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March 1, 1996
Vol. 53
No. 6

In Switzerland / Summer Seminars for Educators

For more than 100 years, Swiss teachers have reaped the benefits of greater control over their program of professional growth. In a rite of summer which dates back to 1884, Swiss teachers have been organizing their own staff development retreats, held in a different town each year. More than 3,500 teachers attended the most recent three-week retreat last summer in Kreuzlingen on the shores of Lake Contance.
Although the Swiss state makes provisions for professional development, teachers feel that the summer session gives them greater control over the content of their inservice training. And, since the seminars are held in a different town each year, participants come to know all of Switzerland, with its different regions and languages.
The Swiss Association for School and Inservice training was developed to coordinate the summer session, which in recent years has grown to massive proportions. In a planning process worthy of the Olympic Games, teachers in the chosen town begin preparation for the retreat three years in advance. They are responsible for all logistics and infrastructure: accommodations for participants, space for the seminars, recruiting instructors, coordinating with local authorities, and so forth. They work as volunteers so that participation in the conference is free; their reward comes from contributing to the professionalism of their chosen field.
The Kreuzlingen conference featured more than 400 instructors and more than 200 courses and seminars. Major subjects included management training, Waldorf and Montessori instruction, media studies, and studies in the various school disciplines. Cultural activities, speeches, sporting events, and dancing were woven into the meeting.
This annual affair illustrates the benefits of teachers playing a lead role in issues of professional improvement. The retreats are highly rated by attending teachers, and many have come each year for 10 or more years.
This summer, the event will be held in the town of Schwyz. For more information, contact: Schweizerischer Verein fur Schule und Fortbildung, Bennwilerstr. 6, CH 4434 Holstein, Switzerland.

Walter Weibel has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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