8 benefits of DODEA schools

by Carly Williams
Stripes Europe

For children and adults alike, the prospect of entering a new school can be daunting, let alone when that new school will be based in a foreign country. For some it may be their first experience within a Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) school. For some, it may be their first school ever. It’s natural to feel nervous entering a new school, but both parents and students stationed at a military base in Europe can rest assured that the DODEA school system provides a robust education to all its students, and enjoys relatively high graduation rates. Here are some of the features that help to make the DODEA Europe schools stand out:

  1. Quick and easy transition processes.  Whether your child is transferring from another DOD school elsewhere, a public or private school in the US, or even a school system in a foreign country, the administration and school office staff ensure that the transition into the base schools in Europe is easy and painless. Enrolling your child with even the bare minimum of paperwork is acceptable, although the more records you can get from his last school, the easier the process will be.

 

  1. Transitioning into the classroom is easy too.  The first day at a new school is filled with apprehension for both students and parents, but teachers in the DODEA Europe schools are used to the regular incomings and outgoings of students and are well prepared for those set to join. Teachers are notified when a new student will be starting and ensure that there will be a desk ready for him, and a small amount of school supplies available to use. Usually, teachers will assign another student to be your child’s buddy. This is an invaluable approach to ensure the new student is befriended, and shown the new routines, on a day that will already be daunting and confusing for your child.

 

  1. The teachers understand and accommodate military life. One great aspect about the military schools is that the teachers are accustomed to the often-erratic lifestyles that military families lead. They are prepared for students coming and leaving during the middle of the school year. Furthermore, teachers understand that deployments are regular occurrences; family members usually fly in when flights are cheap; and doctor and dentist appointments at the base clinics tend to be during school hours. This understanding allows teachers to be better prepared to help your child succeed when life takes over.

 

  1. Host nation classes. While living in a European country is an amazing opportunity for your child, the Host Nation classes that your child is offered at the base school can make their time here even more valuable. These classes, taught by a foreign national and offered within the school day, teach students the customs, culture and language of the country where the family is stationed.

 

  1. Field trips. There are few schools in the states that can offer field trips to visit landmarks in London or experience making authentic pasta in Italy. The opportunity for your child to try something new, and have a unique and memorable experience while on a field trip in Europe is priceless. Additionally, some DODEA teachers arrange with local schools to do a “foreign exchange” trip to experience a day in the classroom of a local school, and then invite the local national students to enjoy some time in the American school. This is a valuable way for children to experience different learning approaches and learn about the local culture.  

 

  1. A community within a community. The military base is usually the hub of community for Americans stationed overseas. It’s a place where events are held, American holidays are celebrated and sports teams or interest groups regularly congregate. The schools on base are often a community themselves, where friendships are made, students and their parents join groups and events are held. The school also offers employment and volunteer opportunities for members of the community.

 

  1. The PTA. A lot of schools have PTA groups but those located in the DODEA Europe schools have committed members who work hard to provide a great service to military families, even without some of the resources afforded to those in Stateside schools. For example, many of their supplies have to be ordered in advance and members are reliant on the unpredictable postal service.  The PTA holds great fundraising events, raising large sums that are then put back into the school. The PTA groups in military schools also welcome parents into their groups who may otherwise feel lonely and stranded in a foreign country, helping them assimilate and giving them purpose.

 

  1. Family and military life counselors.  Military life has many benefits, but comes with its own set of challenges too. DODEA schools recognize that its students may need additional support and employs FML Counselors to provide this. Deployments, reunions and PCS seasons are some of the issues that are unique to military children and can be difficult to deal with alone or within the family. The licensed counselors are trained to support and help the students build resilience and face these challenges. The FMLC program is an invaluable resource that students attending base schools in Europe benefit from everyday.

There is no such thing as a perfect school, and the DODEA schools in Europe are no different. However, the aspects listed above are just some of the ways that make them a solid asset to the military communities serving overseas. It is worth remembering that while your family serves, many of the teachers, staff and volunteers in your local base school go that extra mile needed to ensure that your children are provided with a comprehensive education that will lead to academic success and a bright future.

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