Sabbatical Reflection – Iceland

Blog – September 13, 2019

Hello friends of the Developing Young Hearts and Minds blog!

It was just one year ago this week I set off on a two and one half month adventure to visit early childhood programs in Iceland, Norway, Ireland, England and the Netherlands.  As the next weeks parallel my travels last year, I am posting reflections

First, a view from my “new” office window!  Bethel University is building a new science wing. Many of us had to move offices and I could not be happier! As my new office is located near Valentine Lake and a part of campus surrounded by trees. This is a view of the wild life that I’ve seen from my office window so far…in the summer a tiny fawn trying to hide, and this fall we have a flock of wild turkeys!

Iceland Reflection:

Iceland opening

One year ago, I made my  first sabbatical  stop Iceland. As I look back on my time with faculty from the University of Iceland and the directors and teachers at several preschools – I took with me so many things I have shared with my students here at Bethel University in St.Paul MN USA.  Thank you to the many folks in Iceland who made my time there unforgettable and helped me feel confident as I launched my journey.

Here are some ways my time in Iceland impacted my thinking and teaching…

First, we have discussed how the requirements for early childhood teachers in Iceland have been raised to a masters level. Here in the USA, early childhood teachers for child care centers do not need even a BA, though some have a college degree. As our early childhood system evolves in the USA there is a push to have early childhood teacher have a bachelors degree. This was first published in 2015 in the Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce – a 517 page exploration of the current states of our early childhood workforce and what is desired. You can read or download the report free from:

http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2015/birth-to-eight.aspx

Second: We have discussed compensation of early childhood teachers. It was refreshing to learn that in Iceland, there is compensation for early childhood teachers similar if not the same as other teachers.  My students have been learning that while some positions in our public pre-kindergarten programs are on the teachers contract, many positions offered in the field are not – with teachers typically struggling financially. It is again, one of the highlights of Transforming the Workforce and our National Association of the Education of Young Children https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-naeyc-program-standardsto strive to raise wages.

Students were amazed to learn about the parental leave granted in Iceland – that extends to both mothers and fathers over the first year of a child’s life. It makes so much sense. Here in the USA, child care is not only very expensive for an infant but very hard to find an opening. We can learn a lot from the Icelandic way of caring for very young children and their families.

Outdoor education and time spent in nature: It was been exciting to share pictures of the classrooms and outdoor learning areas I took at three Iceland preschools.  Students were inspired by the photos of the outdoor play areas and learned how important it is  to plan the curriculum to include an ample amount of time outdoors. I’ve added content to my courses on the need for children to spend time outdoors as a result of what I  saw and learned in Iceland.

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