Text: Monika Pedersen
Having just said farewell to my first-grade class, I am reflecting on the year that has just passed. And the most startling aspect is that it just flew by. It evaporated so quickly that it hardly seemed possible! Is this an age thing, or is this reality. As we have a graphic organiser in the class called ‘Days in School’, it did become something concrete for the children. As they showed their ability to count and subtract, they concluded that twenty-three days and counting down was not a long time. They realised that I would no longer be their class teacher. At this point, reality set in and, as I had anticipated, some coaching and reassurance needed to be bestowed regarding the issues of change and transition.
The security of their grade 1 experience was being upturned. While some students were more pragmatic, others were clearly upset. Many daily hugs, words of reassurance, and story time were needed to try to alleviate some of the anxiety. What had become safe and enjoyable was disappearing, and even though the desire to ‘go up to the next class’ had always been so important and exciting, it was not so in the moment. The desire was to ‘stay put’.
And, for myself, the same feelings turned around in my head. I had worked hard to create the right environment, build trust, which takes a long time, and develop a mutual understanding and strong bond. And then, in a flash, it was destined to be gone. I, too, was not ready to let go of the class. I was and am sad.
This relates to the children and the time, energy, communication, and relationship-building with the parent base. It is a far more challenging group with which to align and have support, so it is a double loss.
"A regular Danish school has a different system, and the teacher keeps the class until they leave primary school."
It has led me to question the system of the one-year turnover. In an International School or in the international section of a Danish school, a class tends to only spend a year with a teacher. I am unaware of the reasoning, but it may be argued that it allows the teacher to become a specialist for a particular age group.
A regular Danish school has a different system, and the teacher keeps the class until they leave primary school. This allows for a real journey of growth and evolvement to take place. From the dialogues of this experience my Danish colleagues shared, it seems much more enriching and satisfying. The time together allows for long-term, fundamental understanding and support for the children. It is easy to see why the class teacher is such a critical person in a young person’s life. It is even more important if a child does not have a stable home life. School can be a lifeline.
As the reality is not changing at this point in time, I am happy that I am only a few steps away from their next classroom. We share the same recess time, and I will be teaching them for one class per week, so I will take the positives and be happy!
The pre-schoolers, or ‘Maj børn’, as they are referred to in the Danish system, are already in situ, and they and I have had the opportunity to meet and spend a little time together - thus, the transition is a little smoother and provides some scope to establish new connections with the children and the parents. This is really positive.
So, for now, I will continue my reflections on improving my teaching strategies and materials and await the arrival of my new class with glee.