedagogic seminars during the previous school year. In the eyes of parents and students we had been a good school for life already for a long time, but now we are in the process of sharpening this profile. There are three steps that we are focusing on, and that I recommend for other schools looking to develop a “school for life” impact:
- Instruction with reference to the students‘ lives. School is often faced with the criticism that here you learn for tests and exams but not for life. Although tests and exams train students in skills like careful preparation, concentration, and performing under pressure, the contents of instruction should be focused on real life connections. Do students feel that fully understanding the topics of the different subjects is worth the trouble? If they see the relationship between the subject and their lives, the topics suddenly become fascinating for them.
- Activity-oriented, holistic challenges that require the use of all senses. During our summer project week our students enjoyed painting on silk, contemplated wise money investments, played basketball or soccer, went sport climbing, did sewing, knitting, computer programming, acting, windsurfing, skating, wrote literary texts, went hiking, visited the chancellor’s office in Berlin or St Peter’s Square in Rome, filmed a devotional video, played music, cooked and baked. All products or experiences they made were presented to their parents at the summer party. These experiences helped them develop new skills and connections.
- Life Skills Portfolio. Starting this school year, we are presenting each student with a folder in which they can file all documents they receive from us during their school education at Marienhöhe, such as school reports, certificates, internship reports, and self-reflections.
By encouraging connections and skills for our students, and by showing interest in them and their lives, we can make our schools truly a school for life for our students.