Denmark’s Brilliant Idea?

So I’m scrambling around this morning trying to pack for what promises to be one of the most interesting weeks in recent memory for me:  As of 7:00 tomorrow morning, I’ll be travelling to Denmark as a part of an experience sponsored by a great organization here in North Carolina called the Center for International Understanding.  I’ll be spending my time in Copenhagen exploring the education system, economy and government—-and sampling food from every local restaurant that I can find! 

(My motto for the trip:  Life is Short, so Eat the Pickled Herring!)

In preparation for the trip, I’ve studied Denmark pretty extensively.  One of the most interesting features of their education system (besides free college education for everyone—intrigued yet?) is that students spend their first six years in school with the same teacher and classmates.  It’s the ultimate "looping" program and is designed to build a sense of community and continuity in classrooms that can be used as leverage for learning. 

So what do you think?  Is this something that you’d be motivated by as an educator?  What barriers would you have to tackle in order to effectively work in such a setting?  What barriers that exist in your current work would be removed?

If you’re a parent, does this kind of continuity resonate with you?  Would you be jazzed that your child had the chance to stay with the same classmates and teacher for an extended period of time, or do you value the opportunities that our schools provide for children to work with new people each year?  Would remaining with one group of peers build long lasting and irreplaceable relationships—or would they limit the social growth of children in a world that is already too isolated to begin with?

If you’re a student—-and some of mine have grown in the habit of reading these entries!—would you enjoy being with the same teacher or students for YEARS?!  How would that time make your school work easier?  Would it make life less interesting?  Do you enjoy getting to know tons of new people or does changing classes each year just make you work harder to "figure out the routine?"

While I won’t be able to reply anytime soon—-and while my posting is likely to tail off until I return (I’m planning to spend the entire week exploring)—I’m interested in hearing what you have to say and will be sharing your thoughts with my travelling partners.

Adios—-because I haven’t learned goodbye in Danish yet!

2 comments

  1. Gail Ritchie

    I am so jealous! Have a wonderful time in Denmark; I look forward to hearing all about it upon your return. Personally, I would LOVE to keep my same students for the first six years of school. I loved multiage (K-1)–the personal relationships we built were a huge positive. And by “we,” I mean the students AND their families. The strongest bonds were with the families who had two or more children–after four years, six years, we had incredible respect for each other. Of course, you could not mandate that every child must stay with the same teacher for six years–both the families and the teachers would need an “escape clause,” because human nature being what it is, sometimes there would be a mismatch and no good purpose would be served by, as Jim Grant once said, “prolonging the agony” of the mismatch.

  2. Jake Savage

    Bill,
    Intriguing indeed. I’m interested to hear what you learn from the experience.
    Regarding the looping system, I’d imagine that it would at least help keep the educator from getting bored covering the same material every year. However, it seems like it runs the risk of some students ending up much worse off than others because they were assigned a bad teacher for the first six years of their education. Having two years of bad teaching in a row hurts students a lot; I imagine six would be catastrophic for any child’s future learning. Do you know how they assign students and whether parents can request a change if it’s not working out?
    Jake