To say this month went by in the blink of an eye is an understatement. I’m sitting here writing on my flight back to Fort Worth and I feel like it was just yesterday when I was in the same position filled with anticipation and excitement heading to Sweden. There have been some bumps in the journey, but all of the positives outweighed the negatives and I am leaving with a great sense of peace and on overwhelmingly full heart. If you’ve been reading my blogs then you know that I have ended each blog post about the school with a top three list. I decided that for my last post I would countdown the top three biggest lessons I learned from this experience. This of course was extremely hard to do since I learned so much and could write on and on forever but I tried my best to sum it up.
I’ve been asked countless times throughout this entire experience if school in the United States or school in Sweden is better. People beg to know which one I think is the best. The answer is neither. Neither Coder Elementary nor Malmö International School are perfect but they are filled with teachers who wake up each day with a steadfast determination to make it as close to perfect as they possibly can for their students. There are flaws in both systems and there probably always will be. MIS is going through a big transition period right now. There are lots of new teachers with fresh ideas and perspectives. People are thinking of out of the box ways to reach the students who need it the most. They are trying to make education exciting and relevant again. I’ve seen the same from the teachers I watch and work with at Coder as well. School isn’t perfect, but it’s getting there. Maybe if we somehow find a way to collaborate with educators from all over the world, we can pull the best parts of each school system and make one that is pretty near perfection. That may be wishful thinking but my what we could learn if we just opened our minds to the possibility of it.
One of the greatest challenges I think I will face as a teacher is trying to relate to all of my students—to try and build meaningful relationships with them in order to make a lasting impact on their lives. I think the key to accomplishing this comes from a few areas. 1) Be open-minded. Each of my students will be completely 100% unique and come from a variety of backgrounds and situations. I will have to navigate how to understand the various worlds they come from when I myself may not walk the same path. I will need to be open-minded and not let my misconceptions or own ideas dictate my students’ journey in my class. 2) Be caring, always. Through small victories and large ones, students deserve recognition and praise for their accomplishments and contributions to the classroom. Being a strong, compassionate person in the lives of my students will be vital as I may be one of the only people in their lives that they have who shows them that they care daily. 3) Be a risk-taker and let students push the learning in a direction that is important to them. Hayley often lets her students’ ideas lead the curriculum and instruction. Woah, woah, woah, having a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds decide what they’re learning about? You’ve got to be out of your mind! Those were my exact thoughts too when I first stepped into the PYP5A class, trust me. Somehow, someway, it works. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still boundaries and standards that need to be met. There is certain content that needs to be taught. It’s not like every morning Hayley stood at the front of the room and said, “Okay kids, what do you want to learn about today? Oh the Lochness monster? Cool, let’s do it” but the students are the driving force behind a lot of the big overall topics discussed in the class. That takes a lot of risk and a lot of flexibility but the outcome is really cool. All of that being said, if I am going to expect these characteristics of myself, then I also need to expect it from my students. Establishing these positive classwide expectations will be crucial in creating a strong classroom community in my future similar to what I have seen at MIS.
There’s this little thing called fear that sometimes creeps in and prevents me from taking chances and saying yes to things outside of my comfort zone. I have learned so much during the past month and to think that I could have missed out on it all if I hadn’t said yes to the unknown adventure is crazy. Adventure can be found everywhere; it doesn’t have to be in Sweden but could be in your own backyard or in your classroom. Maybe you say yes to using a new resource or to working with a teacher you normally wouldn’t. Maybe you try a new food or pick up a new hobby. The possibilities are endless; the world is yours for the taking. Say yes to the thing that’s been on your bucket list forever. Say yes to the crazy idea that your friends spit out at you on a random Tuesday afternoon. Say yes to the mysteries, the unknown journeys, and the unfamiliar places. And if you ever get the chance to pack up your life for one month and move to a place you’ve never been just to experience a different culture and way of looking at the world—say yes. Say yes a million times over because it could just be one of the greatest adventures you will ever have.
My life will truly never be the same after my experiences at Malmö International School. The students have left an imprint on my heart that I will carry with me forever. It was a strange feeling leaving and coming to the realization that I may never see those students again, that I would never know what will become of their ever-so-bright futures, and that they may never realize the greatness of the impact that they had on me. I felt like there was still so much I could learn from them, that we had barely even scratched the surface. I can only hope that I get the chance to go to Sweden again one day but until then, thank you so much PYP5 for the best four weeks. Hejdå för nu!