2013

Challenges at BSN and the School Culture Within the National Culture

Upon arriving at BSN I was immediately overwhelmed by the new school, the principal, and the students. After only one week of working in the school I have come to find a couple of challenges that BSN faces constantly, and parallel have picked up a bit on the school culture within the context of the national culture in Holland. Since Junior School on Diamnthorst is a British speaking school, most all of the teachers and the principal are from the United Kingdom. From the information I know, the school has been running for 10 years. The first eight were run by the same principal, and the last two by a new principal. I feel like one challenge that the staff faces is consistency with the the staff members. It appears that most teachers have been working at my school for three years at most, and the majority one or two years. I feel that many of the teachers feel stressed out because either they are new to the school and are learning the ropes, or, expectations of what they are to do are unclear.

I also have noticed that there aren’t enough teacher aids in the school. Teachers have been saying at staff meetings that they aren’t able to support all of the students in their classes and that they need another person in the room. I know that my cooperating teacher is very pleased to have me in his class for support. One major challenge that in my opinion BSN faces, is the need for a special education teacher. There is only one special education teacher for all of the grades and the students with special needs are not having their needs met. A major challenge that the children contribute to the school is that many of the students are very new to BSN. Some students have arrived within the last week, some a few months ago, and very few have been here for over two years. This is because many of their parents move around with jobs and so they have to move with their family. About a third of the students do not speak English or are very low in speaking the language. This makes teaching lessons difficult because if student cannot comprehend what is being spoken, they cannot begin to comprehend the goal or objectives that are being taught them. This poses as the biggest challenge for the school. Given the nature of the school, some students will leave before the school year is over, or come after it has begun. As a teacher, it takes a lot of differentiating and knowing the strengths and weakness of each student in order to be able to reach each individual and help them to succeed and grow. My cooperating teacher has shared with me that in the past, much focus has been on the student’s performing under the grade level that they should be at. However, with the school focusing on the underachieving, that leaves the gifted and talented thrown at the way side. For as many students struggling, there are just as many succeeding. There needs to be a focus on both and I think that this is a challenge that some teachers at my school are starting to focus on.

The school culture within the national culture of Holland is different because the school is an English speaking school, while all other schools usually speak the native tongue which is dutch. Student’s at BSN wear uniforms while other students in Holland generally do not. I feel that my school holds students highly accountable for their actions and schooling. It is taken very seriously by both the students and their parents. Although student’s speak in English at school, when their parents come to pick them up after school, no matter what the nationality, all students start speaking in their native tongue to their parents. The culture at school is very different for some student’s compared to the atmosphere when they leave school. So far these are the observations that I have made while staying at BSN. Although I have only talked about the challenges that the school faces and how the culture in the school differs from the surrounding world, there are many things that are working quite well for BSN and I see it making great successes.

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4 thoughts on “Challenges at BSN and the School Culture Within the National Culture

  1. I found it interesting that BSN is having staffing difficulties in that there are not enough aids in the classroom leaving teachers to try and meet the needs of each of their students individually. This is also a problem in New Zealand as the average class size is around 30 students at the high school level. Many of the teachers have told me that they end up just having to “choose their battles” when it comes to differentiation.

    Does BSN have an ESOL/ESL type program to work with the lower English proficiency students? How do they meet the language needs of those students? Is the special education program at BSN mostly self-contained or are the students all integrated?

    • How weird that we both have the same thing happening at our school! BSN does have an ESOL program that works with students who are knew to the English language or students who need to practice their English skills. They have a 45 minutes slot where these students who need the extra help go to the ESOL room and work with the teacher and the other students in their grade who need practice. For year 5, there are 6 students total who go to see this teacher for extra practice. The teacher tries to differentiate in the classroom when these lower functioning students are in the classroom by giving them something of a lower comprehension level, but I feel like for some students, the language barrier is so great, that that is still too much and they need to be explained in words in more detail about what they are to do, because the words on the page don’t mean anything if they don’t understand what it is telling them to do. The special education program from what I have seen so far is all integrated. I am not sure that a students needs are so high that they need to be contained.

  2. Joy,
    I am finally getting to my reading of blogs…. sorry for the delay.

    Back in my day at the Frankfurt International School we did not admit special needs children; no staff or resources for that program back in the 80’s. It makes me wonder if many of the world’s international schools have changed that policy. Very interesting that so many of the staff are new to the school. Any insights as to why? Did many of them leave with the original principal?

  3. Dr. Petesch,
    The staff at my school are all very new because many of them are traveling teachers and love teaching AND seeing the world. BSN is an international school and many students come and go throughout the year as do teachers. The teachers at my school have an outlook I have never seen before. They love teaching kids and they are all primarily from Scotland, England, or Whales. The teachers always teach at a British speaking school and once they have gotten into working at one British school it is easy to get hired at another one. Many of them up and move every two to three years. For example, three of the teachers who I have gotten to know very well are moving next year to Oman, South Africa, and Bulgaria. I think when the prinicpal left many teachers were sad, but I don’t think that he caused teachers to leave the school.

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