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.