Coming tomorrow: an in-depth exposé of Big Windmill: the nefarious industry that’s threatening to take over the Netherlands!
Coming tomorrow: an in-depth exposé of Big Windmill: the nefarious industry that’s threatening to take over the Netherlands!
On Friday, May 19, Noëmi and I went to a faculty development conference at Microsoft’s Dutch office in Amsterdam. The conference was organized specifically for teachers from the college networks. Each school got to send a handful of teachers — Noëmi’s colleague Paul was with us, as was one of the other guests from the U.S., Janel from California — and there were over one hundred educators and IT administrators in attendance.
Noëmi participates in these conferences often because she’s a Microsoft Innovative Educator. Summa College students have free access to Microsoft 365, and the teachers use it to share documents and provide feedback on assignments. And on the 19th, Noëmi was leading a hands-on workshop focused on using the One Note program in the classroom.
Janel and I were lucky to have Noëmi with us, because for the first half of the day, before Noëmi led her workshop, she sat with us in the back of the conference theater and translated every presenter’s Dutch into English. She basically gave us everyone’s word-for-word, which was fantastic for us and probably exhausting for her.
The theme of the day was Empowering the Students of Today to Create the World of Tomorrow, and each speaker gave a thirty-minute presentation. Because of the intimacy of the space, everyone was able to ask questions, and because I am a huge gorp, I took many, many notes.
Noëmi eventually had to leave me and Janel, first to do a short introduction of the MIE program…
…and then later on to lead her workshop:
And without our translator, Janel and I were a bit lost in all of the Dutch, so we hung out for an hour in Microsoft’s employee lounge area. We were very professional and mature.
There were a few breaks throughout the day: one for mid-morning coffee (I’ve told you that the Dutch love their coffee breaks, right? They love them, and I love them. We all love them!), one for lunch, one for early afternoon post-lunch treats…
…and a post-conference reception that easily topped any reception that followed any faculty development day I’ve ever attended at MCC. Ever.
It was a thought-provoking and useful day and I’m so happy we were able to tag along with Noëmi. The only thing that crumbed up our moods was the three hour commute back to Eindhoven. The highway we needed to use was shut down because of an accident in a tunnel, so we took a detour, along with what felt like every other commuter in the entire country.
But that’s gross, so let’s not end on that; instead, let’s end on this super gorpy picture of me!
Now, I know that I’m way behind on my posts, so I’ll try to get a few more done before the end of the week. My official exchange ended on Saturday, and Trevor has now joined me in the Netherlands (yay!!!). We’re staying with his uncle in Amsterdam, and I will have many more posts about that. But up next will be a post about me, Noëmi, and Dave, and a windmill in Borkel (Borkel!!) and an abbey in Belgium.
My last post was a bit number-y and kind of a downer. So this one will be fun and full of stories about the wonderful students I’ve met over the past two weeks!
I’ve met oodles of Summa College students during this trip: well over one hundred. I already wrote about my first days meeting wonderful students at Noëmi’s school and at School 23, so you can read about those adventures and see pictures of the students.
But I’ve met so many more students after last Tuesday, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about them. Last Thursday I observed five classes: three of Chiara’s classes (Chiara is a teacher-in-training and a former teaching intern); one of Noëmi’s classes; and one of Franka’s classes (Franka is a Dr. Who fan, so she is obviously top-notch).
First up at 10 a.m. was Chiara’s English class for 2nd year healthcare students. They were a good start to the day, although a little shy and quiet. They asked great questions (including the now infamous high school cheerleader question) and were the reason Chiara and I started to crunch the numbers about college tuition in the U.S. Unfortunately, I let them leave without getting a picture, so please imagine that they were smart looking, because they were.
Next up at 11:15 a.m. was a class of Chiara’s 3rd year nursing students, and they were on it. As soon as Chiara mentioned that I was from the U.S., one of her students said — in a pretty damn good rural-American accent — “America: Fuck yeah!” From that point forward, they were hilarious and engaged. They had questions about school and about nursing, about tuition, cheerleaders (of course), and about my thoughts on visiting the school and the Netherlands. I took a nice group picture of them with Chiara…
…but we also wanted one altogether. So I took these terrible selfies to try to get us all in:
You guys know how amazing I am at taking selfies, so you should be impressed that any part of my face is visible.
Next up was Noëmi’s class of 2nd year students at 12:15 p.m. I said goodbye to Chiara, knowing I would meet up with her later on that afternoon to visit one more of her classes. Noëmi’s 2nd year students had a hard act to follow with Chiara’s 3rd years, but they turned out to be pretty spectacular. These were a small group of students who’d “chosen” wrong. In my earlier post I explained that Dutch students make choices at age 12 about the type of high school they’ll attend (general vocation [hospitality, healthcare, teaching/education…], general, or college-prep), and then at age 16 they make a choice to focus on a specific area within the general area.
All of Noëmi’s students have chosen nursing, which puts them at her college, but the students in this class had made an early decision that they wanted to change, and then they switched to nursing a little later than most students started. This meant that they were older than her typical 2nd year students (19/20 instead of 17/18), and they were a little more mature and focused. This is saying a lot, since all of the students I encountered at Summa College gave me the impression that they were mature and focused.
These students asked some of the most interesting and thoughtful questions, and Noëmi showed them the requirements for a nursing degree at McHenry County College, which they appreciated seeing and had a lot of questions about. They were the only class that did not ask about cheerleading.
After this class, Noëmi and I had a thirty minute break so we ate some sandwiches and fruit in the teacher’s lounge, and then got a cup of coffee. (Have I mentioned how frequently the Dutch have coffee breaks throughout the day? Quite often. It’s one of the most civilized things about them and something I want to immediately import to the U.S.)
After lunch I met up with Franka, the Dr. Who fan and English teacher for students studying to be dental assistants. These were typical 2nd year students, about 18 years old. They were a little shy, but there was another teaching of English who asked questions to get them warmed up and who had excellent questions about paths of study in the U.S. They were the first group to whom I explained my own circuitous route to becoming a teacher.
The last class I got to visit was back with Chiara, her 3rd year part-time nursing students. These students were similar to MCC’s returning adult students: students who’d been working at a job for ten or twenty years, and then decided they were up for a change so they went back to school to study nursing.
It was in this class that I felt most at home with the material, since she was giving a lesson on how to compose a business letter. She touched on a lot of the same things I touch on with my students: addressing an unfamiliar audience clearly and professionally; using a standard salutation and closing; and proofreading (!!!). She also talked about the “shit” rule for remembering subject-verb agreement, and I’m going to steal it. Here’s what it is:
If you have a subject that’s needed to make “shit”, then you need to add an “s” to the verb. What do you need to make shit? She, He, and It. So, “she sings,” and “he drives,” and “it produces.” SHIT!
I love it. Thanks, Chiara!
I didn’t get a picture of this final Thursday class, and I’m kind of bummed about it. But it did mark a time I made a dumb American blunder with a Dutch person. The desks were arranged in a two-layered U-shape, and before the class started I sat in the second layer on the end. The person in front of me had her things there, but she was getting coffee, and when she came back she asked me, in Dutch, if it was okay if she sat in front of me.
Now, I am such a goof that when someone is speaking to me in Dutch and I don’t immediately get the gist of what they’re saying, I just sort of stare dumbly and smile. So, that’s what I did and then, still smiling, I shook my head “No.” To me, I was trying to tell her that I didn’t understand; she thought I was telling her that she could not sit in front of me. She probably thought I was a major asshole. Luckily, someone in the class said that I was an American and then she asked in English, and I was so apologetic and said that of course she could sit in front of me! She laughed really hard and the whole class had a great sense of humor. That made me love them all very much.
I’d made another American tourist gaffe my first day on campus. I was doing simulations with the doctor’s assistant students: a student would sit at a reception desk behind me and I’d call with an ailment; the student had to identify whether I should come in to see the doctor if it was serious, or if I could take some aspirins and stay home. I first pretended to have a mild headache; I called the second student with a stomachache; and, since the first two had asked if I had a fever and I’d said “No,” I thought that I’d have a fever for the third student.
But when she asked what my temperature reading was, I thought to myself, “hmm, what’s a kind-of serious but not too high temperature?” And I answered, “101 degrees.” The room was silent for a couple of seconds before Noëmi burst out laughing and the rest of the class (who were listening in order to debrief after the calls) joined in as well. It took me a second to realize that I’d given them a Fahrenheit temperature and basically just told them that my blood was boiling. Noëmi gave me a quick calculation and I changed my answer to 38 degrees. Yikes.
On Monday I observed five more of Noëmi’s classes: two 2nd year classes, two 3rd year classes, and a 1st year class. One of the 3rd year classes I visited was the same class I’d met first last week Monday; I’d forgotten to get a picture of them, so we made sure to get one this time:
The other groups were, as expected, great. They had similar types of questions as the groups I’d met last week, though Noëmi’s 11:45 a.m. 3rd year class also gave me some good ideas about things to do in Amsterdam once my time with Noëmi and Dave is over and Trevor comes to town (more about that later). They were the first to suggest that we visit the Anne Frank House Museum, which we’re doing on Tuesday; and they also mentioned that I might like to visit a “coffee” shop. We’ll see about that.
As you can see, they are very smart looking and adorable. I told them that I’d tour them around Chicago if they ever came my way, and some of them were actually interested. But even if I never see them again, they helped make my time here meaningful. Thank you, students!
I’ll have more posts about the faculty development conference we attended at Microsoft’s Amsterdam offices last Friday, the visit we took to the hospitality school (and all of the wonderful food we ate [and helped cook!]) and the meetings I had with some of the Summa College administrators. Well, maybe I won’t do an entire post on the administrative meetings: I found them fascinating and I took tons of notes, but they might not be very interesting to you.
Today is my last day with Noëmi and Dave. Trevor flies into Amsterdam tomorrow (I AM SO EXCITED TO SEE HIM), so I’ll also have some posts documenting our adventures. Stay tuned for all of that.
Spreek je snel!
Last week, in addition to visiting School 23, the Summa College school for hospitality training, and Efteling Theme Park, I got to see a lot of students and teachers in action, and I got a taste of Dutch faculty development. I was going to focus this post on those things — the amazing teachers and students, the excellent faculty development — but as I typed out an explanation of the Dutch education system’s tuition and compared it to ours in the U.S., I realized that I couldn’t focus on anything fun…yet. As a result, this post is a little dry, but I hope you read it. I think it’s important. Tomorrow I’ll give you a little brain candy and a lot of great pictures of smart, interesting Dutch students.
On Thursday, Noëmi and I headed back to the Summa Zorg campus. She’d arranged for me to observe five different English classes: three taught by her former intern and now a teacher-in-training, Chiara; one by her colleague Franka; and one of Noëmi’s own.
The first two classes were taught by Chiara, an energetic young woman of Irish and German descent who was born in Germany and moved to the Netherlands when she was four years old (her father’s work transferred him here). Her English is spectacular and her accent is a bit Irish/a bit Dutch, and all of it was a pleasure to listen to.
Her first class was made up of 2nd year healthcare students (who I am just realizing now I didn’t get a picture of — imagine them as great, because they were). They were fairly young and a little shy. I explained the U.S. education system to them and talked about some of the differences between it and the Dutch education system.
The first significant difference is choice: when Dutch students are 12 years old, they must decide which type of secondary education they will pursue: a vocational education (VMBO), a general liberal arts education (HVAO), or a more stringent university-preparatory education (VWO). The students who have selected the vocational education go through four years of the VMBO and then, at age 16, they must decide on a specific vocation. That choice determines which college (MBO) they will attend; the students who have chosen healthcare come to Noëmi’s school, Summa Zorg.
This means that at age 16, students decide on a career. If they change their minds, they can switch schools, but they may need to go backwards a bit to make up the curriculum they missed, and this could delay graduation. The system sounded stressful to me (I changed my mind about possible careers until I was about 26; and I think that’s actually pretty decisive). But when I questioned the students about this, they more or less seemed okay with their choices. A couple were a bit uncertain — what if they decide later that they want to do something else? — but many felt confident in their decisions. And I encountered students who had chosen a different vocation, but who’d then switched to healthcare, or were interested in switching from healthcare to something else. They said that yes, there was a bit of delay, but they were happy they’d made the change early and not once they’d gotten into a career they didn’t like and didn’t fit with.
The other significant difference is tuition. When Dutch students begin college at an MBO (or at an HBO, which is comparable to a four-year college or university in the U.S.), they’re only 16 and the government is still paying for their education. The following two years are entirely funded for them, and then, once they turn 18, their tuition is $1,037 per year — to any MBO in the country. And, as long as the student finishes her degree within a reasonable period of time, the tuition is reimbursed to them upon graduation. And, all students get a free public transportation pass after secondary school, as long as they’re continuing their schooling. The government doesn’t want student to have to pay for transportation to and from school, just in case their college is far away. These MBO students are, in large part, though not all, the kind of students who attend McHenry County College.
Now, if a Dutch student is on the track for an HBO or WO (college/university in the U.S. traditional sense) her tuition is $1,984 per year; and it’s not a gift like it is with the MBO students, but a loan that must be repaid. The interest on that loan is very low (maybe 1%?) and the monthly payments are calculated based on the type of job a student is able to get after graduation. If a student has been making monthly payments without default for a long time (about twenty years, I think?), then the remainder of the loan is forgiven.
So, in Chiara’s class, when I explained the cost of tuition at my college, which is still significantly less than most colleges, and the lowest in our area, the students were shocked. Like, there was an audible gasp when Chiara and I did the math (okay, Chiara did the math) and put the price of MCC’s tuition on the whiteboard.
For a student at MCC to be considered a full-time student, she must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours. My single-semester long class is 3 credit hours; each credit hour at MCC is $104. That means that a full-time student enrolled in 12 credit hours is paying $1248 per semester and $2,496 per year, not including books or other materials that may be required for a class (specific software; art materials; uniform for nursing and culinary students). So if a nursing student at MCC is doing her two-year associate’s degree, her tuition will be $4,992.
Now, in the U.S., for a two year degree that almost immediately gets you access to a career, that sounds like a good deal, right? But the Dutch students were floored at how much money that was. For education, which, for them, is a given, like bicycles and windmills. Then I told them that at the University of Illinois Chicago, where I’m doing my master’s degree, tuition is a lot more expensive than it is at MCC, even though UIC is still considered to be reasonably priced. UIC’s in-state tuition — for a 12 credit hour undergraduate student — is $4,763 per semester, and $9,526 per year (again, without books, other materials, or boarding). And out-of-state tuition per semester is $10,550, making the annual cost $21,100. So if my nursing students (or if any of the many students at MCC who are on the baccalaureate/transfer side of the house) want to get a bachelor’s degree, after they’ve paid $4,992 at MCC, they still need to spend a minimum of $19,052 for the remaining two years of their undergraduate education.
And then one of Chiara’s student mentioned Harvard, so we quickly looked that up and saw that tuition alone — without adding in the nearly twenty-thousand dollars worth of fees, room, and board — is $44,990 per year. Plus an estimated $4,000 for “personal expenses” per year (books, materials); and up to $4,000 for traveling between school and home each year for breaks and holidays; and $3,130 for required health insurance if you’re not covered on your family’s plan. Even if you’re a townie or you don’t ever travel home to see your family, and if you don’t need to buy health insurance, you’re still dropping about $70,000 per year and $278,400 for the entirety of your undergraduate education. That doesn’t account for an increase in tuition. And you can’t ever leave Cambridge.
And I know, I know — it’s Haaaaaaahvaahd. It’s the school of schools; Harvard graduates are almost definitely going to make more money out of school than your garden variety schlub like me. But more than a quarter of a million dollars? Holy shit, man.
There’s a gulf, an abyss, even, between the people in the United States who can afford somewhere like Harvard, or even somewhere like UIC, and the students who are barely able to attend MCC (many of my students). This gulf will continue to widen and affect these students’ lives, through the time it will take them to complete their degrees, the debt they accumulate (student loan interest is currently at 3.76% but is likely to go up soon), and the salary of the jobs they are able to get. I don’t think this is okay. I really don’t think this is okay.
I started drafting this post on Sunday evening and my intention when I started was to write about all of the great students I visited last Thursday, and about the professional development conference I attended with Noëmi on Friday. But it’s Tuesday afternoon now: I’ve looked at a lot of dollar signs and I’ve met even more students to whom I’ve had to explain our tuition. This didn’t turn out to be a fun post, and I got off track from Chiara, Noëmi, and Franka. But I’m glad I wrote it. I’m glad I’m thinking about it.
Let’s all think about it, and maybe we can figure out how the U.S. can adjust its culture to believe that a post-secondary education is just as much of a right for all citizens as is the right to own a firearm. How about that, huh? Let’s start there.
Want to read more about how the new president’s budget will affect education? Read this article by Emma Brown, Valerie Strauss, and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post.
The first day I arrived in the Netherlands, Noëmi mentioned that we might go to Efteling Theme Park; and since I am 100% up for anything, I said, “Sure!” Our family went Disney World when I was a small person, and Great America, which I haven’t been to in about fifteen years, is more of a carnival than a theme park; so I was ready for a proper theme park in a foreign country. Bring it on!
Noëmi explained it as a kind of fairy-land, and everyone we talked to on Monday and Tuesday seemed excited that we were going, but some mentioned that it was a good place for children. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, since everything in the Netherlands is an adventure, I was happy to go.
We set out on Wednesday morning with our packs full of sandwiches and fruit in case we got hungry, and our shoulders covered in sunblock. We stopped by the college campus to pick up ticket coupons from Noëmi’s coworker, and then set off to the park.
Noëmi had checked the park’s traffic prediction earlier in the week, and it was forecast to be a “light” day in terms of crowds. We got there moments before the park opened at 10 a.m., and found ourselves a prime parking spot just three rows from the entrance.
As we approached the entrance we saw a mascot waving at us from a balcony above the ticket kiosks; this was Pardoes, who is described on the Efteling website as “the magic Jester from Symbolica, a planet on the other side of the universe. Pardoes, who is always jolly, can be found in the park every day.” That immediately sounds amazing, right?
I didn’t get a good picture of the entrance, but it’s really beautiful, so here it is from Wikipedia:
And this is a warning: my pictures don’t do the park justice. It’s gorgeous. It is full of soaring trees, lush greenery, cobblestones, and buildings that, while only sixty-five years old, and many of them much, much newer, all looked ancient.
Our first stop was the Bobsleigh ride, which went really (really) fast and was not on a track. I screamed like a child and it was terrific.
After that we went on a more low-key ride that was just as wonderful, though in a different way: Fata Morgana, a water boat “dark” ride (you ride through in the darkness and look at moving tableaux along the way). The Fata Morgana is reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights, and is called the Forbidden City. The models and effects were so cool, and there were a few times I jumped a bit.
We also had a great time standing in line; there were four school children in front of us with their teacher. One of them opened a container of mini-cookies and quickly offered one to Noëmi; she declined, and then when he saw me smiling at the gesture, he offered one to me. I declined as well, but I wanted to hug him. I did not. Farther down in the line, two of the kids were standing in front of a window that looked down onto the boats, and one of the boys saw us standing at the wall and told the others to hurry up because he wanted to give us a chance to look as well. I also wanted to hug him. I did not. And then, another boy with a turtle-shell backpack (amazing) heard Noëmi talking to me in English and asked if we were from London. She told him that she was a native and that I was from America, and while he did not seem impressed, I also wanted to hug him. I did not.
After the Fata Morgana, Noëmi walked us to the section of roller coaster rides to get a sense of how long the Joris and the Dragon line was. It was too long for us impatient adults, so we went to the Piraña instead. It was getting a bit warm out (the day turned out to be about 85 degrees F.) and the Piraña is a water ride, so we chose well. We managed to get an entire raft all to ourselves — I think the kid loading in the passengers wasn’t paying attention, and by the time he realized there were only two of us, we had floated too far away. Sorry, sucker.
Since we were already wet, we went from the Piraña to De Vliegende Hollander water coaster (The Flying Dutchman). The line took us through the inside of a pub and then into what looked like a 17th Century street lined with bars (and probably brothels). There were little videos playing that told the myth of the Flying Dutchman, a haunted ship that must sail the seas forever because of the greedy and reckless captain. I loved the story, and De Vliegende Hollander was my favorite ride.
We moved on to another ride that, because it was in the dark, I thought would be another slow and lovely “dark” ride like the Fata Morgana. Noëmi described it as “the eagle,” and said that it felt like we were soaring through the air. That sounded great, so Vogel Rok was next. Yes, Vogel Rok is a ride with a story that involves an eagle (all of the Efteling rides tell stories, which is special and fun), but it wasn’t anything like Fata Morgana. The Vogel Rok was a proper roller coaster, but it was indoor and almost entirely in the dark (and even the partially lit portions were shrouded in mist) so I never knew exactly where we were going or what was coming next. It. Was. Terrifying. I loved it. We walked out having taken no pictures, and that’s probably because I was still shaking in my sneakers.
Noëmi, perhaps sensing my unsteady legs, suggested we go to an easier ride, which meant that the Carnaval Festival was up next. This was another real “dark” ride and it was meant for children, so I was pretty happy.
It was a bit like It’s a Small World, and the music played was just as…let’s say catchy as the Disney World ride’s music. And now I have them both running through my head. You’re welcome.
After the Carnaval Festival, we wanted something quiet and outdoors, so Noëmi steered us to the Volk van Laaf section. The Laaf are plump-cheeked characters that live in Efteling. I found them to be a bit lazy.
After meeting the lazy Laaf, we took a short break to regroup and plan our next move. Noëmi suggested that we get some poffertjes, and since we’d already eaten our sandwiches and apples, I was up for some food.
But I was not expecting this:
These poffertjes are little fried discs of deliciousness, covered in powdered sugar with a hunk of butter for smearing. Jesus, were they good.
We made a plan to check out our final dark ride through the Droomvlucht (fairy land) and then to the Fairytale Forest. Noëmi checked our route…
…and we were off! The Droomvlucht was lovely and fun, but it was the Fairytale Forest that dazzled me. There were life-sized houses and towers and animatronic statues and mannequins from fairy tales — many of them Grimm’s Fairy Tales — all spread through an enormous forest. Along the path through were small red and white “singing” mushrooms (they played classical music [possibly lute music]), and at every turn was something more wonderful than the last thing. The creativity, time, and manpower that must have gone into building the forest astounds me, and I just adored it all.
We finished walking through the forest and I was mostly done for the day. I’d seen so much and I’d had so much fun that I was about ready to just sit in a corner with a happy smile on my face and slowly digest my poffertjes (and the fried potato spiral-on-a-stick that we also got and it was delicious but there is no picture). But Noëmi had one more stop she needed to make: the Baron 1898 roller coaster — or dive coaster.
I was the “bag mom” and while Noëmi was in line for the ride, I waited at the bottom, smiling and digesting. But my digestion stopped as soon as I realized that her car was about to start the drop. This was her path:
I was happy with my decision to stay on the ground, and Noëmi was very happy that she took the plunge. We headed home, smiling and sun-tired. I am so glad Noëmi took me to the park. It’s not an attraction I’d heard of and I doubt that I would have found it on my own. But every second was well spent and the day was pretty perfect.
Sometime tomorrow or the next day I’ll write about the amazing students I met on Thursday (I know I say that all the students are great, but on Thursday I met students from five different classes and three different teachers, and they were great, like really great. for real). Here’s a terrible selfie to tide you over until then:
I have 1,000 things to write about in regards to my trip to the Netherlands (I’ve been here for one week), and tonight I’m going to write about the first two days I had visiting schools and meeting students.
On Monday I went to Summa College with Noëmi to see her college campus, get a sense of what her work day looked like, and meet her excellent students.
First, let’s talk about the teachers’ lounge at Summa College Zorg & Welzijn (healthcare and wellness), where Noëmi teaches. This is what it looks like.There are two coffee machines that make espresso, cappuccino, and regular coffee; they also have hot water and a variety of tea, and cold filtered water. And it’s all free for teachers. And I have been using it a lot this week. I’ve upped my daily caffeine intake by 80%, and I’m pretty happy about that.
Next, let’s talk about Noëmi’s students, who are great. All of the students I’ve met so far have been great, and I’ll get to that a lot more later. Here’s one of Noëmi’s classes:I told her students why I was visiting and a little bit about the type of college I teach at, and my students, and they had great questions. They also, through giggles, asked me if high school in the U.S. was like high school in the movies: specifically, are there cheerleaders?
Yes, students. Yes, there are. And they look something like this:Between Noëmi’s classes, we hung out in the teacher team’s office, and I saw a book near her desk. It looked like fun, so I picked it up. And it was so much more fun than I could have ever imagined. So. Much. More. Fun. And then…I found this:
I’ll just leave that there for you to enjoy.
Noëmi drove me over to another school, School 23, where I met up with the three other American visitors and their hosts. There is a visitor from Morton College in Cicero, IL; a visitor from Casper College in Casper, Wyoming; and a visitor from Fresno City College in Fresno, California. As you might imagine, I think they’re all great and I can’t wait to tell you more about them.
Now, the school itself, while also great, kind of blew my mind. School 23 is a school for Dutch language learners to become acclimated to the Netherlands, to learn Dutch, and to learn skills that will allow them to not only function in Dutch society, but to thrive. But many of the students at School 23 are refugees who have fled from countries like Somalia, Syria, and Eritrea. These students have been traumatized; many have lost family members; some are now living in a foreign country all by themselves; and while some have excellent educational backgrounds (Syria had a robust school system until the war, and reported a 95% literacy rate), some of the students at School 23 are illiterate. These students brought an entirely new context to my understanding of “at risk” students.
Not only is School 23 serving this important population, they seem to be doing a wonderful job. The students we saw during our tour of the school were friendly and happy; they practiced their English with us (adorably and nervously), and showed tremendous pride in the work we saw them doing.We saw students working on art projects, students learning about evolution (um, yeah, a group of smarties from Syria were learning about evolution and I was really jealous and wanted to hang out with their class), and students hanging out in the reading nook (reading nook!). And everywhere in between they were just being happy teenagers, and that made me so proud of them and so thankful for the work that School 23 does.
We met up with the rest of the visitors and their hosts, and were greeted by some of the students in the lobby. They brought us up to their school facilities, located on the second floor of the actual airport. The students are required to wear flight attendant-like uniforms each day to classes, and they looked official and wonderful and made me envious of their teacher for getting to teach them (their teacher is a lovely woman named Rose — hello, Rose!).
The students had prepared presentations for us about their school and their training, and we had time to ask them questions before they took us on a tour through the facilities (and guess what? they also asked us about high school cheerleaders).
We ate sandwiches and soup (perfect combination, obviously) and then Noëmi took us all on a tour of her school. I’d seen her office, her classroom, the teachers’ lounge, and the restroom, but that’s about it. So I loved getting to see all of the nooks and crannies. And one of the most important nooks is this nook:And this was a pretty amazing cranny: When the tour was over and the visitors and their hosts left, Noëmi took me to her team meeting (I understood one word: Noëmi) and then I hung out in her office while she did some work. We were both tired from an excellent first couple of days at work, but looking forward to Wednesday, which was our day out at Efteling Theme Park.
I have many things to say about Efteling Theme Park, and they are all good things. But you’re going to have to wait until my next post for that. So for now, I’ll leave you with this:
I’m in the Netherlands!
In the fall, I participated in the first half of an international scholar exchange program by hosting a Dutch scholar — an English teacher from Summa College in Eindhoven — for two weeks.
And this week I started the second half by traveling to the Netherlands for my own two-week visit. It’s only my fourth day, and it’s only the second day of the school week, but I have so much to talk about already; so I’ve decided to break up these first days into 1: the weekend; and 2: the start of the work week. That way I can give everything the just descriptions they all deserve and not overwhelm you readers.
So, here’s how I came about to Holland and how I spent my first forty-eight hours!
Trevor took me to the airport on Friday afternoon. I was fresh from entering my students’ final grades; I’d finished packing and we hopped into the car.
I got through security in ten minutes, ate a sandwich, and then read my book for an hour while waiting to board the plane.
What book, you ask? Oh, only the library book that was due on the 13th but that I hadn’t finished and assumed I’d be able to renew, but then I couldn’t renew because someone has a hold on it, and now I’m 4,176 miles away from the library so it’s going to be returned three weeks late. Right. That book.
Sorry, fellow librarian patron. I have done you wrong.
But, I got on the plane with my overdue book and had an uneventful flight, which is the best kind of flight. We landed in Amsterdam at 9:20 a.m. local time and I met up with Noëmi, where we hugged a great big hug hello and then immediately made plans to get coffee. And while getting coffee, we saw this bird.
Noëmi drove us to her village, Valkenswaard. It’s about 12 kilometers south-east of Eindhoven, where Noëmi teaches. The village is adorable: there are snack shops everywhere so you can get frites (a.k.a. chips [a.k.a. fries]); and the Dutch still use automats, so there’s a bit of a Dutch Mad Men vibe; and there are just as many bicyclists on the road as there are cars.
And then she and I just hung around and caught up. I met Noëmi’s boyfriend, Dave, and their cats, Wooff and Karel, and I moved into my room, which, when I am not visiting, is used as Dave’s exercise room. He has motivational posters on the walls, and they are now keeping me company.
We continued to be low-key on Sunday, heading to the Eindhoven city center to wander around the shops…
…sip some hot chocolate and people-watched while it rained…
…and look for important souvenirs to bring back for Trevor.
We also went to a beautiful book store, the Boekhandel Van Piere, and did a bit of wandering. Noëmi took a surreptitious picture, which is something Trevor does. So it felt like home.
Dave was at the PSV game, and when the match was over (PSV won, though it was the final game of the season and it didn’t matter much [but they still won!]) we met up to find some dinner. And dinner we did find! We went to a high-end food court called the Down Town Gourmet Market: Dave got Indian food, I got sushi, and Noëmi got pasta. But she was still hungry, so she also got this:
We had a great time, and then headed home for the night, making a pit stop so that they could teach me HOW TO DRIVE A MANUAL TRANSMISSION!
I’ve always wanted to learn, and now I have! I drove in circles around a mostly empty parking lot for about fifteen minutes, and I would have kept going, but I think Noëmi and Dave were feeling woozy. It was so much fun! And I only stalled the car once! Ha!
And that’s all I’m going to write about now. My next two posts will be about the excellent school visits I’ve had so far this week (these students are great; these teachers are great!) and grocery shopping in the Netherlands. Yes. Grocery shopping. I love it.
The first week that Noëmi, our visiting Dutch scholar, was here in the States was jam-packed and a heck of a lotta fun. She observed teachers at MCC, she got to see her first university campus to attend class with me at UIC, and she carved her very first jack-o-lantern for Halloween.
Her second week was just as jam-packed, and, possibly, even more fun. We started on Monday with observations at Elgin Community College. Another host and English teacher at ECC (Ginger, a very generous and helpful person) set up a great itinerary for Noëmi, so she was able to sit in on a journalism class, a literature class, and an English composition class. We also had the benefit of getting a polka serenade as a part of ECC’s Oktoberfest. No offense to the teachers that Noëmi observed, but it was definitely the highlight of our afternoon.
On Tuesday we took another field trip, this time back into Chicago for my educational psychology class. But before heading to UIC, we had to check out one of Chicago’s main tourist attractions.
Now, Noëmi is afraid of heights, so I was a little surprised she wanted to go up to the Skydeck at the Sears Tower (yeah, I’m not calling it anything else get over it). We’d agreed early on in her visit that if it was a cloudy day, we wouldn’t go up because we’d probably not be able to see anything. But we woke up that morning to a warm, clear-skied day, and we had to do it.
Although Noëmi was nervous, once we got up there, her excitement over the views took over. We walked all around, taking in the city from every direction, and it was lovely. Chicago is a beautiful city and I felt so proud to tell her about the buildings I knew something about. And while “proud” isn’t really the right word for this one (“bizarre” might be better?), I pointed out the Metro Correctional Center, too.
Noëmi even had the guts to go out onto one of the glass shelves. It was a little stomach-dropping, but pretty wild.
For more great pictures, check out Noëmi’s blog post “Hoogtevrees (Afraid of Heights)”.
We headed back down to the ground and to get some sandwiches for lunch. I filled Noëmi in on what we’d be talking about in class that day (intrinsic motivation, in case you just needed to know), and then we took the Blue line one stop to campus. Why didn’t we walk? Because our bellies were full of sandwiches and we didn’t want to, so get off my back, man.
After class we hopped back on the Blue line to meet my parents for dinner, this time traveling five stops, so it was totally justified. By this time in the late afternoon/early evening, we’d digested our sandwiches and needed to re-fill our bellies. What better way to do that than over dinner while chatting with two of my favorite people, Mom and Dad Bork? The four of us talked about the Netherlands, art museums, and the Dutch system of registering citizens’ religious affiliations with the government (my mom’s head almost exploded with surprise by this, and if I hadn’t been as engrossed as I was in my french fries, mine probably would have, too). We finished our lovely dinner, and Noëmi and I walked to the train station and headed back home to Camp Crystal Lake.
Luckily, Wednesday and Thursday were going to be spent at MCC, so Noëmi didn’t have to travel far. But on Wednesday, she did have to put her scholarly game face on for the “Brown Bag Round Table” discussion the seven visitors were going to lead. We prepared our room with Dutch/U.S. friendship flags, and took some pre-round table selfies with Frank’s selfie stick (my first selfie stick picture!):
We had lots of visitors to chat with our Dutch scholars, and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.
After a lot of great conversation, Noëmi headed to her afternoon appointments. She spent some time chatting both with our Dean of Library as well as with the coordinator of our advising department to get even more information to bring home to Summa College and her colleagues there. By the end of the day she was loaded down with great information, ideas, and the need to do just a little bit of resting.
But, only about an hour’s worth of resting was in her cards, because Trevor and I had tickets for the three of us to go see David Sedaris at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake.
KWHAT? DAVID SEDARIS came to CRYSTAL LAKE? That’s INSANE.
And yes; yes, it was.
Last spring, as Trevor and I were at the Raue Center picking up our tickets to Death of a Salesman (my friend Shannon, who I played opposite in God of Carnage two summers ago, played Linda Loman and she knocked everyone’s socks right off of their feet, she was so good), and Trevor noticed an advertisement for the Raue’s upcoming events. One of those events was an evening with DAVID SEDARIS, and we were so excited that we immediately bought a pair of tickets for the reading on October 26. We’ve seen him three (or four?) times before in Chicago, and each time is hilarious, so we couldn’t imagine our luck that he was coming to the intimate venue just two miles from our house. And then, at the end of the school year, I got the opportunity to participate in the ICISP scholar exchange and found out that my guest would be here in Crystal Lake in time for the reading, so we immediately got her a ticket.
So, last Wednesday, as we did our hour’s worth of resting before having dinner with Lisa and her husband James (who were also going to the reading), and then heading to the theater, Trevor, Noëmi and I listened to Sedaris read his story “Six to Eight Black Men” from his Live from Carnegie Hall album. It was the first thing I’d ever heard him read, and when I heard it the first time, about thirteen years ago, I almost peed my pants from laughing so hard. Since it’s about the Dutch holiday tradition of St. Nicholas, Noëmi had to hear it; and she got a kick out of it, too, though she kept her composure better than I had those many years ago (this is not a surprise; I am a bit of a lunatic).
Here’s Sedaris reading (most) of the story:
On Thursday, Noëmi visited Lisa’s class — her final observation — and attended one of our Faculty Council standing committee meetings on curriculum development and review. She and her colleagues at Summa College recently wrote some new curriculum and are hoping to write more, so she was eager to learn more about our process at MCC.
That afternoon, the group attended a farewell party in Woodstock so that all of our school’s employees could come to chat with our guests for one last time before they left. I couldn’t attend because of class, but Noëmi told me it was a fun time, and she came home that evening loaded up with some great MCC swag that made me very jealous.
Friday was our final full day together, and Noëmi had one last request: to go to the outlet mall. And, since I am not a monster, I could not deny her this wish, so we headed to the Pleasant Prairie outlet mall in Kenosha, WI. It was exciting for a number of reasons: first, because we traveled to Wisconsin, so Noëmi got to visit another state (it was so different than Illinois, she could barely believe it! [j.k. she wouldn’t have even known if I didn’t tell her when we left IL and then left WI to go back into IL]).
It was also exciting because it was shopping, and shopping is just plain exciting. We both got a new pair of Converse and some other assorted pieces of clothing, though mostly we just had fun wandering around and looking at everything we liked but wouldn’t actually buy. I really wanted to buy about five outfits from the Nike store but realized that the most active I get is walking Roo 1.5 – 2 miles per day (at a leisurely pace; my heart rate does not get very high), it was absurd for me to purchase clothing meant for high achievement athletes, then only to wear it for my own high achievement napping. Even though the fleece-lined hoodies with the little holes in the sleeves for your thumbs are so cozy. So cozy!
The last reason our trip was exciting was that we got to drive through Trevor. You read that correctly: we drove through Trevor. And he didn’t feel a thing! HA!
Trevor, WI is located in Kenosha County, WI, and we stopped there to fill up the car and giggle about being in Trevor.
Friday night was a story in an of itself — the three of us went to see a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I will be writing about that adventure in a separate post, because it deserves its own space.
And that was it. On Saturday we all woke up, went to eat a big lunch, and then I dropped Noëmi off at Kim’s house, who was driving her, Esther, and Jacqueline to O’Hare to catch their flight back home that afternoon.
It was hard to say goodbye, but knowing that I’ll be visiting Noëmi in May for the second part of our exchange made it easier. Plus, we’ve already been texting on What’sApp about The Walking Dead, the World Series, and Roo; I imagine we will keep this up until we see each other again.
There are a couple of stories I’ll tell in separate posts: the aforementioned story about The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the story that tells you what on earth I’m doing in this picture:
So stay tuned for those stories, and more! (though, the “more” is probably going to be about Roo, so…you’ve been warned.)
Alweer de laatste week… Ik loop deze week een beetje achter met bloggen, het is nu vrijdag en ik ga beginnen met maandag. Elgin Community College Ongeveer op 40 minuten afstand van MCC (McHen…
Halloween isn’t celebrated in the Netherlands like it’s celebrated here in the U.S., so I’m very excited that Noëmi got to experience it here, or, if not the actual holiday, at least the preparation.
The first thing we did was get a couple of pumpkins for carving. Noëmi had never carved a pumpkin before, so she was very excited. We googled “Jack-o-Lanterns” for some good ideas, and then we set to carving.
Noëmi decided that her pumpkin would be smiley and cute, while I decided mine would be scarier, toothier. They both turned out pretty darn good.
Once we had some ghoulish gourds, we set out to spookify the house. I took out my bag(s) of bones, my gravestones, ghosts, and my zombie gnomes, and we went at it.
We did a good job, and will hopefully scare the neighborhood children come Monday’s Halloween trick-or-treatathon. But our house wasn’t the only scary thing in Crystal Lake. There was also…WALMART.
See, one of the first things Noëmi asked me, when we started talking about cultural differences between the Netherlands and the U.S., was, “Can you really buy bullets in the grocery store?” And, although I hated to say it, the answer was, “Well, yeah.”
Because although you can’t get bullets at my local Jewel — and thank goodness for that — you can certainly get them at the local Walmart, where along with your baby formula, vitamins, green peppers for that chili you’re making, and new hand towels for the guest bathroom, you can buy as much ammo as you need! Great!
Walmart also sells bows and arrows…
For more about Noëmi’s adventures with Halloween and Walmart, check out her excellent blog (it’s in Dutch, but her pictures are terrific [and maybe you read Dutch! I don’t know your life!]).
I’ll have more posts about Noëmi’s last days of adventuring at Camp Crystal Lake and Chicago, so come back soon!