How the idea evolved
Schools, culture and Amerikanska Gymnasiet
We looked at the research, we looked at tried and tested experience, we looked at the best American schools and the best Swedish schools, and we created – Amerikanska Gymnasiet.
USA has long been one of the leading nations in the major fields of education, science, technology, sports and entrepreneurship. Not least through later innovations such as the internet and the entire digital revolution that has seen the growth of companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many more.
Sweden too, although a relatively small country, has a long tradition of innovation not only in research and technology and in entrepreneurship with companies like IKEA, Volvo and SKF, but also internationally with triumphs in sport and music. And we are leaders in digitilization with international companies such as Skype, Klarna and Spotify.
Most would agree that few countries can compete with the fighting spirit, entrepeneurial culture, talent for innovation and belief in achieving the impossible in the USA.
It is essentially a question of culture. Culture is a way of thinking, acting and being, the “social glue” that holds a society or an organization together. Culture doesn’t lie in bricks and mortar but lies in the minds of those living in a common culture whether it a nation, an organization, a school or a family.
One of the driving forces behind the Amerikanska Gymnasiet is the idea of creating a culture where it is ok to think big, to dare to believe in yourself and to venture outside your own comfort zone. For our students to dare to do this we adults must give them both “firmness and friendship”. Firmness and friendship that in themselves create a calm and safe working environment. Clear regulations and rules of play but also thoughtfulness where we see and care about one another. We want to create an environment where it’s ok to try things and to make mistakes. It’s often from our mistakes we learn the most. “Learning by doing” is another way of putting it.
Amerikanska Gymnasiet gives students the opportunity to experience what life is like in an American high school. Professional teachers with authority, clear rules and thereby a beneficial and calm study environment in a positive and coaching spirit.
Amerikanska Gymnasiet offers motivated students, who have the ambition to go on to further studies, a school that is unique in Sweden. Students graduate with the Swedish upper secondary diploma and in accordance with the program they have studied, all the specific requirements for further studies at university or college.
We want all our students and all our staff to reach their full potential. Swedish schools are governed by the Swedish National Agency for Education and the the national program directives.
The program directive for upper secondary schools states, “The task of the school is to encourage all students to discover their own uniqueness as individuals and thereby actively participate in the life of society by giving of their best in responsible freedom.””.
How can we create an environment that will ensure this?
At Amerikanska Gymnasiet in Sweden each student and each colleague is important – and unique. By closely following each student’s learning and personal development we ensure that the students – in so far it is possible – find their own uniqueness as individuals.
” For us “To give their best in responsible freedom” means practising positive attitudes, for instance through our values. To do your best is about attitude. For us, “responsible freedom” or freedom with responsibility means teaching our students every day to take responsibility for themselves and for their surroundings. Freedom with responsibility means for example taking responsibility for your actions and not laying blame on others.
We want our teachers to coach each and every student to reach full potential. In turn the high school principal ensures that our teachers are likewise coached to reach their full potential.
This is our promise. We believe everyone has the capacity.
– You can do it!
We have clearly defined values that apply for everyone, the school leaders, the teachers and the students and these values shape the Amerikanska Gymnasiet in Sweden culture. Values are fundamental to a good school culture. We regularly discuss and practise our values so that everyone understands them and can act in accordance with them. Only first when everyone gains a deep understanding of what the different words mean in action can shared values impact daily life. Words written on a wall or in a brochure do not affect your actions if you do not understand and practise what they mean. And then live in accordance with them.
Knowledge and Curiosity – we seek knowledge and want to learn
Courage – we are unafraid and we challenge our fears
Kindness – we are helpful and kind to one another
Grit – we don’t give up and we see setbacks as learning opportunities
Amerikanska Gymnasiet in Sweden logotype contains the word “Fortitudo”. Fortitudoor fortitude means courage and endurance. A courageous person acts in accordance with convictions and goals, even at risk of negative consequences for her- or himself. Courage is to be afraid yet overcome fear so as to achieve what must be done. Courage strengthens the individual’s self-esteem and helps her or him overcome fear through being exposed to it. We nurture courage in many ways, for example through practising public speaking.
Rules of play (regulations)
We have explicit rules so as to ensure the best possible study environment.
These rules describe how we want the school and the classroom to be and they are revised every school year together with the students.
By establishing in advance an agreed structure for the study environment we want in every classroom, we can fully devote ourselves to learning and teaching.
It is self-evident to us that it is our task as adults to ensure that rules and regulations are also followed.
This is not always straightforward in Swedish schools. That is why we have various exercises to practise dealing with possible breaches of the rules, for instance late-coming. We practise classroom leadership to ensure that students always receive the same interpretation of the rules from all teachers. This also makes it easier for the school leaders to support both students and teachers in their workplace.
Our task is to teach students to take increasing responsibility for their education. This includes basic factors such as punctuality and bringing along the necessary materials, not interrupting classmates, contributing with opinions about teaching and waiting their turn as well as developing empathy and respect for other individuals.
Most schools place emphasis on every student achieving their “goals”.
This is where we from the school and parents/the rest of the world might not always mean the same thing. What goals do we mean?
By “goals” schools often mean the grade E, in other words a pass. There is of course a certain truth in that, if we consider the school’s task, but we believe that the school cannot forget those students who want to achieve higher grades. Unfortunately, in our experience that is exactly what often happens in Sweden today. Too much focus is placed on distruptions in the classroom and students who want to reach higher goals are often forgotten. We place our faith in you, your capacity for personal growth and that you will grow with your learning. Placing demands on our students and colleagues is something we see as positive and stimulating.
Speech and rhetoric
Public speaking and speech making are commonly associated with nervousness. We include extra speech and presentation in the daily schoolwork in both Swedish and English. Through frequent practise and feedback nervousness lessens and you become more confident and more skillful for every year. Feeling confident on stage is basically a question of practise and more practise. It is as much about practising courage and confidence.
We start off year one right away with study techniques so that students learn to plan and structure their work. By initially devoting lots of time to study techniques we train the students early on to work independently and to take responsibility for their own education, to plan their own time and studies.
Fitness and sports clubs
Everyone knows that sports and fitness training in every shape and form lead to higher concentration, endurance and resiliance during the school day. Amerikanska Gymnasiet in Sweden places extra focus and time on fitness for both students and staff. We offer a wide range of clubs for extra curricular activities. This is a fantastic opportunity to both strengthen the school community spirit and in a longer perspective also to forge strong bonds for future careers.
At Amerikanska Gymnasiet a large part of the lessons are held in English. This allows students to become familiar with the language very quickly and helps those who want to continue to further studies, where a great many lectures and course textbooks are in English. English is today one of the most common corporate languages in many companies in Sweden and elsewhere.