Principal at Alfred Wegener Schule
Submitted by District Administrator Gary Hansen
It all began about a year ago when Principal John Hokenson first inquired as to whether it would be permissible for him to join a Principal Exchange Program. Much like a Student Exchange Program, principals have the opportunity to travel to other countries for the purpose of obtaining first-hand knowledge as to how schools function abroad. Not only did the Board feel this was ok, they were intrigued and pleased to consider such a program. With the wheels then set in motion, we were honored to welcome Matthias Bosse, Principal at Alfred Wegener Schule (School) in Marburg, Hesse in Germany for a visit on October 18th through the 31st.
Matt is an extremely outgoing, intelligent, and charming individual who we greatly enjoyed having with us. During his stay, he toured our buildings and classrooms; he met our staff, students, and Board members; he presented and took-in as much as he could possibly fit into his two week stay. We learned quite a bit about education in Germany from Matt as well, for instance, German schools are government sponsored from first grade through college (Yes, college is free!), however, should parents want their child to attend kindergarten, they have to pay for that. Matt felt this needed to change especially with the influx of new immigrants who do not speak German. In 5th grade, children take tests to determine whether they are “college material.” If so, they are placed in a collegiate track. If not, they are placed in a vocational track and graduate from high school around the age of 16. At that point they must then go to work while continuing to take vocational classes. The German students’ school day ends around 1:00 pm, when some would participate in club activities. They do not have school athletic teams, but rather clubs. Matt’s impressions of America were that everything we do and eat is big, and that we seem to have a party for every occasion.
Matt’s "bucket list" while here was to attend an American church service, go to the Harley Davidson Museum, and eat at an American diner. He did all three, enjoying "Slappy Joes" (his term) and wondering, "What is the white?" when he saw white gravy on his chicken steak.
While in the United States, Matt approached us with the idea of exchanging students for a two week period. This is a program they have been doing between Germany and Australia students, and he wanted to expand with us. The wheels set quickly in motion again, this time giving us the honor of welcoming eighteen German students from January 22nd through February 5th. Matt feels his German students will fit in quite well, as he describes his school district as rural – yet not as “rural” as Rosendale-Brandon. Students in Germany are required to take a daily English class, so all of them will be able to communicate well while here. They will be staying with their companion students who will later travel to Germany. The only thing Matt felt might take his students by surprise is the harsh winter conditions that Wisconsin can sometimes get - like the nearly ten inches in 24 hours we just received on December 28th.
This coming spring, we have eleven students, along with chaperone Anita Holdridge, traveling to Germany. Because our students will be gone March 12-26, they will only miss one week of school here in the states because the other week falls over our spring break time. Our students will be attending many of the same classes as their host students, however since our students will likely struggle with the German language, their participation will primarily be in the classes that are presented in English. Regardless, this trip is certain to be rich and fulfilling for our students, as they experience life in Germany and in German schools. It should be an experience that will last them a lifetime.
Meanwhile, Principal John Hokenson, who set all these wheels in motion, will have his opportunity to observe German schools during the month of June. I can’t help but wonder what his “bucket list” will be while in Germany. Perhaps he will visit a German church and take Matt’s Porsche on the Nürburgring Race Track