Where do I even begin?
Well, we could start with the 11 hour flight to Amsterdam, the journey through the airport and to our secluded beach homes in Kijkduin (still working on the pronunciation), the multiple missed/ miscalculated bus stops, or the 3.5 mile trek Jackie and I walked this morning to find our school, only to realize we had actually walked in a giant circle.
Or we could just skip all of that and get to the real stuff. This. School. Is. Nuts.
It’s this lovely little place in a lovely little town in Holland called Nutsschool Zorgvliet, where I am lucky enough to be a student teacher. And let me tell you right away, it’s nothing like you would ever see in the States.
Monday afternoon on our first day, we arrived and were greeted by the director of a Dutch dream land that they call an educational facility. We were quickly handed off to two students, one 10 year old boy and one 11 year old girl who gave us an extensive tour of their school. To my surprise, they spoke incredibly good English and gave us what had to be the most thorough tour I have ever recieved. They made it a point to show us every nook and cranny, from the classrooms and the library, to the “chill space” in a dark corner full of pillows, and even the boys and girls toilets.
As we walked around, it became obvious that this was no ordinary place for learning. This was not a place where students are sat down and told what to do or how to study. This was not a place where kids are restrained to their desk and chair, pencil in hand and eyeballs deep in worksheets. This was a place where the children become independent people and learning is what happens as a result of life. Fifth graders play with kindergarteners on the playground. Hallways are filled with coats and shoes in the cold winter, making great hiding spots for students playing hide and seek. Recess happens rain or shine, where kids play in the mud and trees, climbing all over the walls and all over each other. They ride their bikes to school, take the tram to their field trips at the Filmhaus where they watch alternative animated films, speak more than one language, and genuinely enjoy their schooling as a critical part of their lives. It is a place where strong relationships among students and teachers are fostered and vital to the success of the community that they have built together. Teachers teach what the kids want to learn, all made possible because the kids genuinely want to learn.
At the heart of this system lies one thing: the student. Regardless of the time or place, teachers make time for the students. The success and growth of each individual student is the highest priority. After all, if the student isn’t growing and learning, what is the point of education?
The common thread that ties together the successes of each student is their relationships that they have built with their teachers and their peers. Teachers demand responsibility and independence from each student while students love and respect their teachers as role models. It’s a place where the kids are expected to be adults and the adults act like kids.
Seems like a recipe for disaster, right? So wrong.
Nuts, I tell you. This school is nuts.
Stay tuned 🙂