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:
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.