Learning culture – more than teaching and lessons!

Well-founded knowledge transfer and personality formation are, in the sense of a holistic development involving the heart, the head and the hands, more than just teaching and lessons. We comply with the state curriculum but we also establish our own points of emphasis. Of central importance in our view is a social, aesthetically creative, political and inter-cultural educational formation. We want to foster the individual talents and abilities of our pupils and to educate them to become independent and responsible personalities.

In this respect, it is a matter close to our heart that our pupils acquire social competence in their interaction with children and young people with special needs and with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Social competence also means acquiring leadership qualities – seeing how one can successfully deal with people and motivate them to work together. The main points of focus that constitute our profile serve these goals and are complemented by further special aspects of the curriculum relating to the different subjects. The acquirement of knowledge also comes about within the framework of a well-structured full day in which phases of teaching, learning, project work, and examinations all complement each other in meaningful fashion.

Education for the future is disciplined, synthetic and creative thinking complemented by respectful, ethical conduct.

(Read more on this subject in “What is good education?” in Excerpt from the Abitur Speech 2015 / PDF in the download section)

Lernkultur

Specialism in social sciences

The Max-Rill-Gymnasium is a model grammar school specializing in social sciences – we lead the way and set an example to others in Bavaria. Our long-standing social studies teachers helped develop the curriculum for this category of school, and wrote and edited a textbook approved for grammar schools in Bavaria (“Im Fokus”, published by Schöningh). Thus excellent teaching in this field is guaranteed.

The topics addressed in our special subjects from Class 8 onwards and the 100-hour social work internship in Classes 9 and 10 encourage pupils to develop a willingness to accept political responsibility and help to hone their budding social skills.
Pupils in Classes 11 and 12 have the opportunity to delve into social studies and social science issues in greater depth. Topics in the upper school include:

  • The social structure of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Social change and the associated challenges for the state and society
  • Main features of present-day political systems:the democratic constitutional state and political orders that jeopardize freedom
  • Peace and security as the mission of international politics (UNO, NATO)
  • Opportunities and problems of globalization for national politics. Our international pupils in particular learn important information relating to their understanding of German society and the Western European world outlook that will prove invaluable for their integration and further education.

(More information is available in “Social-practical education” / PDF in the download section)

Social learning and responsibility

Our specialist teaching in social studies, economics and law is echoed in the daily social learning activities at the school – both during lessons, and in the course of social activities, as well as sporting, theatrical and musical pursuits. Our commitment to the desired diversity of the student body, coupled with our willingness to admit children with special needs specifically demonstrates that we not only teach social learning, but practise it as a matter of course.

Some examples:

  • Social learning in class

    Pupils from Class 5 to Class 12 hold a joint weekly gathering at Friday lunchtime to mark the end of their school week, led/presented by their team of class teachers. Here, social learning takes place in the community. The contents may include discussions, games, learning organization, or even maintenance of the grounds.

  • Social activities

    At mealtimes, everyone takes a turn at setting and clearing the tables, serving and tidying up afterwards. Our grounds – which are extensive – are also regularly cleared and tidied, and our classrooms have to be cleaned too. All boarding school pupils are responsible for the state of their own bedrooms and living areas.

  • Charitable collections

    At events such as the Advent Market and our Open Day we collect donations that are passed on to designated partners: the special needs educational day centre and the volunteer fire service in Reichersbeuern, and in 2016 – as an individual case – a refugee initiative. Our partner school in Nairobi also receives regular donations.

The team of class teachers bids farewell to its pupils at the end of the school year with a letter summarizing the main events, which serves as a memento.

(More information is available in “Letter to our class” / PDF in the download section)

Theatre

Theatre plays a crucial role in enabling young people to discover themselves and their talents. It requires a high level of discipline and commitment – success depends on cooperation between those involved. It is here that young people get an authentic taste of what it feels like to work with others towards a common goal.

The theatre at the Max-Rill-Gymnasium has been nominated for the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Tassilo culture prize on a number of occasions, demonstrating the exceptionally high quality of our amateur dramatics productions. (We are ineligible to participate in school drama competitions, as our productions of one-and-a-half to two hours in length are longer than the stipulated period of one hour.)

We work systematically to develop our pupils’ capabilities:

  • Improvisation exercises as are held as part of the German reading course: staged readings, monologues from a character’s perspective, etc.
  • Reading competitions teach pupils how to present texts well
  • Theatre guilds in the lower and middle schools
  • Elective “Theatre and film” course in the upper school
  • Training in martial arts, dance, choreography, improvisation, lighting and stage technology and dramaturgical work in putting on stage plays

The focus is on staging unusual, and generally contemporary productions. We also aim to work with particularly talented students to stage appropriate plays featuring an exclusively youthful ensemble at a professional level, and hold performances outside the school environment, e.g. in the Black Box at Munich’s Gasteig, the Kulturhaus Oberbräu in Holzkirchen and the like.

(More information is available in “Theatre conflict and self-discovery” / PDF in the download section)

Music and art

Music and art give a lot of pleasure, promote creativity and are among the best means of individual development. Form and function would be without expression and emotion were it not for aesthetics. Music and art offer us an entirely individual means of perceiving ourselves and the world around us. We offer pupils the following opportunities to further their aesthetic education:

  • Choir lessons in all classes as part of music teaching and the music guild
  • Individual singing lessons
  • Instrumental training from qualified specialists (piano, trumpet, trombone,
  • drums; other instruments in the local music school)
  • Participation in the school band (rock and pop music)
  • Participation in the jazz formation
  • Elective course “Vocal ensemble” in the upper school
  • Music and Art courses in the upper school
  • Project seminars on media production and set construction in the upper school

Sport

Sport encourages people to challenge themselves as well as others – in individual and team sports alike. Overcoming fatigue to carry on running and fighting, disciplined training, and concentrating when it matters – stamina, team spirit, a winning mentality – are also required in order to learn successfully. Regular sport is just as conducive to learning as music. We therefore offer a wide range of sporting activities and challenges:

  • Our annual three-day hiking tour in the Alps, with classes tacking different routes according to age group in the Karwendel mountains, the “Steinernes Meer”, the Rofan or Kaiser mountains
  • A number of guilds offering ball sports, water sports, outdoor activities and other types of sport (see Guilds link)
  • Annual winter and summer “Olympics”
  • Friendly contests against local schools and clubs
  • On our own premises: in the hall, on the hard court, in the gym, at local swimming pools, in the Alps
  • Pupils can also join one of the numerous local sports clubs to play e.g. ice hockey, golf or tennis

(More information is available in “Sport concept” / PDF in the download section)

Intercultural learning

The increasingly international nature of our student body means that we are faced with intercultural learning on a daily basis. This happens

  • In lessons
  • In projects such as the Open Day and Day of Democracy
  • During weekends spent with host families
  • During student exchanges
  • During study trips
  • As well as in the course of our daily interaction with one another.

(Please read the “International” section for more information on these topics)

Our specialism in social sciences and focus on social and intercultural learning, and on theatre with music and sport serves as the framework for many other special learning opportunities in the various subjects:

Intensive teaching in core subjects

Additional practice lessons in the core subjects of Maths, Foreign Languages and German are incorporated into the standard timetable in all year groups.
On the Saturdays of boarding school weekends, internal pupils have to attend two-hour practice lessons in core subjects. External pupils can also register to attend these Saturday classes.

Reading

We provide extra support in the core subject of German with a weekly reading lesson in which texts are discussed, described and acted out, as well as read. The aim is to promote a deeper understanding of the text, as well as to encourage pupils to discover the enjoyment of reading longer texts in bigger books.

Applied Maths with CAS

Class 10 sees the introduction of Computer Algebra System (CAS) calculators in an additional weekly Maths lesson. Maths teaching with CAS calculators continues in the upper school. This enables the Max-Rill-Gymnasium to offer pupils the choice between a conventional Maths Abitur and what is known as a CAS Abitur, which has only existed in Bavaria for a few years.
Only a very small number of model schools in Bavaria offer CAS Maths lessons, most of these being grammar schools that specialize in natural sciences and technology. As a school specializing in social sciences, our CAS Maths offering gives us a special status in the school landscape.

(More information is available in “CAS Mathematics” / PDF in the download section)

Modern Languages

We set great store by regular learning in the modern languages of English and French. We seek to achieve this by according equal importance to major and minor tests (the latter comprising spot tests and oral marks), instead of using a 2:1 ratio as is common in state schools. We attach great importance to oral proficiency and our major tests include more oral elements than elsewhere.

Natural Sciences

Experiments and excursions undoubtedly help to make the natural sciences so popular at our school. Courses in Chemistry, Physics and Biology are regular fixtures in our upper school.

Ethics and Religious Education

Our school is non-denominational. Lessons in Ethics and Catholic Religious Education are held all the way from Classes 5 to 10, and lessons in Protestant Religious Education from Class 10 onwards. Classes are taught across two year-groups, and these groups learn together wherever ethical and religious topics overlap.

Learning with modern media

Our classroom infrastructure includes wireless network access and interactive projectors. Many upper school pupils bring their own notebook to classes. At the request of pupils, we intend to introduce a notebook class in Year 9 as of the school year 2016/17. Our long-term aim is not to dispense with handwritten work: a balance must be struck between methods and media in the classroom.

Learning period

Pupils are given at least one learning period a day in which to prepare and do follow-up work for their lessons and performance assessments.

(More information is available in “Learning period” / PDF in the download section)

Remedial course “Reading and writing”

Pupils who have been diagnosed with dyslexia or other reading and spelling disabilities receive special coaching in our “Reading and writing” course. The focuses not just on the exercises themselves, but also on coming to terms with a diagnosis that is often viewed as a stigma and a lack of willingness to face up to the challenge of learning to read and write properly.

(More information is available in “Coping with dyslexia and reading and spelling disabilities” / PDF in the download section)

Coaching in learning

Pupils who have problems organizing their studies are supported by our learning coach when it comes to organizing their desks efficiently, drawing up learning timetables and developing effective learning strategies. The aim is to enable them to learn increasingly independently.

(More information is available in “Pupils with special needs”)

Excursions and study trips are of educational value and make for shared experiences.

Mountain tours

All our classes set off for the mountains at the start of every school year. Here they undertake a tour that is anticipated with joy by some, and with dread by others. Everyone has to carry their own rucksack from one hut to the next – so its weight really matters. The boys help the girls. All the effort is forgotten by the evening – all that remains is the abiding memory of shared experiences in the natural world.

Ski trip

Classes 5 to 8 take an annual ski trip to Sterzing/Italy or Hochfügen/Austria.

Retreats

Class 10 pupils are offered a three-day retreat either at the Benediktbeuern community centre or in Königsdorf, during which they explore a range of issues, including those of co-existence and ideology.

Science induction and project seminars (W and P seminars)

Class 10 is given two to three days in which to explore seminar topics to be tackled in the upper school. Pupils assemble a list of topics, explore and develop them, reject them, regroup, research, debate and start again from scratch. Finally their topic ideas are presented to the staff – some suggestions are usually of a rather bizarre nature, but something sensible has always resulted in the end. As a consequence, almost all the upper school pupils are enthusiastic about their seminars, the topics of which are often linked in some way to our special subjects – theatre, film and issues linked to social sciences, as well as History and Physics.
(More information is available in “Seminars in the upper school” / PDF in the download section)

School trip to Berlin

As part of its education in social studies, Class 11 takes a week-long trip to the German capital Berlin. The programme includes visits to the Reichstag, other sites of German history and the Holocaust Memorial. As a result of this visit, a number of pupils take the decision to study in the vibrant German capital.

Trips to visit partner schools

We wish to develop relations with partner schools abroad and started off this year with Moscow, where we visited the First European Gymnasium “Peter the First”. Other partner schools in China, Scotland and France are in the pipeline.

Boarding school trip

The entire boarding school takes a summer trip over a long weekend – this may be to the Europa-Park Rust, an activity centre in Austria or to the Bavarian Forest region. This enables our pupils to grow closer as a group.

Starting in Class 10, we advise our pupils on the requirements for entering the Abitur classes. Pupils in Classes 11 and 12 are supported closely by class teachers and the upper school management team.
Standardization of the Gymnasium curriculum for the last two year groups limits the choice of subjects. We offer intensive tuition in reasonably small groups as well as a range of special learning options:

  • Maths and German are mandatory written exam subjects in the Abitur for the 8-year Gymnasium in Bavaria (G8). Classes are divided into two groups of 8 to 11 pupils each with a view to providing optimum intensive practice lessons. Pupils are also given an extra hour of teaching in Maths thanks to our CAS (Computer Algebra System) calculator option.
    (More information is available in “CAS Mathematics” / PDF in the download section)
  • Practice lessons in the core subjects of Maths, German and English are also held in addition to regular lessons every Saturday morning on boarding school weekends. These practice lessons are mandatory for internal pupils, and can also be attended by external pupils.
  • We also offer the elective courses “Vocal ensemble” (with individual singing lessons) and “Theatre and film”.
  • The topics for the science induction and project seminars are determined by pupils in the course of a Class 10 project week. They then have to persuade staff to approve their projects. We support the establishment of seminars in our special subject areas of music/theatre and social sciences, as well as in the core subjects of German and Maths/Natural Sciences. The seminars are held in rolling blocks on different days of the week, and at the start and end of the school year.
  • We provide our upper school students with a study area of their own in the library and in the project room next door (with connections for notebooks), where they are supervised during core hours.

Learning in the 8-year Gymnasium means all-day learning. Alternating periods of concentration, relaxation, learning and rest are essential if the day is to proceed successfully. All pupils have a clearly structured day:

Time Activity
Morning From 7.30 a.m. Collection of external pupils from Reichersbeuern train station
7.55 a.m. Presence in the classroom
8.00 a.m. Teaching begins: First double lesson
9.30 a.m. Second breakfast break in the castle
9.50 a.m. Second double lesson
11.20 a.m. Short break
11.30 a.m. Third double lesson
1.00 p.m. Start of lunch break / End of lessons on Fridays
Afternoon 1.10 p.m. Lunch
Approx. 1.40 p.m. Lunch break in the students’ café, sports hall, library or grounds
2.10 p.m. Afternoon teaching and learning periods
2.55 p.m. Short break to change classrooms
3.00 p.m. Afternoon teaching and learning periods
3.45 p.m. End of teaching
4.00 p.m. Participation in sporting or creative guilds
until 5.15 p.m. Classes 8 to 12 may have further lessons Additional supervised learning periods or coaching on some days of the week

Explanatory notes:

  • Most learning takes place in double lessons. This enables pupils to concentrate on a smaller number of subjects per day and prepare for them systematically, and also to learn and practise the material intensively with plenty of exercises and silent, partner and group work, even in the case of experiments in science lessons.
  • Learning periods complement the lessons. Pupils work on core subject tasks on their own and in small groups and prepare for scheduled tests and examinations. Forward planning and detailed reflection are called for when it comes to the tasks at hand. Pupils receive support from their teachers.
  • We offer food from our kitchen in the first and second breaks. This is high-quality, home-made food – sandwiches, fruit and cake for breakfast, plus a three-course lunch menu featuring salads, antipasti, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian option, followed by a dessert or cake.
  • Our students’ café, which also sells sweets and soft drinks, is also open at break times.
  • The sports hall and library are open and supervised in the lunch break after the meal. Our grounds offer many inviting areas in which to pass the time.
  • Formal teaching ends at 3.45 p.m., at 1.00 p.m. on Fridays and at 12.15 before school holidays.
  • Extra-curricular activities are pursued from 4.00 p.m. on Mondays to Thursdays: our guilds offer a wide variety of sporting and creative pursuits. Classes 8 to 12 have further lessons once or twice a week.
  • In the fields of theatre and music in particular, guild teaching is supplemented by individual lessons and intensive rehearsal weekends.
  • On the Saturdays of boarding school weekends, internal pupils have to attend practice lessons in core subjects between 8.30 a.m. and 12.45, where they learn in small groups. These intensive classes can also be attended by external pupils.
  • Good learning is also dependent on keeping orderly documentation. Pupils are given their textbooks by us and can purchase stationery in the school shop. Every subject is allocated a particular colour of folder. All the required materials are contained in this folder, making it easy for pupils to find what they need in their bags and to keep all their documents in order. We encourage exercise books to be kept beyond a school year for both practical (pupils know which subjects they have covered and which are yet to be tackled) and ecological reasons.

Internal pupils continue their day with an evening meal, learning period, free period and bedtime. (More information is available in “Boarding school life”)

Pupils learn happily and without exam stress at our all-day school. They feel part of a large and close-knit family.

Scheduled tests make learning more predictable

Rather than blaming the G8 system for putting pressure on pupils, we look to motivate the children in our charge to achieve success. We regard it as only fair that pupils should be shown what they have learnt and what they are capable of. We assume that, following a long school day, children are generally no longer capable of preparing to tackle a large number of subjects on the following day. We have therefore taken the decision to dispense with unscheduled spot tests and to announce all our testing in advance instead. Pupils are given an extensive study plan; they should have enough time for leisure and family too. Families should also be able to accord greater consideration to the school and its tests in their daily plans.

Dealing with tests and test results

Our pupils and their parents are given sufficient advance notice of the tests and their subject contents. Parents are also informed of the results. We take care both when planning the tests and discussing the results.
We accord consideration to absences due to illness, grant pupils time to catch up and help them to make good any deficits. We want to find out what children have learnt and know, not what they don’t know. We are aware that these tests only provide a snapshot of the current situation and do not fully reflect a child’s development. This is taken into account in our decision on whether the child should move up into the next class.

Learning progress talks

Research has shown that regular meetings between parents, school and pupil play an important role in supporting the child’s learning endeavours. Thus pupils are required to take part in progress talks on a twice-yearly basis with their team of class teachers and parents. Here they have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and attitude to work, to set goals and to consider how these can be achieved (by the end of the school year).
Development talks are held for our boarding school pupils. These focus on their integration in a community with its rules. All those involved are kept informed, we remain in contact and do not talk at cross-purposes.

(More information is available in “Learning progress talks”)

And the eternal question about the final Abitur mark

The average Abitur mark in Bavaria is 2.3. Our school is around average in this respect – but we don’t think that this is all that really counts. What matters is the individual performance of pupils and whether they have achieved their full potential. We regularly admit pupils who have not been successful at previous schools and have already failed the Abitur: they come to us to repeat Class 12. The common perception is that we should not even give weaker pupils the chance to make good, because they put the school’s average mark in jeopardy.
Consider the following:
If a school aims to achieve a really good average mark in the Abitur, it is easiest not to give Class 11 and 12 pupils with a poor performance record much of an opportunity to improve their results. It is up to the educational discretion of the school and its teachers whether or not to give pupils with poor written marks in big exams the chance to improve their grades in smaller tests. If pupils aren’t given this opportunity, they may have to repeat a year, may not be allowed to take the Abitur exams in the first place, or may even decide to leave education for good.
Nobody asks about the proportion of Year 11 and 12 pupils who repeat a year or discontinue their education. The public and the press set great store by passing the Abitur exams and a school’s final average Abitur grade.
This narrow way of looking at a school’s way of dealing with its pupils and their academic performance suggests that schools with a good average grade are good, and those with a poor average grade are bad. It distorts the picture of the achievements of a school which also – and in particular – takes on pupils with learning difficulties and attempts to qualify them for university.
This is just what our school does. We accept pupils who have problems with learning, in their attitude to work or in their behaviour. We adopt a constructive approach to absenteeism as a result of illness. We announce tests in advance. We try to make sure that pupils take the right path towards positive development. We do so because we believe in the individual and his or her potential and in our ability as educators to tap into this potential and achieve positive results.

To return to the question – More information is available in “Successes and achievements”