Monthly Archives: December 2017

Talented Denmark

During our Erasmus+ 3T -visit to Copenhagen on 5th-9th of November 2017 we concentrated on a theme TALENT. We visited in three different kind of schools around Copenhagen area. In general we can say that all students, teachers and school leaders are very talented in various ways. 

Now we understand why Danish are so well known as a designers, makers and producers. We saw a lesson where students had to make own knives. First students searched information on different kinds of knives. Then they started to design one on their own. During the design process conversation between students and teacher was very interactive and students got lots of feedback from the teacher. Students self confidence is high and they believe themselves as a designers. At the end students try to find right materials and really produce their own knives.

Students were also very proud of themselves and they had a strong self confidence on situations where they needed to talk and have a conversation with the teacher, other students or visitors. Their language skills, communication skills and social skills were fantastic.

Also teachers are seen talented individuals and team members. All kinds of talents are seen as gifts and teachers different talents are used to serve the whole school community. We admire how our colleagues in Denmark communicate and collaborate with pupils, parents, families, experts, visitors etc.

Teachers in Denmark have an opportunity to build their own career path with the support of principles and school community.

Teachers in secondary schools are multitalents because they are able to teach several subjects. Like all students in Denmark said, the best thing in their school are talented teachers! Even in very demanding areas teachers’ classroom management was extremely good and atmosphere in schools and classrooms was always calm.

The role and of principals is very different in Denmark and in Finland. In Finland teachers are more independent and every teacher is his or her own leader. In Denmark principals decide many things behalf of teachers. In both countries principals are facilitators.

The most important task of principals is find and choose the most suitable teachers in that specific school. In this role the principals in these three school were succeeded well. Schools are different and the story of schools are different, so principals need to have a courage to do things in their own way. The principals are very powerful.

The connection between parents and school lies on principals. We saw principal welcoming parents and students to the school in the morning. 

Schools have a strong identity to be a big part or even a centre of a community. Everyone is important! The whole group is important, not an individual person! 

We still have questions in our minds. We hope that in becoming meetings and visits we will find out the answers.

Questions:

  • How do you support very talented students?
  • Do the teachers know that they are so good ones? Do they get positive feedback from principals?
  • Do the teachers get bonuses?
  • Why do you need to test your students? 
  • Can you / Are you allowed to / Are you able to criticise your school, your principal, pedagogy you use?

Raini and Minna, SYK, Helsinki

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Visiting schools in Copenhagen – 3T-project – Time

Visiting the schools in Copenhagen showed us that the schools have time for meeting pupils and parents. We thought it was great that the headmaster in one school spent time at the front door of the school in the morning just to say “good morning” to the pupils, parents and teachers. We saw that giving time also increased trust. The good relationship between pupils and teachers increase efficiency in the classrooms. Once a month, they serve morning coffee for the parents. So it makes it easier to discuss things when they know each other better.

In Denmark, children’s school days are long. For example, the pupils in the first grade have 30 hours of school per week. The school days are planned so that there is also time for clubs in the afternoon. The pupils also have few breaks during the school day, just a lunch and two short breaks. A part of the time they are not supervised by the adults.

We also observed the time used during the lessons. We saw different kinds of ways to divide time. It was very usual that timetables and the timeline of the lesson were visible to pupils. They also had info screens where the programme of the day and that of the week were visible to the teachers as well. In classrooms, there’s time for both work and play, a bit of physical exercise. In Denmark, they have a law that every pupil should do at least 45 minutes of physical exercise during the school day. We saw teachers stop teaching and ask pupils to dance or lift up their chairs to train the muscles. The exercise didn’t seem to have any connection to the thing they were learning, it was just random exercise.

Time for a break?

Time for a break?

In addition, pupils are given time to plan their work. We think that time for using imagination may lead to creativity (Danish design !). In Denmark, they prefer using computers and mobile devices. So, they spend much more time learning to write on computers. The pupils do not write with pen after third grade. Some pupils told us that they are not good at handwriting.

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Teachers and time

The other side of the equation, as to time, are the teachers and other staff at schools. The visits to the Danish schools in Copenhagen left us admiring the efficiency of the teachers as well as the delegated leadership in the organisations that we saw. Nevertheless, the question arose whether there is an excessive amount of work for teachers to carry out within their working hours.

During the visit, we saw many examples of practices that made teachers’ working hours more efficient. For instance, some of the schools had a system of collaborative teams that could divide their tasks among the members. One teacher could, for example, be in charge of the Danish lessons of certain classes and, another teacher, of the maths lessons. There was time allocated in the weekly timetables for these teams to plan their work and to discuss any topics related to their pupils.

Another example of efficiency was the online platform used by teachers in Copenhagen to evaluate pupils’ work, to mark pupil attendance and to do their yearly planning. If a pupil is absent, their teacher can mark the absence online and a message is sent automatically to the parent’s phone. Consequently, teachers can spend more time on teaching the pupils that are present in the lessons and on other tasks during the working day.

Efficiency was not, however, the only positive aspect of time that we witnessed in the three schools we visited. Time was also spent doing things that the different schools considered to be important. For example, the staff of all of the schools seemed to value time that was spent talking about pupils. The staff were also rewarded with time if they did any extra tasks or performed well at work. For instance, they had fewer lessons to teach or could take a couple of days off. In addition, in many cases, teachers themselves had the possibility of deciding how to spend their time at work.

Even though many positive aspects were visible in the schools as to teachers and time, one of the biggest questions that remained was related to the amount of work. It seems that, since the Danish school reform was implemented in 2014, Danish teachers struggle with finding enough time to plan their lessons and to perform as well as they would wish for. Their time at work is often spent in meetings and handling paperwork, in addition to teaching of course. This is a problem that many Finnish teachers also face but it may be even more crucial in Denmark where the schooldays of children were made longer by the reform. How this will affect learning in the future, only time will tell.

– Minttu and Heli, Hankasalmi Asema School