Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Finn-adian Model ... Is it possible?

The Finnish Model of Education

CNN Report: Finland's Education Success

Special Education: Early Intervention for All Students

It is just amazing that all kids are involved in special services and the fact that one classroom can have as many as 3 or 4 teachers involved in a child's learning. The "Special" teacher works in the classroom and in another classroom - sounds similar to what we do at Epiphany. Teachers collaborate with one another to work out the issues and concerns about a child ... every child is discussed. The time spent to deal with the students issues/problems/needs/strengths are dealt with - this is student "well-being" as put forth in the TCDSB Multi-Year Strategic Plan. The classroom time is reduced, but teachers spend lots of time collaborating, communicating with colleagues, families, community partners, and students.
I am constantly reminding myself that we need to be open to the world and live our Gospel values ... Eighteen months ago, my curiosity was peaked when I first started reading and learning more about the Finnish school system - but now, in the position I find myself, it's got my full attention! From where I stand (or sit), I get it - it is not so much solely about the mechanics of the Finnish school system that interests me (can we replicate it and do it here?) - On the contrary, it's the philosophy of life and the holistic approach to learning and the framework around society's commitment to the future that the Finns bring whole-heartedly into the school system that I truly believe we can instill in our education system. This philosophy strikes at the heart of the TCDSB tenets - our Catholic Social Teachings, the Ontario Graduate Expectations, and our Multi-Year Strategic Plan ... These particular frameworks established by TCDSB are not in place to help students and staff succeed on standardized tests or pass teacher performance appraisals; They are central to our teachings because they guide us to teach and learn to be fully human and a part of the social fabric of our local community and players on a global stage. Furthermore, these guiding principles are the foundation for teaching and learning, and they are personal, individually relevant, and specifically meaningful - there is nothing standardized about them. When I watched the videos noted below, they made me feel that the Finns have it right - they've got the pedagogical foundation, the respect for the profession, they value education from the youngest to the oldest (life-long learning is a way of life), they have special education for everyone, they value and give authentic and equal time to the varied arts programs, they've got the fun factor - basically, they've got teaching and learning as an equitable, happy, inspired, motivated, and stress-free adventure that all stakeholders are engaged in (teachers, parents, kids, administrators, community) because it's what they value and treasure.

That's where I want my school to be - if we take care of the "well-being" of our students and staff, exemplarly professional and personal standards will be elevated and undeniably this inspired and passionate teaching will lead to better engagement and improved student achievement - and in the end, the future well-being of our work force should be in good hands. We here at the TCDSB are on a good path, but we need to further affirm what is important and de-emphasize those factors that are not relevant anymore to 21st century teaching, learning, and society. We need to live our Gospel values and inspire and motivate. We don't need more documentation, road maps, frameworks, regulations and policies - we need people who care about the journey, have faith in one another to do what's good, put forth solid pedagogically sound curriculum as a guideline (not stringent expectations to be met or else). Our students deserve an empowered and divergent workforce of teachers, adminstrators, and other staff who are all working for a common good. Our educational institutions need to "visibly and unequivocally" value the arts (music, drama, dance, physical education) with more than just documents and policies. Yet, a society that values education is also critical ... this will entail taking risks and being trail-blazers, and spending our money more wisely, efficiently, and effectively. It took the Finns 40 years to arrive and thrive as a nation with this understanding and deployment - well worth it! It is money and time well spent. I hope we can do it too!

Ontario - Yours to Recover! 
Watch the videos below ... you'll see where we can go if we care enough ...

Pasi Sahlberg
Pasi Sahlberg on the Finnish Educational System

John Hattie in Conversation with Pasi Sahlberg

Here's one school district in the USA saying what they have done in the past is no longer good enough and they're asking, "Why can't we do it differently?" ... and they are going to do it differently.

Rise above the Mark - Part 1

Rise above the Mark - Part 2

NBC Nightly News asks, "Why does Finland have the best education system in the world?" And quite frankly they're asking, "Why does the United States model rank very poorly in the world given how much money, expertise, and effort we put into the system?"

Finland's Education System

Thoughts on Education in Finland

Dan Rather Reports on Finland's surge in the field of education ... from a bottom-dweller in the the 60s, to a resurgence and re-focus in the 70s, to now 40 years of growth, improvement and all the while bucking the world-wide trends of the last few decades - "more standardized testing", "more accountability from teachers", "kids starting school at a younger age", "longer instructional periods", "more homework", "an overall refocussing on the basics" .... In Finland, they went the opposite way - there are no standardized tests that are used to rank schools and/or teacher performance; there are no stringent teacher appraisals; kids start school at the age of 7 years, not 3 years old; school days go from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm and there isn't much homework at all; a focus on the basics means you're doing music, dance, art, drama, singing, home economics and wood-working ... And you know what, those are the true basics of education that I did when I was in school too! And you'll love this one: teachers are very well respected in society, paid well, encouraged to collaborate with peers, continue professional and personal learning and make the curriculum relevant to themselves and the students - gee, they're treated like the professionals they're asked to be, go figure. On top of that, teachers don't leave the profession after a few years - they stay for the long haul. There are no political squabbles and you know what? - all education is paid for by the state ... yep, even university! The Finns value education because "the minds of the young is the richest resource" they have! Check out Dan Rather's reports (and there are more on YouTube) and see why we here in Ontario better start rethinking what's important to us, standardized tests or an education system that doesn't strip mine our future generation!

Dan Rather
Dan Rather: Finnish First

Dan Rather: Finland Education

Dan Rather: Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond on Finland

Dan Rather: Behind the scenes in Finland

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