authors, book reviews, Books, Careers, childcare, childhood, early childhood education, education, out of school hours care, reflections of an educator, Unschooling

Teach like Finland?

Okay, I admit it. I am a fan of Nordic noir. I am, therefore, intrigued by all things Nordic.

So you can imagine my interest as an educator in the book Teach Like Finland: 33 Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. How can one capture the joy described as being present in more Finnish classrooms, to make education meaningful for students?

Author Tim Walker, an American primary school teacher,  has taught in Finnish schools for several years. His observations on simple changes that any educator could make in their own learning space, regardless of the systemic educational regime that may be in place, are simple. Most of the them are examples of what good educators already do here in Australia.

The foundation of the book is that educators in Finland seek to promote joyful teaching and learning. Walker builds the book on five principles of happiness that, once basic needs are met, encourage joyfilled and meaningful learning. The five principles are:

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Autonomy

Mastery

Mind-set

Well-being

Now, anyone who works in early childhood education and care, or outside school hours education and care, will recognise many of these principles as being present in the learning frameworks and quality areas mandated by regulatory bodies.

So, why don’t we take these principles and apply them to our classrooms as we do to in our education and care settings? Some schools do. And, as Walker notes, many teachers can do so in simple ways within their own classrooms.

Take the 15 minute breaks every hour, for example. Finnish schools break every hour to give children a leisure and outside break.  Research supports such breaks for optimum performance and wellbeing for both adults and children. In outside school hours education and care we encourage autonomy so that children themselves take a break from one activity or move to another, naturally.

But it seems to me that even in more conventional classrooms, and in our homeschooling and unschooling experiences,  educators can allow small breaks between sessions, times when children take a break from more formal work to select an activity or simply read and talk or play a game before moving on. I used to do the same in my classroom in a community school in which I used to teach, with positive results in learning and in relationship building.

While the books itself is well-researched, with both qualitative and quantitative research, its tone is a little smug. In fact, it is not a joy to read.

The irony of this amuses me.

I still recommend this book for educators and parents, and encourage us all to look at how we teach, not only look at what it is we do teach.

 

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authors, book reviews, Books, Women

A book for Mother’s Day?

Inspired by Lisa’s post on books for Mother’s Day, I thought I’d write about one of my current reads. The main character is a mother and wife. Thus, it’s loose Mother’s Day connection.

At book club recently we discussed adult fairy tales. The patterns in the narrative. The occurrence of a magical event that transforms. The presence of a mentor or helper. The repetition in plot. The novel I write of below does not fit this genre and yet…there is a  thread of the repetition and mentor in all spy thrillers. Think John Le Carre here, for example.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland is both a domestic novel and a spy/espionage thriller. Written by a one-time CIA analyst herself, the book provides a strong sense of realism. The reader can imagine the day-to-day work of an analyst, the drab ordinariness of what often seems to be an exciting career in espionage to an outsider.

Viven, the  protagonist, is a CIA analyst who comes across a file of Russian agents. One of whom is her husband, the father of her four young children, the husband she loves and with whom she shares a life, worrying about children, schools, money, the mortgage.

What would you do? Much of the first part of the novel involves Viven asking herself that question, amid flashbacks to the first meeting with her husband, the moment they became engaged, the time they discussed having children. Each flashback provided me with the firm conviction that Matt, Vivien’s husband, is a manipulator and not to be trusted – but is he? Vivien herself seems unsure.

Written in first person active narrative, this thriller kept me interested. I admit that I am a fan of thrillers, and of espionage stories in particular. It is a Mother’s Day story with a difference. Not flowery or happy or breezy but an edge of your seat thriller. I kept thinking – What would I do? (The answer is turn him in, to be honest. Vivien’s deliberation and neediness just pains me. Her almost helplessness in the face of the threat that her husband poses is a flaw in the novel.)

Interestingly, the book’s film rights have been sold to Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron taking the role of Vivien. Should be interesting. A possible future Mother’s Day film?9780593079591.jpg