Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Norwegian Musings from December 12, 2011

Posted on: February 28, 2012

I wanted to share my Norwegian Musings from December 2011 which I shared with School Committee and my ALT team.  I took the opportunity to write in the airport and on the plane ride home.  Below please find my reflections on my Norway experience:

Tuesday December 6, 2011

It had snowed the day before we arrived.  Sparkling clean white snow covered the city as well as the countryside and gently rested on each branch of the pine trees that stood in rolling forests by the thousands.  The windows of the train viewed like a series of postcards.  We journeyed through the quiet morning along smooth tracks, amid respectfully whispered Norwegian conversations, to the schools our students will experience in April of next year.

The Jessheim School students and teachers will participate in the Northampton exchange. Enthusiasm is high for this experience.  We observed classes and were treated to meetings with the Headmaster, Assistant Headmaster, and English language teachers.  The strengths of the program include: the educational component of creating a global climate project complete with action steps beyond the assignment and a culminating presentation by our students at the US embassy in Oslo; the cultural experience for students “living in home stay” experiences; and the excursions to Boston and New York were highlights for Norwegian students.  All expressed the desire to continue building a long-term relationship.  The Jessheim school facilities are excellent including a campus feel nestled in a small village.  Classrooms and materials were well provided for all academic classes, programs for students with disabilities, and vocational programs.

We met with our new participant, the Mailand School, a newly constructed school currently three years old.  The facility is state-of-the-art, all classrooms have glass walls into the hallway and generous windows for exquisite views and maximum natural light exposure.  Amherst students and teachers will be attending here in February.

In each school, all students have laptops.  A grant helps support the initial cost and the family contributes a portion.  The students use the computer for the three years of high school and then take the computer with them to college.

Suggestions for exchange improvement included: continued governmental funding (Norwegian students are not allowed to pay in full for exchange experiences), they must be at least partially supported by a grant.  Students on both sides reported to their teachers they would like to be more included in lessons and are willing to do preparation homework in advance if it means they can be actively included in a lesson. Merely observing a class is not useful. Students would prefer to have the schools days consecutive and the excursion days consecutive. I feel this would be most effective if excursions were first followed by school days to offer students more common points of conversation with peers.  The New York excursion is recommended to be an overnight to allow more touring and reduce the hours on the road in one day.

In seeing this first hand, it would be terrific to include a Smith/Voc student or two for future trips.  The vocational shops are well established in these schools and serve a separate demographic of students similar to the populations in Northampton.

In both Norwegian schools, teachers, administrators and students are excited and honored to be participants in this program.  They are most excited to experience life in an American home.  Beware, they are very familiar with television sitcoms and movies and this is from where they draw their expectations.  Early perceptions are that Americans have the television on all day and all night and that we drink a lot of soda all day rather than water and juice.

Though the students are obviously excited about seeing New York and Boston, with their skylines and dense populations, they are really looking forward to the traditional experience of family and school.

As all school personnel and students agree this would be an educational opportunity to extend into a long term relationship, at this point it is doubtful considering the need of grant funding.

ITD Coordinator Julie Hooks-Davis is an excellent, experienced, ambassador for the program who has forged effective and valued relationships in the schools and embassy.  She is an advocate for the program, maintains a commitment to the educational component of the current theme of climate change, and promotes the cultural component as a means to forging lasting friendships between the participants.  She knows the people, the area, the culture, and how to effectively navigate our program using her nuanced approach to leadership and coordination.

The trip, travel, food, accommodations, and meetings were without incident. Smooth travel, reasonable transition time, and a professional climate was maintained throughout the experience.

I treasure the experience and hope to continue to promote this relationship as well as global education for all of our students.

Please take a moment to view the photos and videos of the Norwegian Exchange Schools that I took on my trip.


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.

1 Response to "Norwegian Musings from December 12, 2011"

I applaud the notion of including students from Smith Voc. To continue that sentiment, how about including students with special needs?

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