I have wanted to be a kindergarten teacher since kindergarten. Never once have I had any doubts; my path isn’t a choice, it is a calling.
However, my path set on a minimum maintenance road, neglected by its builders for generations and I am tired to hearing that it’s the pedestrians’ fault for destroying the road.
Teachers are not the reason our schools are failing. It is the policy written with an inherent distrust in teacher’s skills. It’s the constant evaluations, micromanaged curriculum, and people who try to make schools better without ever having worked in one.
A year ago, I spent a semester to abroad in Jyväskylä, Finland to compare their education system to ours. Jyväskyä is the teacher training hub of the most successful education system in the world according to the Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012, and is still above average today.
What I learned shocked me.
Finnish teachers and teacher trainers do their jobs successfully using American research.
Finnish classrooms, both in university settings and primary schools, look mostly the same.
Teachers are encouraged to be student centered; not content centered. Teachers are encouraged to tactfully use technology. Classrooms are designed to promote collaboration and creative thinking.
The difference in American and Finnish schools is not in the classrooms; it’s not the teachers. The success comes from the administration, politicians and a national community which values education and good teachers by voting for quality representatives.
The Finnish Minister of Education, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, knows it’s not her job to dictate how teachers work, but to instead create a “broad consensus” for how education should look. The rest is up to the local school boards and teachers.
So, my point is this: next time you complain about how schools are failing, don’t drag your teachers through the dirt. We are doing the best we can with what we are given. Unfortunately, we face more restrictions than autonomy.
Instead, write to your representatives. Vote informed, and choose politicians who value education.
After all, education propels the future of our country. Why shouldn’t we be valuing it?