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Great changes ahead in NMS’s Social Pedagogical Department

Nelson Mandela school is an all day school. Our children spend a big part of their day either learning about maths and languages or – well, what do they actually do when they are not improving their more tangible skills?

We have met Anja Müller and Patrick Freyburg in their office in Pfalzburger Str. 23 for an interview about the role and work practices of NMS’s social pedagogical department.

CL: Anja and Patrick, tell us something about yourselves.

AM: I am a certified social pedagogue and social worker with an additional training in systemic therapy. I’ve been in the position of co-ordinating social pedagogue at NMS since August 2012. I have been working abroad, in the Philippines and the US and later in Berlin where I worked before I came to the NMS at Familienforum in Kladow where I coordinated a team, managed a social group and dealt with difficult family situation, e.g. after divorces.

PF: I am a certified social worker, social pedagogue and mediator. I took over my position as co-ordinating social pedagogue in August 2015. My work experience is more diverse as I have worked with Spastikerhilfe eG, a nonprofit that supported multiply disabled persons. After that I had a position as a manager in property management and worked in projects with delinquent youth and with children that failed to attend school.

CL: Let’s go back to our school. How do educators and social pedagogues work at Nelson Mandela School?

AM: Well there are educators whose job it is to give guidance and accompany the children. One of their focus here is that of social learning. On a more technical level they organise the free time activities. Our team is well organized and we have a good overview about the needs of the pupils, so if there is any special situation the team can react fairly quickly.

PF: The main task of the educators is indeed the accompanying with the ultimate goal to facilitate the children’s development. In particular we help in developing social competences, i.e. strategies for conflict resolution, and the recognition of the children’s own needs and boundaries and those of others.

AM: To me it’s particularly important to sense oneself, to recognise one’s own feelings and find a way of dealing with them in the context of fellow human beings. To put it differently: If I am able to feel myself, I can also feel others. Empathy is the key word here.

PF: Anja and myself act as co-ordinating social pedagogues. The first contact is always the team, teachers and educators.

AM: But we support the teams and we meet with parents in difficult situations. We act as partners for our colleagues and discuss further actions. Another important aspect is child protection and we have to be active in this field as well.

Plus, we implement internal workshops.

CL: How is all this organized on a formal level?

AM: Well at NMS tjfbg, a gGmbH (a nonprofit limited liability company) is organising the work of educators and social pedagogues. The company has several offers for schools, and one department is social work for schools, and social pedagogic activities.

PF: This construction is easier to deal with than with the Senate directly because its offer is more transparent and structure. One example is the “Handkasse”, or working with petty cash, which is more difficult in a public administration – think complicated applications. Also resources like cars etc. are more easily available to us.

However at NMS we actually have a co-operation between employees from the Senate and from tjfbg. While we work together very well, in particular on a personal level, there are at times “friction losses” due to the different employers at one site.

AM: Especially in the beginning of the co-operation we had a team that was quite critical about it. But during the last three years we managed to grow together as a team.

CL: What are some of specifics and peculiarities of NMS if you compare it to your previous employments?

AM: Time is running fast! (laughs) But seriously: The school is very diverse, as far as the requirements are concerned but also the people who come from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. Also I really find the bilingual aspect very rewarding. It is like a wonderful bouquet of flowers.

PF: I completely agree. I also found it remarkable how complex the system “school” appears to be and how many different areas have to co-operate. It’s almost like an orchestra. I wasn’t aware of this complexity before taking over my current position.

CL: What are some of your priorities for this school year?

PF: We have three main goals for this school year. Firstly we want to improve the co-operation and communication between teachers and educators even further.

AM: The work must be done on the same level between the partners; everybody should recognize each other’s professional competence.

PF: The second focus is on the further development of the concept for our social pedagogical department. And thirdly, we would like improve on our communication with the public, e.g. use the website and the buzz better to communicate.

AM: On a more general note, I would like to add this: School has changed tremendously during the past 30 years. Today social pedagogues, social workers and educators belong to school as an organic component. That’s why it is so important to treat the pedagogical and academic departments equally, also as far as public awareness and recognition is concerned. This means for example that special accomplishments by educators should be recognized.

CL: One personal question, Anja: Why are you leaving us?

AM: I really enjoyed my time at NMS. But for family reasons I was always tempted to move closer to home. I now have the opportunity to transfer as school social worker to Hans Carossa Gymnasium close to my place of residence.

I want to say thank you very much to the team of the social pedagogic department for the time we shared together and for the great job they are always doing!

Thank you management and collegues and thank you to everybody from our great school community, for the support, inputs and lots of smiles, especially from our kids.

CL: Thank you Anja, thank you Patrick for this interview and good luck.

Interview by: Christian Lohr

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20.01.2018 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin