Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) offers eight teacher training degree programs qualifying students to teach at vocational schools. What eight subject specializations are offered? What motivates students to become vocational school teachers? Have they already worked in a profession and are now pursuing teacher training as so-called lateral entrants? In the interview below, Marten Block shares why he chose to pursue a teacher training degree at TU Berlin’s School of Education after completing his vocational training as an automotive mechatronics engineer. His core subject is mechanical engineering at TU Berlin with physics as his secondary subject at Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin). His motivation? “As a vocational teacher, I have the opportunity to explore complex technical problems and still work with a young audience.” The interview took place as part of TUB Teaching, a project conducted within the framework of the “Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Why did you choose to pursue teacher training to become a vocational school teacher?
When I was in school, I wasn’t interested in becoming a teacher. I learned a technical vocation after school because I’m interested in technology. Then during my dual vocational education and training, I became more familiar with the profession of teaching. Part of my training took place in the field while the other half required me to attend classes at a vocational school. It was then that I thought teaching could be something for me. As a vocational teacher, I have the opportunity to explore complex technical problems and still work with a young audience.
What did you expect to learn in your studies?
Studying is made up of two parts, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. The teacher training bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering is very technically advanced. You could almost call it a “small mechanical engineering degree”. That is followed by master’s studies, during which you learn the pedagogical skills required of teachers.
Before starting out, I expected to learn more teaching methods and educational theory in my bachelor’s degree, but that wasn’t the case. The focus was primarily on learning the technical content. Every now and again you feel a bit out of your depth, but the resources provided here mean you can cope well. It is only in the master’s program that you finally really recognize that you chose the right degree program. The focus there is on how to become a teacher. That’s what I’m doing now and I’ve recognized that I feel comfortable and happy with my choice to become a teacher.
What difficulties did you experience at the start of your studies and how did you handle them?
Before I can speak about any difficulties, I have to once again emphasize that studying is two-part, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. This of course poses a great challenge to students with a vocational background who finished secondary school awhile ago and now once again have to learn and study math, physics, or the natural sciences in general. And so, particularly as a bachelor’s student, you have to take a moment and think “Where do I start?”. That doesn’t mean losing hope. You just need to stay in touch with your fellow students and use all of the offers provided - tutorials, homework hours, or meetings with tutors. If you take advantage of these offers, then you’ll be in a good position. And these are all free of charge as opposed to private tutoring.
What does a typical day look like for you as a teacher training student at TU Berlin?
Bachelor’s students need 180 credits to graduate and the standard period of study is six semesters. That means I need to acquire 30 credits each semester. As I previously mentioned, students in vocational teacher training often study at two universities and my days reflect that. I have to coordinate and complete all my modules at TU Berlin for my core subject in mechanical engineering, and then also, in my case, at FU Berlin for my secondary subject in physics. I spend a lot of time commuting between the two universities. You have to be extremely organized to really accomplish what you take on.
How did you organize your schedule during your first few semesters?
I didn’t devote one day to one subject and then the next day to the other. Instead, I said okay, these three lectures are important to me. I absolutely want to attend these and the rest I’ll do when I have time. Then, when needed, I pulled back a little and did a bit less.
How do you find Berlin as a place to study?
It wasn’t my aim to come to Berlin, but now that I am here, I feel quite at home. My fellow students come from all over Germany.
What tips do you have for new vocational teacher training students at TU Berlin?
Well, a recommendation is always very subjective. I can only say that if you can manage it financially, you should stretch your studies out. That doesn’t mean you should add ten semesters on but just take off some of the pressure to be able to really take on the challenges you face and learn. You don’t want any baggage from the previous semester weighing you down in the next. Once you’ve settled in and found a pace and rhythm, everything else falls into place.
Which subjects are offered?
Teacher training bachelor’s and master’s degrees:
Prevocational Education (Economy-Work-Technology), Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Food Science and Nutrition, Vehicle Engineering, Information Technology, Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Media Technology, Mechanical Engineering
Lateral entry teacher training master’s programs:
Civil Engineering/Mathematics, Electrical Engineering/Information Technology, Electrical Engineering/Mathematics, Information Technology/Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering/Mathematics