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Monday, September 26, 2016

Embracing Culture at Copenhagen International School

My practicum is at Copenhagen International School, an elementary-secondary school in Denmark with both students and staff from all over the world. Being in an international school creates an interesting dynamic- while aspects of the culture of Denmark are certainly integrated into the school, it is more focused on providing students with a global education. So far I have spent three full days in a second grade classroom with 21 students from over a dozen countries.  It’s easy to see the influence that being in an international school has on the classroom; one wall contains a huge world map with markings of where all the students are from. Morning greetings in all of the student’s native languages are posted on the board and each morning one greeting is chosen for a student to share with the rest of the class. From the first day I arrived, my CT encouraged me to ask the students about where they were from and I have loved talking with them about all of their different experiences in various countries around the world. A big part of CIS’s vision and mission is to teach students to respect and embrace differences in cultures in order to equip them for a global citizenship beyond school. It’s interesting to see this play out in the classroom, as students are often chattering happily both to other students and to teachers about where they are from and excited to share experiences that they and their family have had.
I was able to see an example of CIS’s dedication to teaching their students about global unity on International Peace Day. The whole school day was dedicated to various peace related activities and entire school projects. Presentations were given about the meaning of peace and what it looks like throughout the world, emphasizing how students see peace in their families and cultures. I’m glad I was able to witness this day as it was interesting to hear about different ideas of the meaning of peace from the point of view of children from so many different cultures, and to see one of the many ways CIS encourages students to adapt a global perspective.CIS further includes the many different languages and cultures present at their school by providing after school and weekend classes for specific cultures. The students have told me all about how they learn on the weekends at Japanese school or Dutch school. My CT explained to me that CIS thinks it is important for students to continue to learn about their own language and culture in order to further their education.
While the impact of being a global community at CIS is clear, there are also influences that come from residing in Denmark. For example, in their 9 day class cycle students have a Danish lesson 6 times where they learn not only the language but also about Danish culture and holidays. Several of these holidays are celebrated at the school in events that the whole family is welcome to join.
The teachers too are from all over the world and discussion in the staff room as well as in professional development reflects this. Teachers talk about how the path to become a teacher is so different all over the world, and what experience they have gained from the different countries they’ve been in. While the participants in discussions come from several continents, staff meetings still take place in a circle around a candle in the Danish fashion of “hygge”- a warm atmosphere, relaxation, and calm discussion.
My classroom at CIS is certainly different than any classroom I have previously been a part of, and I am excited to see how this global inclusion changes my perspective on teaching and the vision that I have of a my future teaching style. I also hope to expand my ability to educate all students, since with students of so many languages and from various countries differentiation and the provision of various means of learning are extremely important. While some students are native English speakers, some do not speak English at all. I have very little experience in this area and hope to learn from my CT. So far I have loved my time in a Danish classroom and I am excited to see what the rest of the semester holds!


  1. Hi Maeve! I'm glad to see that your placement is going well! CIS seems like a remarkable school, and I hope that you can continue to see such rich teaching practices throughout the rest of the semester!

    What do you think are some ways you can bring this multicultural approach to curriculum and teaching back to your pre-pracs and full prac here at BC?

    1. Hi Colleen! I’ve been thinking a lot about how what I’ve seen here could be incorporated into my prac experiences and the main thing that I’ve noticed is the approach to differentiating for ELL students. While I have worked previously in the US with ELL students, the language gap was not as extreme. Since CIS students are from all over the world, many are learning English as a second language and still rely primarily on their first language. I have observed my CT’s approach to making the classroom an effective learning environment for these students- like encouraging ELL students to work together to find the meaning of language in a word problem, and providing them with more instruction in the beginning of a lesson so that they too can complete the assignment. I know that I have learned a lot in the way of communication across languages. Observing my CT’s ability to include all students regardless of their language makes me feel more confident in working with ELL students for my future pracs.

  2. That's great to hear! I frequently make the assumption that most (if not all) students at an international school speak English, in addition to another or more languages. As American students and teachers, it is easy for us to ignore the value of other languages when 100% of our instruction is done in English. I'm so glad you are getting this opportunity to work with students who have varying levels of English proficiency in addition to their literacies in other languages.


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