Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Finnish Lessons

Finnish Lessons

Adult nonfiction
"If we hire a youngster who doesn't know all the mathematics or
physics that is needed to work here, we have colleagues here who can
easily teach these things. But if we get somebody who doesn't know
how to work with other people, how to think differently or how to
create original ideas and somebody who is afraid of making a mistake,
there is nothing we can do here. Do what you have to do to keep our
education system up to date but don't take away creativity and open-
mindedness that we now have in our schools."
I am the vice chair of the Veazie, Maine school committee. As
such I made what I considered a modest little motion at our March
meeting. We were heading into standardized test season. I merely
moved that we include in the send home information the option for
parents with concerns or outright opposition to opt their children
out. From the reaction I got you would have thought I'd moved to
include porn in language arts. I had hit a nerve.
One of the big questions was, how will we know if we're teaching
well without the standardized tests? This came from both teachers and
fellow committee members. There was so much I could have said and
didn't. I set a goal of answering that question at the April meeting,
taking it as face value rather than a subtle form of "You don't know
what you're talking about.".
Of course, being a total book geek (and proud of it) I took my
quest for knowledge to my local library. I struck gold with Pasi
Sahlberg's Finnish Lessons (from which I got the powerful quote at the
top). See there's this little Scandanavian country that is kicking
international ass on all measures of academic achievement. Not only
are their students achieving, but the gap between high and low
achievers is the smallest around.
Isn't that what No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top were
supposed to do?
Anyway Finland became number one in educucational achievement by
doing the exact OPPOSITE of the the United States and the other GERM
(Global Education Reform Movement) nations:
*having school-based curriculum planning within a national framework
and encouraging individual and local creativity rather than
surrendering to standardized teaching and curriculum;
*focussing on creative holistic learning rather than basic knowledge
in a small number of skills;
*encouraging risks and challenges rather than sticking with a
predictable curriculum;
*learning from what works best in education rather than accepting the
models and values of private corporations;
*a culture of trust and responsibility rather than externally enforced
test-based control...
Teachers are rock stars. Only the best get into teacher prep
institutions. (Isn't that what we want?) They get much more
responsibility and control over the learning experience. (In fact
Finnish teachers say the one thing that would make them leave the
field in droves is the external test driven micromanagement US
teachers have to live with.). They get more time to collaborate with
colleagues. In fact cooperation is the name of the game instead of
the forced competition that has American schools embroiled in what
should be renamed race to not be on the bottom.
What are we thinking?
On a personal note, I'm pretty busy with the play (Jungle Book) and
principal search committee on top of my usual activities. I'm about
to get back in writing group. After years of being determined to get
into graduate school I have decided not to go. As another book I'm
reading would put it, I was in danger of losing what gives my life
passion and pleasure to focus on the trappings of success...the
advanced degrees.
A great big shout out goes out to my readers. I hope all you who
celebrated had a fantastic Easter or Passover.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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