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sunnuntai 29. toukokuuta 2011

Back to basics

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.

6 kommenttia:

  1. "...childhood is a unique time of ones life. You can only live it once and we as adults should give it all the support we can." Wonderfully stated! I wish the U.S. would share that sentiment.
    Good luck with your new principal role. My district is similar to yours in numbers: We are a PreK-12 district all under one roof with a total of about 460 students! I LOVE it! I, too, work with developing our "Theory of Action" (e.g., Dr. Richard Elmore), but I like your phrase of "Theory of Learning"!

  2. Hi Esa!

    What a great insight into your new school - your passion and enthusiasm permeate the whole post!

    I absolutely love the "best of both worlds" approach. What a great way to support the children between those sensitive ages for their development. I am sure it will be very successful. Do keep us posted on it. I will be very interested, as I am sure many educators are, in learning what is happening at your new school.

    Many thanks again Esa - excellent post!

    Kindest regards,

  3. You have a great vision to run your learning centre. It’s interesting to see what kind of innovations there shall be. I’m sure many schools can learn a lot from you.

    Schools and teachers should regularly ask, the same questions you did in your post. ”Back to basics” mean ”This is important”! Right? You wrote so great about respecting childhood and what will your adults’ role be in it. There you also get to basics. There must be more 1:1 moments. Only then can kids know that they are noticed and accepted.

    Beginners’ class will surely be success. I can’t wait to see, how you do it and hope to try it also in our school. Sir Ken Robinson spoke about this kind of school in his famous RSA-speech – Changing Education Paradigms.

    Looking forward to your future posts!

  4. Hi Cathy, Vicky and Jukka!

    Thanks a million for your wonderful answers. Childhood really is a unique time in our lives. That is a fact that we as educators should always remember with great respect.

    One line in Cathy's comment caught my interest:"I wish the U.S. would share that sentiment." How do you see the US school system sees the child then? It would be interesting to hear.

    Jukka, r-e-s-p-e-c-t is really THE keyword. It's not only the children we should respect. It's everyone - including the adults.

    We have so many people in our schools working for the good of a child. Someones job is to keep places clean, someone makes a good meal and the third one gives a safe ride to school. Still, each and everyone is working for the same mission: that is THE GOOD OF A CHILD.

    And finally Vicky, I'll promise to keep you posted. Meanwhile, we'll tweet ;-)

  5. Hey Esa, it's really great that you open up your new "start-up" and a process of development. I hope that it could be an event of shared interest, i.e. people all around the world (at least finns) want to follow and take part into your makings of something new and different. How do you locate yourself among democratic school movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_democratic_schools)? Have you planned to open the walls to the society around the school and be connected globally in the sense on open learning and teaching?


  6. Thanks for your comment, Peeii!

    I don't see myself much of a "Summerhill" -type-of-a-teacher but democracy is definately important to me. I'd rather see myself as a teacher/principal who supports student involvement in the sense that UN Declaration on the rights of children, sees it.

    And what comes to connecting globally, you can read from my other blog post on this site "Global Citizenship".