Educational equity – “Thinking outside the box”

Being a teacher – Wilhelm Kelber-Bretz meant a lot more than just teaching students. That is why he has initiated and implemented many educational projects in the neighborhood in his 30s as a math and sports teacher in the Wilhelmsburg district of Hamburg out of school. “Thinking outside the box at school” is what he calls it. The devoted teacher is now retired and has written a book about his many years of educational work on the Elbe islands.

In the early 1990s, Wilhelmsburg was a wiped out part of the city, sometimes labeled a “ghetto”. People lived here because they had to, because rents were low, because they had hardly any chance elsewhere. The children and young people who went to school here rarely grew up outside their neighborhood. But Kelber-Bretz didn’t want to accept it.

Network the school more closely with the district

He knows what he writes about. “I myself come from an uneducated background,” she writes. His father was a baker, his mother a housewife, he attended secondary school. He probably would have stayed that way if his class teacher at the time hadn’t campaigned for him and urged him to take his baccalaureate after finishing secondary school. In his book, Kelber-Bretz describes his teacher’s commitment as an impulse to become a teacher himself and to work for disadvantaged children. It is therefore hardly a coincidence that Kelber-Bretz later ended up as a teacher in Wilhelmsburg of all places and not in a socio-economically better positioned neighborhood of Hamburg.

Wilhelmsburg was initially a stranger to Kelber-Bretz, he admits. The student body was already very heterogeneous 30 years ago, and it was difficult for him to start as a teacher. It took him a while to “find out what was actually behind the facades,” he writes in his book about him – behind the student facades and behind the facades of Wilhelmsburg.

Wilhelm Kelber-Bretz has initiated many educational projects

Unlike most of his colleagues, he did not go home immediately after class, outside Wilhelmsburg, but stayed to get to know the neighborhood and soon to find points of contact for starting educational projects outside of school.

Kelber-Bretz founded the Willibald Children’s Circus and Wilhelmsburg Reading Weeks. For a long time he was CEO of the local education network Forum Bildung Wilhelmsburg and is still committed to improving the opportunities of poor and disadvantaged children with local projects. In his book he summarizes the most important results of this work. For him it is very important that the changes do not come from above, but that the local population is actively involved.

More development opportunities for young teachers

The retired teacher vividly recounts many situations and encounters in the school and district. She describes the growing challenges in the teaching profession and makes clear demands so that things work out better. It calls for a new model of working time, a better supply of teachers, especially for schools in difficult situations, an improvement in the pedagogical quality of full-time schools and more development opportunities for young teachers, “for example through greater independence pedagogical and didactics and freely available timetables “. Only in this way could it also be attractive for them to work in a school in a socially difficult situation.

After 30 years in the profession, many teachers leave school in frustration. But Wilhelm Kelber-Bretz’s book still speaks of his passion for this profession and his belief that he can make a difference. With his book he does not want to draw a line, but set a starting point for many other discussions on the topic of educational justice.

  • The sale of the book supports the projects of the Wilhelmsburger Bildungsfonds.

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