For the past two weeks, Katie and I have been spending our weekdays at The Gelderlandschool. This school is an immigrant school; students come from varying countries and cultures to The Hague and this is one of the schools they may attend. Time spent in The Netherlands varies from student to student. Some students have been in The Hague and speaking Dutch for most of their lives, while others have immigrated in the past year.
We have spent the majority of our time in a Groep 7 classroom, which is the equivalent of Grade 5 in the United States. There are students from Egypt, Poland, Panama, and many more countries. The students are all pretty fluent in Dutch by this point, and some are close to fluent in English, as well. There are around 25 students in the class. The Groep 7 teacher describes the school as "extreme Montessori." The students are encouraged to take charge of their own education, starting with the earliest ages (Groeps 1 & 2). Many classrooms go through themes for around 6 weeks. For example, Groep 3 (grade 1) students are in a North Pole theme right now. Every subject relates to that theme. The students may read articles and books about the North Pole in Language Arts; they could learn about polar bears and seals in science; children may right a letter to a person living in an igloo. This gives children a chance to learn for a purpose since they are able to immediately apply knowledge they learn in one subject to an assignment or project in a different subject. This creates a thirst for knowledge as students dig deeper into the theme in each and every subject area. In addition to the theme approach to education, we have also noticed the independence students practice in school. Children move at their own paces and are working on different assignments simultaneously. Not only that, but students are oftentimes working toward one final project or final product. Last semester, the students in Groep 7 worked to write and perform a play based on the history of The Netherlands. This incorporated Language Arts, Social Studies, and the arts into one final product that the kids enjoyed putting together. This is the way teachers often run their classrooms- they create opportunities for the students to build their own knowledge and apply that knowledge along the way. It has been so interesting to get a first-hand experience of the education system in The Netherlands and see the impact it has on students, and we are excited to finish out our last week student teaching in The Gelderlandschool
It is interesting to see such a successful school system such as the one in The Netherlands that looks at Special Education so differently. I feel as though we push and value inclusion back in my classroom in Texas and the United States as a whole. Yet here students are more strictly separated based on their academic level. I am curious to research more into what the benefits are to this separated system. One thing is for sure, I wish our special education classrooms were as beautiful and spacious as these in this school!
Hällo from The Hague!
We are missing all of you TCU friends and wish you were here to experience everything. This week has been incredible and I cannot believe that I get to experience this. We are having the time of our life here while learning so much. Hannah and I are at the Valkenbos Montessori school in The Hague, Netherlands. It is about 3.5 miles from our condo. We quickly learned the first day that we needed to rent a bike. Now we are biking about 10 miles each day. The Dutch lifestyle is quite healthy!
Hannah and I are in love with the Valkenbos Montessori. Mr. Erik is the teacher who invited us TCU students to teach at Valkenbos. He has been quite helpful during our stay, while teaching us about the Dutch culture and education system. Mr. Erik hosted Hannah and I at his house for a Dutch dish that his wife cooked for us. His wife and him also took Hannah and I on a tour of The Hague Saturday afternoon. They have been incredibly hospitable to us and we are thankful for them.
Mr. Erik teaches groups 6,7,8. Students start at Valkenbos at age 4 (Group 1) and stay until age 12 (Group 8). There is the OB group which is groups 1-2, MB group 3-5, and BB group 6-8. The students, teachers and staff at Valkenbos are welcoming and have engaged us in the education process at the school. We are lucky to be able to experience all groups. Mr. Erik had the teachers sign up for Hannah and I to be in their classrooms each day. We feel like we know the whole school in 1 short week! We are very excited because we get to go on our first field trip this Thursday to the Space Museum.
Hannah and I are eager to get back to the United States and start implementing some of the teaching techniques in to our Fort Worth schools. We are amazed at how motivated, advanced, and determined the teachers and students are. My favorite part of this trip is getting to watch the self- motivated students work hard at such a young age. The teachers guide the students, but all the students make their own learning plan for the week. The students decide what, when, and how they are going to learn that week based off of the teacher's choices.Hannah's favorite part is watching the interaction between teachers and students. It has been great to watch the teachers motivate the students to learn in an authentic way.
The Valkenbos students do not learn English until group 7. Most students only know Dutch, while a handful know English from their parents or TV shows. We are getting to practice a lot of ESL strategies that I learned in Dr. Pryzmus' course. We are able to still teach some english lessons to small groups. We have been playing a game where the students receive a sticky- note that has the name of an object around the room. The students then have to place the sticky note on the correct object around the class. We try to incorporate english through out the day while also learning a lot of new Dutch words thanks to the students.
We are loving our time here in The Hague. We are so fortunate to be at the Valkenbos school with such great teachers who are able to teach us so much. I cannot believe it has only been one week, yet we have learned so much.
We look forward to the next few weeks.
Sarah Casabona/Hannah Heurlin