Originally Published: November 13, 2010 10 p.m.
The teaching staff at Granite Mountain Middle School in Prescott has gone international - at least for the next week.
Three students from the Teaching College in Copenhagen, Denmark, are doing their student teaching at GMMS. Mina Jensen, Lise Kondrup and Sisse Joy Krebs Carlsen will graduate from the Teachers College in June.
Their three-week visit to Granite Mountain Middle School fills the requirement that they student teach at a "non-typical-Danish elementary school," the young women said.
Throughout their three years at university, the women have completed different student teaching requirements. When they learned they had to teach at an alternative school, Kondrup told her friends, "We need to go to the States."
There are some major differences in the education system in Denmark and the U.S.
In Denmark, students attend kindergarten through ninth grade at the same school. After elementary school, students decide whether to attend high school or a technical/vocational school. Students who want to attend university spend three years in high school.
However, Carlsen said most students take a year or two off before attending university.
"They travel, work and try different things," she noted.
Work is an opportunity for young people to determine a career, since education is free in Denmark.
"Students are paid to go to school after the age of 18 - $700 a month," Carlsen said. "In Denmark, they want people to be equal and they know they can't be without an education."
The government pays parents with children under 18 years of age $700 per child (up to six children) every three months for educational expenses.
However, the people in Denmark pay 40 percent income tax, according to Jensen.
The average teacher's salary is $5,200 per month before taxes, and $3,120 after taxes.
All three young women plan to teach language arts - English and Danish - when they graduate.
All Danish students take English classes starting in the third grade. In seventh grade, students must take another foreign language and then learn another one in high school.
"I like all the electives. Mostly our studies have core classes, but they are out earlier in the day. School ends at 2 p.m.," Kondrup explained.
Danish students who want to take electives such as band, soccer or other subjects take them after school in a club setting.
Jensen noted that teachers at GMMS "are more authoritative" than in Denmark.
Carlsen stated that schools in the U.S. are "more focused on the teacher at the center of the class. In Denmark, students work more in groups. It is a more investigative type of learning."
According to Carlsen, Danish students demonstrate what they have learned through reports and projects. All work results in a product.
"Danish students only have written and oral exams in ninth grade," Carlsen said. "Students in K-6 grades do not receive grades. Teachers evaluate their work and decide whether to pass them to the next grade level."
The young women were amazed at how hospitable the teachers were at Granite Mountain. Everyone welcomed them and happily invited them into their classrooms.
"In Denmark, you would never see a teacher welcome three girls into their class with only five minutes' notice," Carlsen observed. "In Denmark, people are not as open with other people."
GMMS Principal Stephanie Hillig said having the three Danish students was "absolutely enjoyable, amazing and educational. What we have learned from them is priceless."
Jensen, Kondrup and Carlsen enjoyed practicing their English, and they are taking home some classroom tips.
The best, Kondrup said, was a Granite Mountain teacher who, when her students would not settle down to work, just held up a stopwatch. When the students finally stopped talking and the bell rang, the teacher told her students how much time they owed her.
"I'm taking that idea back with me," Kondrup reported.