I spent the past week speaking, telling stories, and listening at an education conference in the Netherlands. When I made plans for this trip after being invited, I thought it would just be a really cool opportunity to speak in a different country and see if the same stories and ideas I talk about in the US would work with another culture. However, as I type this blog post through the fog of jet lag, I'm realizing how much more I gained than gave during this trip.
Here are a few observations I made after spending a week with teachers on another continent:
1. The Dutch see teaching as a creative endeavor.
They are not robots, walking textbooks, or babysitters; instead artists who craft learning experiences like a painter and her canvas. Curriculum crafting is thought of as design work, and this mindset produces incredible lessons and projects for students. I've always loved the line from Sir Ken Robinson that "Teaching is a creative profession," and I've seen firsthand what can be accomplished when teachers adopt this mindset.
2. Teachers everywhere want more freedom.
It turns out it is not just where I live that standardized tests and politicians restrain teachers from doing what’s best for students. I felt this same sentiment on my trip, and saw a large group of people who want to do something about it. Not only do I feel solidarity knowing that this struggle is universal, but I am inspired by seeing other people who are actively doing something about it.
3. Doing what’s best for kids is universal.
Teachers everywhere care about their students and will do whatever it takes to make their experience worthwhile. Teachers do not go into this profession for the money or the accolades (it turns out both are few and far between in the Netherlands as well), and instead care about helping their students achieve greatness.
4. I’m so proud to be a teacher
I spent a week listening to stories; ones of hope and success, and sadness and heartbreak. These are the same stories I hear from teachers in the US, and all are told by people who love the work that they do. I learned from my friends in the Netherlands, and always by through your email responses and on social media, that teachers are truly a global community. From Michigan to Iran, Brazil to Holland- teachers are a tribe with a common mission. And it was such a joy to have that reinforced this week.
May you become a better educator everyday. See yourself as a creative. Continue to fight against systems that are not in the best interest of kids. And lean in on the community of teachers everywhere.
Dank je wel my teacher friends.