Isabel Kaufhold is teacher at the Freie Aktive Schule (FAS) in Stuttgart. We talk with her about the teaching & learning strategies and the pedagogy which is behind the free schools in general and the FAS in particular.

«The inner motivation of the students is the most important thing when deciding what, when and how to learn things at school. It happens the same when we get old.» Our inner motivation is the most crucial thing for lifelong learning. Isabel recommends us to listen to the children, observe them more and to judge them less.

You can see the full transcription of the interview below:

«Everybody has what he/she needs inside. Teachers have to provide the environment for the children to do develop it»

«About our school, one part is Montessori education and about it, for me the main idea is that every child and every human has all what he/she needs inside. So if you have just an environment where you can grow with your ideas, you just develop what you have inside and what we do as teachers is provide “the house” and the materials with which the children can do what they want.

We don’t say you have to write or do Maths, we just offer and the child decides what he/she wants to do, with whom he wants to do and how long. So the child can meet his needs and feel what he needs now in this moment, and is not the teacher how says this or that.»

«The most important thing to learn something is your motivation towards it»

«There are different theories about learning. One is for example from Montessori that you have certain times when you learn easier for example writing and reading. But other theories say that the most important thing is your motivation so if you are motivated to learn something you will do everything to learn it. Your brain is very open to learn one thing in a very short time. If you are not motivated it can take years for learning one thing.

I have a good example for that. You can be 80 year old and if you fell in love with a Japanese girl, you can learn Japanese in a very short time. On the other hand if you want to read a book like “Harry Potter” you can learn how to read it very fast.»

«In case of a conflict don’t judge. Just hear the pupils and help them find a solution»

«At first I just stay beside and observe what’s going on and just be present because when the students feel that there is an adult they act differently, they are like more conscious.

Sometimes they solve the conflict by themselves but if not I just say stop and ask «what is going on?, what are you feeling?, what could be a solution for you?», so my idea is that pupils resolve it by themselves and if they need help I help them but I don’t judge, just hear them and help them find a solution by themselves.»

If a child doesn’t want to go to the offers…

The first thing I ask, «what is happening? are you tired? do you want to do other things?» I try to find out why the pupil doesn’t want to go to the offer and sometimes there are problems, for example with writing and reading. If it is very difficult, the children just goes out, looks for other ways or just doesn’t do it. In this case we speak with the parents and we look for a solution. Sometimes the group doesn’t fit for the children so we search for a time when we can work together, with two or three pupils, a very little group, and look for ways.

«Grades make more difficult the relationship with the students»

I think the main difference is that we care a lot about the child, we are very in contact with her or him and take into account his or her feelings. In other schools you have 20 or 25 pupils and they all have to do the same. Here we look at what each child needs now and we have very different relation so we can work very individually. That’s nearly not possible at other schools.

First thing I would change is to get rid of the grades because it makes more difficult the relationship, because the teacher is like God he says if it’s good or it’s bad so the student loses his/her confidence, and if the student is confident enough he/she learns better.

The first thing is that we observe a lot and write down our observations. One or two times in the year all the teachers together we meet to speak about the child how we see in all the different materials/subjects, not only for example Maths but for example social or personal development. So we exchange our ideas and if we see problems we talk about it.

We have one conversation minimum with the parents during the year. Maybe is two or three but basically is one. We talk about the child for one hour, sometimes more. At the end of the year we write our observations.


I am a telecommunications engineer, teacher in innovative education and freelance filmmaker questioning not the "Why?" but the "Why not?" in every aspect of life. Since 2017 I travel the world looking for stories worth telling.

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