Showing posts from May, 2018

A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

A Castle, a Fulbrighter, and Funny Questions

Part of being a Fulbrighter is that you get to join a network of scholars, teachers, professionals, students, and artists. Fortunately for me, I met two dynamic Finnish teachers in Washington DC, the summer before my trip. This allowed me the possibility to visit their schools, much in the same way they did when they were in the United States. My visit to Ahveniston Koulu in Hameenlinna, was truly a treat. Emilia is an English teacher and travel blogger, and has maintained her own blog about her Fulbright experience at In many school visits, I do a general presentation about California, and then have a Q and A period afterwards. Many Finnish students are shy, and at first, I thought I was bombing my presentations. Teachers assured me that if the students were quiet it meant they were engaged.
Visit for the presentation.
Nonetheless, I gave students many ways they could ask questions: ·Verbally-this was…

Nature Training for Teachers

On the afternoon of my second day shadowing Sara Kall, nature school teacher from Kokkola, I was prepared to sit in the back of a room, taking notes on my laptop, while Sara trained 7 early education teachers at Triselvran Pre-School.

The two-hour training was a service that nature schools provide to traditional schools. Because of the vast autonomy of schools and teachers in the educational system of Finland, some schools may not sign up for the sponsor program that sends children for monthly full day field trips to nature. Instead, they may choose to sign up for four days a year of this. Or they may choose to request Sara’s services to train teachers to do the nature activities themselves.
We were at one of these such trainings, and Sara had her box of tricks with her. Upon arrival at 4:00 pm, we set up the box…in the snow, on the playground. Of course, we would be outside…in 10 degrees….it’s a nature training! I was sheepish.
For the next two hours, Sara trained teachers on a vari…