A majority of my time in the Koulumestari School was spent with one of the two 6th grade classes (equal to US grade 7). There are 23 kids in the class, and they are taught most of their subjects by a regular education teacher (called a class teacher) and a special education teacher. The teachers have the room shown below as well as an adjoining room containing a few tables as well as a large sofa and some beanbag chairs for reading. Both rooms are equipped with Smart Boards, desktop computers, and document cameras. Each student has a school-issued tablet that can be taken home.
The two teachers worked together seamlessly, sometimes co-teaching a lesson and other times splitting students into two groups and using the second room. I didn’t even know that one teacher was a special educator until asking, and I wonder if students are aware of the distinction.
Before getting the Fulbright grant, I spent one day observing in a Finnish school, and this week I finally began a string of what will be many more days spent in classrooms. I’m spending the week at Koulumestari School, an elementary school with students up to grade 6 (approximately age 12). I’ve managed the three-bus commute each way, something that would be unimaginable without a phone app to show me where to catch each bus and what to do on the rare occasion when a bus is late and I miss a connection.
On arriving at the school, I found mobs of kids entering the building and stripping off their jackets, snowpants, and boots. Kids mostly run around school in their socks, but some bring slippers or other indoor shoes. This is great! The floors are clean enough for lounging, and I assume the kids feel more comfortable and able to sit any way they want without shoes getting in the way. You may wonder what happens when there is a fire drill, and I can answer that. Some kids scramble to throw on outerwear and boots, while others go out in their slippers. And when I say go out, I mean they go out behind the school and stand on the ice rink. Luckily it was not too cold (a bit below freezing), and it wasn’t sleeting too hard.