Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How to Bring Finnish-Style Teaching and Learning to Your Classroom

How to Bring Finnish-Style Teaching and Learning to Your Classroom:

How to Bring Finnish-Style Teaching and Learning to Your Classroom

teach like finland

Like many other U.S. educators, Timothy D. Walker thought the schools in Finland sounded almost “mythical.” The rejection of high-stakes testing, a curriculum based on critical thinking and problem-solving, smaller classes, the time reserved for collaboration between teachers – these are just few of the pillars of a system that has been heralded around the world. In 2013, Walker moved to Finland and was soon teaching fifth grade at a public school in Helsinki. He began documenting his experiences on his blog, Taught by Finland, and in a series of articles for The Atlantic. Being a teacher in Finland, Walker says, has “challenged my thinking about good teaching and learning,” and, as it turns out, a lot of what works in a classroom in Helsinki can work in anywhere in the United States. In his just-released book, Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms, Walker offers U.S. educators a lively and practical guide on implementing Finland’s best practices in their own classroom.
The discussion about the differences between Finland and the the U.S. is usually centered around major systemic differences, so what’s unique and innovative about Finnish schools seems out-of-reach to most U.S. educators. Did you want your book to serve as a sort of a bridge that teachers can use to bring at least a little bit of Finland into their classrooms?
Timothy D. Walker: Yes, that is exactly what I’ve tried to do in my book! Most U.S. teachers encounter a much different teaching context than Finland’s educators. For several years, I’ve kept a blog about Finnish education where I’ve highlighted lessons I’ve learned in Finland, but I admit that I’ve rarely blogged about what American teachers could actually implement in their classrooms.
In “Teach Like Finland,” I pushed myself to move beyond simply describing great practices in Finnish schools — I focused on suggesting strategies that can be easily wielded by U.S. teachers.
While I agree that transplanting the entire Finnish model is unsuitable for America, I think it’s misguided to think we need to have all or nothing. In my book, I’m focused on the little, practical things we can learn from Finland’s approach to education, in spite of the major differences.
When you live abroad, you encounter another culture. Your thinking is stretched and, naturally, you start reflecting on your own culture of origin. Something similar happened when I started teaching in Helsinki. I encountered a different school system. I began noticing subtle, sensible things that my Finnish colleagues were doing in their work. In short, they challenged my thinking about good teaching and learning.
What did you think about the strengths and weaknesses of American schools before you encountered the Finnish system?
TW: Before moving to Finland, I confess that I did very little thinking about how U.S. schools might compare to other schools around the world. I suspected that AmericaHow to Bring Finnish-Style Teaching and Learning to Your Classroom: 

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