Friends from the Netherlands

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Friends from the Netherlands

Karina Patterson, Editor

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Easthampton High School got some very special visitors this last month, Koen Schiphorst who lives in Utrecht and Maartje Van der Eem who lives in Haarlem, North Holland. They are both history teachers who came to our school to observe teachers for a week through a Fulbright Scholar Program. It was certainly lovely to have them here so they could learn about our school system and we could learn about theirs. Koen teaches at Montessori Lyceum Herman Jordan school located in Zeist and has about 800 students which is considered small for a Dutch school. Maartje’s teaches at Hermann Wesselink College located in Amstelveen and has about 1500 students. Compared to our school which has just under 500 students, both schools are quite large! I got the chance to talk with each teacher and ask them various questions both from me and some students from EHS:

1. Do you, as teachers, like standardized testing? It seems to determine much of a student’s placement meaning it would dictate a teacher’s curriculum, how do you feel about this?

One of the biggest disadvantages of standardized testing is the fact that it limits the space we have as teachers. There are so many themes that we love to teach about, but sometimes you just can’t do that because of the mandatory themes the students need to learn for the big exam at the end of their school career. The more we see at Easthampton High School as well as the other schools we’ve visited, the more I like the idea of designing your own curriculum. We do too much “teaching to the test” in the Netherlands because of the standardized tests.

2. Would you like to work as a teacher at a school similar to Easthampton High School? Why or why not?

We would love to teach at this school! Of course the building is great and the facilities are top-notch. But we also really liked the atmosphere: all the teachers we saw were really enthusiastic, the students were all very friendly and therefore we felt really welcome. We also like the fact that all teachers have their own classroom.

3. What is your school schedule like?

We both work at different schools, so our schedules are a bit different. Maartje’s school starts at 08:30 am and ends at 04:05 pm. Her classes are 80 minutes long. Koen’s school starts at 08:40 am and ends at 15:00 pm. His classes take 65 minutes. The most classes we only see one time each week. We would love to see them more, but unfortunately that is not the case.

4. Did you like our lunch food? Is your lunch food better or worse?

We liked the cafeteria, and some of the food was good! It is nice to have a warm lunch during a school day: we don’t have that in the Netherlands. Our students always bring their own lunch, that consists mostly of (cold) sandwiches with a piece of fruit and something to drink. Also, at our schools all the students have lunch at the same time. It is the busiest moment of the day! In Maartje’s school, about 1500 students have lunch at the same time.

5. You mentioned people from the Netherlands listen to American music, is it modern music (Beyoncé, Drake etc.) or more of the classics (Journey, Queen, The Beatles etc.)?

That depends on your age; I think our students listen to the more modern music, just like the names you mentioned. It is probably not that different than here in the US…

6. Would you change anything about Easthampton High School?

We think this is a great school, so we’ve had a really hard time thinking about this question. The only thing we could have think of was a place for all the teachers to come together. In our schools the teacher room is sort of the central place of the school. You meet your fellow colleagues there, so you can have a talk about anything you want. This is the place where you get to see them every day before school and during lunch and have some (or a lot!) of coffee together and talk about our lessons, our students and of course about the soccer games of the previous night.


7. In your history classes, have you learned any US history?

We do talk about the history of the US, but not with as much depth like over here. The themes we discuss are the “discovery” of America by Columbus, the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence, the civil war and the abolishment of slavery, the Vietnam War. In the 20th century we teach quite a lot about WWII and the Cold War, so there’s a lot of US history there as well. A couple of years ago US history between 1860 and 1965 was one of the major topics of the national exam all students take at the end of high school. So all our students had to learn things like the Chicago Haymarket riot, the GI-bill and the Civil Rights Act.  

8. How different is the process for applying, paying and going to college in the Netherlands versus what you have heard about the process in the US?

In The Netherlands you must apply for university as well, but it is not as costly as it is here. Students pay around 2000,- euro’s per year for going to college (about 2200 USD). Most students will get a loan from the government to pay for university, and they pay it back once they’re done, without interest. Studies like medicine are hard to get in, but most studies are open to anyone with a High School diploma of a certain level.

9. At EHS, we take a trip outside of the country each year for our juniors and seniors. At your school, do you take trips around Europe? Out of Europe?

We think it is really great that you do that at your school! We do it as well, but for the most part only within Europe. Both of our schools visit cities like Berlin, Paris, Rome, London and some other places. It is always great fun to go there. We would love to take our students outside Europa as well, but because it is pretty expensive it rarely happens.

10. Are having domesticated pets as normal in the Netherlands as it is in America?

Yes it is! Lots of people have dogs and cats, those are definitely the most popular ones. Besides that a lot of people (especially kids) have rabbits, guinea pigs and fish.

11. Would you like to come back and visit Easthampton?

We would love to do that! Besides your amazing school we also really liked the area in general. The weather was great and we met a lot of really nice people. We would love to come back next year, but I’m afraid you cannot apply two times for the same Fulbright program we did…

12. It seems as though American high school/ college students or people in general rely on coffee to get them through their day, is coffee a big drink in the Netherlands or in your particular area? If not, what drink is?

Coffee is a big thing in our country, but only for teachers. Hardly any student drinks coffee during their days at school. Most of the times it’s water, or any kind of soft drinks, or maybe tea. Teachers on the other hand  drink lots of coffee. A lot of our colleagues are really upset when the coffee machine breaks down, every other day…