11.11.2016, Ellimaija Ahonen
The focus needs to be on kids – always
I had a chance to spend some full but fruitful days in New York and New Jersey are in USA few weeks ago. Visiting many private schools, universities and institutions gave more understanding of current situation and challenges schools, principals and teachers are facing in USA.
I also had an opportunity to meet Managing Director of Finnish American Chamber of Commerce in New York and plan together a training workshop and events to be held for principals in New York area. Some great connections towards United Nations and General Assembly were also introduced.
”Testing, testing, testing….curriculum and assessment are a nightmare!”
Experts and principals were enthusiastic about their work they are doing and were proud of the intellectual capacity in their school. But at the same time people were struggling with huge amount of bureaucracy, time spent with accreditation system, amount of regular formal feedback and assessment. Change management is also taking its toll and time for innovative things is little. Also the strategic plan needs to be addressed by the school and followed by teachers.
How to please customers?
When we covered the meaning of results and learning outcomes nearly everyone mentioned the demands schools are receiving from their customers: parents and families. Customer is paying and is expecting to have value for money; mothers and fathers want measurable results and good grades. Good results mean good grades and by good grades one gets entry to next level in their school path in good college.
I had a chance to tell a bit about National Curriculum Reform in Finland. The new curriculum in Finland highlights daily life skills. I didn´t notice much that kind of orientation during my visit as the ethos was strongly towards measurable and quantified results.
“Everybody here wants to replicate what happens in classrooms in Finland!”
What surprised them the most was the homogenous quality schools no matter where you are in Finland, the mindset teachers are having and the respect teachers are enjoying in Finland. One astonishing thing is the fact that in Finland we don´t have final national exams when finishing 9th grade. Entrepreneurship Education and Technology in Education were something people wanted to know more about and that part is also taken into account in New Core Curriculum. We at Learning Scoop are also providing Themed Study Tours where participants have a chance to get to know deeper these topics, both in theory and in practice.
Teacher in service trainings are in focus for many during summer and breaks and many of them would like to feel the magic of learning in Finland. What made me smile is that many principals and experts emphasized “learning first” instead of tech gadgets. You can create a wonderful learning experience without any equipment! On the other hand personal development training courses conducted in traditional way don´t work any longer. More job embedded models and processes which are linked to school strategy are highly valued.
All the people I met were very kind and interested in knowing what´s on in educational powerhouse Finland. Teachers are the same no matter where you are and they want the best for the kids. In one preparatory school the warmth and appreciation of 4th grade teacher was overwhelming as pupils ran to her and hugged her during breaks. Those children were so thrilled to have me as a visitor in their classroom – warm thank you, made my day!