What I’ve Learned From the Danes (Part 1)

I have spent the last week presenting to and learning from Danish principals, teachers, and pedagogues (a role we don’t really have in Ontario).

I won’t attempt to summarize everything I learned in this post because it’s my last night in Denmark, but I want to capture a few things now:

The main thing we can learn from the Danes is that if you want a student to be a self-regulating, independent, resilient person, they won’t do that (and yes, I am using the non-gender-specific “they” as a singular pronoun. I do that now) if we create rules for every possible situation, remove all “potentially dangerous” playground equipment, and refuse to let them out of our sight for a second.

Here, children at school can climb trees, play on climbing walls, use knives, and start camp fires. 5 year olds drink out of glass cups and are responsible for carrying them back to the kitchen on their own. There are candles everywhere. Children don’t touch them. Because they’re hot. Children are allowed to work in small groups in hallways, libraries, and other common learning spaces without teachers looking over their shoulders. And they do the work. They don’t misbehave. Because if they did, there would be consequences. Natural consequences.

Danes are much more relaxed about their students. They have rules and expectations, but not about everything. They expect students to learn to make good choices. Students can’t do this if they’re not given any choices.

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