OCA Blog

April 29, 2018

Every child has a brain - let him use it!" This phrase was repeated over and over by each teacher I met throughout the country. At first I was like, yes and....? that is an interesting statement considering we all know the makeup of the human body. But once we began speaking, I understood why each teacher said that.

So often we educators  (and parents), forget that children have brains. We forget that each child has the ability to think for himself. "Put that number there. Write this here..." so often we are telling the students what to do instead of sitting back and letting them try to work it out on their own. One main educational philosophy across the system in Finland is student- inquiry; students are encouraged to try things on their own. While watching the teachers and students interact in a variety of classes, I thought to myself each time - this teacher is acting more like a facilitator. The teachers set the stage for learning then watched as the students engaged on their own. Even in the youngest of grades students were encouraged to work out whatever they were doing on their own. 


April 27, 2018

Coming back to America was hard. The first thing I noticed when I got home was how many people honk their horns. I know that may sound silly and you're wondering why I would even mention that but I am going to sum up Finland (which includes their education system) in what I call "the honking phenomenon."

Driving around Helsinki you have to be alert. People are walking everywhere, often not looking, and often "people" being children. There are giant construction vehicles on narrow roads, beautiful views for people to see as they stop in the middle of the street, and signs that are hard to understand (and that's not just because they are in Finnish). Everyone has somewhere to be, just like anywhere else in the world. But what's different and noticeable was the lack of honking and that in turn shows patience, amongst other things. When I asked a man why no one honked, he responded by saying," why would you need to honk? Obviously, the person driving is there for a reason." To me, that statement spoke volumes. It spoke to the peacefulness of the country and I feel it's just one of the many reasons why the education system is so good; it's believed that each child is where he/she needs to be. No one is "honking" at him/her to hurry up.
In America, we have tried to make it so that children are starting to read and be more academic earlier and earlier. We have forgotten that children just need to be children and not pushed beyond their limits, not honked at. If we can all keep in our minds "ok, something is going on. I'm not going to honk today," not only would the world be quieter, but our children won't feel held back. They won't feel rushed. They may even feel empowered to study the world around them, develop long-term skills, who knows but we won't find out if we keep honking! 



April 22, 2018

I came to Finland to learn..... to learn what makes their education system run so well. Why do Finnish students excel in literacy? Why are they so happy? It's hard to imagine a world where the happiness of people, especially children, is put first. No matter how much research I did, nothing could compare to seeing the magic in person. In the world I just experienced, children and their well-being is #1.
If the children are happy, everything else falls into place. I'm sure you're wondering "how." How are the children happy and well-educated? How do the teachers work so hard to achieve this? The answer is not simple but I will try to explain using one word, trust. 

Parents trust the teachers.
Teachers trust the parents.
Students trust the teachers.
Teachers trust each other.

However, most importantly, teachers trust the students. They trust that students will make the best decisions for themselves. This happens the moment a Finnish child enters the system. The child is empowered to believe in himself, to take his studies seriously, to respect education and take risks. In what the Fins call pre-primary (ages 1-6), play is most important. It's the universal language amongst kids. Once children know how to interact with each other on a social level, they begin to trust. Once the trust is there, everything else falls into place. I look forward to sharing so much more when I return. Until then, remember to trust.


April 18, 2018

What's Mrs. Orshan up to today? Take a look at her video check-in from Finland!

Mrs. Orshan takes Finland, Day 2! 

From Mrs. Orshan: 

Simple yet intentional...

That's the motto of the day here in Finland. 
For 4 hours I watched a kindergarten class. These are just some of the many things I saw; acceptance, belief in oneself, motivation, intentional exercise.... simple right? Should be, but for some reason it doesn't seem to always be that way. What are these Fins, or what I like to call, Fab Fins "Finnishing" First, doing so simply but so right?
For one, the students only go to school for 4 hours a day. They have "extra" hours a week that students can use if needed, but the hours are simply 8:30-12:30. During those 4 hours students are simply motivated; motivated to do what they are told and not by rewards, but by acceptance.
Classmates are supportive of one another, the teachers are encouraging, and most importantly, students are given a tremendous amount of independence to learn on their own. How you ask? Through play, both student-driven and structured. More on that tomorrow as I will be returning back to the kindergarten to learn more about how their day is set up simply yet intentionally. 


April 17, 2018

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-17 at 11.49.13 AM.jpeg 

Here I am at my first briefing of the workshop! The top 3 things I learned tonight:

1. Have trust in the system - it may not perfect but we're in it together!

2. Have fun! Fins have fun in school because everyone is laid back. No stress = no gray hairs! 

3. Work life balance - these Fins have it down to a science. More on that when I return.


Tomorrow I will visit my first kindergarten classroom where the children are typically only in their class for 4 hours. The main idea of kindergarten - play! Can't wait to watch the "adult-guided activities" as it's called here.