I think I was in the 8th grade when I decided that I wanted to become an elementary school teacher, so every move I have made academically from then on was geared toward one day attending teaching college. I think my 8th grade English teacher was both a little shocked, but also pleased that I seemed to know what I wanted to do and I gained her support.
The school system in Denmark varies quite a bit from the US system. Kindergarten -10th grade are considered our grade school years. Students can decide whether they want to graduate from 9th or 10th grade and then move on to high school. The choice is usually made in collaboration with their teachers. Students also take oral exams in many subjects and written exams in quite a few subjects. Grades are used for entry into high school. High school in Denmark can be completed in a variety of settings. We have a regular high school called gymnasium, which is geared mostly toward people who want to go onto college or university. We have a more business oriented High School, which caters to students wanting to go into the business world or students who want to do apprenticeships after high school, and then we have a more technical high school which is geared toward people wanting to study engineering related topics at the university. These three formats all are three years in length and students take exams after each year in different subjects. For more information about the Danish school system please go to the Danish Ministry of Education website: http://www.eng.uvm.dk
I decided to attend the gymnasium to prepare for college and then take a year off to travel and work as an Au pair in the USA. In my article “My Experience as an Au pair in the USA” here on Associated Content, I describe my stay in the USA and how I planned it. During my stay in the USA, I fell in love with the country, the American culture and the American people. I had an easy time with my English and studying and teaching English became a goal. For the first time I was just a little unsure about whether I wanted to go into Elementary Education or go towards a full-blown Masters Degree in English. After talking my choices over with my mother, I decided to stick with my original plan and applied to teaching college in Denmark.
I was accepted to teaching college in Denmark and began my studies in the fall semester of 1994. At the time, the degree was slightly different than it is today. During our four years of studies, we went through a two year general education program and then two years of a more in depth study of two major subjects selected by us and then our methods classes. Teaching practice was a required part of each of the four years of teaching college.
The first two years in the general education program included a variety of subjects that are taught in the lower levels in the Danish Public School system. The subjects included Danish, Math, Handwriting, Natural Science, Religion, Physical Education, Art and Music. Each of these classes included methodology and class planning activities for elementary school. In addition to these subjects the general education program also included Psychology and Pedagogy. Some subjects were a year in length and other subjects were two years in length. All classes ended with oral exams and also written exams in Math and English.
In the third and fourth years we specialized in two major subjects of our own choice. These were generally classes taught in the upper levels of the Danish Public School system. Because of my love of language, I selected English as one major and then Physical Education as my other major because I felt the need to also teach something with a more practical approach. Major courses of study included both in depth study of course material, methodology and a few weeks of practical teacher training for each major. In addition to our two majors we completed other methods classes, a senior project and then the rest our practical teacher training.
The degree has changed somewhat, but the general idea is still intact and many of the courses remain the same. For more information about the current teacher education program in Denmark please go to the Danish Ministry of Education Website: http://www.eng.uvm.dk/Uddannelse/Higher%20Education/B%20Ed%20programme%20for%20primary.aspx
The opportunity to travel and teach came already during my senior year in college. The teaching college I attend in Denmark at that time had connections to a private liberal arts college in Nebraska with a long Danish tradition. Every year a new graduate from our college was hired to teach Danish language classes to American college students at the beginning and intermediate levels. I was hired for the position and spent the next two years in the mid-west teaching the Danish language part time. I loved every minute of it. Even as a new and inexperienced teacher, who was really trained to teach elementary school in Denmark and who really wanted to teach English, this opportunity gave me a chance to see how else I could use my degree. I realized that I was not limited to only having to teach elementary school and I was not necessarily limited to teach in Denmark either. The position also included some translation responsibilities that I really enjoyed.
After two years in the US, I decided it was time to try what I really had been trained for. I was hired to teach elementary school in Denmark and started in the fall of 2000, leaving my life and boyfriend, Travis, behind in the USA. I quickly realized that what I had been doing in the US fit my dream better than what I was doing in Denmark. While I enjoyed the time with the children and my colleagues in Denmark’s public school system, my heart was in higher education and more importantly in the USA.
After marrying my American husband, Travis, in 2001, we decided to make the USA our home. I got my green card and the college I had formerly worked for hired me back as their Danish Instructor. I added a responsibility as Assistant Registrar at the college and learned that there were other fun areas to work with in higher education.
In the fall 2005, after having giving birth to our daughter, we decided it was time to move closer to family, and we moved to my husband’s home state, Oklahoma, where I now work as an Admissions Officer at a large public university. I absolutely love my job and I smile when I think back at the experiences I have had since graduating. One really is not limited to stay in a certain field. With a little creativity and courage it is absolutely possible to branch out to other field or even other states or countries. It is only in our minds that we put limits on ourselves; the real world is much more flexible than we think.
Trine Feuerborn, “My Experience as an Au pair in the USA”, published 3/17/2010 on AC
Danish Ministry of Education Website: http://www.eng.uvm.dk/