Heja Stockholm! My job shadowing trip to Blackebergs Gymnasium
Florian Borecky-Kutej, Sweden 2023
Let’s begin how every good travel report should – with the citation of another one. Stefanie Sargnagel describes the start of her journey to Iowa very much the way I felt going to Stockholm: as a big question on why I should embark on such a journey. “Ob diese Reise eine gute Entscheidung gewesen ist, weiß ich immer noch nicht. Ich schätze eben mittlerweile das Vertraute. […] Ein warmes Nest, alte FreundInnen, regelmäßiges Krafttraining an der Langhantel, am Abend ein Nudeltopf und kuscheln, keine neuen Leute kennenlernen. Das sind die Eckpfeiler meines Lebens.“ (Stefanie Sagnagel: Iowa. Ein Ausflug nach Amerika, S. 23-24). The rain welcoming me to Stockholm surely did its part in turning the volume on the why-question up a bit.
In fall 2023, I had the opportunity to visit Blackebergs Gymnasium in Stockholm with the Erasmus+ program. I wanted to get a glimpse of the Swedish school system, particularly the Blackebergs’ way of teaching Swedish as a second language. The overall experience proved interesting, trying my best to contrast and compare the Austrian to the Swedish school system. The teaching styles were overall not too different, however there were other aspects that I would love to take back to Austria: the different working hours, the broad availability of support personnel, the free food and spacious school building.
Blackebergs Gymnasium is an upper secondary school for 16-19-year-olds that mostly train to qualify for university and is on the outskirts of the city. I started my Monday there around 08:00 o’clock with a walk through the building. On the outside it looks like the stereotypical Scandinavian school – dark red, small bricks, but with all the lights turned on it felt welcoming in contrast to the fall mood outside. To get into the building one must have a chip card and – in case of the students – be on time. Gladly someone took pity on me and showed me how to get in. Inside, the building appears to be quite old, but the facilities are all a teacher could wish for: the classrooms are tidy, the projectors are running without trouble, and everything works the way it should work. The big difference is space – there’s just a bit more of it. Since the students are not allowed to stay in the classroom during breaks, they wander to the big hall, where they have space to chat and hang out. This in my opinion helped with the exchange of students of different classes as well as social cohesion; and as a side effect the classrooms including all their materials remained tidy and in place.
The teaching staff has its very own offices: teams of six share a room; every teacher has a spacious desk and a computer. The structure and surroundings at Blackebergs Gymnasium did altogether seem just a bit better. The students looked happier; the teachers less stressed. This might also be due to having the possibility of taking a cheap breakfast and free lunch when attending the school. Another pillar that might lead to the good mood: The “Rasta”, a once-a-week meeting of students and teachers during school hours that has the sole purpose of getting people to socialize; the health professionals, who are at school during opening hours, a team of headmasters; and the possibility to have longer and shorter lessons.
The lessons, although some of them were brilliantly structured and thought through, were not that different to Austrian ones. However, the way Swedish as a Second Language was taught differs from the Austrian system – learning Swedish is mostly integrated in other subjects like learning biology. This only works because there is a special curriculum and well-designed materials in all of these subjects (books, videos etc.)
Besides school, I had the time to stroll through Gamlastan and Södermalm, went to Moderna Museet and had dinner at a traditional restaurant. A good way to get acquainted with the city!
To summarize the experience: What I identified to be the significant advantages of the Swedish school system are better structures, facilities and overall environment: A free meal and flexibility goes a surprisingly long way!