Start Your Engines

A few things come to mind when I think of Finland. Northern Lights. Cold. Saunas. Nokia. (Although I will admit I used to think that was a Japanese company.) And, of course, education. It’s no wonder, really, why we can hear folks singing Finland’s praises from around the globe. Just check out the infographic below:

Love or hate the comparison between Finland and the U.S. educational systems (one blogger recently equated it to the sibling rivalry between Jan and Marcia Brady, stating that she’s “tired of playing Jan to Finland’s Marcia”), it’s hard to ignore that there are lessons to be learned from Finland, even if Finland appears to look nothing like Eagle County. Sure, we could go on and on with all the “yeah, buts” as to why the Finnish system won’t work in the U.S. or how the problems in the Vail Valley are more complex than a few extra hours of recess can fix, but what if there are a string of strategies that, when applied to the context of Eagle County Schools, actually will make a difference for our kids? Isn’t it worth exploring?

And exploring we will do.

In our week-long tour, Kelly and I will learn about the Finnish education system, teacher preparation, and ongoing professional learning for teachers. We will spend time each day in elementary, middle, high, and vocational schools. We will eat school lunches. We will study curriculum and instruction. We’ll ride busses. We will learn about testing, assessment, autonomy, recruiting, special education, the academic school year calendar, and structures for a school day. We will talk to teachers. We will listen to kids. And, throughout this time, we will search for those ideas that fall in line with the vision set forth by our district’s strategic plan and burst with the potential to make a living in Eagle County Schools.

We could take other people’s word for it and spend the week reading and researching and plucking ideas that might work, but as Kelly says, “You can know an engine exists. You can read about it and explain its function. You can talk about why one would or wouldn’t work, but it’s putting your hands on it that deepens your understanding and helps you to create your own machine that actually does work.” So, we will go to Finland to roll up our sleeves and put our hands on the machine, on all the moving parts, and find out which components might make our machine—albeit a different engine—run a little faster, a little smoother, and maybe, a little better.

Eagle County Schools, start your engines.....

*For more information on Finnish education, check out this six minute video: