The Fullbright Commission in Berlin has selected Social Studies teacher Daniel Tillman to receive a grant to travel to Germany this summer to participate in a professional seminar titled “Diversity in Germany Education 2012.” The two-week seminar will be conducted in Tübingen in southern Germany this July.
Tillman is familiar with the area, having learned to ski near the small town of Tübingen in central Baden-Württemberg, while in the army, in which he served prior to becoming a teacher. Since then, Tillman has made several trips to Germany. He cites Berlin as one of his favorite cities in the world. “Germany holds a special place in my heart. Some of my best experiences have been there,” he said in a phone interview.
After returning to Germany this summer, Tillman will learn about a multitude of topics relating to education. The seminar will inform visiting American teachers about the German educational system, and specifically about changes it is facing in an altered economic and ethnic environment. Germany has seen a major influx of European immigrants over the past few decades, despite some xenophobia throughout the nation. “No matter how much you assimilate, you will never be accepted as being German,” Tillman said. “If you are not of German blood, you’re not welcome.”
Immigrant children are not provided with the same support system to adjust to the language and customs of Germany, as they might receive in the United States. Years ago, on a visit to Germany, Tillman saw the roadblocks that the children hailing from Turkey, Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Russia, among other nations, faced. He asked a fellow German teacher why the children weren’t offered a language preparation program and was informed that one is offered, but only for a few months. “I thought to myself, how is that going to help?” Tillman said.
At the seminar, Tillman intends to discuss methods that could help the immigrant pool assimilate into a nation where the message to an immigrant is “you have German citizenship, you are not German,” Tillman said. He hopes to draw upon past experiences with minorities and immigrants in education throughout the seminar’s discussions.
Tillman taught a wide array of students before coming to Stuyvesant, from Roberto Clemente Middle School in the Bronx where the majority of students are black and Latino, to Berkley Carroll School in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where 50 percent of students are reform Jews. At every school he has taught, he has identified language barriers and the absence of traditional family structure as the biggest areas of concern. “I saw the same amount of emotional deprivation at both [schools],” he said.
Tillman is no stranger to being part of the minority in an educational setting. “When I went to middle school, I was one of few black kids in a school of 1200,” he said. Today, he is one of the few black faculty members at Stuyvesant.
During the seminar, Tillman will also learn about the German educational system, which sharply contrasts that of America. “The participants will receive an overview of the German school and post-secondary education system, which will allow them to apply this new knowledge to their own work,” according to the Fullbright Commision’s website.
“We live in a global community, and it’s interesting to learn about how other countries do or don’t integrate other cultures into their system and what challenges that brings,” Assistant Principal Jennifer Suri said.
Tillman has always sought out professional opportunities outside of the city that would broaden his knowledge base. In ten years, he has journeyed to California, Colorado, Greece, Bulgaria, Japan, and New Zealand, among other locations. He usually finds scholarships and grants to fund his pursuits. Most recently, he traveled to San Diego to study Spanish and Mexican influences on California under the National Endowment for the Humanities. These programs have allowed him to gain new experiences, as well as strengthen his resume.
Tillman hopes to return from Germany next fall with new knowledge to pass on to his students. “Any kind of exposure to international education systems, the culture of different places, it enhances your knowledge and your scholarship in the field,” Suri said. “You can bring that back into the classroom.”