Sane Danes

11th May 2007 at 01:00
Ah Denmark. Land of good bacon and expensive beer. This is about all I knew of the country before I embarked on a teaching research trip to Copenhagen.

Twelve female education professionals with big personalities and a predilection for wine - no doubt a scary vision for our genial Danish host. We had hoped he would be a giant blond Viking with rippling muscles, but he turned out to be a small man with a beard.

But the myth about the expensive beer came crushingly true and the good bacon never materialised (apparently it all gets shipped off to Britain).

But, of course, we weren't just there to drink and eat. We had a serious mission - to find out what goes on in Danish schools and to steal any good ideas.

The Danes were heralded as the "happiest" European nation in a recent poll.

Quite how they measured this I'm not sure but its proof was in the classrooms. Teachers ambled cheerfully from lesson to lesson. Creatively dressed pupils greeted them by their first names and smiled a lot. Even the surly teenagers had a twinkle of joy in their heavily-kohled eyes.

We observed a music lesson in which a small Year 6 class was rehearsing its school concert offering - a saucy English pop song. So while the nippers were panting the phrase: "Ooh yea baby. Bang me with your love," I asked their teacher whether he was comfortable with the lyrics. "Oh yes," he replied with typical Danish directness, "We're not afraid to talk about sexual matters here." So is the secret to eternal happiness about being liberal and laid-back?

Perhaps, but I can't help thinking it has something to do with the fact that every time we asked to see a lesson plan, the response was, "Ah, you see, we don't really do paperwork here... "

Job in Denmark, anyone?

Louisa Leaman is a London teacher

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