In February of 2016, I traveled with 9 of my classmates to Den Haag, Netherlands where we lived, taught, and traveled for 30 days.
Teaching at Nutsschool Zorvliet was no easy task. Between the language barrier and the completely different views on education, I learned each day something new about the world of education and myself as a teacher.
In the Netherlands, 75% of working women work part time. I learned this the first week when I thought there was a staff work day because of how many "substitutes" I noted there were. "No, he is our teacher when Elona is gone!" The kids laughed. The teacher:student relationship is almost a 360 from that of the US. The students call the teachers by their first time, arm wrestle with them, show affection, and hang out in the teachers lounge on breaks. Breaks are another key difference I quickly noted. Twice a day the students got a break in which they had to go outside for air. At 10:00am they had fifteen minutes and come noon they had 30 minutes plus their lunch time of another 30 minutes. These breaks were also quite different in their "rules" or lack there of. There were no teachers telling the children to "put down that stick!" "stop running" or "be careful!" Instead, students were splashing in puddles, climbing trees, and digging holes. I absolutely loved their ability to let kids just be kids.
The independence in the students was clearly seen in my first full day at Zorvliet. Though I arrived late after
missing my bus and walking for over an hour in attempts to find the school without wifi or a map, I made it just in time for the class field trip. Group 3, which is equivalent to our 4th grade students, was going on a field trip to see culturally diverse films downtown in the city center. The teacher asked for me to join and I could not turn it down!
I quickly noted that the students had walked from the school to the train station on their own, scanned their Ov-Chipcard, or bus pass, and boarded the train, all with minimal teacher supervision. They were not assigned places to sit on the public transportation, but instead took a seat themselves and got off when the time came to. Their independence
in this was both startling and eye opening to me, and something I was absolutely impressed by. I knew that I wanted to bring back this trust in students to my future classroom. They may be young, but when you give a child respect and autonomy, you will be surprised at what they can do.
You can read more about my adventures abroad at my blog, jacklynmariet.wordpress.com