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Teaching Practice / Working as a Trainee Teacher

This period allows students to learn to plan, run and evaluate lessons independently.

The staff of the teacher-training college teach practice-based modules to help students gain this ability. Each student also has mentors among the teaching staff at his or her school to provide help and advice. The second phase ends in the second state examination, which results in licence to work as a fully qualified teacher in each student's chosen type of school.

Useful information on working as a trainee teacher and getting a teaching job is provided by Hessian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The period of work as a trainee teacher is intended to enable trainees to practice their chosen profession. In Hesse, it lasts 21 months for all types of teacher and end in the passing of the second state teaching examination.

The Hessian law governing teaching qualifications (Hessisches Lehrerbildungsgesetz, Artikel 1 des Dritten Gesetzes zur Qualitätssicherung in hessischen Schulen) which entered into force on 1st January 2005 provides new regulation of the dates for application and employment as a trainee teacher. Employment of new trainees takes place in regular rounds every 1st May and 1st November. Applications for the May round must be received by 1st January, those for the November round by 1st July. Any trainee places which are not filled in these first rounds are then opened to late applicants whose papers arrived by 15th March or September respectively.

Applications are accepted not only from holders of Hessian teacher-training degrees but also those from other German states who have completed a university programme recognised by the state of Hesse. By the same token, Hessian graduates can apply for trainee places in other German states. The federal states of Germany have agreed on the principle of mutual recognition for teacher-training programmes. However, since this agreement is underpinned by various caveats in the individual states, students should research the possibilities and conditions in their potential destination state.

It is important to note that applicants must undergo an official health check before they can be employed as trainees, to test whether they are physically suitable for the job. Anyone with health-related or physical limitations and/or disabilities, including chronic illnesses, should contact the relevant authorities in plenty of time, even before embarking on their degree.

Trainee teachers, as temporary civil servants, are employed within the budget of each federal state. Schools can therefore only employ as many trainees as there are places provided for by the Hessian parliament. A directive is issued every semester determining the total number of places and how they are to be divided among the different types of school and the various subjects. 

The number of places available also depends on the capacity of the teacher-training colleges (see below). Hesse has 30 such colleges, which are spread around the whole state and are by no means restricted to the urban centres and university towns. The fact that Hesse is a rural state should be taken into account in any beginning student's consideration of his or her career plans. Applicants for trainee-teacher positions can express preferences as to where they wish to work.
The distribution of trainee places depends first and foremost on students' type of school, then on their subjects and finally, if applicants have the same combination of subjects, on their employment grade, which is derived from the state examination grades. Places are distributed in accordance with the following key:

  • 50% of places according to applicants' suitablity and grades,
  • 15% of places for special cases,
  • 35% of places according to applicants' number of waiting points.

First-time applicants who are not given a place should try and use their time until the next round of applications wisely, by engaging in some type of pedagogical activity, as this could slightly improve their employment grade later on (bonus points). Since the qualification process for teachers consist of both the university degree and the period as a trainee, the Hessian Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs has an obligation to offer a trainee place to every Hessian graduate. There is no strict legal limitation on the time which is allowed to elapse between graduating and beginning work as a trainee, which means that graduates are not obliged to become trainees immediately after finishing university. The interim should not be of unreasable duration, however. 

Trainee teachers spend their working hours in two locations:

The teacher-training college:
Trainees attend practice-based seminars on one to two days per week, taught by college staff. The training they receive here ranges from educational and social sciences to the subject or subjects trainees are being prepared to teach.
The school:
Trainees' work in their schools in centred around

  • sitting in on lessons,
  • teaching lessons under supervision (preparation is discussed with a mentor, the lesson given in cooperation with or under the supervision of the mentor, and pupils' grades decided by the mentor),
  • teaching lessons independently (the trainee alone is responsible for preparing, running and evaluating the lesson as well as for grading pupils),
  • taking part in meetings, working with parents, accompanying school trips etc.

Graduates' 'employment grade' is derived from their grades from the first and second state exams thus that, in Hesse, the first state exam grade makes up two fifths of the employment grade and the second state exam makes up the remaining three fifths.
In individual cases, a graduate can extend, shorten or interrupt his or her period as a trainee, as well as change mentor, school and/or teacher-training college.
Trainees are provided with detailed information on the legal situation upon employment.