A final reflection

If I’ve learned anything from my two months in Finland, it’s that self-reflection is essential for good teaching. For some this comes naturally, for others it means setting aside time every day to slow down and look back on what’s happened. Given our endless checklists and busy schedules, the idea of taking an hour to sit and think might seem crazy to many. But this needs to be a priority in order to make any use of the resources, intelligence, and abilities we have.

So here’s mine.

What did I learn on this journey in Helsinki?


- Patience and silence will help me to locate and be confident in my inner-voice

- Being alone isn’t necessary to find solitude, and comfort in that solitude (I like to say the Finns live ‘in solitude amongst each other’)

- My capabilities exceed my expectations


- Putting trust in students ends with fantastic results, more often than not

- Student-led learning is more efficient, more productive, and more creative than teacher-led

- Student choice is a useful tool for inspiring as well as classroom management

- Each individual student is a unique learner, something that must be taken into account in order to understand whether he/she has actually learned

- Projects work better than lecturing, but they need to be well structured — and I need to find better ways to hold students accountable for their work

→ Will these projects work as well with 15 & 16 year-olds in New Jersey as they’ve worked with younger students in Espoo?

→ Will a relaxed student-teacher relationship work as well with 15 & 16 year-olds in New Jersey as they’ve worked with younger students in Espoo?

→ Will these projects inspire less motivative learners? Or will they serve as an excuse for those students to avoid work altogether? Especially if I have to build a less-amiable and more professional relationship between myself and the students?

What understandings do I take back to the US?

- The need for a more concise curriculum

- Fostering student independence is a cornerstone of a successful school

- Differentiating learning for auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners is easy and necessary

- Younger (primary and middle school) students don’t need to be inundated with academic work on a daily basis. Other intelligences should be fostered from an early age, along with the skill sets found in the curriculum of the core subjects.

- Place your trust in the students, and they will surprise you. Don’t be afraid to let them take control of their own learning.

I’m not going to end with a sappy Whitney Houston quote — that wouldn’t be very Finnish of me.

That’s all for now.

Kiitos Suomi!

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