It was about 2 years ago when I was invited by a Spanish colleague Yollanda Thiriet, to join a multilateral Comenius project about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). As I was always in search of innovative teaching approaches that if applied could give a boost to the English language acquisition which is of my main concern, I accepted without a second thought. This had as a result to join a very knowledgeable group of educators and start working on the CORE project.
The main objective of the project is to conduct a research in the countries of the participants, namely Spain, Italy, Greece, Lithuania and Norway, concerning CLIL and its implementation. We are looking for concrete evidence as to what works “on the ground” in terms of the CLIL approach, taking advantage of the Spanish and Italian experience in the field and how this experience can lead to the design and development of teaching material for those who wish to adopt the approach. In the framework of the CORE project we plan to design and realize two training courses and a conference and in addition, a handbook and films in which good examples of CLIL classes will be presented. In order to attain these goals, the five partners have met twice so far, first in Palma de Mallorca and this time in Karmoy, Norway.
The European educational programs, apart from giving the opportunity to educators from different countries to cooperate for common causes, create the conditions for intercultural exchange of ideas and experience and thus benefit all European nations. In this sense the meeting in Karmoy was of great benefit to all the participants because in the margin of the meeting, we were able to visit two schools which appeared to be exceptional to me. Contrary to those who argue that theory is far from practice, Norwegians have proved that if educators are conscious of their mission and work collaboratively can do miracles. And if the “proof of the pudding is in the eating” the proof of the statement above is in Mykje Skole on the outskirts of Karmoy.
Mykje Skole is a primary school and has 320 pupils. It was built 4 years ago and is intended to serve the needs and talents of all students. It is designed with modern teaching and learning principles in mind, and has partly open and flexible learning areas, opening up for different kinds of pedagogy. The teaching profession in Norway today is more based on cooperation and transparency than the former one-teacher-one –classroom-door-closed principle. All the classrooms are fully-equipped, nicely decorated with the pupils’ artifacts, open to every other facility of the school like the library or smaller classroom units especially designed for group work. I had never seen classrooms without doors before and I was amazed at how all teachers and pupils worked harmoniously. No shouts, no screams, no misbehaving, only happy, smiling faces who didn’t seem to be distracted by our presence. Pupils worked individually or in pairs, with a book or a computer, could have their teacher’s help if needed. Two older pupils showed us around speaking English fluently despite their young age. Besides the academic education, pupils learn cooking, music, do sports. But above all, they learn to respect each other, to follow rules and appreciate good work. It seemed to me that teachers with their love for the kids that is shown every single moment, from the individual welcome greeting to the vigilant observation at breaks, they manage to instill values to their pupils. Every child is special to them, and thus deserves their reward and personal care. On Fridays they have the so-called Assembly Day, an occasion for students to show what they achieved during the week. This Friday, we witnessed such an assembly with the pupils coming to the Hall in lines, amazingly quiet. We listened to the choir singing the “California dreaming”, all the pupils singing a Norwegian song about inclusion, watched a video on road safety, and finally wishing happy birthday to both teachers and students who happened to have their birthday during that past week.
The teachers on the other hand seemed satisfied with their work and appreciative of the quality of the school environment. The staff room was comfortable and nicely decorated like a living-room in a house. They also had their offices with all the facilities when their needed to work. They receive training regularly throughout the year and before they are hired they agree on terms that clearly describe their rights and obligations and they are fully aware of the school’s profile and vision. As a result, they all work towards a common cause and that explained to me how they achieve such results. It is the consensus behind every course of action which saves them and the administration of the school of waste of energy or time.
The school of Vangen Laeringssenter was another big surprise. It is an alternative school for Karmoy youth who fail to finish the normal school due to psycho-social reasons. It comprises of three different establishments, the Holmen school, the Tarnet school and Botoppen. Each of them caters for very few students, which testifies the Norwegians’ strong will not to waste any youth. They invested money in these schools to offer happy schooling moments to children that for various reasons were very likely to drop out of school. The teachers working there help students feel useful and develop their self-esteem. They help them have a dream and fight for it. Their big project at Holmen has been the construction of a sailing boat, a real sailing boat which is almost ready to be launched at sea. Students also learn how to cook, maintain a farm, tend a greenhouse, do arts and crafts, repair motorbikes, and so many other things. I met two students of Holmen during the dinner we were offered at “Naustet”, “the boat house”. They had helped the Chef and their teacher to prepare and serve dinner. They were very smart and polite young boys filled with pride for the pleasure they had offered to us.
I feel grateful for this experience that I had, thanks to our great hosts Britt-Mona Vang and Per Fagerland.