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UEF liput lipputangoissa

Lessons from UEF to New York –Finnish teacher education and teacher training schools impress

“This has been the greatest educational experience of my life,” said Dr Michael Hynes, Superintendent of the New York State Patchogue/Medford School District, after visiting the teacher training schools of the University of Eastern Finland and learning about teacher education at UEF.

The school district Dr Hynes supervises in the US comprises several schools and more than 8,000 pupils. He was visiting Finland together with UEF Scholar in Residence and Fulbright Scholar William Doyle, a US-based author and documentary producer, who is a well-known figure on the campus and city of Joensuu. They both pointed out that the visit will play an important role as an instigator of change in American schools.

“For starters, I want to introduce regular recesses to the schools in my district. After seeing children here play outdoors after every class, I’m truly convinced that breaks are needed. This is a luxury we don’t have back in the US; instead, children study for hours at a time without any breaks in between,” Dr Hynes explains. 

During their visit, Dr Hynes and Mr Doyle learned about how crafts and arts are taught at the university. According to Dr Hynes, it is a pity that in the US, manual skills are not held in as high a regard as before.

“It’s crazy that I have to come all the way to Finland to take pictures of puppets made by pupils. Don’t get me wrong: the puppets aren’t crazy. What is crazy is the fact that Americans have lost these skills and especially their appreciation for them. For some reason, these skills are not considered important, although research shows us that doing things by hand stimulates the brain and improves coordination.”

Dr Hynes finds it valuable that in Finland, the manufacturing processes of different products are taught even to the youngest pupils. In crafts and arts classes, pupils design and complete their own projects, and this allows them to learn about the different phases of the process.

“It is remarkable that future kindergarten teachers are also studying here, ready to pass these skills on to young children!”
More collaboration to come?

Dr Hynes says that his visit to Finland has been an extremely beneficial and eye-opening experience.

“In many ways, it makes you both happy, because it shows you what can be  – and then it makes you angry, because it shows you what you should be, and where we are now back in the US.”

What took Dr Hynes by surprise the most is the level of appreciation shown for the teaching profession in Finland, and how deeply integrated schools are into their surrounding society.

“Teachers in Finland enjoy great trust, and this is a striking difference to my home country. Here, nobody supervises them, but since they are highly trained, they take care of each other.”

Moreover, the extent to which Finnish teachers trust their pupils and their pupils’ skills and abilities in assessing their own learning, impressed Dr Hynes.

“It is remarkable that children learn to do self-evaluation from an early age on, and to turn to their teachers for help when they need it. Teachers, on the other hand, feel at ease to question things and to ask for outside counsel.”

According to Hynes, the ideas and needs of teachers back in the US should be better heard.

“It would be wonderful to bring more teachers from the US to see how well everything works in Finnish schools.”

Perhaps this is will be possible in the future: One of the objectives of the visit is to negotiate on further schemes of collaboration so that UEF could host visits by even larger groups of teachers from the New York area.

The visit was organised in collaboration with Finland University.