Interview with Marleen Bakker, teacher of English language and literature at Calvijn College – Zeeland.

What are you mainly: subject teacher or pedagogue?


Which element typifies all your lessons?

My goal is to “see” all students in each lesson. I stand at the door and welcome them, look them all in the eye and try to find out how they are doing. I think the personal well-being of every student is important and situations on arrival sometimes immediately give rise to a conversation.

During class I try to respond to what happens in the classroom. If necessary, I will change my entire program. Sometimes I prefer choosing something that they are really involved in (within certain frameworks of course) than sticking to my own schedule. Sometimes that only takes about 10 minutes, then they are completely in class again.

You are an education minister for one day. What do you want to record permanently within education?

More space / time for the teacher as a pedagogue. Not only for tutors, but for all teachers, especially in the lower classes. Training is more important than knowledge. The young people we work with are in an important stage of their lives. The opinion of the elderly matters, although they do not always show that. They value honesty, even if it does not fit in at the moment. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of time to really talk, during class, but also often after class. How to solve that? Put a teaching assistant in each lesson so that the teacher can free up more time for 1-on-1 counselling / conversations.

What valuable experience or tip would you like to share?

Have a broad look around you as a teacher! Visit other schools, at home and abroad. You get so much inspiration from it that will benefit your lessons. I myself have taught twice at a Summer school in Lithuania  summer school in Lithuania. Fantastic! Many fellow teachers there come from Canada and America and have a lot of knowledge. Working together and living together in the student house there is enriching because the students,  they are all Christians.

Every year I try to follow refresher courses in areas such as: bullying in secondary education, attachment problems, and boys / girls classes.

In my field (English) I keep my focus by going to regional meetings of the English Core Group and attending the Best Practice Days at the University of Leiden. You learn something everywhere.

In order to develop more broadly, I did the training as a school teacher in 2018-2019. Now I supervise a student and a starting colleague. In this way you remain involved in new developments and insights.

Also take a broader view within your own school / location. Last year I observed a number of lessons for seven months for a sick colleague at a different location. It is fascinating to see how different the teams are within their own school. We then also exchanged materials. It was really a win-win situation.

You have an educational career, but you can start all over again. What would you do differently?

I found it heavy to be involved in personal problems of the pupils. In the beginning of my career, it was difficult for me to keep a bit of distance. In the problems of your pupils, you are really confronted to the brokenness of this world. Sometimes that can seem to be almost hopeless. How wonderful it is to be able to point the pupils to God, who, although we may not understand it, nevertheless directs our lives and wants to perform miracles on our prayer.

You work at a Christian school. What distinguishes your subject lessons from the same lessons at a non-Christian school?

English is a world language. I invite people from the persecuted churches to come and give guest lessons. People from the Refugee Centre are invited to tell their life story. With another class I set up a correspondence with students from grade 8/9 of a Christian school in Lithuania. Speaking English well offers many opportunities in the (Christian) world. In the higher level classes, we train listening skills. There are many Ted Talks and documentaries that have a moral aspect. Sometimes we talk about it and good conversations arise.

The question in an exercise from the method: What did you do this weekend ?, can just lead to the discussion about what you can say on your Saturday job when you are asked about your faith.

Practicing reading skills on the basis of all kinds of articles gives a lot of room to search for something that affects current events or identity. For example, a nice conversation about racism in relation to the recent refugee problem arose while an article about volunteering made them think about their own contribution to society.

The students leave your lessons and school. What do you hope they will remember about that in 25 years?

That I had sincere attention for my pupils, that I was really interested in them and that they also learned English, but in that order.

What inspiring spell do you want to give to the readers of the I&K Newsletter?

You cannot create golden moments, but when they come along you have to grab them!