I promise to make mistakes
Tomorrow is (once again) my first day of school. I’m excited! Perhaps a bit frightened.
The perfect teacher
Before we even apply for Teacher Training they warn us several times that it is different from other university studies. Classes are scheduled from 8–16 by a mysterious, convoluted logic that will prevent you from attending any other university courses. Attendance is required, assignments are hard work and don’t you dare try to work part-time. So, no on-the-spur vacations, maladies or hangovers, no “skip the boring lectures and just read the slides”!
For the duration of your Teacher Training, you do not own your brain or your time. It is the property of the almighty machine turning you into a spectacular, all-powerful Finnish teacher.
I’m still sceptical that the reality will turn out to be quite so scary. There is a certain… essence of Finnish Teacherdom that seems to permutate all this communication. It smells of perfectionism, a fear of failure, terror of even one student being unprepared and failing the high standards. Finnish teachers will fight tooth and nail for no one to be left behind. Teachers of teachers even more so it seems.
It’s probably one of the reasons Finnish education is world famous. According to Sahlberg, Finnish teachers have a high moral motivation towards their work. Teacher’s wages are, after all, rather average for Finland, and while the summer and Christmas vacations are long, the work is so demanding and stressful that vacation time is carefully put into unwinding and a little professional development.
Instead of earthly rewards, teachers rely on an inner calling, the calling to help the next generation deal with the world the previous ones have created. It seems to materialise as a yearning for perfection. Especially the old village teachers, kansankynttilät — the “candles of the people”, enjoyed high respect and authority in the community. I have a gnawing suspicion teachers often built their identity around the idea that they knew their stuff better than others.
The changing tide
New winds are blowing. Teachers no longer hold the keys to knowledge, social standing or success in life. Anyone can find what they need to know in a few seconds from Wikipedia or dog forums. Nowadays every teacher has to prove their worth to their students. Respect has to be earned, today more than ever.
We know that what we used to teach kids is not enough.
The things the next generation needs more than facts and figures is something much less tangible. Teachers have the opportunity to challenge and guide their students, to give them tools with which to think for themselves and spark a hunger for learning. To teach these things to kids, we have to put ourselves into the game. We need to open ourselves to questions and criticisms and conversation.
We have to be ready to do the things we ask of our students ourselves.
I solemnly swear
This is one of the reasons I started publishing on the internet. I also want to make my learning transparent and have something to show for my hard work at university. I’m battling my social media shyness and learning to tweet. People are a good source for advice.
The most important thing is that I learn how to make mistakes and deal with them, even in front of other people. I want a teacher identity that won’t shatter at the first sign of trouble. I don’t want to be perfect, I want to be as awesome as Jake the Dog.