From Minneapolis to Reykjavik: I departed from the Humphrey Terminal in Minneapolis on Sunday Sept. 9 just as the sun was setting over the Twin Cities and flew into the sun rising over Reykjavik on Monday Sept. 10.
Getting oriented: Arrangements had been made for a young man named Benjamin (the son of one of the faculty members at the University of Iceland) to meet me at the BSI bus station. There he was ready to help me wrangle luggage and a heavy backpack; took me to the University to pick up my apartment keys – which I could not use for several hours. Benjamin’s mom, Hrund, arranged for him take me to their home where they had a bed prepared for me to rest (the recommendation was to sleep about 4 hours) with the next recommendation I swim in the geothermal pool (it is like 5 Olympic sized pools) that is only a 10 min. walk from their home. That is just what I did. I did not experience jet lag!
Benjamin then took me to the apartment and helped me get my computer on the wi-fi and download the local bus app and taught me how to use it – including knowing how to get Icelandic vowels typed in. He then dropped me off a little store to pick up a few groceries. Benjamin made me feel welcomed and taken care of. My little studio apartment is perfect. I could not ask for more in terms of a home base in Reykjavik.
What I’ve learn so far: Tuesday Sept. 11th was my first visit Háskóli Íslands / University of Iceland. I meet with the Department Chair. What I learned from Bryndis since 2008 Icelandic law now requires all teachers (including preschool teachers) to have a masters degree and that by law 2/3 of teachers in a EC settings should have their masters degrees. There is a shortage of prepared early childhood teachers in Iceland – so municipalities (like our districts) get involved in supporting individuals to get their degrees. Bryndis introduced me to many faculty members. I was especially touched to be shown a desk that was reserved for me.
Wednesday Sept 12, I visited a lovely ‘kindergarten’ at the invitation of Ragnhildur Gunnlaugsdottir. I put kindergarten in quotes because here in Iceland kindergarten is serving children ages 18 months up to age 6. (In the USA we would term this preschool.) Just a different use of the term.
This kindergarten serves 93 children. The children were in groups in different room and all were happy and productive. Because of the lay out and organization of the physical space, you would never imagine there were so many children present. The building was designed by an architect in conjunction with the teachers. It has many windows and every room is cheerful and bright. Part of the design including sliding doors and walls with built in sound barriers, bathroom with fixtures sized for both 3-5 year and an even smaller versions for toddlers. The office space for teachers had been worked into the planning. There is a teacher’s lounge where there was coffee, tea and water available at any time. It seemed that the needs of the adults were considered along with the needs of the children making it a supportive space for all. One of themes for the school ‘restitution’ in which the needs of children (and adults) are considered. They have posters us reminding that everyone has a need for belonging, power, fun and freedom. (this was inspired from a workshop Agga attended in Canada by Diane Grossen.)
Ragnhildur (who said she goes by Agga) has recently graduated with her parent education license. She visited Minnesota last spring to observe ECFE classes. She is launching an ECFE type of program in the kindergarten. She found parents loved the program and Agga plans expand her parent education program. She shared that every 2-4 years teachers are encouraged to attend conferences and take new kinds of training which is supported by the school. Agga’s enthusiasm for her work was a joy to behold!
I look forward to more time at the University and other school visits here in Iceland.