Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

For the Love of Learning

The new "Olds" at Schildt Upper Secondary School, Jyvaskyla

Being wrapped up in the cozy cocoon of Finnish schools (wearing socks instead of shoes, eating a daily hot lunch, and hearing the happy buzz of children), it is easy to forget that Fulbright is more than just teachers working on inquiry projects.

Schildt has merged and will be known as Gradia next year

These last two weeks swiftly reminded me that Senator Fulbright left the world an incredible legacy, and that almost half a million people have participated in cross-cultural exchanges since the program’s inception.

Fulbright Finland’s Spring Forum

The Fulbright grantees in Finland are located in a number of cities. For the first time, students, teachers, and scholars from the U.S. gathered for three days of learning from each other.

For those of us fortunate to attend the separate workshop “Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats,” we enjoyed the added bonus of hearing an impressive panel of speakers from the U.S. and Finland.
Terhi Molsa, Executive Director 

Panelists from Harvard, MIT and Columbia
Speaker after speaker addressed the issues causing the rise of misinformation, political polarity, and problematic populism. It truly made me realize that teachers now, more than ever, have such an important duty to increase the teaching of critical thinking and digital literacy.
Distinguished audience as well
Frustration builds within me when I remember that back home, most teachers do not have the freedom to deviate from the tested curriculum. Testing really needs to be reduced and/or fully removed from schools. Teachers already assess on a daily basis, and parent conferences are more authentic and meaningful than any standardized test score.

Did you know that standardized tests were never designed to measure teacher effectiveness? Yet some states use them to determine a teacher’s pay and assign schools a ranking or a label. I wrote about that experience here. We are adding gratuitous stress to both students and teachers, and real education is missing the opportunity to grow in our unique American way.
The accomplished Kerry Piggot was my partner in the presentation

The next two days involved sharing our preliminary findings of the work we are doing in Finland, and in short, it was just FASCINATING to hear what others are doing. From solar energy, to quirks in physics, to sustainability, and to education, the Fulbrighters really went deep into their fields of expertise and did an excellent job making their presentations comprehensible to each other.
As a bonus, all our meetings were held in some breathtaking locations.
Tiffany Viggiano presenting her project
Fulbrighters doing a STEM experiment

Sustainability Presentation

A commander from the Coast Guard also on a Fulbright!

Upon completing my presentation, I received immediate feedback from both my colleagues and members of the audience. I made the acquaintance of Dr. Juha Valtonen who is aSenior Lecturer in Didactics of Physical Education at the University of Helsinki. “Your hunches about break time improving student performance are correct! There is a lot of research that backs this up. I would love to share some with you. Also, you should look into the work of Texas, they are one of the first states to make a return to recess.” This sharing of knowledge and insight is what these forums are all about.

Terhi Molsa, leader of the fabulous Fulbright Finland team that brings it all together

Workshops that start on time, are masterfully facilitated, and whose logistics are planned to the T give this sensei deep satisfaction. What a once in a lifetime experience to live in this wonderful country and see Finnish excellence in action.

Fulbright Finland 2017-2018


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