I´m a physical and health education teacher from Finland who teaches middle and high school students in Tiirismaa school in Lahti. This autumn I´m spending six months in Maryland as a Fulbright Scholar.
Thus far my experiences have been all that I imagined and even more. I have learned a lot about American culture, people and the education system. I have been privileged to learn also about cultures and education systems of Singapore, Morocco, Argentina and India since I have met Fulbright teachers from all of these countries.
I have actually come to know much more about the Finnish education system than I knew before because I‘ve given numerous presentations about our education system. I hadn´t realized earlier how unique the Finnish education system is, and from now on I see many things from another point of view also in my home school.
This autumn has been very inspiring professionally. I‘ve had time to reflect my own teaching by observing other teachers’ classes, following the classes at the University of Maryland, discussing with several teachers from different countries and by attending conferences, and reading educational literature.
All Fulbright teachers are writing a capstone project during the program. In my capstone project I will introduce a model called “Sport Education Model”. Siedentop, the creator of the model, defines it this way: “Sport education is a curriculum and instruction model designed to provide authentic, educationally rich sport experiences for girls and boys in the context of school physical education.”
In the Sport Education Model the students are given more responsibility than in a traditional way of teaching physical education. Students take different roles for example as a captain, coach, trainer, manager, scorekeeper, statistician, publicity officer, referee and journalist or photographer. It’s a very student-centered model, and students are learning also from each other. Studies show very good outcomes of this model. So in my capstone I will introduce the model and include a soccer unit plan by using a Sport Education model the Finnish P.E teachers use.
Sometimes I feel frustrated with the rules and bureaucracy. I see this so called “over control” in many ways in my daily life and in Finland I’m not used to that. When my older son started in nursery school we got twenty files via email and most of the files had to be filled and returned. When we went swimming, we weren´t able to use kids’ floats. When we asked “why not?” we got the answer “because it´s the rule”. When we went to do track and field with our kids, we let them jump on the high jump mattress. I was sure that after five minutes someone will come and deny us to do that, and that´s exactly what happened. From my point of view this over control is also seen in the education system in the form of a lot of testing and administrators who observe the classes.
My family loves exercising, so we really appreciate the fantastic sport facilities at the campus area. In addition, the sport culture in the United States is really fascinating.
One Saturday morning at 8.30 am I watched out of a window and saw a lot of people in the parking area. They were reserving the area for barbequing because a football game was starting at 1 pm! People would bring their own chairs, grills, sun tents, lots of food and drinks… It looked so funny. I tried to think if there was anything like this in Finland, but tail gating just seems to be something so American - in a positive way of course. The NBA and NHL seasons have just started and I really look forward to seeing some of those games.
What am I going miss the most when I´m back in Finland? I will miss many things, but most of all, I’ll miss the people. I will miss people who take care of each other and who are friendly even to strangers and always ready to help you. I will miss people asking me “How are you?” - I like that even if you are not supposed to give a real answer. It makes you feel that you are not alone and that you have been noticed. When I´m back in Finland asking a passer-by “How are you” and get a puzzled gaze, I will miss the Americans.