Parents Night Hostage Crisis

| August 28, 2013

After last night, I’m going to share with you the most important thing you need to know about a German parents night: that you could be subject to an election for your class Elternbeirat, the liaison between parents and the school. No one wants to be the Elternbeirat. And when I say that no one wants to be the Elternbeirat, I mean that No one wants to be the Elternbeirat. And so, after over an hour of listening to a teacher go on about what happens in first grade, things will take a sudden turn and go like this:


Teacher: “German-German-German”

You: Not really sure what’s going on

Teacher: Gives your neighbor an official-looking form

Neighbor: Starts filling out this multi-page document


A parent gets up with a dry erase marker.

Parent: “German-German-German”

All parents clam up. No one is volunteering for whatever has transpired.

Teacher: Sits back with that ‘I’ve got all night’ look

You: Know that she’s got all night because she’s been talking since 8:00.

I should note that it is now 9:30 pm and you all want to go home. Especially you and your spouse, whose heads are going to explode from all the “German-German-German.”


A father volunteers. The parent with dry erase marker writes his name on the board and asks for another volunteer.

Everyone stares.

You to neighbor (in German) “What’s going on?”

Neighbor (in German): “This is for the Elternbeirat.”

You remember reading about the Elternbeirat in your German class and you now realize why nobody wants to volunteer–to be the person who deals with a bunch of pushy German parents and their problems and the school.


The standoff continues.

You realize you are being held hostage by the teacher until an Elternbeirat is elected.


Someone eventually volunteers, to the overt displeasure of his wife.

Everyone votes.

The votes are tallied.

There is a fucking tie.

You realize this has become a very serious hostage crisis and you wish you’d gone to the bathroom when you had the chance.


Now comes an unnecessarily lengthy discussion about how to deal with the tie.

You ask your husband if you can write in Obama’s name.

Your husband says no.

You begin to question where his loyalties lie.



The second guy, whose wife clearly didn’t want him to volunteer: wins.

The elected Elternbeirat and witnesses (and I believe I spotted Chancellor Merkel) swarm your neighbor’s area to sign the official, multi-page document that he has been filling out.


You’re allowed to leave.

Your bladder does not explode.

But your brain does.

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Category: Ex-pat Parenting, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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