Week 11

Professional Blog
2nd - 9th April

Amongst of all of the experiences I have had so far here in The Netherlands, school practice is something which I have thoroughly enjoyed and taken a lot from . As I near the end of this practice it is an appropriate time to reflect on some of the interesting things that I have witnessed in the Dutch classroom and in school life in general.
As part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Education Today’ course I have been attending schools for 2 days a week for the past 7 weeks. I seemed to have drawn the short straw based on school location as mine is probably the furthest school from Nijmegen. The journey takes me around one and half hours and the further from the city you get it seems the less reliable the bus service is. Nevertheless I can definitely say I have developed patience which will be essential as a teacher. As Arnold H. Glasgow once said, patience is the key to everything. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. I must remember that not all children progress at the same level of development, therefore I must work with them and encourage them at their level and pace rather than trying to ‘smash the egg open’ and align them with expected attainment levels.
One of the most prominent features that I have noticed over the course of the last 7 weeks is the active role of parents within the school. From what I have seen of the relationships between parents and teachers in the school it is evident to me that parents are valued as a key figure in the child’s education. Parents help decorate the school for upcoming celebrations, such as carnival or Easter, they attend school trips to help the teachers, train the school soccer team as well as supervising the playground at lunchtime to allow the teacher a break.
One particular thing that surprised me most was parents and grandparents helping out in all the classrooms during a ‘techniek’ morning that the whole school were doing. All the children in the school were involved in using their hands to create something, some children were weaving, others were hand knitting, some were using lego, some were building using bricks etc. There were adults in each classroom to assist guide and support children in their work as well as to socialise and talk with the children. It was interesting to see that some parents also stayed for coffee during break afterwards and they were warmly welcomed and invited into the staffroom. From my experiences in Northern Ireland I cannot imagine parents being invited into the staffroom as this is the ‘teachers’ space’. Although many schools are trying to better their partnerships with parents, personally I still feel teachers do not see themselves as on the same levels as parents. Even though this may be the case, it has to be realised that parents are experts about their children and they can also bring much expertise and skills from their own lives that will aid the teacher and add to the education of the children. Effective partnerships with parents can have many benefits, Caplan et al. (1997) also highlights that parents who are more involved in school life are more likely to devote time to assisting their children at home which is highly beneficial in terms of development and learning.  
It has become very evident to me that family life is much more valued in The Netherlands than at home. Most of the teachers in the school work part time to accommodate for family life, children go home at lunchtime for lunch and parents are on hand at any time to help out. Personally I am very much in favour of this idea, as a child my mother was there when I came home from school to listen to all my stories I had to tell about the things I was doing in school and to assist me with my homework and reading. In my opinion I benefited greatly from this and his is something that all children need. Parents in Northern Ireland need to reconsider where their values lie in terms of their child’s development, as much of the time they are more focused on their jobs and earning money than devoting time to their children.
As a future educator and member of a school 'team' this is the kind of active role of parents I would like to encourage and see replicated in school's at home. What I have seen here represents to me an equilateral triangle, all sides are the same with the child, teacher and parent working together.
As well as this I have also learned a lot from the teacher’s teaching and how children learn which I will speak about in a further blog.

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