Besuchmorgen: A Visit to a Swiss Public School

Last week, I went to the open doors day/parent visiting day at our local Swiss public school in Rüschlikon. As I don’t have children there, I asked for permission from the school secretariat in advance. In most classes the teachers acted as if the parents were not there, so I suppose you could just go after finding out the date at your local school from the neighbors or by emailing/phoning the secretariat (Schulverwaltung).

In 1.5 hours, I was able to pop into the Kindergarten classes, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.

Things that stood out for me:

  • Language of instruction: in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, the teachers were speaking mostly German, with an audible Swiss accent though. Sometimes I overheard them giving students quick explanations in Swiss German. In Kindergarten, the language spoken was Swiss German.
  • Reading class where all the students were using iPads or MacBooks to read short texts and solve puzzles based on what they read. I was surprised to see books to be completely replaced by EdTech in the 2nd grade classroom. Exercises seemed personalized to the students’ levels: some were reading single sentences in large font, while others worked on short texts of 4-6 sentences.
  • Math: just like in the reading class, every student was working on its own level. In the 2nd grade, some were working with two-digit numbers while others performed operations on thousands. In the 3rd grade, the students were working in pairs: rolling dice, writing down the numbers, telling each other what operations to perform, the pair had to jointly arrive at 555.
  • Music lesson was my favorite: the music teacher personally greeted every adult coming in, involved us in activities, and commented on the goal behind every activity. Apart from singing, there were exercises when you had to strike various beats, observing a colored sequence, kids solved super-sized Sudokus on the floor, played a circle game where you had to pass objects using both hands while following the beat and singing (most adults struggled with it, too!)
  • Kindergarten: I popped in after the gym class (which I would have loved to see), when the kids were having a snack and then starting the self-guided play. The more organized activities are earlier in the morning. Many options to suit all tastes: art, worksheets (mostly abstract focusing on colors, patterns, shapes), magic castle area with costumes, a huge table for lego construction. A Montessori classroom looks tidier and more organized, but the kids seemed quite happy and busy in this one, too.
  • 1st/2nd/3rd grade: lots of breaks and quick change of activity during class time. 15 minutes of math, submit your worksheets, sing a song, go get some water, fresh air, take a bathroom break. Switch to reading, return your devices after 15 minutes, remember the homework (20 minutes of reading), sing a song, longer break outside with a snack. This is in contrast to what I’m used to seeing in the Montessori school where children have an opportunity to devote a longer chunk of time to a project (to be fair, I saw “Projekt” on the weekly plan, scheduled for another day).

If you live in Switzerland and your child is in a private kindergarten or school, or has not yet reached the school age, I highly recommend arranging for a visit, it is very interesting and helps you decide if you consider public vs. private, or prepare for the future if you know your child will go to the public school.

If you went to a Besuchmorgen recently, please share your observations!