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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and
narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by
vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
— Mark
Twain

 

 

This summer, four other IPS teachers joined me in a
comprehensive study of school systems around the world. We had the chance to
look at school systems as extensions of the political and social climates of
various countries, and recently put our heads together to share our experiences
with you.  We are excited to spread these
experience with our IPS colleagues!Micah Nelson, 2017 IPS Teacher of the Year

 

While four of us travelled abroad, Trae Heeter, a
fifth-grade teacher at IPS/Butler Lab School 60, stayed here in the United States,
using his time to become an expert on the Finnish school system.

“Being a member of Team USA was an
awesome experience for me. My group had the opportunity to read a book titled,
“Finnish Lessons 2.0,”
which spoke greatly about the many different educational systems Finland has in
place. It was interesting to learn about a different country than where our
peers were going, but I believe Finland is a great country to study because of its
educational success,” said Heeter.
 
“We also had the job of analyzing four videos about the
Finland phenomenon and what makes its education system what it is today. These
videos were very eye-opening for me and helped me realize the differences we
have between our two countries. One difference that stood out to me was Finland’s
teacher training program and the in-depth process that teaching candidates have
to go through before receiving their teaching certification.”

     

Kellie Brotherton, reading coach at Lew Wallace School 107,
reflected on the schools we visited in Scotland and London. She says, “In both
countries, it was evident that education is a huge priority and educators are
highly respected amongst its citizens. Both countries have also created systems
of autonomy in which the government realizes that local authorities have
different needs for their communities. It is clear that innovation is valued —
for both teachers and students. 

 
In contrast, Scotland does not incorporate any standardized
testing whereas London does use standardized testing in a similar fashion to
the United States, although not as frequent or comprehensive. Diversity was
another difference we saw. The school we visited in Scotland was quite
homogenous, while the school in London was highly diverse and included students
from various countries around the world. Lastly, it seemed that there were more
options and support for Special Education (SPED) students in London than in
Scotland. The school we visited in London had a comprehensive SPED department,
including an entire Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program, sensory room,
garden and a section of campus just for SPED students.” 
 

Emmi Perrin, intervention teacher at Rousseau McClellan
Montessori School 91, reflects on how
travel shapes us as educators.  She writes,
“I first went overseas when I student taught in the Czech Republic in
1998 and since then I have been to 19 different countries. With each new
country, my eyes have opened wider to how unique each individual is and how
important it is to appreciate and value where each person comes from. Our
classrooms and our schools are full of students and families with their own
stories, their own culture, their own experiences and it is of utmost
importance as a teacher to embrace that diversity. Traveling abroad has shown
me the value of allowing all voices to be heard, especially the voices of the
people I work with every single day.”

 

Sara McHenry, kindergarten teacher at Lew Wallace School
107, had the chance to reflect on how this program helped us develop our
leadership skills.  She writes, “Leadership
is a continuous learning process and is developed through our experiences
and relationships. Experiencing different cultures and learning about
opportunities and practices outside of our comfort zone creates more open-minded
perspectives. Being able to travel to Scotland and London has given me
an opportunity to gain more knowledge and culture, and an opportunity to
teach and share that experience with my colleagues and learning communities.”

 

What stood out to me the most was the impact our studies
could have on our own schools, our district and the American school system as a
whole.  As Mr. Heeter mentioned, schools
in Finland (and Scotland, Canada and Singapore) utilize a comprehensive approach
to teacher education, leading to very well-prepared teachers entering the
classroom. As a result, the countries we visited experience low teacher
attrition rates and teachers report high rates of job satisfaction. Teachers we
talked to in Scotland and England said they felt respected and enjoyed autonomy
in the classroom. These seem to be vital lessons we can apply to our system of
education.

 

As the school year gears up, we feel a renewed sense of
dedication to providing our students in Indianapolis an exciting year of
learning!

 
Summer Abroad Teacher Class