Mar 3rd, 2012

Skole

By Nick Robison

The last couple of days I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time in Danish elementary schools, helping with English and teaching ‘Merica. It’s been a quite enjoyable experience and I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you.

Tølløse

On Wednesday I spent the day with my host brother Oliver at his school in Tølløse [Tooloosa], a very small town about 15 minutes from Holbæk. He goes to a smaller school, only 8 boys (no girls) in his class and they’ve been together for a number of years with the same teachers. In Denmark it’s common for at least 1 teacher to move with the class as they get older, that’s pretty cool, provided you like the teacher you get! We started the day with some introductions in which they had to tell me all about themselves (in English, of course). I quickly determined a common thread between the boys, they all LOVE computer games, and they all love the same games, and they all really what to know what games I like. So as you can see, Danish 14 year olds aren’t all that different from American 14 year olds. In continued deference to being 14 about 30 minutes after we started the kids were released to play football for about 30 minutes (I wish I’d had this school as a kid).  Of course the ‘American’ played, or tried to play, and actually scored a beautiful goal to tie the game (which was untied just moments later). After football we came back and sang both the Danish and American national anthems, you should be proud of me, I knew almost the complete history of the flag and the anthem (which the Danes couldn’t match) and I even walked them through the wording so they could grasp the full meaning of every word.  Patriotism aside we settled in for a marathon hour long interrogation session where the Danes asked me everything from ‘What’s your favorite fast food chain’, to ‘Do you think Denmark should be a republic’ and ‘Has religion ever caused problems in your country?’. Surprisingly, the question I got most often was ‘Have you ever seen an alligator?’. I don’t know why.

On Wednesdays the kids get to leave school and go buy their lunch from around town, but they can’t come back into the school with junk food like soda or cake (take note America), so at noon we trekked around town to the local butcher shop to buy fresh turkey and bacon sandwiches, they were incredible. The kids really enjoy being able to buy their own lunches and it’s funny to see all the things they come home with.

The rest of the day had all other classes canceled and more ‘ask the tourist’ sessions in which I fielded questions like a pro. Possibly the highlight of my day was right before school ended and the class went into the gym to play a game called ‘stick ball’, which they invented, it’s like a cross between handball and dodge ball, but much faster paced. I almost won.

København

Thursday I went with a group of DIS students to school in one of the suburbs (I have no idea where it was or how you spell the name). There was a group of about 6 of us, 3 from the east coast, one from the south, one from the west and me in the middle. This school was a lot more traditional with classes of about 25 and fully co-ed. For this group we spent the first hour in a panel discussion and then broke out into small groups of 2-3 danes each. The panel was pretty fun, everyone brought a unique perspective to the discussion and even had some things to ask to the class. After the panel we split into groups and I ended up with a very, very quite team of 2 boys and 1 girl. It was like pulling hair to get those kids to talk, but I tried for the most part we had some good chats, although, they’re not totally to blame the class as a whole wasn’t as engaged as Oliver’s group.

One of the things that struck me was how connected the teacher was with the class, they address her by her first name (which is pretty common in Denmark) and when the conversation turned to underage drinking (as it often does) she asserted that she knew which kids in her class were drinking and even what they’re drinking. I don’t think any of my teachers back in the states could say that.

I really enjoy doing things like that, I think I’m a pretty good ambassador, I love talking, teaching, and kids so it’s pretty much a win-win for me. Oliver’s school has asked me to come back some week and I think I might just take them up on their offer.

Well, I’m off to dinner, my host parents are entertaining another couple and I have to go make an appearance. Tonight I’m heading down to Copenhagen as I have to been at the airport at 7:30am tomorrow and the trains don’t start running until 8. Lucky me. We’re heading out to Tallinn, Estonia for a couple of days then to Helsinki, Finland. I’m pretty excited about it, we’ve got a pretty good schedule lined up and it should be fun time, although, the weather’s been absolutely beautiful the past couple of weeks, which it won’t be abroad. Bummer.