I have an enormously interesting task right now. I'm starting a new school as a principal of the school. The school is a normal public school, like most of the Finnish schools are. It is called Vuorenmäen koulu (Vuorenmäki School) or actually Vuorenmäen oppimiskeskus (Vuorenmäki Learning Center) and it is located in Southern Finland in Kirkkonummi.
The reason it is called a learning center is that we have not only a school but also a kindergarten and a pre school under the same roof. The school will be around 300-400 pupils and the pre school + kindergarten approx. 100 children.
We're supposed to build a model where we could use the "best of both worlds" -the school and the pre school + kindergarten. We are dreaming of a "beginners class" that could hold children from 6 to 8 years. That is to say from pre school to 2nd grade in Finland. During those 3 years a child could have all the possible help he/she needs. If some basic practicing would be needed even a 7 year old child could have some of the classes with the pre schoolers and if a pre schooler would have such abilities that he/she would get frustrated at pre school, the system would work the other way around too. Sounds good, doesn't it. So, that is the theory or strategy that we believe in at Vuorenmäki Learning Center.
Last week we had a meeting with the head of the kindergarten/pre school. We started with the basics. What is our learning theory? How we as educators see the child? What is a child to us? What are the values that we believe in?
We agreed that the childhood is a unique time of one's life. You can only live it once and we as adults should give it all the support we can.
We also agreed that a child should love to play and discover new things by exploring. A child is a curious child. A child should also be happy. It doesn't mean that a child should be happy at all times but we thought that a child should have certain kind of trust that his/her life is in balance and that he/she can trust that the adults around him/her will support the balance.
Of course we know that it's not always like this. We put aims or goals. We wanted to have a vision that would be worth all the efforts and work.
Then we talked about the learning theory that we believe in. We found out that both of us believed in a life-long learning and in a learning path that would be as solid and connected as possible. No unnecessary gaps but a solid ground to build future learning to.
We agreed that we want to support learning by doing, curiosity and alternating the learning methods to build up the will to learn.
All in all we wanted to build an athmosphere were everyone could find their strengths and where everyone could feel accepted and safe.
Starting a new school is great challenge. I've started two radio stations in my past. But starting a new school is much more complicated. You really have to look in the mirror and believe in the eyes that are looking back at you. That's why these kind of talks are needed -to test your views and opinions. Sometimes it's really rewarding to go back to the basics.