From Start to Finish (No Pun Intended)

There is so much to process from today’s classroom visits that I’m not really sure how to compartmentalize or summarize it all.
I’ll start by saying that the teachers I met today are nothing short of miracle workers. They teach in a school where students speak more than 20 different languages and in a community where refugees and transient cultures seek stability. This is not the norm in Finland, so this particular school is learning as they go. While the staff admits that they are challenged by the diversity in their school, they are proud of the work they do with kids and embrace the differences. One way they do this is by putting all their resources into providing support in the “mother tongue” as well as building up the second language (Finnish).In the classrooms I observed, it was common to see at teacher “assistant” that worked with a small number of students in their native language (Arabic, Roma, Russian, Prussian, Swedish, etc.) as they worked towards completing tasks in the second language (Finnish). Class size didn’t seem to make the difference that support for students who were “behind” did.
I’ve been in 15 Finnish classrooms now in different districts across Finland and feel as though I still don’t have a true sense of Finnish schools. I’m starting to understand that a culture of “no inspections” (teacher evaluation) equates to observation weirdness as both teachers and students see my presence as an event, an opportunity for “show and tell”, or just plain awkward. The principals seem to think that less than five minutes in a classroom is sufficient and that the idea of scripting or observing a lesson for instructional methods or student engagement is odd.
I long for an authentic lesson from start to finish (no pun intended).
Today, I’m grappling with the complexities of this foreign system and my own assumptions. Tomorrow, I visit two more schools and seek more answers.


Teacher's assistant

I wonder how your observation has affected your attitude of supporting 2nd language learning in ECSD. We support dual language and offer a Seal of Bi-literacy; but at the high school level there seems to be some disagreement as to how to support content. Do we do it in the first language? Do we hire a teacher's assistant? How do we prepare the TA to be the best support possible for the 2ndary learner?.. without allowing them ( the students) to depend solely on the TA for their content. How does team teaching fit in the equation? Which one is more cost effective? Which one is best practices. How do we implement this across the board?

Hi, Marie! What we saw in

Hi, Marie! What we saw in Finland was a deep commitment to multi-lingual graduates. This was apparent from first grade where the focus was on language development (Finnish and, perhaps, Swedish) and not on other content areas. For example, students may have been learning about plants, but the focus of the lesson was not on plants, but on language development. We also saw a huge focus on preserving and developing the "mother tongue." This has simply affirmed our direction for dual language programs in ECS and our shift towards all schools becoming dual language. While it will take time, we are on the right track with implementing dual language and elevating the asset of having a dual language community.