Michael Nocella (1988) studying chemistry at Illinois State University explores Dutch schools and student life during

his stay at NHL University in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. In this book he looks back at his school experiences and he explores parts of the Dutch social culture. Parts of his findings are compiled in his first book Terra Incognita, from suburbs to Frisia. More than a diary, less than a clash of civilizations.

Michael Nocella


from Frisia to suburbs

Editing House Ter Verpoozing, Peize (NL) ISBN / EAN 978-90-73064-07-2

knee high and still growing
from Frisia to suburbs
Michael Nocella

Editing house: Ter Verpoozing ISBN: 978-90-73064-07-2 NUR 500 © M. K. Nocella first print 2010 Photo cover: Gerard Stout Cover design and photos: Gerard Stout Print: NHL University, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. Financial support of NHL University of Applied Sciences www.nhl.nl
All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced without written permission of the editor and the author Michael Nocella mknocel@ilstu.edu

Exitus acta probat Ovid

Dedicated to the International Students living at the Kanaalstraat Residence of NHL University Leeuwarden, and to the Students and Faculty of the Montessori School in Groningen (The Netherlands) Knee high and still growing, continues where Terra Incognita (2009) stopped. Details on page 89.

Introduction Harmlessly concealed within the thin camouflage of invitations are opportunities. Acting as the fuel for fulfillment, they get the car started down the road. With the first green light reply, a spontaneous chain reaction sets off yielding them to appear at the turning of nearly every corner, as they go and pass like mile markers on the highway. Acceptance accelerates one into a higher gear: the next phase in their life. Where and when we choose to exit or hop back on creates a significant impact upon personal development. Nearly held back by the fear of the unknown, my journey got started in a similar manner, although getting the ball rolling wasn’t easy. Leaving the comforts of the tranquil sheltered Chicago suburbs and the ease of habitual routine seemed daunting. Questions and terrors danced about my thoughts, but they were merely illusions plagued by the conventional beliefs engrained by media and society. Uttering, “yes” turned out to be the best decision. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Despite the fact that even throughout it there were a fair share of mental roadblocks and detours that offset the course with discouragement, persevering proved to be better in the long run. Finding out how little we know about others and ourselves fosters curiosity. As Terra Incognita: From suburbs to Frisia* explored the initial two months of uncharted territory within my knowledge of others, and myself, Knee High and Still Growing: From Frisia to suburbs takes a look at the last month of my stay in the Netherlands. This follows the transition phase, as I take a step forward to find some answers with respect to identity and education.

Summary of educational findings: page 72. Appendix Page: 88.


3/31 Dressing up always comes at the sacrifice of comfort. Cardiovascular activities are therefore not recommended when wearing dress shoes. They lack cushioning. So, it is fair to say that running with them can be about as hazardous to one’s health as running with scissors. In this case, the impact attacks the shins instead of clumsiness resulting in an unintentional impaling of the chest. Miraculously, despite my feeble physique, I’m still in good enough shape to keep up with an elderly woman on a rickety bike. As she pedaled towards the city center, I worked up a sweat jogging to the train station. During the time that our paths crossed, we held quite a conversation. She spoke all Dutch and I spoke all English. Don’t ask me how, but it worked. All in all, my journey was about three-kilometers in length. Perhaps this is the cause of my inflamed injury on my right shin, although it may have aggravated a previously obtained one too. Either way, the swelling continues.

Zernike Montessori Groningen Prior to this, I taught two basic chemistry lessons at the Zernike Montessori School in Groningen. When the curtains unfold there is no place to hide away with stage fright. There is only one shot at the leading role and it’s on opening night. First impressions are

everything. Make them count and they will leave the crowd begging for an encore presentation. So, assume the role and play the part in the production. Either way, the teacher acts as both the director and the lead. However, our personal actions define us through the perceptions of others. Thus, it is important to be regarded as a respectable image as well. Attire is one such avenue outside of Broadway in acquiring such status. Only in fairy tales does a frog turn into a prince. Hence, the hero can’t be dressed as the village idiot. A teacher needs to suit up to fit the role. Respect the students. A t-shirt, tattered jeans, and worn out sneakers says I’m here on a lunch break from painting my house. Students shouldn’t be second fiddle. These two classes were supposed to be on the more difficult side to manage, but things went really well. Granted, I modified a few of my behaviors from the previous lesson. Having four supervisors, including myself, within the classroom helps a ton too. Yet, each individual is his or her harshest critic. So, despite how well things went, there is still a lot of room for improvement. When I returned to Leeuwarden, after class, I checked my email. In the few unread messages received was one from Bas. After today, he felt confident enough offering me the opportunity to teach up to five more lessons in addition to those I’m currently obligated to do. That’s like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Today’s experience: awesome. Before dinner, I ran into Dominick. We talked a little bit about his wildlife conservation work. Being generally fascinated with animals, I asked him if he could take me in the field if I by chance made it to the Philippines. It’d be a fun “take your kid to work day”. After all, he is the father of Kanaalstraat residents, so I deserve some sort of compensation for good behavior. At the dinner table, I learned that last night I missed quite a bit during my sleep. Apparently, Ana temporarily lost her keys, Won met a cute Dutch girl, and Rany sprained her ankle.


4/1 As I ventured to Groningen this morning, I received the company of a train buddy. This came after passing through Buitenpost. Her name was Joanna. At first, I played it off well after she started talking to me in Dutch. I’m glad people continue to do this off the bat. It means I’m not coming across as an American anymore. That’s not to say I’m not proud of being an American; I just like the feeling of being accepted amongst the general population as a fellow member of the community. All in all, my lessons went well. Today, I got to teach for the teachers Wiemer and for JJ (Jan Jurjen). Two classes per day seemed to be a healthy amount for now. Any more in a day may be too overwhelming. The first class went very smooth. We had enough time to get through everything fairly comfortably. Actually, as I recall, that class got done the quickest out of all of them. Once all the materials are established for a lesson, they get easier every time. It becomes natural and only minor adjustments are necessary thereafter. Up until this point, all the classes I’ve been teaching have been HAVO/ATHENEUM*. However, the second lesson today was VMBO/ HAVO*. The kids were great, but they require more time to take in material. Having a language barrier doesn’t help the pace either. Yet, it does expand their abilities and they managed quite well. As long as you can keep them from getting frustrated, they won’t quit. If they do, it may be nearly impossible to get them back into focus. The same goes for teachers. Sometimes the easiest solution is to act on fleeting passions. However, pulling out hair just leads to premature baldness. So, save your scalp and your relations. After all, they’re just kids. They don’t know better when they get rowdy, even though they probably should; they just want to have fun. Upon finishing the lessons, JJ and Bas showed me their curious contraceptive case used for sex education. Let’s just say if I displayed some of the gadgets inside at a US high school, I’d be arrested on several counts. Needless to say, some subjects are very liberal here, but I think it’s great that they just put everything out in the open. Speaking of criminal offenses, being posted on the FBI’s notorious “Most Wanted List” hardly holds the prestige of the Dean’s selection. Not to mention, having a personal portrait on a

dartboard is not one of the desires of a country’s leader… let alone a teacher. Classrooms are communities rather than dictatorships. Collectively, the students and their teacher should strive to become something much greater than a group of individuals. With a common cause and purpose of learning, teachers may act as the familial connection that unifies those within their walls. Each pupil plays a role that makes a significant contribution to the level of success they obtained by a class. Therefore, they should all be valued and held in equal regard.

sex education is not a crime Then, JJ, Bas, and I headed out to enjoy the beautiful weather. First, we headed to their homes, which were ironically three doors apart, to see if there would be a bike I could use. Unfortunately, we found none. Despite that disappointment, I received a grand tour of both of their homes. JJ’s place had an open comfortable atmosphere. Being a surfer typically yields a pretty chill attitude. Even his front porch had a surfboard for a bench. In the Netherlands, windsurfers know the Columbia Gorge in Oregon. They actually refer to it as “THE gorge”. I found that pretty

amazing, especially since I could make him jealous by the fact that I have windsurfed there. On the other hand, the house of a soon to be married couple holds an entirely different image. That would be Bas’s house. His wedding will be on April 18th. Since both have solid careers in the making, cleaning time gets sacrificed. We entered on what he claimed to be one of the more chaotic appearances. Christmas cards were still taped to one of the doors. Mom does the exact same thing. It just goes to show, no matter how far you may think you are from home; pieces still show up here and there. Due to the fact that we couldn’t find a bike for me, I got to experience another aspect of the Dutch culture: backseat biking. If you thought backseat drivers in cars were critics, beware of passengers on bikes. Metal backseats are hardly relaxing. I never thought my butt could fall asleep or cramp up, but today disproved that preconceived notion. On top of that, speed bumps are awful. I think you get the idea. Lazy Boy needs to introduce a comfortable alternative. Even a makeshift cushion could have saved some discomfort. Part of the problem may have also been the broken spokes on the back tire. I am not claiming responsibility for that. Despite the padding problem, I thoroughly enjoyed not having to drive. Being courted around like a king feels pretty good, plus I got a panoramic view of Groningen. Our bike tour took us to the center of Groningen. After parking the bikes, we stopped at De Kostery. It was an inviting café right beside the Martini Tower. Sitting on the terrace, Bas and I enjoyed hot chocolate, while JJ sipped coffee. When the bill came, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay.


4/2 Stumbling upon serendipity is like finding a dollar bill on the sidewalk. Even better is to catch a glimpse of the subtle shimmer of a two-euro coin in the sunlight. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to mimic the role of John Cusack and write down my phone number on the coin to test chance with a beautiful woman. I just found it on my way to school. Later, I would give it to a student to help fund their cultural experience: “Africa Day”. Again, teaching went well. This time, in Margit’s class, we also skipped out on one of the activities. However, this allowed me to elaborate on certain sections. It’s better to cover items slowly if the students understand it easier than to breeze through the material. The lesson may only be a bonus, but why not make it beneficial as well? I have my last class of second year high schoolers on Monday. Time to finish strong, or as we said in swimming: “finish to the wall!” Hopefully, it’s not a brick wall. Once a teacher is recognized as a leader, the basic principles of economics apply. Time is money and the same applies to education. However, in order to guide aimlessly wandering consumers of knowledge through the school year, teachers need to develop a scheduled budget for material acquisition that recognizes the difference between attainable and beneficial goals. Yet, the solutions are not always as simple as the selections provided during holiday sales or will objectives necessarily be completed exactly as planned on the timeline. Students control the demand, along with their needs and wants from the subject through their participation and content mastery. Thus, it is important to acknowledge shortterm goals outside of long-term ones. In taking a greater interest in observing students, teachers can account for what areas time can be saved or spent. Dealing day-byday allows for flexibility. Also, as always, the interest from using credit comes back to bite teachers in the butt by requiring frequent visits to material covered in the past. Thus, although it may seem to be in the students’ best interest to cover concepts quickly because it is attainable, it is not always beneficial. After the lesson, Bas and I chilled for a while. He’s been a great supporter. I’m glad he’s been able to make all of my lessons. Then, with a call from his fiancé, we were able to leave. Before we could swap the bike for the car and head back to Leeuwarden, we

stopped at his house. I got to ride shotgun with his fiancé, Judith, while he biked back. She’s a sweetheart. Between the car ride and juice box break at their house, there wasn’t as much time as I would have liked to get to know her better. Bas just got his driver’s license. So, I had the pleasure of joining him on his first trip to Leeuwarden from Groningen in this fashion. Once we got to Leeuwarden, after a brief lunch, I headed to see Gerard. He showed up about a half hour later. As it was our last meeting for his Classroom Management course, Gerard wanted us to take over as much of the lesson as possible. I took white board duty and compared a lot of things we had learned to my recent teaching experiences. That eventually led us to explore what aspects of our experience we will take back to our home countries and what we miss most. In addition to that, at the conclusion of the lesson we found out this was the first time that Gerard had offered such a course for international students. Being a guinea pig actually paid off because it appeared to be a great success. For future semesters, we told him to try to keep the class under six though. Anymore than that could drown out the personal touch.


Within five minutes of returning to Kanaalstraat, Katri and Bori yelled up to me that they had an extra ticket to a SC HEERENVEEN game! What an opportunity, I thought, to get to go to a game for free. Despite the fact that Heerenveen’s women’s team wasn’t on the favorable side of the standings, I excitedly took advantage of this cultural experience. Plus, a free ticket to the greatest stadium in the area is quite awesome. Of course, I had to get fries with mayonnaise during the game. Their odd token system, five euros for three tokens, forced me to get them twice. This is due to the fact that fries were only one token. I kept the third for my scrapbook. However, in the process of obtaining tokens, I encountered a batch of immature teenagers that mocked my old world incompetence. People can be very impatient when it comes to food. Stupid technology. Sometimes it is truly a major hindrance to society. Aside from that, I can’t believe how gorgeous it was today. We had sunlight throughout most of the game, which we would lose to SC AZ Alkmaar 4-0. No one would have known that we were just in the beginning of spring. For once, precipitation wasn’t the cool condensation accumulating on my face.


4/3 Closed-mindedness is the sapling of ignorance. Confirming beliefs can only be achieved through comparison. Branch out past your comfort zone or leave. Open thy eyes to the light or forever prevent photosynthesis. All too often, students shy away in the shadows of insecurity. This mindset is even evident amongst postsecondary education students. At our workshop at the LIONS Congress* in Utrecht, Ciska and I experienced this abomination firsthand, although it did not show until after the introduction ceremony. There we had an interactive activity that struck me. We threw about a hundred balls of yarn across the auditorium. Even sitting in the back we caught some action. Yet, we didn’t have the same fate as the unfortunate souls tangled in a massive knitting spider web. Each intertwined line of fabric symbolized the link between teachers and students. It was an awesome warm-up demonstration to get us pumped for the day to come. Then it started. However, we weren’t until the second round of workshops, so we observed during the initial round.

Utrecht’s city center As far as topics were concerned, we didn’t get our first choice. We wanted to sit-in on a presentation from a student who had

done their student teaching in a youth prison. That would have quite a profound impact on one’s life. Instead, we went to one about why we should use labs/demonstrations in the classroom. It really had the potential to be something great, but it turned out to mostly be a disappointment. All of it was conducted in Dutch, even our small group activity. Needless to say, I wasn’t dragged into conversation that much. Partially that was my fault for letting my discomfort take control, but they also didn’t go the extra step to inquire about my opinion. Despite their disbelief, I understood most of what was going on throughout it. During their presentation, most of the activity was discussion centered. However, I tend to not dominate discussion when it comes to working with peers. There is a lot of psychology behind it, but I’d rather not share. Therefore, Ciska dominated most of the debate from our side of the experience spectrum. When you can’t speak a language very well, you learn how to pick up on body language. Thus, even though she also spoke in Dutch, I knew she was bringing a lot of interesting counter perspectives into the conversation. The others seemed to feel intimidated by this, so they held strong to their beliefs and tried to push her ideas to the side. Then, when we got into small groups, again the talking was all in Dutch. Though I craved lunch and also combated dehydration, I got the gist of almost everything. In addition, they sat slightly apart from me. Now, I don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, but a little attention would have been nice. When they did inquire about my opinion, it was more just to confirm their beliefs. They also seemed to value the textbook more than teaching techniques. One even stated it to be the “Bible of chemistry”. Yes, the knowledge within may be the gospel, but without a preacher how can it reach students? Without a postman (or woman), mail would not get delivered. Students should value the book, but not use it as a crutch. Breaking down the fences of insecurity is a vital step in helping students ease out of their comfort zone. Past providers of protection now act as mental blocks that inhibit innovation and productivity. Students know not beyond the confines of their past experiences. Anything beyond the stereotypical comforts of a future involving a two-story house surrounded by a white picket fence frequently fosters fear. Pupils are often blind to their own

abilities and what others can bring to the table. Show the students that there is more to learning than what a pair of withered books and dusty chalkboards portray. Their minds are the real tools within the classroom. When they are conditioned to completely rely on the book for thought, they’ll turn off their thinking caps. If the hammer is taken from the toolbox, a screwdriver just won’t do for pounding nails. As a teacher, offer a guiding hand and lay out the expectations for the course early on to obtain their trust. By being the main support for student comprehension and assisting them in adopting a worldlier outlook on life, along with education, and the possibilities are limitless. After the workshop on lab activities, we were sent to the cafeteria for lunch. There, Ciska and I joined up with Marco and Tiemen from the NHL University. They too were presenting at the LIONS Congress*. On a labtop, they briefly showed us a segment of their act. They synced music to their PowerPoint. See even chemistry has a nice ring to it. As far as the food was concerned, for once, a free lunch actually turned out to be filling and have heightened quality. The goody bag also had a chocolate bar for later.

lab facility at Utrecht university

Then came our workshop. In attendance were the three stooges of singular sight, which were the three boys in the group that presented in the workshop we attended. Additionally, only one student expressed interest in studying/teaching abroad. Why not do some self-searching before settling down? People have the rest of their lives to be tied down to an occupation. Why not feel a little bit of freedom first? The light will flicker for now, but eventually it’ll stay on. Despite the lack of certainty in the room, our presentation seemed to go well. A lot of people participated by the end and perhaps started thinking about other options before they graduate. On top of that, I always gauge progress by how much Gerard smiles. I didn’t see a frown, so that had to have been a good sign. We also caught the attention of the physics teacher from the NHL University. He approached me after we finished to ask more questions about the American system. Lord knows I did the best I could to answer. Going off of my personal experience sometimes frightens me. On the way back to Leeuwarden, we crammed into the bus and the train. Nice days seem to mean that people leave work early. At least the precious sunlight makes everyone perk up. In the train, I saw yet another bombshell blonde. Daydreaming damsels in distress are my specialty. Chivalry is not dead. Sir Gareth taught me well. I’m always willing to offer a seat, smile, or in this case, my sweatshirt. At first, she tried to nap with her head against the window. Nothing softened its hard surface. When she rose, I inquired about my sweatshirt as a pillow. Shot down, she at least smiled and said it was a good idea. So, she used hers instead. I later found out she lived in Heerenveen and got a sweet wave goodbye. I could deal with being the shorter member of the partnership, as long as it meant that I had easy access to SC Heerenveen games for the rest of my life. Throughout the ride, I also noticed that some people just say the most random things… myself included. However, this time my unconventional tendencies were not in the limelight. Our own train conductor stole it from me. When we passed through Zwolle, he announced that the train would be headed for Leeuwarden. At the conclusion of the announcement, he acknowledged the potential difficulty of passengers to understand him. He claimed to have a cookie in his mouth during the speech. Too much information?

4/4 Monday Night Football has to quit hogging the concept of “instant replay”. Life yearns for redos. Everyone deserves a second chance. Yet, most will never experience them. In many cases, we could have acted better had we the tools to do so. Hindsight is twentytwenty. So, we live with regrets… woulda, coulda, shoulda done this or that. I’m guilty of it too. As soon as I catch up with the genie from Aladdin, I’ll be able to change three wrongs into rights. One of which would be devoting more time with those around me. Time is of precious value for a perfectionist, but work shouldn’t be held as a priority over friends to the extent that I’ve let it consume my life. That’s probably one of my biggest challenges. Lately, I’ve become somewhat short-tempered with a lot of work coming to a conclusion. Hence, in times such as those, we tend to take all our accumulated stress out on those closest to us. Maybe we believe that they can handle it better than others. Either way, that doesn’t make it right, so I don’t like that side of myself.

In the morning, I ran a few errands. First I had to inspect a flat tire on the rear of my bike. Hopefully, it just needs to be pumped. After that, I got down to business. My shopping list consisted of groceries and a highly recommended book: “I always get my sin.” It comically explores English expressions that are commonly

misused by the Dutch. Then, I headed to the grocery store. Tonight, we had an international barbecue and we each had to purchase our slice of meat. I really need to chillax about money because I spent a good ten minutes trying to find the best deal. That led me to a single chicken breast, but it would do. Originally, we planned on an outdoor event at Hanne’s. However, the weather does not always permit such luxuries. So, we brought the great outdoors inside. The kitchen was a systematically functioning chaos. Close to twenty people joined our festivities. Thus, I got to see Agne from Lithuania. I hadn’t seen her since the introduction week and it was great to reunite. In addition to her, Bruno from Italy and Laetitia from Belgium were among the few other strangers to Kanaalstraat, although not everyone was able to make it. By the time all was said and done, we had quite a colorful presentation. All that was missing from home was corn on the cob and potato salad. With the large amount of people in attendance, I tried to divvy up time floating between everyone. It worked pretty well, but there’s never enough time. Then came time to work on emails, assignments, and editing. As far as assignments are concerned, I think dividing a well-written paper into paragraph chapters is purposeless. What is the point of using transitions if there’s always going to be a page break? I’m sorry. Little things just set me off lately. I need the Easter break, but I know just like Thanksgiving break marks the end nearing for fall semester, this will be the marker of the upcoming conclusion of my trip. I’m not ready, nor do I want, to see it end. Later on, we also had a few visitors. Shahzad came first. He just got two stitches either today or yesterday from cutting his finger all the way down to the bone with a can opener. His wait at the hospital was three hours. Thus, my argument against a national healthcare system in the US remains. Imagine if his leg needed to be amputated or a poisonous snake bit him. It could have taken ages. Granted, life-threatening conditions may have received immediate attention, but it does leave room for abusing the system. Katri came next. She showed me a few more paintings that she had recently made. As she searches the innermost sections of her soul, her paintings become more complex. Therefore, all three were much harder to decipher than those previously seen. That’s the beauty of getting beneath the surface.

4/5 Fitting three continents into an automobile is possible. North America, Europe, and Asia all made it into a compact hatchback for a road trip today. At the party last night that Rossana, Ana, and Rany woke me up at one in the morning for, Agne and Vaida invited Won and I to attend an adventure with them. Thanks to Andrei, our Russian tour guide and a mutual contact of theirs, we made it through a variety of scenic locations in Friesland. Just outside of Heerenveen, an upper-class area in Friesland dazzled us. Weezer knows not of this Beverly Hills. It’s called Oranjewoud. There was a lot more architectural creativity and newer homes. In addition to that, many have fairly large yards or horse stables. In fact, we actually found a furry little friend within the confines of a fence. A baby horse came straight up to the edge and allowed us to pet her at the expense of a few photographs. Their publicity stunt worked well because we fell in love with them. They’re such beautiful animals. Visiting here definitely gave my intentions to retire in Austria a run for its money. Then we moved on to stroll through the woods. That led us to an old concrete observation tower. It had been rebuilt following WWII and stood about forty meters high. Although Agne appeared to be afraid of heights, we climbed up anyway. The top gave us a breath taking view of southern Friesland. However, this was merely the beginning of our jam-packed day. When we got through inhaling fresh air, from what seemed to be the highest point in Friesland, we pressed onward. With little knowledge of which destination was next, Andrei built up our excitement by provoking curiosity. As we got out of the countryside and into a more densely populated area, we found our next stop: Sneek. I’ll have to check, but I think this is number seven or eight that I’ve visited out of the eleven Frisian cities. There, we stopped by a historical gateway in the center of the city. Others were enjoying the day too. They passed by on boats. For once, I got to see heavy boat traffic and some bridges rise. Summer is on the way. Next, his internal navigator led us to Rijs. There we explored the beachfront along a lake. We may have had great weather, but it was hardly warm enough to swim. Being close to lunchtime, we also found it to be a comfortable spot to enjoy a picnic. During our

time there, we saw kite surfers, wind surfers, and lots of couples with dogs. Won even got playfully attacked by a Yorkshire Terrier, which proceeded to shower his face with kisses. With the wind softly blowing, ripples rather than waves provided a soothing serenade for a relaxing meal. Next, we headed to a familiar sight: the Red Cliff* monument near to Stavoren. I had previously been there with my Places of Memory course, but it had been under treacherous weather conditions. Along with that, we took a look at the beach there. This was on IJsselmeer, the dammed in portion of the sea that has turned into fresh water. I took advantage of the ability to skip stones. Soon thereafter, everyone else joined me. Our record for most skips ended up somewhere between five and seven. However, all that physical activity wore us out, so we sprawled out on the nearby rock peninsula sun bathing. When Andrei saw us nearly falling asleep, he started acting silly to steal our attention from the sun. First, he showed off his strength by stretching across two rocks isolated in the water apart from the peninsula. Then, when we faded again, he pretended to drop his keys in between two rocks and asked for help. Gullible is my middle name second to Kristofer, so I fell for the bait. After sticking my entire arm into the abyss, he finally told us the truth about his keys. They had been in his pocket the whole time. Now that we had the keys, we could move on to our final hot spot. That took us to Potten. This town also had a lake. Originally, he thought we might take out one of the rowboats, but by our time of arrival the rental shop had closed. At least it gave us a good idea for something to do in the future. With the sun setting, it marked the conclusion of our trip and a signal to head back to Leeuwarden. Ana told me a little bit about her plans for our May holiday. She’d be heading back to Portugal to visit family. At this time they’d also be having a traditional village festival too. They do the whole bull-run and everything. It sounded pretty sweet. If I had to do the bull-run, I’d certainly be the one to trip. That’d put a whole new meaning to flat as a pancake.


4/6 Showers are the portals to brilliance. Go figure, that’s where all my thinking occurs. Thus, all my thoughts go right down the drain. No wonder I didn’t claim the “easy button” or the “pop top” first. Kudos to those entrepreneurs that made daily life a lot less complicated. Yet, much like my aquatic pagoda of Zen, they too probably had a suitable surrounding for discovery. The same applies to education. Within the classroom, numerous factors can throw off the ying and yang, which can create several distractions. In fact, depending upon the classroom ecology and layout, a classroom can just as easily feel like a prison, as a threshold to growth. Hence, having an environment conducive to work helps keep students focused. Such thoughts bring me back to my days at Palatine High School, where I was already aspiring to be an international heartthrob and trophy husband: one down and one to go. Outside of the given discomforts of the common classroom; the irregular trends in temperature mismanagement and prevailing pain provided by poor posture induced by a stiff seat; I could not help but notice the difference in focus and comfort I found among classrooms of varying layouts. At the time, I strongly preferred the classrooms in the “new wing” to those more centrally located. Their big claim to fame for me: natural lighting.


Feeling like a lab rat is one thing I’d prefer to avoid. In the absence of windows, the classroom is no better than a group-sized cubicle. Artificially lit, the fuzzy fluorescence persists until daydreams dominate. Eyes wander aimlessly through the monotonous maze of desks with futile hopes of establishing a connection with the outside world. Soon the focus shifts from education to escape, thereby leaving crawling up the walls as the most logical option. Fortunately, my temporary students and I had nothing to fear being in the realm of picture windows. Speaking of experimental subjects, I taught my last group of 2nd grade HAVO/ ATHENEUM* high school students (ages 13-14): section 2F. They usually belong to Wiemer, but he let me have them just this once. Originally, I had planned to finish everything on the agenda and then some, but as a teacher one must be flexible. So, we adjusted our game plan and it worked out quite nicely. Instead of doing an extended section on acids and bases in the body, I briefly touched upon it and replaced the rest with a demonstration. Destroying a penny for the sake of science is a beautiful thing. I used it to portray the horrible effects of stomach juice loose in the body. That puts a whole new meaning to dying on the inside. When the lesson was over, I again received applause from the students. So far, I’m seven for seven. Wiemer then gave me some great feedback. I’ve still got to watch out for competing volume-wise with the students. Even if it’s not an anger volume, it still needs to vary to catch their attention. After that, Bas and I tried to figure out what my potential five lessons on acids and bases would be for the 3rd graders (ages 14-15). They hadn’t experienced any of it last year, so we decided to modify the current lesson. Eventually, we came to the conclusion to leave all activities except the more biological aspects. Since the students would be older, there would be a theoretical component added on to the lesson. So, we intended to incorporate the definitions of Arrhenius, Brønsted-Lowry, and Lewis acids and bases. However, along with the other activities, that would just be too much to fit into a single lesson with an adequate understanding for students. Hence, we cut it down to just cover the Brønsted-Lowry definition. Working with protons seems to be the easiest fashion to teach it when solely dealing with pH. Had we been working with dissociations, things would have been much different. Our activity

dealt with creating a neutralization curve from measuring the pH change when slowly combining two stock solutions: one acid and one base. It took us a while to work with the two that we were using. Labs dealing with self-diluted molarities and old materials can often skew results. Yet, it all came together nicely in the end. Thank goodness they had plenty of pH paper squares in the storage room. In between scrambling to find the right mixture for the future experiment during its trial runs, Bas invited me not only to attend his wedding, but also to a city tour of Groningen with many of the international guests as well! Who would have thought? Needless to say, I’m pretty psyched about it. I knew I should have brought a three-piece suit overseas. Rats! How am I supposed to impress his nieces without it? Anyway, since it’ll be late at night, he offered to have me stay at the hotel with the rest of the guests if it can be arranged. If not, I may miss out on a kroket sandwich at quarter past midnight. That would be murder. On my way out, I wished Bas well and revealed my intentions to visit family in Germany for Easter. With this news, he gave only one request: that I return some past possessions. So, I guess I’ll be bringing stroopwafels to Germany and Bas’s parents’ bikes* back to the Netherlands.


4/7 Nothing says “love struck” more than the painful collision between one’s face and a light pole. Those of us with Pinocchio noses suffer greatest at the hands of such infatuation, although I prefer to think of mine as more of an impact pillow. I met this fate after being spooked by Rossana on the way to class early this afternoon. Since she was on bike, I walked at the edge of the sidewalk while we talked. It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. Shortly thereafter, Cupid’s arrow found its mark square on my bottom. As if perfectly following the script of a cheesy romantic comedy, I walked right into the pole of “puppy love”. That’s one way to bring a smile to a fair lady’s face. It even made the day of an elderly gentleman. He said something to the effect of “good luck” in Dutch. At my rate, I’ll need a lot of it. Without any immediate brain damage, outside of a tarnished ego, we continued on our journey to class. However, instead of being held back by my lack of speedy transportation, this time we tried something typical “Dutch”. I drove the bike and she rode on the back. Last time, I did this with Ana and it resulted in an epic failure. Yet, Rossana has a much smaller bike, so it was more compatible with my build. Thus, although we had a few wobbles, we made it safely to class. Today, we had our last batch of presentations. I went second to last. To spice up the PowerPoint, I decided to close with the “only in America” jokes. Finally, spam and useless forwarded emails served a purpose. Rossana drew a picture for me while I presented as well. Listening to an endless barrage of monologues, no matter how interactive they are with the audience, can be extremely draining for students. At the conclusion of the lesson, I found Gerard in the lobby of the building. We planned to make a few videos for him to use for writing articles and also to document some of the trends I’ve picked up on for education*. Afterwards, we headed back to the NHL and found another empty classroom. When we were finished, Gerard was kind enough to drop me back off at Kanaalstraat. Not having a bike really takes a toll on time efficiency. Once dinnertime rolled around, I met up with most of our group. The only ones missing were Ana and Rossana. They partook in a one-day part-time job. It involved stuffing

envelopes and separating brochures for advertisements. We could tell how much fun they had or lack thereof when they returned. Their hands were black and they looked extremely fatigued. The closest comparable struggle, outside of streetlights, I would have today would be laundry. On that note, forget all the principles of sharing drilled in to your brain from preschool. Laundry machines should be an exception. People never play nice when it comes to cleaning. Someone neglected to put an “out of order” sign on one of the free machines. Since all the good ones were taken, I fell into the trap. Once I realized it had been unplugged, it was too late. Dirty water, barely visible at the bottom of the interior, engulfed my whites. I panicked, crammed them into the next available machine, and flushed it with an unnecessary amount of detergent. As I waited intently for the uncertain outcome, I couldn’t help but periodically check on the progress. Thankfully, on my last trip down, I found all my laundry in tact and no monkey business. Looking at the brighter side of life will keep someone singing in the rain. Life’s no musical, but there’s no sense in letting the little things get you down. They are plights of the perfectionist that ultimately lead to disappointment. High expectations are great, but the willingness to acknowledge faults, which in the eyes of an optimist are better presented as areas of improvement, proves to yield far more positive outcomes. Shrug off the dismal drizzle and rise up into the clouds before lightning strikes. On one such occasion, I almost let student behavior rain on my parade. As it was an interactive lesson supplemented by a lab, all students were required to wear a lab coat and goggles. Since they were shared amongst all students and teachers, they were received on a first come first serve basis from the rear of the classroom. Due to this, many of the coats also suffered from the expected wear and tear developed over time from old age, chemicals, and above all else personal artwork. Blindly grabbing one from the rack, luck gave me the coat with a delightful pubescent depiction of a female full frontal. Pleasantly plump bosoms seemed quite hard to hide in a room full of raging hormones. Flush in the face and at a loss for words, I finally understood how it would feel to lose a towel on the beach. Being zapped by the initial shock kept me in check though as the storm clouds started to form above my head.

Before I had the chance to act on such an awkward circumstance, an innocent blonde guided my decision-making. Barely holding her composure, she claimed the two-dimensional pornography as her own creation. After uncomfortably commending her on such a talented display of the human anatomy, I came to a surprising realization. With her light-hearted attitude, it would hardly make sense to discipline her for such meaningless actions. If their intentions were meant in jest, than mine should be too. Thus, we all shared a good laugh over it. Quite frankly, I am fairly certain that even my attitude and general response came as just as big of a surprise to them as it did to me. However, lightening up that day made a huge difference in the initial and overall cooperation of the class. Acting in the opposite fashion more likely than not would have changed that into a complete catastrophe. Despite all the chaos of what seemed to be getting off on the wrong foot, today provided a valuable lesson. In addition to breaking out of my strictly professional shell, I discovered one of the many strategies to surviving the ever-changing forecast of the classroom environment. Learn to laugh at yourself and roll with the punches. Each serves as a test that through enduring makes an educator stronger. After all, students just want to see if you are worth accepting into their familial group.

4/8 Lip-syncing and shower singing are conventional ways for the average Joe to feel the exhilarating aspect of being an “American Idol” without the humiliation of judgment. Won and I part-took in this as well. We butchered lyrics all morning long. As long as Simon Cowell is out of earshot, then I guess we’re safe. In the early afternoon, I met with my Places of Memory teacher to discuss my final term paper. He enjoyed the comparison between the Super Bowl and the Elfstedentocht, but my paper lacked a sufficient conclusion. That’s what happens when you try and plow out a term paper in two days. Switching topics five times doesn’t help matters either. When I finished my meeting, I went to the canteen to grab a bite to eat for the road. As I browsed the selections, I sought something warm. Allowing my senses to guide me, I reached them within seconds. Yet, the kroketten were missing. Then the cook rushed out with a fresh pan. The heavenly smell of deep fried goodness consumed me in a euphoric trance. Wafting, he encouraged me to take one. They know me all too well at the cafeteria. Aside from that, I ought to know better than to bring corny jokes to the Netherlands. They belong in Illinois. At the conclusion of dinner, Katri said, “I’m finished.” Jumping at the perfect opportunity to play off her words, I replied, “Yes, you are Finnish.” Nobody joined me with laughter.


4/9 Tiny tots in their “terrible twos” aren’t so treacherous. Kids aren’t scathed by the faults of society. Therefore, their corresponding innocence can brighten even the dreariest days. On the train to Schiphol, I experienced this towards the end of my journey. As the little rascal trotted down the isle to exit the train, he used both my arm and the opposite armrest to launch himself into the air. Successfully achieving liftoff and landing, he looked back at me grinning from ear to ear. Temporarily, the serious surroundings were softened with a smile.

Schiphol airport Since I planned to dodge rush hour and figured in the potential of extraneous circumstantial train delays, I got to my gate nearly five hours early because everything went so smoothly. During that time, I snacked on a few apples and caught up on world news courtesy of CNN. The most intriguing topics were involving North Korea and pirates off the coast of Somalia. For some reason, when I hear these, my mind almost always relates it to films

and television. In this case, I thought of MASH and Blackhawk Down. I need to quit that. On the plane, I had the middle seat. Usually, I sit by the window, so I was a little apprehensive and hoped no one would have the seats on either side of me. It worked out for the best though that they were taken. To my right sat Ingrid, and to my left sat Maxim. He slept for the entire flight, while Ingrid and I got better acquainted. We talked a little bit on and off about study abroad and our backgrounds. During down time, I had the chance to reflect on classroom management and discipline, as those seem to be my biggest challenges at this time. When the first shots are fired, with bullets hissing by, the most obvious choice is to duck for cover. Yet, that still neglects to provide a solution for future bombardment at the failing frontlines. Also, taking the opposite course of action may not lead to an anticipated victory either. Blindly throwing a grenade in the general direction of the attack always comes with consequences. Collateral damage manages to sneak its way in whenever possible. Thus, it is important that commanders choose their battles and corresponding strategies wisely. Every incident is different and circumstantial. In the midst of the haze of spitballs and paper airplanes, it can be hard for teachers to hold their composure. Also, the two easiest solutions seem to be exploding at the entire classroom or shying underneath a desk. However, turning the cheek to disturbances gives students control and prevents progress in the classroom. Prior to teaching, I experienced some of the resulting consequences of this in a few classrooms throughout my observation period. One visit sticks out in particular. In later sections, this visit will be referred to as classroom one. It dealt with the notion of being liked by all students. Realistically, this is an impossible endeavor. Additionally, in so doing, pupils are more likely to perceive a teacher as a peer opposed to an instructor. Due to this, teachers find it harder to speak up and gather attention in the classroom. This becomes very apparent to students as well. So, they lock onto such weaknesses in character like homing missiles until complete control is gained. In this case, hesitating to pull the trigger and take charge came back to haunt the teacher. Their sweet nature had already become routine enough for students to take full advantage of it. Thus, although several activities were outlined for that day, no more than

half of them were completed because so much time was spent trying to successfully gain the attention of the entire class. Their primary technique seemed to be soft shushing and inaudibly asking the class for their undivided attention from the front of the classroom. Despite this effort, not all of the possible measures were taken. Likewise, on the opposite end of the spectrum, exploding frequently causes a clash between students and teachers. Regardless of the circumstances, peers always side together. Therefore, the teachers are usually caught defending themselves. In this case and most others, going out with guns blazing will come back to one’s detriment. Showing off lets the opposition forces know the strength of one’s arsenal. At that point, all they have to do is match it or one up it to win. So, hold off on the artillery until the situation gets completely out of hand. Then bring on the cavalry with any available reinforcements.

Opposed to classroom one, classroom two’s visit held interesting results as well from a flip side perspective. At the slightest occurrence of disruption, the teacher would bellow “ladies and gentlemen” with all the air capacity in their lungs. The louder they became, the louder the students responded. The teacher’s temper

became the students’ source of glee. A simple off task conversation became a competition completely controlled by the class. Within minutes of the escalation, they had won. In the past two examples, the major technique explored had been volume level. Classroom one is a classic example of great composure on behalf of the teacher. They did not let the students push them to their limits, which prevented the class’s ability to make a game out of the situation. Escalation only makes things worse. Thus, speaking softly sometimes provides a hint to students as to how loud they actually are at the time, but if implemented from outside the circle of students, they will rarely notice the efforts. Hence, it is important to walk straight into the “hot zone”. Body language speaks louder than words. By walking into an ambush of students, it tells the student body a lot about the confidence of a teacher. For them, taking on such an instructor is far too challenging and burdensome. In contrast to that, aside from tone variance, there are a number of other techniques available to discipline and control the class. In broader terms, this involves dealing with students on a one-on-one basis. This keeps innocent bystanders from being caught in the crossfire and could pose a valuable addition to both classrooms outlined above. Along with that, such problems usually can be prevented with the proper perception tools. Noticing ticks of disinterest mean that there is only a matter of time before it develops on a greater scale. Irregular student behavior provides great tips as well. Using both of these as starting points helps tremendously. Then the resistance can be penetrated at its focal point. Isolate the individual and deal with them in person. It may be subtle, but it’s certainly effective. Also, when dealing with students individually, it keeps teachers from becoming the enemy of the masses. They will still be seen as part of the group, instead of an outsider. For example, out of sheer hopelessness, I saw another teacher suffer at the hands of such actions. Throughout the entire lesson, they struggled to retain mere seconds of undivided focus. At the conclusion of the period, they blatantly attacked all the students for their disrespectful behavior. Even students permitted to leave early to catch buses were forced to stay until the teacher finished their rant. At that point, any allies that would have remained amongst the students were lost. Pockets of distracted students ruined it for

the rest of their peers. However, students will band together before they side with the teacher. Hence, although this teacher tried to make an example of a few by punishing the whole, it came to their detriment. When I extended my hand to the teacher at the conclusion of the lesson as an offering of thanks, their attitude towards the students had alluded that they had already given up on them. In their eyes the pupils were no more than a band of troublemakers. Nothing could be done to change that. With no desire to change behavior as a teacher, they too have shut their eyes and ears to learning. As teachers seem to be out in the open, it is hard to escape the line of fire. Know personal boundaries and lay out firm borders and guidelines for students. Tactical maneuvers reap the greatest reward. Catch the problems early and act accordingly when behaviors persist. Complete the objective with no casualties. So, tread softly and take caution. Suffering at the hands of defeat always leads to bittersweet treaties that relinquish power to unforgiving forces. Naturally, the fasten seatbelt sign came on with impeccable timing. Although my flight to Germany was ending, I’ll have to buckle up for the adventures that await my return. Right outside the terminal, I found Axel and Walli in point blank view. I couldn’t have missed them. When we got to their house it still looked familiar from my last visit over ten years ago. We then enjoyed the company of one another and chatted for at least an hour and a half. Surprisingly, most of it was in German. I guess I did learn something in high school. When studying abroad, it’s always nice to see family, especially those you don’t get a chance to see too often. They’re such great hosts too. I even got a chocolate on my pillow.


4/10 – 4/14 Speaking one’s familial tongue after two years of hardly speaking it is like shifting gears in a manual transmission car without a clutch. If I do it too quickly or often, my engine dies. However, as I ease into it, it’ll slowly come back. Not to mention, having only high school knowledge doesn’t help fluency much either, but I am learning. At least, I’m glad I’ve been in an environment where I must speak a language other than English. Regardless, it’s important to stay true to one’s roots, but also make an effort to immerse oneself in the culture of the country they are visiting. So long Harvard and Yale. See you in another life because my marks just won’t cut it in your graduate program. This news came to me via email after breakfast. It regarded a grade on a recent term paper. Let’s just say, I’ve never been so proud of a 6/10 on a paper. Some people are just thick skulled. Even a supersonic collision with a dictionary wouldn’t yield comprehension of the definition of “scientific research”. Here’s a news flash for all the blasphemous scholars out there: naturalistic observation is at the core of and the foundation for the scientific method. Had I used citations from speculated statistics, as desired, the paper wouldn’t have been mine, but rather somebody else’s. This is despite the fact that I got my intentions approved, which was to be based solely off my personal research. Thus, I rest my case that grades are arbitrary forms of measurement. Let’s just face it; if everyone were either a Democrat or a Republican, we would all be kidding ourselves. Not all issues are black or white; there is a circumstantial gray area. Something similar can be said for answers given by students. They are neither right nor wrong when students lack the information and tools necessary to solve the problems at hand. Hence, students should not suffer at the hands of shame for the response not directly sought out by the instructor that is so often deemed without hesitation completely “incorrect”. Extract such misconceptions engrained into their mindsets. Teachers cannot change their students’ pasts. That is why we work with the gifts given in the present to impact the future.


4/15 At half past twelve, Axel, Walli, and I headed for the airport. Although this morning was very cool outside, the weather had improved dramatically to the point that I was sweating practically the entire journey to the airport. However, we got to there with few obstacles impeding our progress. Thus, having a long time being that traffic hadn’t been so bad, we decided to take advantage of the time that we had together and get a drink and small snack at a café outside of security clearance. When we finished, I headed through the gate. Half of my body tried to pull me back to Germany, while the other tugged towards my unfinished business and experience of a lifetime. In accordance with that, I’m starting to consider teaching abroad for a while or permanently once I get a master’s degree or perhaps a doctorate in education. On the plane, I didn’t have anybody sitting next to me. Altogether, it was only about a third full. I knew I should have just sat by that girl kiddy corner from me. Anyway, the countryside is much different in Germany compared to the Netherlands, especially in the southern portion, as we were in close proximity to the mountains. Yet, we headed in the opposite direction from the rolling hills littered with small wooden framework houses (Fachwerkhäuser) surrounding Munich led to the forbidden path to the Austrian Alps. This also made crossing over the border quite obvious as well. I started seeing lots of windmills. I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be arriving in Schiphol. Once we had landed, I got on a train to Zwolle. That’d be my connection point for Leeuwarden. On the train, I called Walli and mom to let them know I was okay. In Zwolle, I missed my train. Of course, mishaps with public transportation, despite my veteran status, still follow me and thereby pop up every now and then. Back in Leeuwarden, everyone seemed excited to see me and I them as well. At dinner, Ana told me to finish her dish. I can’t seem to escape the courtesy casserole. Then, I retrieved my bed from Rossana. Her mom had come over from Italy for the weekend and since I was gone, I was more than happy to let her borrow it. Upon return, she had even washed every single possible sheet and cloth on the bed. I’d have been fine with just getting it back, but that was premium service.

4/16 Teaching fibrillation onset by a kink in the scheduling chain called holiday breaks disturbs the natural force noted well by Yoda. With this disruption, escapes the relative ease of instruction established with routine. Throughout the lesson today, on top of the previously noted, I realized a year in age makes a world of difference in behavior. I should have known this from my own experience heading back from college to visit high school seniors. As students progress throughout the years, they tend to lose their immaturity and sense of selfishness. Conduct tends to become more respectful, but we often lose our enthusiasm for simplicity and dwell on our shortcomings. Yet, these are not always the case. Age fifteen seems to be one of the trickiest ages. Students are afraid of embracing their uniqueness as they strive to search for a comfortable group setting to compensate for all of the change occurring in their lives. Thus, obtaining participation on a grander scale may appear difficult at times.

In addition to that, the class I taught had a wide ability range. Some performed tasks before I got done giving instructions, while others lagged behind and needed a guiding hand. Along with that,

part of this may have been due to the fact that several students were even repeating the grade. Hence, simple tasks seem to be a waste of time to them since they appeared to feel as if they were merely going through the motions. However, we got through everything even in the slight time crunch without any serious struggles for control. Overall, I felt pretty good about the lesson. On the upside, I did not raise my voice to get attention, allowed students to socialize during transitions and work independently, used the board well, and commended students for their cooperation and answers. In addition to that, being that the students were a year older than those from the past weeks put me in a nice position to incorporate a little more theory into the lesson. During that portion, I also recovered nicely from a “whoops!” So, the students didn’t know that we made a slight goof in the demonstration because I showed it twice with a worthy reasoning behind it. With respect to the areas that need work, realizing that kids even as little as one year apart are drastically different really struck me. Something else I could work on as well was to call on more people even if the same person always raises his or her hand. After the lesson, JJ and I went up to the teacher’s lounge. While he got Bas’s wedding gift put together, I spoke a mixture of German, English, and Dutch with other teachers. My grammar and speech will be so out of whack when I return to the States with this mind-boggling “dialect”. Another teacher seemed somewhat sad that I’d be leaving early because she wanted me to speak to her class about some of the differences between the US and the Netherlands. When I returned to Leeuwarden, I plowed away on work. It never seems to end. Along with that, somehow distractions are impossible to escape in international housing. Someone next door scratched on the walls for almost half an hour straight. I’m not sure if they’re remodeling, but it definitely sounded like stripping paint. All I know is that if renovations are taking place for gratis, I want a piece of the pie. Similarly, Sanket came in our room later as well. I’ve been commissioned as an English grammar editor. As a scientist, I hardly expected that to occur. Yet if they’re willing to pick up some of my bad habits, then that’s ok I guess because I like helping whenever I can.

4/17 Life is only suffering because we make it so. If only everybody reached post-conventional thought, myself included, the world would be a better place. Alas, utopias only exist in dreams and there could never be good without the bad. Speaking of dreams, they almost led me to miss my train. Thanks to Won’s alarm clock, I got saved from that horror. Having mom as my fail safe for all those teenage years finally came back to haunt me in her absence. Other than that, lessons went extremely well today. Henk was very appreciative. Yet, none of this would have happened if they hadn’t of been open to the idea. So, I should be thanking them. He left early in the second lesson though. For that lesson, we started 20 minutes into the period due to a hockey tournament that made the students late and still got done with plenty of time. I did find it annoying, however, that another teacher came in to talk to the lab assistant. They stood right in front of the blackboard too. Eventually, he got the hint to leave since I went on lecturing, although it still irked me that I had to compete with them for volume instead of the students. They, on the other hand, actually started telling each other to be quiet. Wiemer’s advice to not use my volume of voice so much in the classroom has paid off tremendously. In addition to that, when Henk left, I had the class all to myself for basically thirty minutes. Taking it on all by myself didn’t seem so daunting after that. After teaching, I stopped by Bas’s house. There, I not only received the wedding invitation, but had the opportunity to meet his parents before the big day. While there, I discussed my lessons with Bas, and went over more areas to try and explore or improve. I also gave my contribution to the wedding dinner and city tour: 20 euros. That’s not bad at all for dinner, dancing, and damsels. As I entered the train back home to Leeuwarden, I ran into the guy I met about a month and a half ago that worked at the prison in Groningen. He was on the train last time when there was a fight after we had dinner at Gerard’s. What a small world. Well, I guess when you use the same line of railroad long enough, you are bound to become familiar with the regulars. On our previous encounter, he gave us a website to check out for walking to the Wadden Islands. This time, he told me the dynamics of the sea, how to become a guide, and good times of the year to do it.

When I returned, Katri came in fairly early to call me down for dinner. The girls had soccer training tonight, so they usually eat a little bit beforehand.

Train Groningen - Leeuwarden With time running short, I need to take advantage of opportunities to do some things that I haven’t had the chance to do. As mentioned, the girls (Bori, Rossana, Ana, and Katri) go to play soccer on Fridays. Having yet to play soccer here, I asked if I could tag along. At first, I figured I’d just be watching, but they let me join them. Joining them to watch the SC Heerenveen game probably helped since I had established a connection then. Water is definitely my element. That became clearly evident tonight.


4/18 Stealing internet is not a crime, it’s a way of life. For those of us living as white mice in the international research and development sector of Leeuwarden, irregular independent variables are not strangers. We’ve been struggling with our connection from the start and have been forced to intercept signals from afar. In a feeble attempt to make a semi-working arrangement into a fulltime working process, we were given individual passwords to log on. Aside from making our speed faster, with this they could also monitor the activities of tenants as well. Yet, the passwords and login names don’t seem to match. So, we have been brought back to square one: no internet. If we have any questions or concerns, we can email them about it. Despite that ongoing adventure, I found some luck in the hands of chance on the way to Groningen. Out the window I saw a lapwing. They’re protected birds here, but mean a lot to die hard Frisians. Tradition holds that the first to spot a lapwing’s egg in the spring gets to receive a handshake and prize from the queen. Now, it’s only a handshake with a minister to the queen. However, being the first is quite the honor. Therefore, many Frisians search for them every spring, but with this large amount of people creates potential hazards for the environment. So, it leads to a clash between government regulations and preserving culture.


When I got to Groningen, I headed straight for JJ’s. He and his brother, Durk, had been windsurfing all morning and were just about to grab a bite to eat. Feeling a bit hungry and not expecting to have much dinner at the wedding, I joined them for dunch (a meal timed between lunch and dinner). We had southwestern chili wrapped in tortillas. To get to the wedding, Bas picked up Judith with a horse and carriage. From the city of Groningen, they rode all 12 kilometers to Eelde: romance is not dead. On top of that, their dance was almost professional in nature. Both learned ballroom dancing and were really talented. There’s no need for dancing at my wedding now because it will never be as good as theirs. In addition to that, before the floor was open to the rest of us, a few past students from Bas’s ballroom class performed. Their routine was flawless and masterfully conducted. Again, this further discouraged me from attempting shaking it down; that is, if I found a partner. Speaking of which, I spotted a fair lady talking to Bas that appeared to be my age. Once I finished my drink, I mustered up the strength to make myself noticeable. Fearlessly, I trotted over. Yet, a smooth introduction turned into an abrupt and awkward adieu. This ensued after I asked how she knew Bas. She replied, “well, my boyfriend…” Ciao baby. As I looked for the right time to leave, JJ questioningly signaled with the camera and I immediately waved him off: code red bail out. When I returned, Arno asked who needed to be “taken care of”. He’s a tough little guy, but I told him it wouldn’t be necessary. There are plenty o’ fish in the sea. After the final call for dances, we all enjoyed a speech from Judith and Bas. They also announced the availability of kroket sandwiches for the road. I couldn’t resist, so I grabbed two. From there, we bid the newlyweds farewell. However, our night did not end there. We proceeded to go to an establishment for gym teachers and teaching alumni, as well as a piano bar. As a result, we were out strolling the streets of Groningen until 5 A.M.


4/19 Dealing with the title of “single” is fairly simple: pretend you aren’t. One technique is to give material objects sentimental value. For JJ, it is his windsurfing board. She always sits in the passenger seat of his car. However, today I had the honor and privilege to borrow her rightful seat. Together, we headed back to Leeuwarden at 11 A.M. That didn’t give us much time to recover from last night. I had to drop off my clothes before returning to Groningen for the city tour for the international guests of the wedding. In conjunction with that, it began at four o’clock starting from Martini Tower. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable. Due to her knowledge, I learned a lot more about Groningen than I thought I ever would. We even walked along the streets that are now in the place of the past city wall. This route led us near to the initial meeting place of Bas and Judith. They met eight years ago, as of their wedding day, at a tango studio in the red light district. That tidbit made me laugh because it sounded like a risqué musical in the making. Hence, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the plot of my next book. As the true story told though, Bas and Judith were students at the time. Yet, since his partner was ill, he needed a substitute. His eyes found the young and attractive Judith. Inquiring about one dance led him into an everlasting romance. During the tour, I also got acquainted with some of the guests from Uruguay. I had the pleasure of meeting Gilda, the daughter, first. We talked on and off between each destination, which slowly let us get to know a little about each other. For dinner, our entire group went to a Greek restaurant. When dinner finished, I walked to the train station with Gilda, her mother. Gilda and her mother were staying near to Groningen, so they broke apart from us at the station. I received Gilda’s business card with a phone number and email. Too bad she’s twenty-eight, but at least it gives me a place to stay in South America.


4/20 Giving a kid a bite of birthday cake before it’s their birthday is almost as bad as getting a chance to teach two years before student teaching. The thrill and excitement of such an adventure has left me wanting more, but alas all good things must come to an end. The reality of today being my last lessons has yet to sink in. Along with that, just because Friday went so smoothly didn’t mean today would be a piece of cake either.

Count to ten Although today went very well, there were some speed bumps throughout the classes. Most of these were encountered during the first lesson, which was one I took over from Bas. He still had paid vacation for his wedding. Thankfully from my learning experiences, I was better equipped to modify my behaviors as a student teacher in times of dire need. With the observational strategies learned through classroom visits ticks became easier to spot. For instance, today I encountered a power struggle with a student. They had been in and out of their seat so much; the first two conclusions that came to mind were ants in his pants or an overactive bladder. This one took a couple of deep breaths and a little creativity to deal with, but eventually a solution came to mind.

Calling his bluff, I politely called him to the front of the class. Clearly to have such enthusiasm to be bouncing up and down, he had to have known the material backwards and forwards… not. So, I gave him a shot at power. He would take my spot at the blackboard, writing down the answers of his classmates as they shouted them out to him. After filling out one column, I commended him on his efforts with a class-wide applause and asked him to return to his seat. He hardly spoke from then on out. Apparently, overthrowing someone from power is a lot more fun than actually having it? Wait, it gets better. Later on I also spotted a student wearing headphones in the back right corner. Rather than exploding or ignoring his disrespectful classroom conduct, I discreetly exploited his behavior with a simple statement: “I see you like music young man.” Taking a step towards him with a slapstick grin painted across my face, I stared until I received a response. Stammering, he barely uttered a few incoherent mumbles and a “no… not that much” before putting them away for good. In those thirty seconds, there was no yelling, all expectations were clearly understood, and the comment was directed at the source: problem solved. Another student wasn’t feeling well, so I had to make sure she was okay during one of the periods of independent work. Yet, that was about all I could do since I wasn’t the true teacher, so she slept the entire period. At the end of the lesson, I also wondered why the pH of a solution being neutralized during my demonstration changed so quickly. When the bell rang I got my answer. A student brought to my attention that I had put the pH paper in the wrong beaker, which held the base I had been adding. Oops! Oh well, at least they were discreet about it by doing it after class, but it also would have been nice to show them the true effects as well. Again, I need to work on not worrying about time so much.


4/21 Bartering still infiltrates modern day market economies. I heard about this last night and more so early this afternoon. Though this may sound palatable, it has its detriments. Throughout his stay, Mustafa has encountered difficulties in transferring money from his university in Turkey’s account to here. Thus, paying monthly rents as well as buying food has caused him to budget wisely. Eventually, the situation led him to seek the help of our housing company for some supplemental aid. Initially, they intended to pay him 200 food stamps worth one euro each. By the end, his job was cut short and he only received 50. The fact that they were only valid at one, more expensive, grocery store didn’t help much either. That baffled me because that still neglects his ability to pay rent. A more beneficial solution may have been to deduct money off the rental payment, but everyone’s a critic. Initially, this morning I headed to the copy shop to drop off some work, although that didn’t take too long.

windmill experience


I had my meeting with my Dutch Language and Culture teacher. We were to discuss my stay in the Netherlands and above all the “three truly Dutch experiences” that I had written about for our final assignment. Of course, I had nothing but good things to say. That always makes for a wonderful conversation. So, he seemed to be beaming the entire time. It’s always good to know that someone’s had a great experience in your home country. In addition to that, we talked about the excitement of mom and dad coming as well as some of my other favorite experiences here (i.e. working at the windmill, my weekend in IJsselmuiden, and getting acquainted with the other international students). I have no complaints and no regrets. It’s truly been a learning experience. Apparently, a reporter was searching for me to discuss aspects of my experience abroad. Ironically, I ran into them on their way out from the building as I was heading in. We had a nice chat about my experience and then I handed over a copy of the book. Then I called one more reporter and gave a similar run down.* Once that was finished, our landlord stopped by Kanaalstraat to help me work out the kinks with the internet access. It appears they just gave me the wrong password, so now everything’s back to normal. Aside from that, the ten-minute rule should now apply to laundry. A beautiful principle once used for leaving swim practice in the absence of a coach, I now propose to modify for punishing inappropriate clothes cleansing. Selfishness shall not be tolerated in our family at Kanaalstraat. All usable machines were taken. Two of them were by Rossana: no worries there. The other five were barely filled and most likely were used by the same person. Although their cycle was done, they left the clothes in there for half the night. When Rossana had finished at least she was nice enough to notify me, so I could get mine done without having the machines stolen again.


4/22 Traveling in rush hour is like trying to fit an elephant in the front seat of a car. With each station leading up to Schiphol, the pressure in our balloon of a train car slowly increased. The additional mass to volume ratio created with the overwhelming entry of passengers forced me into the reject section of the car: right by the door. Despite the isolation, it made my exit much smoother. Mom and dad were to meet me at the Starbucks by the ticket kiosk. Upon arrival, I didn’t see mom and dad so I thought I’d get ahead of the game and purchase tickets for the ride to Leeuwarden. Plus, the line looked treacherous, which meant either buy now or never. When I got done, I waited for a good half an hour for mom and dad. Getting nervous with the train departure nearing, I tried mom’s cell phone: nothing. What had happened? I soon got my answer. They had been waiting just as long as I at the other Starbucks. How could there have possibly been another? Schiphol didn’t even seem large enough for the necessity, although Starbucks can be a little over the top.

heading for Schiphol Unfortunately, due to our delay in meeting, greetings were kept simple because we had to scoot to make the train. We made it on

time for that, but back in Leeuwarden, we missed out on checking in at the boat at one. So, we had to wait until four to do so. Hence, we first dropped off the luggage at my room. With a vast abundance in time, I decided to begin with as much of a tour of Leeuwarden as possible. Throughout the entire duration, it became a hybrid version of what we did with ESN (European Student Network) and also what Ciska and Kirsten showed me too. On the initial round, we traveled through the city center and sought for a suitable location for lunch. Towards the end of the central street, we stopped at a corner snack restaurant. There, I introduced mom and dad to Frikadel Speciaal and fries with mayonnaise: fantastic. However, we had to make a pause in our introduction because I had to be back at Kanaalstraat to meet another person from the local newspapers. They would be taking a photograph. When their correspondent arrived, they asked to do the photo in the living room with a few friends. Ana and Won were the lucky winners, since they were the only ones home during prime time for classes. However, Won and I both agreed that the living room may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing area, but that’s what they wanted. So, we went with it. Hopefully, it turns out nice. Afterwards, mom, dad, and I got to meet Marien (Chris’s wife). She gave us a grand tour of the Johanna Laetitia, the canal boat mom and dad would be staying on for the upcoming week. During this time, she went over all the safety precautions, explained the terms of agreement, and shared some excitement for their visit. I’ll never regret having interviewed Chris the owner of that boat for that school project. And found out about this lodging. Their family truly has been great. For the concluding tour, mom, dad, and I went past Oldehove and Zaailand. Then, I treated them to De Dikke van Dale, which is quite possibly the greatest restaurant in Leeuwarden. A fair price with unbelievable food is unbeatable. Again, mom continued to be camera crazy as she had been throughout the day. There are more pictures of dad and I now than all the years combined leading up to this trip. Finally, we stopped at the grocery store to stock up for breakfasts and lunches in the days to come. It’s going to be very busy.


4/23 Preparing for a press conference is more nerve racking than waiting intently behind the blocks for a race. This is especially true for perfectionists. I always wish to do everything right and well. Hence, all symptoms and side effects are enhanced. Palms sweat, knees become weak, and the heart begins to race. I can imagine the only other occasion to provoke these feelings would be to propose. Therefore, to combat this corresponding stress, I stuck a note in my shoe that stated, “relax”. Though passive by nature, that seemed to help a lot.

Michael Nocella & Willem Smink Likewise, six degrees of separation is a thing of the past. According to Gerard, only three handshakes separate Queen Beatrix and myself. Today, I came one step closer with my introduction with Willem Smink, the president of the NHL. It was greatly appreciated that he took time out of his schedule to accept my publication. This occurred in the lounge beside the cafeteria. In addition to that, at my book press conference, I handed over the second “first copy” to Frits Pals. He had traveled with his wife all the way from Delfzijl to see this presentation. What an honor. Apparently, a good impression was made on my first school visit.

Others that came a long way were Kirsten and Ciska. I couldn’t believe both came. Their presence was icing on the cake. Along with that, some members of the international family came too. This included Pablo, David, Bori, and Katri. Two random older students entering the teacher education program also appeared. We definitely had a lot more guests than I thought we would. When coupled with quality of the speech given by Willem Smink, things went a lot smoother than I had anticipated.

Frits Pals, Fivel College Delfzijl Similarly, I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time this morning. This allowed me to run into two more people from the past: Douwe Anema from Dockinga College in Ferwerd and one of the student teachers I met at the Zernike Montessori School in Groningen. Since my time is slowly winding down, seeing them proved nice because it allowed me to officially say goodbye, or shall I say “until next time”. After we finally made it out of the building without seeing anyone, mom, dad, and I worked our way back to the boat. Then we all changed into more comfortable clothes. Then, lunch became the most important part of our agenda. Having liked the snack stand from yesterday, I decided to expand their cultural cuisine intake by getting kroketten today. From there, we walked to the

Cambuur Stadium and did some grocery shopping. I made a point of grabbing a pack of stroopwafels. However, introducing them to sweet heavenly goodness may have been deadly. On our walk, we picked up a copy of the Leeuwarder Courant to check out the article they had written about my stay in the Netherlands. Won and my picture were blown up in one of the middle sections. Later, I told him about it and both he and Ana bought a copy to keep. When he turned to the desired page, he erupted in laughter. It echoed throughout the entire train station and brought even more attention on us. We may be world famous in Leeuwarden, but we’d like to keep that on the down low. At six, Sanne picked up the parents and I just outside of Kanaalstraat. With Butterfingers, and Mountain Dew from the States for Sanne, and a hearty appetite, we headed over to his house for dinner. His cats were entertaining as always. As mom and Sanne peeled potatoes for the stamppot, the cats tried to steal the shavings. After a James Bond move, stealthily making its way underneath Sanne’s chair, one successfully retrieved a few. To conclude our evening and meal, we enjoyed a slice of sweet Frisian bread. Then, he was kind enough to drive us back as far as Kanaalstraat. In addition to that, on this night I also had to bid Hanne farewell. She leaves at the end of the week, and I’ll be gone to Noord Holland for the remainder of her stay. Yet, I can’t do goodbyes. In fact, it appears that I try and avoid them. When Hanne knocked on our door, I thought it was solely those that typically knock on my door when there is a party. After a long day of walking and talking, I was in no mood for nightlife. Plus, most people knock at the door for Won and not myself. So, I ignored the uncontrolled sleep depriving and figured if they wanted him that bad he had to be woken up from the commotion to get the door himself. Yet, everybody knows what assuming does, so you can only guess how wrong I was. Also, when it comes to adieus, I still never know what to say or how to say it.


4/24 Godzilla’s powers have been relinquished over to a bunch of tourists, including myself. Fortunately, this transfer did not lead to improper use or destruction. Yet, towering over the tallest people in the world never seemed so simple. Only at Madurodam in Den Haag is this possible. We headed there by train after having breakfast on the boat with Ciska. It’s basically a miniature maze that gives a guided tour of the Netherlands. It’d be a great place to hit upon arriving to the country. I had previously heard about it from the Bethels before I left the United States and what an awesome suggestion it was. Thanks to Ciska, that possibility became a reality. We did the first ¾ of the massive fun land before getting lunch at a café within the complex. Then, we finished up and headed to the train station via tram.

Houses of Parliament in The Hague (Den Haag) On our train ride, Dad caught the sights on the upper deck, while mom and I slept for most of the train ride. Therefore, he was the lucky one because it’s a nice time of year to take a train in this part of the Netherlands.

tulip fields forever He had the privilege of seeing vast and beautiful tulip fields. Even though the train was deemed “express” the ride was still an hour and a half from Ciska’s family in Heerhugowaard. Once we hit the first stop in Alkmaar, we only had two stops left until we were at our final destination. Edith, Ciska’s mother, picked us up at the station in Heerhugowaard. Her father, Tom, greeted us at their home. Their beautiful house had an exquisite garden that set a tranquil ambiance perfect for lounging around on the finest spring days in Holland. Thus, appetizers were served there as a warm-up under a canopy. As far as socialization was concerned, the funniest thing about listening to parents talk is when they share child-rearing stories. The starting points are always the same. If possible, baby pictures are always brought out. Then, stories progress throughout childhood and we all end up laughing about all of these embarrassing moments that I’d probably rather forget before knowing them. For dinner, we had a hodgepodge of dishes. All of them were fantastic, especially the herring and baked vegetable wrapped in ham. Mom liked the dessert plate. Cookies and stroopwafels sat on it. Dad is really shocked that no one has brought them to the United States. Perhaps that could be our family business.

4/25 Continental breakfasts seemed to have originated in Europe. I’m quite fond of them now that I’ve experienced them in the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria. With minimal differences among them, I hope to find them elsewhere in travels later in life to other countries throughout Europe as well. Ours contained the typical meat, cheese, and rolls, but also very common Dutch elements: hagelslag and beschuit en muisjes. Hagelslag is similar to chocolate sprinkles and a beschuit en muisjes is a rough biscuit with a sugarcoated seed for a topping. The latter of the two is more commonly eaten with celebration of a child’s birth.

beschuit met muisjes In order to work off all of the calories we just consumed, we had to find an adequate form of exercise. On our excursion, we found a couple of places to do just that. The first came within the first ten minutes of the drive. Near to Heerhugowaard, we spotted a magnificent tulip field. Having no fences to block our pathway, we pulled off to the side of the road and decided to have a closer look. Every flower seemed to be in full bloom. Their hybrid yellow and

red hue consumed the field in a sea of vibrant color. Yet, although we could have stayed there all day absorbing their comforting presence, we had to move on to the next stop. Our sights were set on Kolhorn, a small village not too far away, but beforehand we paused to have a look at the locks in a channel. With it being such a nice day, we had high hopes for a boat to pass through. Despite the fact that one came up, it decided to dock instead of proceed. Tom was an engineer and had previously worked with the infamous “Delta Works” project tackled by the top engineers throughout the entire Netherlands to combat the encroaching sea. Thus, he took some time to explain the dynamics of the station. At Kolhorn, walking seemed to be the main activity. Each step got us further acquainted with the quaint Dutch village. Indeed it was very tiny, but also very beautiful. Edith had her fiftieth birthday party there. So, she knew the most about the town and served as our tour guide. At the conclusion of her tour, we ate at a café that was located where the sea used to be. Had that been the case, it would have been impossible for me to get strawberry cake and Fanta there. Anytime someone wants to go to a city here, it’s better to go by bus, train, or bike. Public or perspiration transportation rules over automobiles. Hence, we took the bus right by their house to Alkmaar. Having not eaten too much and already being midday, we all enjoyed a lunch in the city center outside the historic cheese factory/museum. To go along with this, Alkmaar is the cheese capitol of the Netherlands. I thought I had escaped any trace of Packer fans, but I seemed to be in the Green Bay of the Netherlands. Now all they need are those ridiculous cheese wedge hats that make Wisconsin folk stick out like sore thumbs. We yearned to learn more about this wonderful historic city. A boat tour awaited us. However, it did not start for a half an hour. So, we did a small loop around the center of the city. The route took us safely through cobble stone streets and ended just on the other side of the red light district. I’m surprised mom and dad seemed okay as we walked through it, especially since they were busier than other red light districts I’ve seen. Anyway, thankfully, we didn’t see any of our neighbors, so we headed straight to the boat afterwards. It would lead us throughout the central ring of canals that surrounded the city. In addition to that, the tour got us out of our seats: literally. Aside from the dazzling 16th and 17th

century gables, we had to be aware of the extremely low bridges. Fortunately, everyone made it out unharmed, but I think dad may have less hair now when we got on the boat. Another nice aspect of the tour was that they gave it both in Dutch and English. Therefore, we could understand more of what they were talking about. Afterwards, we took another stroll throughout some other hot spots incapable for the boat to cover such as the city hall, fish market, and the flower boat. By the time all was said and done, we had to run to the bus. At Ciska’s parent’s home, we joined them for one last meal before heading back to Leeuwarden. Her dad insisted that I try a seasonal beer made by Grolsch: Lente Bok (Spring Buck). It had a crisp bitter taste that complimented the cheese and crackers quite well before our main course of lasagna. After saying goodbye to Ciska’s parents, we took the bus for two hours back to Leeuwarden. As soon as I sat down, I finally realized how difficult and tiring sight seeing can be without sunglasses. Squinting hurts. Once we reached the afsluitdijk, we waved goodbye to the tulip fields and the province of Noord Holland as we returned yet again to good ole Friesland.


4/26 Leisurely days are best spent on the water. Seeing as the Netherlands, and Friesland in particular, is notorious for vast canals and bodies of water in general, where better to spend them? Melchior, an advisor from the NHL University, made this dream come true. He had a boat in a town just outside of Leeuwarden on the way to Sneek called Warten. However, no trains run there, nor was it advantageous to take a bus. So, out of the kindness in his heart, he picked us up from the boat mom and dad are staying on.

Within no time, we were at the docks. There, his wife, AnneMarie, greeted us. She had been expecting us at that time, and after a brief introduction, we boarded the Wartena, which was named after the boat his grandfather lost his life on during World War II. Before we knew it, we were already in open water. Our trail sent us circling through a national park and areas filled with summer cottages. It seemed like a nice place to enjoy hot days in June and July since it appeared to be secluded from any major cities and highways. One farm that we passed actually could only be accessed by boat. That’d be an expensive, but peaceful way to live. About a third of the way into our journey, Melchior told me to take the

helm. As a green horn for a first mate, I felt honored in receiving the promotion to skipper for most of the trip. Despite how dangerous that may have sounded, I took necessary measures for safety and navigational assistance. For example, Anne-Marie brought out finger food in the middle of our tour. Hence, I had mom or dad hand me food so that I could keep my eye on the water and boats surrounding us, especially since the greater majority of the traveling was spent in narrow canals or waterways. When we finished, Melchior took over again to park the boat and we headed back to Leeuwarden. Yet, dinner still needed to be accomplished. A few boats down from our temporary home, we could easily find a pancake ship. Of course, mom and dad couldn’t leave the Netherlands without experiencing a true “Dutch” pancake. Dad and I thought we picked a pancake from the menu. The additional salad caught our eye for a healthier option. It turned out that it was an actual meal opposed to a pancake, but we still got some of mom’s so everything turned out great anyway.


4/27 Questing for a fresh baker’s dozen can be difficult at seven in the morning. Mondays are rough. I understand that, but what goes better with the finest cheese producing country in the world other than fresh rolls from the oven? That’s right, nothing. Despite striving to achieve perfection, I learned that today’s deeds should have been performed yesterday. After visiting two potential suppliers, Albert Heijn and a local bakery, I discovered they clearly do not open until after eight. Through the window of the bakery, I had seen a worker. With a smile and thumbs up I tried to signal at whether or not they were open. Sadly, he shook his head in rejection. Even the sky cried with me, as I returned to the boat, defeated by my failure.

Aside from that, everything else went quite splendidly this morning. We made it with plenty of time in Harlingen to make the boat crossing to Terschelling at a quarter till ten. Its name was the MS Friesland. This one-way cruise was the slower of two options. Thus, although very comfortable, it took two hours to reach Terschelling. That’s where a good deck of cards comes into play. Retrieving mine from my backpack prompted a solid game of Rummy 500 that lasted until fifteen minutes prior to our arrival. Had we quit at 500, I would have won. Then, tiredness from the

night before set in and it was all downhill from there. Little by little dad caught up and eventually overtook me for the grand prize: bragging rights. I’ll get him next time. Upon exiting the ship, instincts took over. With a long voyage and a smaller breakfast this morning, hunger set in quickly. Snack stands right off the pier came to our rescue. That led us to stop at the Aike van Aike Vishandel. Up until this point, mom and dad had yet to experience the greatness of Kibbeling. So, we each got our own basket. That would be enough of a solid meal to hold us over until dinner.

From there, we walked to the lighthouse in the center of town. Aside from the architecture, Terschelling differed greatly from the rest of the Netherlands. For instance, typically, towns are easier to trek through because the ground across the Dutch mainland is extremely flat, but on the islands, that is not always the case. Hence, getting to the central square where the lighthouse sat gave us a neat variation from the norm as far as layout was concerned. This was especially true and seen from our next destination: the highest point on the island. On one side the town slowly stepped into the sea with the set of tiered streets and buildings, while the opposite side gazed into the dunes and beaches rolling towards the sea. Its beauty drew us closer, so after catching a panoramic view of the island, we headed in that direction. At that point, we realized

how extensive the island could be without a bike. So, we stayed within certain parameters trotting around taking photos until we saw the first wave of storms coming. With a spring in our step, we tried to outrun it by walking in the complete opposite direction. Alas, Mother Nature always wins and we got nailed with pea sized hail. Yet, again we couldn’t go too far because walking the entire island would be impossible in one day. Plus, we had a deadline for the boat back to the mainland. So, we went around the bend just outside the harbor and walked back to the center of the village of West-Terschelling. Halfway there, wave number two of storms commenced with a powerful rain. Even with jackets and a flimsy umbrella, it was too much. A hotel in the distance became our refuge. We stood outside it for shelter no longer than ten minutes and then the rain ceased. After grabbing a small ice cream cone, we were able to walk around for another half hour or so with no sign of precipitation. However, the Gods enjoyed playing games with us today. Thus, wave three came out of nowhere. Although it wasn’t as severe as the others, it prompted us to stop at the Koffiehuis het Wakend Oog until the sun returned. Like clockwork, its shining grace came as soon as we finished our drinks. By this time though, time was working against us and we had to slowly make our way back to the boat. We made sure to take the fast boat back to Harlingen. It took less than half the time of the other boat. Back at Kanaalstraat, Ali prepared us a wonderful traditional Turkish meal in his room. He was too afraid to have mom see our communal kitchen because the cleanliness didn’t suit his standards. Yet, the small room actually made for a comfortable environment and he did a lot to enhance the atmosphere. For example, this included the formal table setting and a couple of candles. Usually you don’t have much to work with in student housing, but we’ve always tried to make it work. Let’s just put it this way, only on Thanksgiving and at home-cooked meals have I ever left a meal this satisfied. I never imagined that restaurant quality presentation could be possible in Kanaalstraat student housing, but he somehow did it. On top of that, he gave mom a beautiful miniature kerchief used by Turkish women while dancing. Being a dancer, she found it to be really neat. It’s very easy to tell which people give to the world more than they take from it and that’s something to be admired.

4/28 Spending a night on a canal boat puts a whole new meaning to sleeping like a baby. The soft serenade of water along with a comfortable mattress makes for the right combination. Thus, I found it to be no problem waking up this morning. Swiftly sitting upright at the sound of my alarm, I quickly cracked opened the door and wished mom a happy birthday. However, I couldn’t linger around for any morning celebrations because I had to head to Kanaalstraat. I’d figured that I’d be checking out, but no one showed up after waiting a half an hour later than what I thought was the intended meeting time. At least I was able to drop off the rest of the stuff to Ciska, despite waking her. Then, I scurried back to the boat to pick up mom and dad because we were to catch a train to Groningen. With them here, I’ve really been able to use my korting (discount) card to its full potential. Saving 40% on expensive train fares is a great feeling. Bas and Judith’s welcomed us with open arms. Being early birds, they invited us in while they got ready. Shortly thereafter, Bas and Judith were ready for our lunch date. So, out in the rain we went. With one umbrella and a set of thin windbreakers, we battled it all the to the other side of town. There, just outside of the old city wall, we found the Groningen pancake ship. Now came time for dad and I to get our orders correct. Throughout the entire meal, we had a nice chat. With no surprise, most of it revolved around study abroad and teaching. Can you guess why? Towards the end, Bas rushed to the bathroom. However, I thought he was paying, so I followed for an epic tab talk. Due to this improper lead, I actually came across as having suave skills, which worked out in our favor. Thus, we got the payment over with early and no one had to fight about it or run the risk of going “Dutch”. So it felt good to give something back in the greatest form: food. Later on in Peize, we enjoyed another day of relaxation: a comfortable environment for the future rich and famous. Speaking of which, Gerard and I had our picture taken by the Dagblad van het Noorden. It is a newspaper that covers the provinces of Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. The official article comes out on May 1st. Other than that, dinner seemed to have four or five courses. During which, we ate a heart-shaped potato that Meta had found

earlier. She referred to it as the “lucky love” potato. I guess that means Cupid has moved on from out dated bows and arrows to culinary courtship. Anyway, Mom really enjoyed the goat’s cheese with a drop of honey warmed over a salad. Finally, she’s reaping the benefits of trying new foods.

Dagblad van het Noorden As always, the hardest words to say were “goodbye”. Although that may have been so, the knowledge that we’ll keep contact reassured us. Yet, coming face to face with the reality of this fairy tale of a dream coming to an end is still frightening.


4/29 Eventually, it came time for me to leave. Despite that, I couldn’t go unless I visited the roof of Kanaalstraat. I have never been in shape for acrobatics, but somehow I was still walking thereafter. On the highest point of the roof, I received a beautiful view of Leeuwarden’s nighttime skyline: a panoramic glimpse forever remembered. Bidding my international friends farewell, hugs and kisses went all around, as the final bell tolled at Kanaalstraat. I knew the fact that I would be leaving would hit me sooner or later, but I never thought it’d hit me like a ton of bricks.

Leeuwarder Courant



4/30 Much like every Christmas Eve, on Queen’s Night I could hardly sleep anticipating the excitement of the day to come. Instead of listening for Reindeer trotting on the rooftop, I tossed and turned at the slightest sound of what I hoped to be Ajax fans and the Family of Orange outside the boat. Initially, I pictured most people, young, old, and everything in between, in a similar predicament. They too should have been eager to bust out clothes with sentimental value equal to that of a tattered holiday sweater. Only in this case, another image came to mind. Deep in the closet they’d search, behind all that is worn to church, to find an old orange t-shirt. In addition to that, lately, I’ve been receiving more visits than when Santa Claus comes to town, although I’m too old and brittle to have people sit on my lap. After I finished buying my tickets to Zwolle, mom and I decided to explore Leeuwarden’s city center festivities with the extra time we had. Anticipating a sea of Tropicana orange juice, we felt a little out of place as most people were dressed in typical daily attire. Now I just think everyone told us to dress in such a way so the locals could pinpoint all the tourists. However, nothing could have prepared us for the image of the vast street-wide market, live music, and party before us. It’d be as if the Taste of Chicago were combined with a citywide garage sale and a dab of Independence Day: simply magnificent. With time against us, we could only do a small stretch of the endless resale agora before returning to the boat. As we waited for Chris and his family to check us out, I threw orange tulips to boats passing by. Bon voyage! Shortly after two or three boats passed, Chris, Marien, and Ids arrived. They checked us out and then drove our luggage to the train station. Originally, mom, dad, and I planned to go to Apeldoorn. It was the fiftieth anniversary of Queen’s Day, so that’s where her and the rest of the royal family would make an appearance: an opportunity almost impossible to pass up. However, as a last second decision we felt it’d be better to spend more time with Kirsten and Niels before we left the Netherlands. Much to our surprise, when they received us in Zwolle, they relayed startling news involving a tragedy in Apeldoorn. An attack had been made on the royal family that also resulted in collateral damage. At that point, mom and dad

were counting their blessings that we made the decision not to go there, while I, on the other hand, was overcome with worry. Outside of the majority of my friends that ventured to Amsterdam, some also sought the sight of nobility and tradition in Apeldoorn. Who knew if they had been among the injured or killed? I could only hope that destiny had kept them out of harm’s way. When we got to Kampen/IJsselmuiden, Kirsten gave us two tours of their street markets. The vastness still mystified me. We occasionally had garage sales throughout my childhood, but nothing this organized. Despite the tragic events that cast a shadow upon the day, I was glad to see Kampen and IJsselmuiden still lighting up the streets in a dazzling display of unity. It came as a wonderful conclusion to a life-changing trip. The ends finally justified the means, as this “unofficial” graduation celebration marked the accomplishments of the journey. Our street side band built up a solid beat until the first signs of night. Upon which, the lamp parade took over marching to their drum almost on par with the conclusion of “Sweet Home Chicago”: ironic, cliché, and ever so perfectly placed. Their singlefile procession strode past homes and countrymen: families, friends and the like. The torches swayed with the curves of the cobblestone streets and continued across the bridge separating the sister cities until slowly fading out of sight.


Goodbye from Germany All good things come to an end, but greater things are always to come. Just as mom and I had done on Queen’s Day in Leeuwarden, for our last day with family in Germany, a final visit to the center of Munich was in order; it was relxing to stroll through different sectors of the city. During that time, we stopped in a church that was built by a philanthropist. For not being too old, it still mimicked the exquisite architecture of the historical churches built hundreds of years ago. Earlier, Katri from Finland and I had made it a mission to visit the heart of every Dutch town: their churches. We did so on bike rides around the Frisian countryside. They not only served as student-tourist hotspots, but also showed progress as checkpoints along our adventures. Although I intended to bid Europe adieu from Germany, the ritual still held sentimental worth. This time, however, it marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another on a scale greater than kilometers.

An ocean in between When I step on the plane tomorrow, I leave a lot behind: friends, family, and parts of me that I’ve changed through maturity and experience. An ocean may separate us, but our spirits will always

be with one another. These are times I’ll miss, but rejoice through writing and future visits. All in all, I’m very different, but very much myself. I’ll be a stranger to those that knew me as the naïve boy that left from the sheltered Chicago suburbs, but a man to those that understand me as the young man that emerged from the Dutch countryside. I’ll finally experience a bittersweet fit for the typical three-kiss greeting and goodbye. It’d be a nice custom to bring back to the US. Alas, just like a handshake with the right and the reception of a diploma with the left, it was done. I’d graduated. Although it felt like I had left my entire life behind me, the fear of an uncertain future hardly held up against the excitement of new adventures to come. Whether it’s a boat headed out to sea or the last glimpsed candle held on the horizon and blown out at dusk, in time, light will shine in front of footsteps making a new path apparent. Illinois farmers have a saying suitable for the occasion. With respect to corn, they often say it should be “knee high by the fourth of July”. Well, their adage may transcend agriculture. Through the midst of the fireworks of accomplishment I cannot lose sight of the fact that I’m knee high and still growing.


While spending three and a half months observing and teaching within the Dutch school system, I sought to answer a set of predetermined questions. The following answers pertain solely to my personal experience, findings, and insights collected from visits to eleven schools located in the Northern Netherlands. Therefore, in noting trends understood from a personal perspective such findings may or may not be validated by the experience of others. 1. What are the dominant factors that teachers use to decide what to do in their classrooms in the Netherlands? When it comes to a teacher’s classroom, the average psychologist would agree that several factors contribute to behavior. They may be conscious or unconscious. In addition, some are readily adjustable and others are not. Some sit on the sidelines, playing a minor role, while others are an integral component in the classroom. Although slight variations exist among different schools, there is not enough circumstantial evidence to doubt the significance of general trends across all high schools. For instance, the government controls them all. These influences may be harder to notice, but others are more distinctly visible. For example they each have a particular format, track students based on ability, and adapt to the desires of students. First and foremost, the government always has something to say. Although teachers would like to assume nearly complete freedom of reign within their classroom, the government’s voice is in the back of their heads. Thus, their power and influence is often underestimated. In the government’s eyes, students deserve equal opportunities regardless of socioeconomic status, creed, gender, or ethnicity. Regulation is necessary to establish balance and fairness. However, by setting standards for all students, it imposes limitations in curriculum thereby diminishing flexibility and preventing certain students from excelling or causing others to fail. Teachers may not realize it, but they fall into the trap of “teaching to the test”. Hence, teachers may not be able to build on the strengths and desires of students. Learning is enhanced by interest, so motivating disinterested students can be an exhausting struggle.

These battles transfer the hands of control to students and at that point all hope is lost. Along with that, the format of a school can play a significant role in how a teacher behaves in the classroom. In the Netherlands, there are four main types of schools: religious, Montessori, traditional, and free. All are funded equally by the government and are required to accept students regardless of their location within the country. Yet, some schools do have applications and entry standards, but it pertains more to assuring the same ideology between students and school. Thus, each type of school caters to different types of students. Although their rituals and methodology may vary, the goals and function are very much the same: promote learning. As far as the most common types of schools are concerned, they remain traditional and religious. Basically, religious schools are public schools that are associated with a particular Christian faith. In fact, students can opt out of religious studies by parental request. In addition, students are not required to wear uniforms and there are no extra tuition fees. They do, however, begin each day with a short prayer. Aside from that, very few other barriers exist between the traditional and religious schools. Classroom layouts are adjusted based on subject and building age. In newer buildings, classrooms are becoming more open. Commonly, typical classrooms are knocking down their walls so that classrooms exist harmoniously among one another. This layout has many tradeoffs. Openness creates a relaxed environment because students aren’t as inclined to feel trapped, but it comes at the sacrifice of attention. With other classes in close proximity, teachers need to keep their students moving. These sorts of environments are great for labs and other hands on activities, but videos, tests, and conventional lectures would be useless. Although, due to the age of most facilities and available funding, classroom designs of yesteryear still dominate. In addition to that, traditional and religious schools thrive on individually motivated learning through instruction. Students are expected to have intrinsic motivation. Teachers follow textbook chapters and most often lecture from the front of the classroom. However, lecture is most commonly in the form of engaging students with inquiry based questioning. This keeps students on their toes and involved. Thus, it comes as no surprise that students

are not afraid to participate. They have been conditioned to do so. Also, there are distinct divisions between lab and lecture. Sometimes, as seen at Piter Jelles in Leeuwarden, it is up to the students to sign up for their labs to complete them independently. Hence, teachers often hold students accountable for their grades in the form of responsibility. Despite treating them as adults in this fashion, there is a clear division between teachers and students. Teachers are referred to in a formal fashion by title and surname. Yet, ironically, it is not common for teachers to come to school in dress clothes. It helps a teacher relate to students on a particular informal level, but it takes away from the level of respect students acquire for a teacher. Aside from the mainstream schools, there are two other less common ideologies: Montessori and free. Montessori schools focus on project-centered learning. Teachers devise and approve these broad assignments, but students select the topic. The only stipulation is that the topic must be within the parameters of the course. Teachers are the facilitators for learning, but students are ultimately responsible. Interpersonal relations are a key factor in their pedagogy. Group learning between students is essential. The teacher is used as a last resort for information. Therefore, teachers prefer students to help each other. During lecture, they too focus on questioning students. However, if a student poses an incorrect answer the teacher does not correct and explain; they ask other students to assist. In contrast from other schools, teachers also create a more personal relationship with the students. They too do not wear dress clothes to class. Despite the typical intended separation between students and teachers, students refer to them on a first name basis. This works well for the teachers that are thereby seen as an older sibling figure, but for the others this makes management difficult. Another alternative high school is the free high school. This principle originated from the innovative Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. He proposed that students control their learning based on interests, which ultimately allow them to follow their destiny. These schools expand upon student interests and project the material in relatable terms defined by everyday life. Students do not have nor do they use textbooks. They create their own from a combination of notes, illustrations, and homework assignments in a glorified lab notebook. Also, every morning they start with a

poem recital written by Rudolf Steiner. It is similar to the pledge of allegiance, but promotes education rather than nationalism. In addition, at the beginning and ending of every class, the instructor shakes the hand of every student. For the first two hours of every day, student ability groups are also mixed. Afterwards, they are separated. Thus, teachers need to be flexible to more diverse student needs. Although these ritualistic differences exist, similarities to other schools do as well. Free schools seem to mix and match Montessori and traditional ideals. Much like Montessori schools, students play an integral part in controlling the learning, while the teacher acts mainly as a facilitator. On the flip side, more like the traditional schools, free schools tend to use a balance of individual and group learning. Within the schools, tracking can also greatly influence the behavior and pedagogy of a teacher. Starting at age twelve, students are tracked based on a crucial decision with the combined input of parents, students, and teachers. All together, there are five main levels. One level, VMBO, prepares students for the workforce or a higher education experience at a trade school (MBO). Teachers mold instruction to centralize the education on experience. Practical work takes precedence over theoretical studies. Hence, teachers devise more lab work reflecting realistic conditions opposed to conducting standard lectures. At the next level, HAVO, students receive a relatively equal amount of practical and theoretical instruction. Depending on their progress, they can either head to a trade school or a baccalaureate college (HBO = University of applied sciences). Next are VWO and Atheneum. Theoretical instruction is a priority over practical knowledge. These students most often feed into a master’s university, but they can attend baccalaureate institutions or trade schools as well. Atheneum also receives a Latin lesson, but not Greek. At the highest level, Gymnasium, students receive almost no practical instruction and learn a combination of Latin and Greek. Content coverage dominates. The majority of students proceed to master’s universities. Last but not least, another dominant influence affecting teachers are the desires of students. It is undoubtedly the most obvious and the strongest influence. Students send signals to teachers that suggest go on, take a step back, or this is a good pace. They also encourage expansion of ideas based on enthusiasm. Therefore, if

students lack interest for a certain topic, teachers either will only touch on major topics and move quickly or concoct activities to captivate students. In addition, classrooms need to be dynamic in order to address the needs of various learners. Auditory learners are a minority, so lecture should be held to a minimum. Thus, teachers will formulate activities based on their unique student body. Broader projects and hands on activities accommodate more students, allowing them to work with their strengths and not be hindered by their weaknesses. Likewise, the more relatable the material is to their life, the higher their attention will be on the lesson. Antsy students are unfocused. In what ways is the notion of what should be learned (by whom) in chemistry, the same or different than in the USA? Teachers are like neurons. They send and receive messages to and from a variety of locations. If more senders and receivers are on the same page as the teacher, the more effectively a classroom runs. Reactions to these signals vary between the United States and the Netherlands. In the United States, teachers tend to listen more to the desires of parents, the administration, and the government. They control the paycheck, so they control the class. With respect to the government, in accordance with NCLB, all students regardless of ability need to show yearly progress with respect to state standardized tests in certain content areas. Therefore, the student body is seen as a whole rather than a group of individuals. Teachers set their focus on content rather than practicality. Essentially, the pace of a course is determined by the teacher and government, rather than by the students. There is a definitive amount of content to cover in a finite amount of time. However, this method does not account for the students that have difficulties with taking tests nor does it measure their complete learning. Hence, classroom environments sacrifice content relation and life skills for scores. Across the world, in the Netherlands, practices differ. In part this is due to the tracking of students. They recognize the various learning needs among different students, thereby transferring the speed of the course into the hands of students. Based on their behavior, teachers know when to advance and what subjects to elaborate on. Although, at the higher levels, especially in the

Gymnasium, classes are more test oriented. Higher students are taught to the test, whereas lower students are prepared for the professional workforce. Therefore, rather than learning the same material across the board, students in different groups learn separate aspects of chemistry. For example, at the lower levels, students may learn about different concentrations of octane in gasoline and how they pertain to the efficiency of an engine, whereas higher-level students may focus on the more innate qualities of petrol: raw chemistry. This is because certain students are tracked for trade schools, which require more practical knowledge, opposed to the university bound students, which require research knowledge. Hence, teachers mold the curriculum based on their students. Who controls the pace of the classroom (teachers or students)? Determining when to step on the gas, or hit the brakes can be initiated by a variety of factors depending upon the country. In the Netherlands, students have nearly complete control of the pace. This can go as far as teacher behavior as well. Depending upon the student body, teachers may write an agenda on the board for their assistance. It is not a common practice, but they are always subject to change. Often times, a teacher may say that ten minutes will be spent on an activity. Based on how the students respond to the material could easily change the length to fifteen or twenty minutes. Thus, how students respond is a gauge for the teacher, signaling move on or slow down. In conjunction with that, questions that the students ask tell the teacher when to elaborate, cover extra material due to heightened interest, or what has potentially been missed. Overall student behavior during each lesson also influences the pace. When the students are rowdier, more time is spent on material. They don’t leave students in a lurch. There is no rush to move at a steady or fast pace if the students have difficulty keeping up. Is there a particular sequence followed by instructors at the high school level for material acquisition (syllabus)? In accordance with the government’s desires, teachers are required to touch upon certain topics throughout the year. Thus,

they may have a general idea of the topics to get through within the school year or a given lesson, but it is not explicitly stated in the form of a document. At some schools, the teacher does not devise the assignments either. For instance, at Fivelcollege in Delfzijl and Piter Jelles in Leeuwarden, there are science lab assistants. In Delfzijl, at least for the VMBO component, the teachers tell these assistants the material that will be covered in a given week. Then the assistants devise assignments accordingly. Also, a syllabus would never be found in a free school. Having such a document would limit the students’ ability to create their own textbooks and mold their learning to fit their interests. Additionally, at the Montessori school, they seem to have a sequence developed for content coverage based on previous years, but it is for the teachers to use as guidelines. Student behavior and material acquisition speed ultimately controls the timetable. How is the school system arranged in the Netherlands, and how does it seem to function? As far as the schools are concerned, there are several cells that build up the intricate body that is the Netherlands’s high school system. With respect to school size, the enrollment may be over a thousand, but campuses, age, or buildings usually separate the students. At Fivelcollege in Delfzijl, their population levels off at around 1050 students. All of the students are at the same campus, regardless of age, but three buildings that reflect their ability tracking separate them. So, due to the sectioning, students can feel as if they are in a school of 350. Piter Jelles in Leeuwarden takes a similar stance on having all student age groups in the same building, but students are not sectioned off to different sectors based on ability. Their enrollment for one campus is 1200. They have two or three campuses altogether in Leeuwarden, but one is a Gymnasium. Those, although affiliated at times with certain schools, have been at different locations for every school visited thus far. Building separation based on ability, aside from the Gymnasium, is also not the case for Zernike College in Groningen, Vrije School Groningen, Dockinga College Ferwerd, and Zernike Montessori in Groningen. All except the Vrije School, however, do separate by age between campuses. These age groupings are cut straight down the middle. Students ages 12-15 are at one location,

while students ages 16-18 are at another. In addition, their campuses are most commonly under 1000 students. Their enrollments for single locations are as follows: Zernike College Groningen 250 students, Vrije School Groningen 500 students (two buildings), Dockinga College Ferwerd 220 students, and Zernike Montessori Groningen 600 students. The size of these schools may be attributed to building ages and land availability. This is due to the fact that the sizes are pretty uniform across the board, older facilities are smaller and the newer buildings (Piter Jelles and Fivelcollege) are larger. Another structural characteristic shared between the schools are their ability levels tracking system. All in all there are five major levels: VMBO, HAVO, VWO, Atheneum, and Gymnasium. These tracks are across the board for all subjects. Therefore, when a student performs poorly in science and math, but demonstrates better abilities in language and fine arts, they may fall into the trap of being tracked lower in their strong subjects. Also, each level varies in the amount of theoretical and practical instruction. Lower levels receive more practical lessons and higher levels receive almost solely theoretical. Where a student filters to all depends on the joint decision made between students, teachers, and parents occurring just prior to entering high school. This crucial point in a student’s education plays a major part in determining their future. Starting from the bottom up is the VMBO. They put the strongest emphasis on practical knowledge and experience training and contain the largest percentage of the student population. It takes four years to complete. Then a student may either enter the workforce or advance to the MBO (trade school). If they enter the workforce at age 16, there is a partial compulsory education mandating two days a week of school until age eighteen. Then they are free to work full-time. Another less traveled route is advancing to the fourth year of HAVO after completion of VMBO. The reason this is a less traveled route is because the government strongly discourages jumping levels. Since it costs them more money, they make the test requirements very top notch. So, bumping up at any level is a difficult process. In addition to that, there are four divisions within the VMBO. Each division of VMBO varies the amount of vocational and theoretical studies. The larger the size of a school allows them to separate VMBO students by class, but often times they are all together, especially for the first three years of

study. Some schools like the Montessori in Groningen group them with lower HAVO students during this time frame. Next up from the VMBO is the HAVO. These students receive a balanced amount of practical and theoretical studies. Once all is said and done, it takes five years to complete. Again, students can jump up to the next highest level, VWO, but they must spend two years in the program instead of progressing with students their age. Typically, these students advance to a HBO, which is the same level as the NHL University in Leeuwarden. However, after their third year, the students are eligible to attend the MBO. Crawling up the hierarchy of progression, VWO follows HAVO. Six years are required for completion. Students that follow this tract receive more theoretical instruction than practical knowledge. They usually advance to the university, but with increased ability comes increased flexibility. Thus, after their third year, they can advance to the MBO. Along with that, after their final year they can also head to a HBO. Both of these are also true for the two divisions of VWO, Atheneum and Gymnasium. As far as the last two highest levels are concerned, they are the Atheneum and the Gymnasium. When it comes to ability, Atheneum students and Gymnasium students are exactly the same. Their learning is geared towards preparing them for the university so theoretical lectures dominate more so than the other levels. Similarly, they have the same post secondary education options. Yet, the Atheneum and Gymnasium do have a few differences. Atheneum students do not receive Latin and Greek lessons, but Gymnasium does. Also, less than five percent of the student population attends Gymnasiums, so their facilities are limited in number. With respect to the government’s role in the functioning of schools, they control the wallet and create certain regulations. There is virtually no separation between church and state when it comes to schools. Private religious schools are still given equal funding as nonreligious public schools. On top of that, they also receive alumni or private donations. Thus, often times these schools will have better facilities compared to their public school counterparts. Also, they may have a more favorable student body because they can make up an excuse to deny trouble-making children. Along with that, the Dutch Ministry of Education requires a “basis forming” for all students. This consists of fifteen

courses deemed necessary for the first three years of education. They include Dutch, English, German, French, geography, history, a combination course of physics and chemistry, applied technology, physical education, home economics/healthcare, drama, computers/information technology, art, biology, and economics/mathematics. All of these courses are taken throughout these three years. Most are taken every year within the three. This is due to the fact that all classes do not meet everyday of the week. The amount of days a particular class meets may even vary between schools. After completing this phase of education, at age 16, students begin specialization. Thus, they can drop and add courses based on their likes and dislikes. In conjunction with that, this raises the question of emphasis on practical or content studies. By creating a “basis forming” requirement, it allows for students to learn a variety of life skills early on in their high school career. Also, since specialization allows students to explore their interests, they are not hindered by the government’s bias pertaining to notion of what ought to be learned by students by the time they exit the high school. Hence, the students have the flexibility to learn what is practical for them and the content follows. With this in place, teachers aren’t held as accountable for student performance nor are they caught “teaching to the test”. It is mainly the students that carry this responsibility. In addition to that, with the large age disparity amongst students, schools need to address the issue of bullying. Some schools promote bully awareness through a Pesten (bullying) program. These allow schools to regulate tensions between peers and upper classmen to lower classmen. They function by teaching students how to define victims and bullies. From this students are able to realize what role they play and hopefully change them for the better. How are Dutch classrooms oriented? A classroom is a classroom, is a classroom, is a classroom: wrong. In the Netherlands, much like elsewhere in the world, format depends on floor plan. Thus, their locations and figures may vary. These differences may also be seen across the type of schools as well. This may also be due to the age of buildings and the ability level of students. However, some similarities do remain. The

Dutch government requires all classrooms to have windows on at least one side. Often times, they have two. One side faces the outside, while the other faces the hallway. Distractions seem to be of little concern. The classroom is desired as an open environment, fostering creativity and relaxed intellectual thought. When a building lacks windows, it can feel like a prison. Its atmosphere can contain thoughts and limit learning. Mood goes hand in hand with motivation. As far as types of schools are concerned, trends can be noticed across the board for certain types of schools. This pertains mainly to desk arrangement. The room is a different story. There are two different types of arrangements: Montessori and traditional. For the Montessori, desks are arranged in groups. Usually, these groups are at most four to six desks. This setup seems to be ideal for hands on activities, group work, and labs. However, students are often times distracted with this arrangement during lectures. Hence, a simple solution would be to have students pull their chairs to the front of the class for the time being. Then they return to their seats at the end of the lecture. This helps ensure that limited side conversations would take place and that all eyes are on the teacher. On the flip side is the traditional format. Desks are arranged in columns and rows. Mostly, these columns and rows are in pairs of desks, but it depends on the classroom. Regardless of that aspect, they prompt the students to keep their eyes forward, which requires the students to physically turn their entire bodies to talk to a neighbor thereby making socialization more noticeable to the teacher. Group work, however, is made more difficult, but a little perspiration never hurt anybody. So, columns and rows can easily be manipulated into tables. Also, class discussions may even be better with a u-shaped desk arrangement. Thus, management can easily be achieved with a little planning ahead on part of the teacher. Desks are not permanent and neither should a classroom’s layout. Although most classrooms are found in a traditional or lab format, renovations in schools, regardless of type, seem to have one thing in mind: openness and warmth. Class designs and locations are changing. Walls are being knocked down and natural light is favored over electric lighting. No longer are classrooms apart from hallways or each other. They exist in harmony. Despite the fact that this creates a more comfortable environment for the

students, it is easy for them to become too comfortable. Distractions run rampant. Activities in the hallways can easily draw students from their studies. Some classes may interfere with others in the crossfire of lecturing. Additionally, as a one class takes a test, another may be lecturing. This potentially destroys any efforts that the student may have made studying the entire night before. Hence, with the heightened amount of distractions comes a neverending struggle for the teachers to continually grasp every student’s attention. An open warm learning environment may be the ultimate desire of students and educators, but its practicality may be jeopardized by unwanted interferences. How do teachers conduct themselves in the Netherlands? Across the board, teachers in the Netherlands exhibit several similarities. Let’s start from the beginning of a typical class period. Typically, teachers enter the classroom ten to fifteen minutes before their class. However, this of course depends on whether or not another class occurred before theirs. Either way, punctuality sends a positive message to students. Practices vary, however, with respect to greeting students. Other than at the free schools, they are not greeted at the door as they enter. At most, the uttered words are “hi, take a seat”. Succinct monotone greetings lack emotion. They tune students out before the lesson even begins. Even a smile could change the entire starting atmosphere. Instead, when the students tune out, the teacher spends the next five minutes trying to gain their attention back so that the lesson can proceed. Similarly, the effects of student and teacher relations can also be seen throughout various schools in the Netherlands. Teachers of traditional and religious schools are referred to on a title and surname basis, whereas the Montessori and free schoolteachers are referred to on a first name basis. This yields a series of tradeoffs. As a whole, student participation in the Netherlands is off the charts. However, differences can be seen due to the different references to teachers in different schools. For instance, Students in Montessori and free schools are the most active with respect to participation, but control is harder to maintain. On the flip side are the traditional and religious public schools. They expect students to refer to them on a title and surname basis. This creates a

heightened status level for the teacher, which aids management. Although, with the loss of informalities, students feel less inclined to participate. Yet, this is easier to accomplish than lost control in the Montessori and free systems. However, note that the effects are hindered by permitting food and drink in the classroom. Also, any lack of strict restrictions with respect to electronic devices does the same. Both had very loose regulations in most classrooms visited. Thus, reestablishing control was often an issue throughout the period. Along with that, all schools visited did not have a teacher dress code. Thus, most teachers taught in jeans and a fleece top. At the very best, a teacher wore a button down shirt, brown dress pants, and dress shoes. This reflects a level of respect and status on part of the teacher. Grown up and well presented, they are able to convey a more credible image that students have an easier time trusting for knowledge. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the most casual came in unshaven, with a t-shirt, jeans, and athletic shoes. It was not for a physical education class. Students have plenty of peers. They don’t need friends; they need teachers. When a teacher comes in dressed like a bum on the street, it doesn’t show that he cared about the lesson. It reflects a lack of preparation and respect for students. Hence, they pay less attention to the gospel of knowledge. That is hardly the leadership qualities that are sought out amongst teacher candidates. Also, uses or lack thereof of the blackboard were fairly standard. It was not common to write an agenda on the board or go over the daily activities as a whole with the students. In the event that a teacher did write and go over an agenda, they received a heightened attention from students. This also leaves surprises out of the lesson. Students like to know what will be taking place in a given day. Not only does it come across as a certain degree of control, but then they also know what is expected of them. During lecture, teachers often foster student involvement through inquiry and guided questioning. This is where the blackboard got its most usage. It’s good to give students a visual to compliment a discussion. There’s usually no need for closed (raising hands) or selective (random selection by teacher) participation. Students often participate openly and actively. Often, it sets a steady pace for the class. Pupils have greater control over the pace of the class and it provides a substantial amount of feedback for the teacher.

Then waiting until test scores is not necessary to determine their level of comprehension. Every teacher also has a distinct walk pattern that can influence this participation. The highest participation was observed in closest proximity to the teacher. However, most teachers stayed towards the front of the class with their movements. This thereby limits the overall classroom involvement, which becomes localized in a few pockets of the classroom. In addition to that, students that are louder than others tend to dominate participation and hold other students back. Sometimes, in certain circumstances where it is desirable to combat this, it may be necessary to implement a selective method to increase a broader involvement throughout the classroom. Despite differences across systems, conduct is a pretty universal theme in education. Not everything is black and white, but there are things that definitely work better than others. Certain behaviors lead to specific consequences, so here are some possible solutions to finding better management in a classroom. Take it from the top with welcoming students. It goes hand in hand with an agenda. Teachers that greet students at the door with a handshake and smile set a positive tone for the classroom. Comment on their new haircut or fancy brand new Nikes. Compliments tell students them that they are noticed. On one side of the board should be a set of expectations for the day. As a side note, do not permit food or drink in the classroom. It just serves as one more distraction to preoccupy students outside the lecture. Anyway, continuing on with the day, a warm greeting would also be helpful in the middle of the board as well. This will temporarily tune the students in on a teacher. Five minutes of undivided attention has now been gained. Yet, this is only half of the beginning. Once the bell has rung and all the students have entered, the agenda should be addressed. Be sure to include mental breaks of a minute or so to allow for transition between major activities. Teaching for fifty or a hundred minutes straight can be tiring, so imagine how the students feel since they are learning material for the first time. This also allows the teacher to recollect their thoughts and organize the next segment of the lesson. Also, lecture should be held to a minimum. Students at best can withstand fifteen minutes of lecture at a time with their highest amount of focus. Any point thereafter, it tends to fade. During lecture, an instructor should try to ask guiding questions to increase student involvement. This too will increase

their level of focus with respect to the lecture. Knowing that they may be called on within a moments notice keeps them on their toes. Additionally, the relationship between students and teachers is important as well. Although a personal relationship may be desired between students, there needs to be a distinct division between teachers and students. Otherwise, students see an instructor as more of a peer than a superior. Therefore, students should refer to teachers on a title and surname basis. A teacher should also wear dress clothes. It reflects status and will enhance the respect students give to a teacher as long as the teacher is able to show compassion over dominance. Prowling the premises helps management too. Students feel uncomfortable with a teacher watching over their back. They can’t get away with as much misbehavior. In so doing, they will also feel more inclined to participate because it goes hand in hand with a teacher moving to a quieter area of the classroom. At the beginning or end of the class, homework should be written on the board. Recap on the lesson, go over the homework, and share appreciation for a wonderful lesson. What are the content standards and format for chemistry teacher education? As far as my understanding is concerned, most teacher education is completed at a professional Bachelor’s institution (HBO). There are seven of these institutions throughout the Netherlands that have a teacher education program for chemistry. Seven professors develop the standards for students within their chemistry teacher education programs; their meetings are comprised of one teacher from each of the seven schools that has a program. At this level, as well as within high schools, it is also common to follow American textbooks throughout the course of study. Here students most commonly major in education and minor in their content area; this limits graduates from teaching higher level students and also poses the questions surrounding the importance of content proficiency opposed to emphasizing teaching pedagogy and methodology. Another way to obtain a teaching certification is via the university (WO). When utilizing the latter avenue, it is common for the teaching candidate to obtain a Bachelor’s of Arts or Science in their content area and then get a Master’s in their respective

content area. This degree pathway also allows prospective teachers to instruct a wider age range of students, as well as those with higher academic ability. Rumor has it that the privilege difference resulting between the varying weights that the two degrees carry sparks a big debate. When it comes to student teaching (Stages) or clinical experiences, the Dutch programs appear to get a jump-start on most US programs. At least with respect to the NHL University in Leeuwarden, clinical hours begin within schools as often and early as once every other week for the first year of study. If we assume 16 week semesters, that implies that 30-50 hours minimum of observational experience is already obtained within the first year. During the second year, this becomes a once a week ordeal. It is also typical for students to start taking over tasks and teaching within the classroom then. Again the amount of clinical experience doubles from their “sophomore year” to “junior year”, as they are within a classroom twice a week and start to take over lessons on a regular basis. Thus, by the time they enter student teaching, students have obtained 200-300 hours of clinical experience as a bare minimum. This is more than the standard at Illinois State University of 100 hours of pre-student teaching clinical experience. Yet, there exists a set of potentially large differences. Most clinical hours obtained at Illinois State University are observational hours opposed to instructional; the majority of these are usually obtained within the last two years of study. In contrast to that, there is a steady increase in hour accumulation by students within the Netherlands, which allows for a greater amount of teaching experience, even in the first year, rather than observation. To cap off the Dutch practical studies, there is the actual stage (student teaching). Ideally, students will complete around 10 hours of teaching per week for their entire fourth year of studies. Some students also juggle a couple content classes at their respective university during this time. In the event that all theoretical classes have been completed though, students can opt to student teach in an area of their choice. If they are not within the Netherlands mainland, many go to current Dutch possessions within the Caribbean: the Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao, Bornaire, Aruba, Sint Maarten, etc.). Other students have also completed part of their stage in the United States.


Streams in Dutch school system

LIONS Congres: Leraren In Opleiding Natuurkunde Scheikunde. Annual meeting of all student teachers in science. Workshops for and by students. Place to meet and greet young fellow teachers. Red Cliff: historical place in Friesland. Used as a meeting place for extreme regionalist Frisians.


Stroopwafels & Bikes: “Bringing stroopwafels to Germany and parents’ bikes back to the Netherlands” As Germans were forced to withdraw from the Netherlands towards the conclusion World War II, they confiscated Dutch bicycles as means to return to their homeland. Hence this disdainful phrase developed into a common joke regarding Germans, whether it was due to a loss in a soccer match, skating, or in my case it was mentioned in passing regarding my intentions to make a quick trip to visit family in Germany. Elfstedentocht: The “Eleven City Tour” is a long distance speed skating event that cuts through each of the eleven Frisian cities: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, and Dokkum. It is approximately 200 kilometers in length and consists of a course comprised of frozen lakes, rivers, and canals. This event can only take place if the weather is cold enough to freeze all lakes, rivers, and canals covering the course. Thus, since it does not occur annually, it is a very symbolic and special event when conditions permit it to happen. The winner often obtains the accolades of a national hero. NHL University: The Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden is a university of applied sciences. In the Dutch school system, it is considered a HBO (Hoger Beroepsonderwijs); these four-year institutions of higher education provide a balance of theoretical instruction and professional training. Once an adequate amount of credits (240 EC = European Credits) have been obtained, students will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree; however, for certain fields of study, students can also continue their academic career at a HBO for an extra year or two in order to obtain a Master’s degree. The current enrollment at the NHL University exceeds 10,000 students, a growing number of which are participating in international exchange programs such as Erasmus. Its facilities also offer over 150 different studies in the realm higher vocational training. (http://www.nhl.nl) Terra Inco gni ta: F ro m su bu rb s to Frisi a This book describes the first months at NHL University and school visits. Full text (240 pages) at www.scribd.com

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