Monday, 22 August 2011

Settings around Europe

The beautiful kindergarten setting in Eikefjord, Norway
The children go on regular walks around the village
Cooking around a fire is a regular activity
Over the past 7 years I have been lucky enough to have had the chance to visit preschool settings in a variety of different European countries. This was all through the brilliant Comenius Programme funded by the British Council. Most of my visits were through the School Partnership Programme but one was through their job shadowing scheme & this afforded me the chance to work in a Norwegian Kindergarten for a week in 2008, you can read a little about that experience here.
The staff in Norway were bemused at how involved I got in the play - they laughed at me sitting in the middle of the sand pit with the children. I suppose I started to realise that as a teacher you don't have to be in the middle all the time for learning to be taking place - it is hard to step back & not 'be in charge' all the time.
I have visited Poland, Italy, Norway, Sweden & France and guess what everywhere is totally different in their outlook, set up, resourcing, routines etc. but the children are always the same! It didn't matter that I didn't speak any of those languages, little children don't really care or worry whether you understand them or not, they just want to show you their toys, paintings, how fast they can run etc.
Nursery class in Arcola, Italy

Norwegian, Polish & Irish friendships forged in Arcola
I was most drawn to the Scandinavian settings if I am honest & they have probably had the most influence on my own teaching - especially my outdoor play approach - but I did gain different insights from the others too.
Nursery in Helsingborg, Sweden
Natural outdoor play spaces, Sweden

I loved the relaxed meal times in Arcola in Italy and Confolens in France, it was a real social experience. Children & staff take time to enjoy food & each others company. I really felt the dedication of the staff in the kindergarten in Lodz, Poland. They work long hours for very little money but are so passionate & informed about their work. They had lots of  plants in their classrooms & I have tried to recreate that in my own.
Kindergarten in Lodz
I speak no Polish, they speak no English - it doesn't matter
All the partners together in Poland
I found the structure just too much in the Polish kindergartens, the children were time-tabled for every minute of the day but then some of them were 7 at that stage. Now they go to school at 6. The laid back nature of the Norwegians was not possible here - where parents objected to their children going outside on cold days, never mind wet ones.
Nursery in Confolens, France
We always bring a bear or 2 with us to break the ice!
One major thing I learned from the visits - I am very well resourced and have no right to be complaining. Settings in mainland Europe tend to be under funded, I was shocked sometimes at how little they had compared to us. They really have to make do with using nearly all home made resources and outdoor play is not a big aspect of the preschool day.
I have made life-long friendships over the past 7 years and have even been back to stay with one of my Norwegian colleagues for a family holiday. It is always refreshing to meet like-minded people in different countries and the bond is instant.
This Autumn I am off to Turkey to meet up with new colleagues from Poland, Greece, Spain and Romania, this will present a whole new experience of preschool settings and I look forward to learning more new things to refresh my teaching approach & to making some more new friends.

3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your photos here, Kierna, how fortunate that you've had this amazing opportunity to visit and learn in many different settings.

    Enjoy your visits this autumn!
    Brenda

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  2. Cheers Brenda - I know I am very fortunate. I found a way to travel to other settings as a teacher & I have embraced it fully ;)

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  3. The aim of any school should be teach their students and teach it in a way that is fun. The students seem to be having fun as well as learning.

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