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<<Trust in the school is elementary>>

Friday discussion Manuel Aicher takes part in the parent-teacher forum in Dietikon


In the early 1990s, a couple of parents suggested founding a parent-teacher forum at the Wolfsmatt school in Dietikon. The goal: better communication between parents and teachers. The request fell on open ears and meanwhile the institution has established itself. On the one hand takes place over the approximately two-monthly

meetings, an exchange of information between parents and teachers takes place, on the other hand the parents provide "logistical help" at the school, which means that they help to organize events, for example. Manuel has been chairman of the parent-teacher forum (ELF) Wolfsmatt for two years


Mr Aicher, why are you involved in the parent-teacher forum?

Manuel Aicher: It's a very personal matter. I love my children like almost nothing in the world. I need a lot of trust when I'm giving her so much time to others. I want to build and maintain that trust.


And that means for you?

Aicher: I would like to be perceived by the teachers as a parent, not necessarily in my person, but in my function. I assert provocatively: A teacher who does not see the parents behind a child does not really perceive the child either. Communication is needed to build trust.

I don't have to talk to teachers all the time. If the relationship is right, I get by with little contact: a parents' evening, maybe a phone call once in a while. If there are disturbances, more discussion is needed. I don't have high standards either. I have to have the subjective feeling that the teacher is there for the child with an open heart and not (only) the other way around.

How is the organization of the ELF?

Aicher: There is no membership. Come who wants to come. There is hardly any structure at all, apart from the five meetings per year that are agreed in advance and the fact that there is a chair.


And does that suit you?

Aicher: Probably not. A goal I set myself two years ago was to create more structures. With this aim, I was unanimously elected.

How did you do it?

Aicher: We parents worked out a mission statement and organizational statute together with teachers' representatives. This proved extremely controversial.


Aicher: Personally, I felt more and more uncomfortable with the informality in my role. We can talk a lot at the ELF meetings, but we have no decision-making powers.

Especially among the parents there are those who want to keep the informal character of the ELF. But many teachers also have a different image of school than I do.

Can you describe your picture?

Aicher: I see the school as one

Triangle with the child in the center. At the three corners are the teachers, parents and authorities. The ideal of many teachers is a relationship "us and the children"

Parents are just troublemakers in such a system. Especially if you want to have a say.

The fact that the 44-year-old would one day become a father was not a conscious decision for him. In retrospect, the father of four says he was probably afraid of the associated responsibility. The eldest, born in 1989, attends the Limmattal canton school in Urdorf, the youngest goes to the Wolfsmatt school after the summer holidays. A child died at the age of one and a half years.

Aicher, who comes from southern Germany, met his wife Noelle on an alp in Graubünden. The law student in Berlin spent his semester break there. He worked on the alp for seven summers.

After the fourth summer they got married and he moved to Switzerland. In Switzerland, the lawyer first worked in a literary agency, at the same time he began to work professionally with genealogical research. He has lived with his family in Dietikon since 1993, where he works as a freelance genealogist and oversees the central office for genealogy. He dedicates about 20 percent of his time to coaching and organizational consulting.

As a German, you have been living in the Zurich region since 1985. Do you notice differences in the conflict culture?

Aicher: Definitely. I would like to tell you one key result: I was a member of a club and there was a conflict. I showed up punctually for the meeting that was called. Everyone else had met before. After a few minutes, I found that the others agreed. Whereupon I briefly stated that the majorities were clear. The Swiss didn't want that, but tried to convince me of their point of view in a 30-minute discussion. I consider the great need for consensus to be symptomatic of this country.

How do you feel about arguing?

Aicher: I don't really like to argue, although I come from a family with a culture of discussion. I would describe myself as in need of harmony and sensitive, whereas the Swiss, interestingly enough, see me as conflict-loving. That's the different cultural context.

And what about the culture of conflict between teachers and parents?

Aicher: In seven years of working with ELF, I have never experienced that conflicts were really discussed. They are held elsewhere or not at all.

How do you explain that?

Aicher: I hear from parents that they fear it would have a negative impact on their child. You can dismiss that as ridiculous, but you have to ask yourself where these fears come from.

Does it have anything to do with Dietikon?

Aicher: No. In my opinion, school culture is primarily dependent on how teachers treat each other, but also on the size of the school community.

Aicher has decided to give up the ELF chairmanship. He has

his ideas of developing the ELF in the direction of the parents' council

can prevail. The school administration also considers the very reserved organizational statute with its right to submit applications to be legally problematic. Nevertheless, Aicher will continue to work with the ELF. In his opinion, it is an important matter. "We sort of got the child off the ground," says Aicher, "it just hasn't fully developed yet." The involvement of parents in school events such as the sports day works well. The Wolfsmattzeitung is also a product of the ELF. Parents and teachers have organized a project week together twice so far. For Aicher, these were “highlights”.

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