Sunday, 11 October 2009

From Denmark

As promised.

I cannot describe how wonderful it was to take these 14 young people to Denmark where they stayed with host families. The families of their Danish friends, that is.

They need some "icebreaking" time if you know what I mean. Well, they usually do. This time the exchange was organised in a short time, almost in a hurry. The school in Denmark only confirmed the interest on their part in May. We end school year in June. We travelled there in September. See? Not much time. But I have learned now that they were a little confused by what was going on at OUR school. The principal's leaving and a new one taking his place - well, they jut didn't expect we would be doing an exchange on top of everything. Understandable, isn't it?

Anyway, the teachers not having enough time to prepare the students somehow (enhancing writing e-mails and snail mail and so on) we were a bit worried about how they would connect well enough. The students, probably also seeing there was not much time, jumped at the opportunities that modern technology offers them and found the Danish students on Facebook and MSN. And came to me, telling me about thm. About their families, pets, houses, school... I was really glad.

But I only realized how well they felt they knew each other when we got there. When we met and they took us to their hometown from the airport. And they chatted and laughed in the van. Used English more than they are willing to in class. Wow! And when we arrived and met them all, some of them just hugged like friends meeting after a long long time. It usually happens that they get tired after a while, using English all the time which obviously isn't their mothers' tounge. But this time they just wanted to be together and do things together all the time - whether it was on the bus or at workshops - didn't matter. Facebook rulz, I'm tellin you!

Some interesting observations:
Danish kids (the ones at THIS school at least) are much much quieter than ours. In other words: our studens are LOUD.

Same thing, probably: they spend more time talking to students, teaching them just to listen than we do. Then they don't have to hush them down when they want to actually teach them what they have to at different subjects.

They call their teachers and principal and everyone BY NAME. Not last name. No "Miss", "Mrs.", "Mister"... nothing. Sounds quite natural. We, on the other hand are supposed to be addressed as "Mrs. teacher" or "M;r. Teacher" ( sounds ridiculous in English), but we simply go by "teacher". Sounds fine to me and most of us.

They are so connected with nature! Doing things in the nearby woods, calling it classes. And they are, I'm sure. And good ones, too!

As cosy as everything seemed, many of our students told me of divorced families. Quite a few of the hosting students lived with one of their parents, with different combinations of step parents, step or half siblings... Seems it happens everywhere.

The students at this school are mostly quite serious about their schoolwork and homework and so... I bet it has something to do with their parents' paying for their tuition, so that they can go to this particular school, but also the result of the teachers' hard work to make the students understand what they're doing and why.

One teacher can teach several subjects and not always the same ones. Teacher training must be somewhat different from ours, but we didn't go into details. Here you "specialize" in one or two subjects and that's it. You can obtain some more qualificaitions later, but not jump from Maths to Language or Civics or P.E. Seems kind of funny to me, but working just fine. Becaue if it weren't, you see, the parents would complain and change the situation, get the teacher fired or something. As long as the teacher does good work and the children show good results, it's more than fine. Sounds good to me.

Alll in all, we had a wonderful time with our host, the students and their hosts, seeing things, ding things, tasting things....

One day, for instance, we went to "School in nature" where we had to catch some crabs, clean some fish ("You cut off its head like this, see.... cut here and clean this stuff out...") you can imagine the noises the students made while looking at that, screaming, many of them, like little girls, boys not being much better than the girls, the Danes not much better than our kids...

"We are not going to cook the fish, we are going to smoke them..." and you could hear some giggles, probably imagining (like I was) rolling a fish in a paper or without it, lighting it and inhaling that incredible scent. Smoked fish are not something we're used to.

Another thing which is so not Slovenian: treasure hunt, halloween style. Walking miles, getting scared, solving puzzles and doing tasks - like counting graves, looking for problem-causing items in someone's intestines

until they found the toothbrush, glasses and a nail clipper that did not belong there... The treasure was a box of sweets - one for each team. The parents prepared all that. They did a wonderful job and had loads of fun themselves.

"And this is the mountain" my host, the principal, told me about the village to which you had to drive just a little bit up, realizing herself, how funny that must sound to us. This is not it in the picture - just an image of the rather flat Danish landscape. Did you know that they, too, have taken some of the land from the sea, like they did in the Netherlands?

I do not usually publish photos of people without their permission, but I guess I can publish a picture of two of my friends I made in Denmark. They wanted to play all the time, greeted me every morning and at all times we met, only frightening me ones. And that was the younger of the two, exercising his right to be himself:

I'll stop here. Sorry it took me so long to describe our trip a little (our one-week stay, that is), but even now I'm not sure I have told you all I wanted to. But then, that would be too much, wouldn't it?

Skye, I'm still processing what you have written in your last post, trying to put something together. I will. Until then: THANKS!


  1. I have never done face book. Very cook how the kids connected with the technology before the first meeting. Your trip sounds fabulous. Congratulations on a great visit!!

  2. Thanks! NOw we're waiting for them to come in June! Can't wait!

  3. What a wonderful experience to be able to go and share another country and culture as part of your school time. Can't really do that here.

  4. Facebook can be a really great tool (if the people involved don't get overly verbose and post every last sordid detail in their neighbor was shocked to see how many inane things are posted by her nieces and nephews). :)

    Sounds like a really nice trip! Now I want to visit Denmark; I love to catch and prepare my own food, and I simply love seafood.

    Your doggie friends are adorable!

  5. Yes, they are - and the younger one is quite childish, too. Very funny, how strong in a way their characters are.

  6. Catching and cuting fish...that would the fun and scary bit for me too. But would give it a go for sure!

  7. You should hear the noises these kids made! Kids that are only used to fish from supermarkets, frozen and packed if possible! :)

  8. It sounds like you had a wonderful time! Thanks for sharing this Minka, I always learn so much from your school trips :) For example, I have just learned that the Danes have also "stolen" land from the sea. I knew that New Orleans had, as well as the Netherlands, but I hadn't known that Denmark had. Nor had I known before that some countries have the students speak to the teachers with first names, or the way they address you in Slovenia. Here in Canada it's Mrs. Friesen or Mr. Martens, or whatever the persons last name happens to be. Yep, I do enjoy learning from you :)

    By the way you're most welcome for the award Minka, I really do think your blog is Fabulous!

  9. Sounds exciting! I wish I could get my daughter interested in traveling.

  10. How old is she? I think travelling is a wonderful way for young people to broaden their orizons... They do have to feel safe, though. That's what good about such student exchanges.

  11. She's 16. Maybe she'll be interested again in a few more years.