The sole task of the Danish primary school may seem to be educating children, but this is not their sole teaching obligation. It is also an integral part of our teacher students education, and a place for them to practice their theoretical learning through the four internships that are a part of their education.
One of the primary schools, which take up this educational task, is Starup School or Starup-Øsby Skole og Børnehus. While the original school house celebrated its 250ieth anniversary in 2019, marking it as the oldest school building in Denmark, more recent expansions have made it a modern school with bright and inviting facilities. The school teaches 400 children at Starup Skole and 80 at Øsby Skole, which is located a few kilometers further east. The students attend 0 to 6th grade.
It is here, in the rural areas of Starup-Øsby, just south east of Haderslev, that Florence Wambui Kamau from Kenya and Julia Aino Susanna Mikkonen from Finland have completed their five week internship. They taught English and participated in Danish, mathematics and music lessons. Aside from teaching the English classes, they had 15 minutes of every Danish lesson to do teaching activities with the children. When they were not in charge of the teaching they observed and listened to the teaching.
From Kenya to Starup
The 10.000 kilometers that divide Kenya and Denmark, may lead you to think that the cultural change is insurmountable, however for Kenyan Florence it was not overly challenging.
- There are big differences between the culture in Kenya and Northern Europe. But for me the opportunities were important, and it is not the first time I’m in Denmark. I was an au pair for a family in Middelfart in 2019, and that’s one of the reasons I started educating myself here.
Before Florence came to Denmark, she worked as an au pair in Belgium and both stays have had an impact on her choice of education.
- I worked a lot with children in Belgium and in Denmark. I have been happy to spend time with children and watch them develop. In Denmark I was au pair at a teacher. It was inspirering for me to see her take joy in her work at the school and made me realize that being a teacher would be a fine career choice for me.
Florence has enjoyed both the social and professional parts of her internship at Starup School.
- We have felt very welcome, both the headmaster and teachers have recieved us well. They have been good at supporting us and the children have been very open and ready to spend time with me, who is not from their own country or even continent. This education fits me well and the internship has made me better at my profession.
- The language isn’t a big challenge for me, because I have been in Denmark before. I find it fun to learn, I listen and I don’t understand everything, but much of what people say when they talk to each other – and of course I learn a lot from the children.
Florence has no plans of going back to Kenya, when she is done with her education. She will return to visit her country and her family and would not mind sharing her experiences of the Danish educational system, but her plan is to stay in Denmark and use her education to teach at a Danish school.
Belongs in Haderslev
Julia Aino Susanna Mikkonen also plans to stay and teach in Denmark. She didn’t experience a vast cultural gap either and already feels like she belongs, in Denmark and in Haderslev.
- Haderslev reminds me of the town I came from in Finland. Haderslev is a small manageable size, nice and not noisy. I feel at home here.
Unlike Florence, Julia never lived in Denmark, she only came to visit, like last summer, where she joined her dad who works as a researcher and teacher at DTU in Copenhagen. She has always known she wanted to teach, like both her mother and father before her and she also knew she wanted to take her education outside Finland. It was her father, who lives in Kolding, who proposed Denmark as her place of study. And since she knew a bit of Swedish already and wasn’t frightened by the prospect of having to learn Danish, the International Tearcher Education at UC SYD in Haderslev, became the answer.
The teacher education in Finland is a master degree in paedagogics studied at the university, but Julia doesn’t think there is too much difference between the Danish and the Finnish educations.
- Both educations teach us to focus on catching the students attention, we work with inclusion and with each childs options and strengths. We teach to educate, lead and support the development of children and youths.
A long tradition as an internship school
Starup-Øsby School has a long tradition hosting internships for teacher students, says Viola Vieregge, who as internship supervisor has a close dialogue with the students and the task of supporting them in their development during the internship.
She is an internship supervisor in English, German and Danish, as well as some religion and history.
- We have about ten interns a year at the school, but depending on the time of year, its about three at the time. This time I have the responsibility for two teacher students.
- I don’t have a lot of experience with the international teacher education. I had the first student from it just a few years ago and last year I had a pair of German students, from the education. But it has been a nice experience to supervise Florence and Julia. They both do their very best.
All the lessons during the first year of the international teacher education, are held in English and as every other student on the education, Florence and Julia attend intensive Danish courses during the year. From the second year, the classes are in Danish and the students are expected to be able to teach in Danish themselves.
Viola continues to explain how its been a very positive experience for her to be a supervisor for the students from the international teacher education. While it adds to her own language development, it also adds to her professional skillset. The students who come from other parts of the world, look at the education with a different mindset and in questioning our pedagogics and way of doing things, they allow the people around them to broaden their own horizon. Translated by Nanna Uhrenholt (NAUJ)