To Mali and to you, I say, "YES!" And I'd like to add this...
This teacher is making a living, supporting my family, and, with my loving husband, raising a daughter.
This teacher has dreams in and out of the classroom.
This teacher has always wanted to be a teacher and has never regretted this journey.
This teacher makes lesson plans and activities. This teacher makes songs to make kids laugh before they go into standardized testing mode. This teacher has made cookies and limonada de coco and has sewn book bags and made holiday tree ornaments.
This teacher has made mistakes. Those split-second decisions we teachers often face...yeah, I've hit some and I've missed some. This teacher makes a memory for many of those moments of 'success' and most of those moments of 'failure.'
This teacher will, surely, make more mistakes. And she'll work to make peace with herself.
This teacher loves the company of other teachers. She feels most at home in the classroom.
This teacher worries about the state of education in the US and still knows that there is extraordinary work done - every minute of every day - by American teachers and students.
This teacher is making a life as an educator, for better and worse (most days and years have been so good), richer and poorer (well, teacher pay could and should be improved), in sickness (over the years think pink eye, flu, strep throat, hand-foot-mouth disease - all shared with and by students and colleagues) and in health (oh, it feels so good to feel good), as long as I can teach with joy, hope and the belief that I can make a difference.
I've learned many lessons, invaluable lessons, here in Finland. As a teacher, I rely on being competent and confident, and, often, and not necessarily for the best, I rely on being a one woman show.
My months in Finland have been steeped in asking for help. For my project, this means asking for access to schools, time with teachers and students, and it has meant asking question after question so that I can make sense of what I'm seeing and experiencing. I think some schools in Finland have Visitor Fatigue. After all, there have been throngs of people from all over the world wanting to know the secret to the success of Finnish schools. I've made many cold calls to schools - Hi, I'm Jennifer. I'm a Fulbright Teacher. Can I come visit?
I've gotten more yesses than nos. And I've been overwhelmed by the gracious, warm welcomes I have received.
I have been honored to be able to watch teachers teach and interact with students. I have smiled watching kiddos play ping pong in between classes. I've wiped away tears listening to children make music. I've loved being in teacher rooms, having conversation with educators about teaching and learning and life over a cup of coffee. I have had the privilege of making presentations and teaching lessons on New Mexico, the US, World War II, the American economy and jobs, and adolescent literature. Today I worked with 9th graders after a lesson I did with 3rd graders.
In the past 8 days alone, I have had joyful, intriguing visits to schools. Let me tell you about them...
From the student technicians to the actors and musicians, the production was marvelous. I had tears in my eyes, so moved by the beauty of these young people and how much potential and life they ahead of them. Marveling, too, that somehow, someway, I was in the middle of Finland, in a small town, in a performance space, with my daughter, watching teenagers perform on a Thursday afternoon.
That night, we had dinner at the home of two musicians and music educators in the community, Janne and Marja. It was a joy and a profound privilege to meet their children, to share a meal, and to spend time sharing stories. The next day, we had the opportunity to watch Marja conduct and Janne and their two daughters play in community bands at their Vappu Day concert. My favorite part of this concert was watching people of all ages playing together on one stage, in one band.
It was especially thrilling to watch my friend and fellow Fulbright teacher, Yvonne, conduct the final piece of the concert. Watching her shine was just the cherry on top of a special 2-day stay in Rantasalmi, a community committed to music and to each other in a most beautiful way.
After a little trip to Savonlinna, a jaunt to the Finnish-Russian border, and a day of rest, I was back on the road to visit the lower secondary school in Vesilahti, south of Tampere. After a two-hour train ride and a 45-minute bus journey I was greeted by this site, welcoming me to the lower secondary school.
I had a wondrous day with educators and students, facilitated by their dynamic, innovative and dedicated head teacher/ rhetori, Tapani Pietilä who is clearly respected and beloved to teachers and students. For over 20 years, this has been a place of global education. While students have participated in exchanges and trips to Germany, Greece, the US, and Latvia (to name just a few places) and have participated in development education projects with schools in support of students in Sengal, Zambia and Vietnam, Tapani is certain that global education need not be beyond the walls of the school. Being global citizens begins with each other.
Like in many of my school visits, I most value the one-on-one conversations with educators and students. I love those moments when kiddos stay behind to ask questions and who end up generously responding to my questions. The last hour of the day was spent, again, with the 9th graders who articulately shared with me their global education experiences they've had over the three years, including running a student cafe to raise money to help schools in Zambia and Senegal build health clinics, install electricity in a school, and funding nurse education of a local young woman so she can serve her community, and then hearing students' experiences of visiting these schools and seeing, first-hand, the impact their work has on the lives of people. A wise young woman shared this thought, “We know that people are there. But through these exchanges, I really know they ARE there.” She explained, then, how she is able to see how fortunate she is to live in Finland and how she feels compelled to help others. When I asked how these experiences have influenced their lives, a student said, “We understand culture better. We know that the way we live is not the only way to live.”
The warmth and graciousness with which I was welcomed is humbling and illustrative of the nature of the Finnish people.
A few hugs goodbye and I was racing to catch the bus back to Tampere. My heart was full - committed educators, innovative programming, motivated and bright students - and I had the chance to share this one day with them.
Teacher Appreciation: Part 4
Finally, thank you, Teachers of the World! Thanks for inspiring me and for your work with children, adolescents and adults.
I'm grateful for the teachers Sarah has had in her life. I'm grateful for the teachers I've had in mine. Thank you, Teachers of the US for the everyday miracles you create in classrooms across the country and in the face of standardized testing frenzy and the assault on teachers. Thank you, Teachers of Colombia, who are on strike to improve working conditions in schools which means improving student learning for the children of Colombia. Thank you, Teachers of Finland, for showing the world how teachers and students can thrive when teachers are given professional autonomy, respect and trust.
You can read my capstone project - Global Learning: Fostering knowledge, attitudes and skills for global citizenship - here
This blog represents my point of view only and is not associated with the U.S. State Department or the Fulbright Program.