Our school: Situated in the very heart of the Ruhr valley in North Rhine Westphalia (west of Germany) our hospital school offers lessons for students of all grades, school types and all abilities and special needs. On average we teach about 160 pupils per day, i.e. about 1.000 per year, 15 per cent with physical/ chronic, 85 per cent with psychiatric diseases. They are taught by 30 teachers (about half of them trained for special needs education) at seven units spread across the city.
Our teaching sites: in our main building a team of four teachers offers special lessons for about 20 out-patients, in two in-patient Clinics for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy there are six units with teams of two to four teachers each who teach about 70 students, about 30 students are taught by two teams of three/ four teachers in two day-units (Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), three teachers work with about 25 students in the University Paediatric Clinic, two colleagues work in the institution “StepOut”, home for about ten youth with drug abuse background; finally, in “House Columbus”, an optionally closed institution, ten girls who need intensive educational care are taught by two teachers.
Within the different units we all follow one major aim: bridging the gap between pre- and post-medical treatment, i.e. accompanying transitions and promoting re-integration into the regular school system by teaching the core subjects (German, Maths, English), by offering all sorts of helpful counseling and coaching, and by promoting cooperation and networking with all people/ systems involved in the complex process.
Special lessons/ classes: Of course, we offer more to our students than just teaching the core subjects. In summer we profit from the fact that we are situated on the river Ruhr. So we go canoeing with some of our students on Lake Baldeney. Other students have the chance to take part in (orthopedagogical) equestrian vaulting lessons because we are lucky and have two teachers who are not only horse-maniacs, but also trained experts. Throughout the academic year our units organise day trips, projects, exhibitions – usually closely connected to lesson topics or topical events. Two special projects aim at connecting all the different units with their different demands: a project week in summer with one overall topic, e.g. “happiness”, which ends with a summer festival in and around our main building, and our school magazine (Zwischenzeitung – Magazine “In-between”), which is published once a year and contains articles, drawings, interviews etc. made by our students.
Back to school: As a result of a research project on the topic “school absence” we offer – together with clinic experts – special counseling for parents with children/ youth who have not attended school for a longer period. It is a project based on the cooperation of Essen education authority, educational counseling center, youth welfare office, Ruhrland Hospital School, regular schools and the local LVR Clinic for Child and Youth Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
Perspectives: In difficult and changing times teacher training plays an essential role, e.g. in the field of new technologies (“mobile learning”, “learning online”, “video conferencing”), teaching German as a secondary language (- you know about the number of refugees entering into our school system) and counseling/ coaching – complex, difficult situations demand competent, professional ways of communication, e.g. when talking with teachers at regular schools about compensations for students with long-term illnesses who have a legal right to individual compensation for the (educational) disadvantages they might experience because of their illness. In addition, we stand in for promoting the needs of our students on a political scale: educational laws must be adjusted to the fact that one out of five German pupils experiences a period within his/ her educational life with a serious illness and, thus, school absence/ need for home or hospital schooling.
Author: Heidrun Friebel, Hildegardstr. 83, D – 45475 Mülheim; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trained as a grammar school teacher (1989-1991) I worked as a teacher for English and German at different comprehensive schools in the Ruhr valley from 1991 till Feb. 2010. Since then I have been teaching at Ruhrland Hospital School, Essen, at different units (physical and psychiatric, in- and out-patient). In addition, I have also been working in the field of orthopedagogy since 2004.