In July 2005, I returned to America from my Fulbright year in Germany with a contract to teach at Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA). I was exhilarated to have the opportunity to work at such an esteemed school with a long tradition of excellence in educating young men. Since my freshman year in college, I had desired to teach German – to inspire within others a passion for the language and culture of my ancestry. My original assignment included teaching one beginning German class among other duties. In August, I began teaching remedial German in summer school. Several weeks into the summer semester, the Headmaster offered me – to my surprise - the position of German head and sole teacher of German. Presented with such a daunting task, I felt proud, excited, and anxious. Following my promotion, I learned the realities of the program which I had inherited. My goal to teach German had suddenly become significantly more complex and challenging.
During my six years at MBA, I reconstructed a program which had not only lost the respect of the language department but had also earned a tarnished reputation for asking little of its students, for showing poorly on standardized assessments, and for graduating students from upper level courses who had very low competency in German. In addressing the myriad challenges that came with assuming leadership of the German program, I learned that through dedication, positive thought, and belief in myself and my efforts, I can achieve success in any endeavor I pursue.
As the new head of the German program, I selected the textbooks and redesigned the curriculum for levels I, II, Honors III, and IV/AP. I attended an AP Institute at Rice University to be trained in teaching the rigorous Advanced Placement course. At MBA, I reorganized the German classroom and replaced the wall-sized poster of Angelina Jolie with a German flag, signifying a new "vision" for the German program. Time consuming and arduous, these changes were cosmetic. The real challenge lay in re-establishing legitimacy for the program and convincing the MBA community of the German program's worth and authenticity.
My vision for the German program and accomplishments of its students was more ambitious than my predecessor's. Continuing students sought to drop German, fearing that their fundamental deficiencies might be revealed in the process of transitioning from one teacher to another. I was proactive in creating a curriculum which addressed each student's strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, I sought to reassure the students of their attainable potential.
Last August, as I closed the door to my classroom for the last time and carried my last few boxes of belongings across campus, I recognized that my vision for a respectable, accomplished German program had been realized. National German Exam scores had significantly improved, AP students had performed with great success on the demanding AP German Examination year after year, students had engaged in the German exchange program I had established with a private school in Wiesbaden through the German American Partnership Program, three groups of students had made journeys to Germany with me during summers, and numerous graduates of mine had gone on to study and even declare German as a major at the university level. The ultimate acknowledgement of my efforts came in the honor to present at the National ACTFL Conference. As I presented to my fellow teachers of German from all over the country and shared my students’ work and accomplishments, I felt a great sense of confidence in and pride for the German program which I represented and had brought back to glory.
Just as the character in Franz Kafka's AP level novella "die Verwandlung" experiences a complete transformation, so too had MBA's German department and I undergone a total Verwandlung. Personally, I had grown throughout my six