By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
So what’s up with Finland?
As you and millions of California students head back to school, I decided to head back to school, too — in Finland. I accepted an invitation from the Education Funder Strategy Group and the Stuart Foundation to join other educators and policy-makers on a learning trip to Helsinki, Finland.
Each day of my trip, August 19-25, I was immersed in Finland’s public school system, which is widely recognized as one of the top-performing education systems in the world.
After nearly a week there, I can tell you I was impressed. It’s a teacher’s dream. What does Finland have that we don’t? A number of things, but first and foremost, there appears to be complete support for education — and educators — from the government, families and the business community. In this environment the students and the teachers thrive.
I blogged about my daily visits to every new school I visited on the new CTA blog. (Read full posts of President Vogel’s experience at blog.cta.org.) I’d like to share some of my observations:
August 21: Today I visited Kungsgards Daghem, a preschool and kindergarten taught in both Finnish and German. All children have the opportunity to receive pre-primary education free of charge during the year before their compulsory education begins. Childcare is also available for all children, beginning at age 1, with the state covering up to 85 percent of the cost. The lead teacher said, “Our primary responsibility is to learn what the children can do and help them to grow, as opposed to finding out what they can’t do and remediating.” Each child has an individual learning plan developed jointly by the teacher and the parents.
August 22: Today I visited the Albert Edelfeldtin Koulu Comprehensive School. The school serves grades 1-9 and includes a special education unit. The assistant principal, who also has her own fifth-grade class, introduced the five major goals of the school that the faculty reflect upon as they plan their work: Fairness, Tolerance and Individuality, Sense of Community, Appreciation of Learning and Working, and Responsibility. It was obvious that everyone in the school — faculty, support staff, and students — strives to exemplify these qualities.
August 23: I spent the morning at Helsinge Gymnasium. I continue to be amazed and impressed by the ability of most students here to manage their own behavior, direct their own learning, and gather and utilize the resources necessary to complete work and projects. Much can be learned from the premise that students on the path to self-actualization, routinely engaged in developmentally appropriate material, and encouraged to work collaboratively with their peers and teachers, can and will exceed expectations. I believe that California educators and support staff believe it wholeheartedly. The challenge for all of us, of course, is to help those actively engaged in education reform to develop the same sensibilities.
I see what happens when educators have a voice in acquiring the resources and support required for student success. As I come back home and prepare for the November election, I realize why it is so important to vote. If we want a voice in how our schools operate, we vote NO ON PROP. 32. If we want resources for our classroom, we vote YES ON PROP. 30.
We’re breaking the rules!
It’s a new year and a new Educator. The changes you’re seeing in this magazine are based on CTA member input, and in the next few issues we’ll be experimenting with your suggestions. Members will have another opportunity to suggest changes to this, your magazine, during online focus groups next month — stay tuned for details. Our articles are based on your suggestions, too.
Last summer’s point/counterpoint on “Should students still be learning cursive?” prompted an extraordinary number of letters to this editor. Can’t wait to hear what you think of our “Should we have a dress code?” article.
Together, parents and teachers help youngsters succeed and stay in school. Hear great examples of communicating with parents from your colleagues.
Who says back-to-school clothes are just for kids? Meet CTA members who, with our fashionista, considered their budgets, teaching styles and body types to dress for success.
This issue is full of news, resources, tips and suggestions you’ll want and need to know now and in the coming months. We hope you’ll find the information useful. If you have suggestions, please share. We look forward to hearing from you!