Normalizing Struggle

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: “Normalizing Struggle”

Who talks in the classroom?

How many questions do students ask in a lesson? Some research says that zero-point-two. Further to this, most of the questions seem to be answered in less than one second. Most being yes-no answers. Teachers talk for 90% of the lesson!

In PISA (2016), students were asked about the frequency with which their teachers use student-oriented or teacher-directed strategies in their lessons. Findings indicate that today, teacher-directed practices are used widely. Across OECD countries, eight out of ten students reported that their teachers tell them what they have to learn in every lesson, and seven out of ten students have teachers who ask questions in every lesson to check that students understand what they’re learning.

It seems that we have still lot to do, not difficult changes, so that students learn to notice that success is a chance for everyone.

Photo: Maarit Rossi

Who cares about small mistakes?

How do we do a better job of encouraging their failures rather than punishing them?  The math lesson at school needs to be a very safe place to make also mistakes. At the best mistakes outcome discussions about different ways of thinking and the students learn to listen to each other. It’s a good experience to see that by making mistakes you sometimes learn even more than just using the traditional ways of working. If the mistakes are dealt with constructive ways, they can strengthen and encourage the students to try new approaches also later on. PISA (2016) showed that the students’ positive attitude towards mathematics and the trust to their own capability is connected with their ability to solve problems.

What can happen without practice?

Last spring you could read from the online-news that the field in Beach Volley SM-tournament will have 300 kg of sand. What? Yes, you read it right. After half an hour the text was changed. The field would get 300 000 kg of sand. Also this spring we read about Trump’s budget failure – 2 trillion’s mistake!

Mistakes made in the classroom are splendid grounds for pedagogical conversations. The mistakes that come up in media are totally another issue. They cause displeasure and shame for those who have made them – they might even involve difficulties at work. Sense of proportion and experience in dealing with large numbers would have helped to avoid this trouble.

Uncertainty area for teacher or for student?

We need to change lot of Math lessons teaching methods. So it is then more question of going to the uncertainty area of the teacher. Usually teacher is in front of the classroom, showing how to work with the new concept and students repeat similar ones in similar way. What if students are active and have possibility to test their ideas and do their mistakes as part of learning process.

Here one example. If you combine estimation and rounding you will get a good learning entirety. You can do it for example like this: Bring to the classroom different amounts of different objects, like paper clips, nails, macaroni, beans, cord etc. Then put the objects on different numbered desks, let the students circulate and estimate the amounts without touching the objects. They make marks on their estimation tables and round the amounts to tens, hundreds and thousands. All the members in the group have to come to a similar understanding about the estimated amounts. When they have checked all the desks every group gets one amount of objects to count. Now they have a situation where they have to negotiate to find a sensible way of doing that.

Photo: Maarit Rossi

This is a very simple way to create a situation where students have to practice co-operation, negotiation skills and how to find a good strategy. After then the groups write down the exact amounts and the other groups practice rounding again. Very often the students notice that the estimated numbers are often too small. They also notice that the estimated rounding and the rounding of the exact amount can give them the same result.

*OECD (2016), Ten Questions for Mathematics Teachers … and how PISA can help answer them, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264265387-en.

 

Mitigating Poverty

I am honored to be named   in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2017. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ Mitigating Poverty”,

My September blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

How has poverty affected students in your school experiences? What can schools do to address poverty?

This subject needs a quick look in the history of Finnish schools. The first public schools were established in 1850ties. The municipalities build them quite lazily because it was believed that the four-year-public-schools only made the children lazy and alienates them from physical work.

In 1898 the Parliament and the emperor accepted a decree that every village should be divided to such school areas that nobody had more than 5 km to school. But there was still no compulsory education.

Twenty years from that decree there was still one hundred villages without a school. In 1901 there was only seven! And ten years from that 68% from the peasants’ children went to school.

Finland got the law of compulsory education after its independency (1917) in 1921. The municipalities were obligated to establish and sustain public schools. In 1948 started the school eating – the schools had to offer free lunch to children every day. Before that the children had taken their own snack from home – which was sometimes difficult especially for poor families. The poor children could also get contribution for clothes from the municipality. We never have had school uniforms in Finland. And if the way to school was more than five km or was otherwise dangerous or difficult – the school dormitories were to be built.

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The schools’ social effect was huge especially in the rural areas. In many villages the teacher was the only person who could read and write. They were well respected by the folk. They knew their students and their living conditions best. The social workers got invaluable and neutral information of families from teachers.

By the end of 1977 all public schools were changed to basic education schools – the ones we have today. The four or six years public school + five years of grammar school became 9-year-basic-school. Education and upbringing are the key factors in basic education.  The aim is to support the students’ upbringing as a human and a member of society and teach necessary skills and knowledge. And it is totally free. The teaching is free as is all the material and equipment. And they have a right to free meal every school day and in some circumstances also a free school transport.

The basic education is grades 1-9 (ages 7-16). We have about 3200 basic education schools. Most of them are run by the municipality. Under 2 % of students study in private or in state schools. In basic schools everything is free – the municipality has to provide schools with enough money for material and study visits, class trips etc. The parents can collect funds for special trips – but every student, even if his/her parents can’t provide any money, has the right to participate. The schools must have clear regulations for those situations.

So in Finland we can give equal possibilities in education to all students – in spite of where they live, how they live and the family status. I believe that education is the key for better life, too. I see no difference in “poor family” kids or “rich family” kids in their motivation to learn!

 

Making Curriculum Relevant to a New World

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: “Making Curriculum Relevant to a  New World” 

The static old world has become a constantly changing unpredictable common village! In every corner people face the same problems or are at least are aware of them.  Which could be the real actions in the society to prevent the existence of terrorism and/or its spreading? How to make people to accept increasing population diversity? We all know very well the environmental threats, but how to change the direction of the development? WHAT should we teach to young people, when it seems that they have a lot to solve in the future? According to the Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR) “We must deeply redesign curriculum to be relevant to the knowledge, skills, character qualities, and meta-learning students will need in their lives.”

How fast can national education system be changed through curriculum development? Do we need partly common global curriculum?

Curriculum has changed during my teaching time in Finland almost every tenth year. When I started my career curriculum mostly included exact descriptions of every subject and it has to be followed as the National Board of Education (NBE) wrote. Also NBE inspected the books publishing houses sold to the schools!

But then education policy changed. The reforms were made in the education system in the 1980s. Now local education providers —the municipalities—have broad autonomy.  Schools and teachers have been responsible for choosing learning materials and teaching methods since the beginning of the 1990s, when the national level inspection of learning materials was terminated.  We are valued as professionals in curriculum development, teaching and assessment at all levels. Now the core curriculum discusses values, learning, learning environments and general goals and aims, like learning of 21st century competences. The curriculum lists basic concepts in each subject but the list is just a suggestion —not obligatory.  We can plan and implement our teaching and assess students’ learning and learning outcomes, collaborate with other teachers and develop our teaching profession within the whole school context. We have a big responsibility concerning the way our students learn, but at the same time we can develop our own autonomy in designing the curriculum, using instructional strategies and assessment methods.

20161221_151931Photo: Maarit Rossi

Yes, my experience is that national curriculum can make a huge change – but is the change big and fast enough? This generation will live in global village – we need to know best education politics, latest knowledge of learning and learning practices to prepare them ready for the future!

We could have partly common curriculum in the areas concerning issues of the whole globe? How many countries have in their curriculum like some of the following text?  End poverty in all its forms everywhere. End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.   In 2015 the UN General Assembly formally accepted a new set of 17 measurable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from ending world poverty to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030. You can read these goals and targets from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabledevelopmentgoals. National curriculums need to have similar global goals. Best way to put them in practice is to give teachers enough autonomy to implement them. #teachersmatter

 

IN A 21st CENTURY WORLD TEACHER LEARNING NEVER STOPS

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: In a 21 st century world teacher learning never stops.

Every time a new technical thing has come to the school, people thought that it would change the learning! And it has never done it. We need to think what learning is about, how it can happen and are all people learning in the same way?

A young teacher may get fascinated e.g. about Flipped classroom. She/he makes a video about the new lesson in advance to students who can look it at home before the actual lesson. During the lesson teacher gives tasks to students and walks around the classroom helping those who need more support. What is new? Videos I have seen are just like lessons before. Teacher is telling the new content of the subject. Now there is not even the possibility for students to make questions at that moment they come to their mind!

I am hopeful about the possibilities of new ed-tech but at the same time I am worried that it is repeating the old understanding of learning. In behavioristic learning we pour the knowledge like water to students’ heads and believe it stays there!  Latest learning theory, social constructivist theory thinks that students need to be active in their own learning and build their knowledge structure all the time connecting the new knowledge to the old ones. Of course teacher has still the most important role in the process.

So if I would have the chance to influence ongoing professional development for teachers in my community, I would take care that all courses will be done pedagogy first!

  1. Once a year teachers should have development discussions where they can set their own goals for professional development.
  2. It would not be allowed to keep courses after the school day when teachers have already done their work and may be tired.
  3. No courses to the whole staff. If we believe to personalized learning we should also keep personalized training.
  4. Try to arrange training in co-operation with other schools in your community. You don’t always need to order external trainer – you may have the best trainers in your own staff!
  5. When you send your teacher to the external course, send always at least two. Then it is more possible that new methods start to be used in your school!
  6. We need to take account that if we want change adults’ way of teaching, they also need time for their own training. Teachers need to get part of training in groups, part by Skype or webinars, part by real practice and testing!

teachers in Finland making cube model

Photo: Maarit Rossi

One teacher told me about her good training experience. Training started so that the whole group met in internet and talked about what the training could include and what they were expecting of it. Second time they met face to face and learned new things by doing (media literacy). Next time they where divided into smaller groups and they got a task to do. They had some months time to do the work in their own school. In the last meeting groups showed their work to each other. Teachers like students could learn from others’ ideas and reflect their own learning.

You can find free Math teacher training material from www.inspirationalmath.com

 

 

Is Blended Learning Becoming Yet Another Overhyped Myth?

“Blended learning is more than just combining an online component to the traditional classroom. It is a systematic process of selecting the most appropriate media for a specific learning intervention based upon the learning objectives.” (Holden 2011)

It is clear that learning can’t be limited anymore in one place, classroom. Learning happens in different places during different times through individual life. I believe that schools for K-12 will always be one of the best places to learn and students to grow up as good citizens, and even more – global citizens. We say that the army is the last place where men see all kind of people from all levels of society.

For students to understand differences in society it is important to study and be together, to find different solutions together and learn to get along with different people – the best place for all is the School.

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Photo by  Elis Lindfors

What are the best of online learning in Blended Learning? 

  • student can work whenever it suits him/her
  • student have more of an ability to be independent
  • some of the students like to work at their own pace and work ahead if they have time. 
  • it may require more time on the student’s part: completing assignments, and logging in if there are regularly conversations with

My question is: When is blended learning necessary and when is it not? When is it best to use and when is it not?

Are there challenges for teachers when using blended learning?

Like many new things there are good and less good examples. But we have to start somewhere to use and develop new methods!

Some teachers use the term blended learning when they are doing same test or task through online. Some teachers have done a video of their following lesson and let the student just watch it. I saw a math lesson where students were copying exactly what the teacher was doing in the video. In face to face situation we teachers can lead students with good questions to understand the math content and they can build their own understanding of the knowledge.  Now they were repeating all steps after the teacher and there is a big possibility that most of them didn’t understand why.

Students need to do more than passively receive online facts; they need to be actively engaged.

One good example comes from my friend, Jaana Lindfors, a language and literature teacher in Finnish middle school.  She sent a writing assignment, a copy for each of her student.  In the beginning of lesson students open their browser and start writing instantly.  While they are writing Jaana can follow them from learning platform and give them immediate feedback. Students say it is amazing and first even little odd when suddenly they notice from the screen that teacher is following their writing. The teacher can make corrections but Jaana says that she likes to make questions, so that the student can find a better solution to his/her own writing. Students can share their work to some of their schoolmates and have then peer assessment. Jaana tells that during two lessons she can visit quite many student’s browser and give them feedback on their writing. If not she continues to give them personal feedback from her home.

Action is a key to successful online learning. It lets students practice what they’ve learned, and gives them a chance for feedback and a clearer picture of their own knowledge.

I have positive expectations to the possibilities of blended learning. I support holistic approach to 21st Century education. It means we need versatile teaching methods and balanced assessment.

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: So what about the K-12 evolution of blended Learning?

What Do Teachers Most Want To Tell Parents?

I am honored to be named   in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2017. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ What do teachers most want to tell parents?”

My May blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

Ten parental school rules!

  1. You are your child’s best and only parents.

Please, do your tasks as an adult in the family the best way you can. Always reaching for  the truth and justice. And I am your child’s teacher – an expert in education who just wants to see your child to be the most capable person and adult he/she can be. I will do my tasks the best way I can. If you disagree with me – please say it to me not to your child.

  1. Don’t believe everything your child tells you about school!

Or what other students have done!  What the teacher did or didn’t do. So I promise I don’t believe everything she/he tells me about happenings at your home!

  1. Treasure you free time!

Spend your weekends with your family. Make sure that during the weekend you have a special moment(s) where your child is in the main role. She/he needs it and so do you.

  1. Respect your child – so she/he also learns to respect other people – and you.

It’s a habit that sadly has been forgotten by many people. Make sure you are easy to respect.

  1. Don’t underestimate your child’s creativity

It may not always look as art for you but to your child it’s something special and unique. Even if it’s a painting on the wall or cutting her/his hair in a new way.

  1. If you have to get a divorce, please make sure your child is 100% sure that it’s not her/his fault! In your own agony it’s easy to forget this. And also blame your husband/wife to your friends/enemies/relatives/neighbors only – your child deserves both parents.
  1. Don’t steal your child’s childhood.

It’s a one time off. She/he will never get another chance to be a child anymore. Don’t burden your child with your troubles. But be honest and only tell what she/he needs to know – and reassure you will take care of it.

47432650 - a schoolgirl studying with books on the kitchen table

  1. Don’t lie.

I assume you don’t want your child to lie to you? It goes vice versa. You don’t always have to tell the whole truth but don’t mislead your children. If you have promised something just do it.

  1. You don’t have to keep up with the Jones’s

You don’t have to buy everything your child asks for – even if everyone else in the class has them. Teach her/him the laws of sustainable development. Difficult word, but easy for you to follow.

10. The grass seldom is greener on the other side.

Don’t break families – if by any means you can avoid it. Who wins? How many loses? Is it really worth it? And yes, there are situations that the grass really is greener – then make sure everyone wins!

 

How Can We Work to Consistently Cultivate Values of Thoughtfulness and Empathy Without Directly Teaching it?

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers from Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education, this is my answer to this question:

Atmosphere of school

In early 2000 British school evaluators were invited to visit some Finnish schools. I was wondering how it is possible that people who don’t even understand our language, can get any picture from our school? Later when I was myself a principal and had the opportunity to visit in many schools around Finland and some aboard, I did understand. Only looking, doing observations how students, teacher-student and teacher-teacher meet and talk to each other, you can get a picture of the atmosphere of the school. Also looking the corridors and common spaces, you get the idea of how students and their work are respected in the school.

In my opinion the ground for good learning environment for students is the prevalent human understanding of staff. How attended the teacher is with every student. I have seen schools where teachers did not say good day when passing by a student! I have been in situations when teacher is more bullying than educating student. Mostly I have seen teachers with sincere care and interest to the student’s life. School has to have values which everyone in the school knows. Every year there comes new students in the school so those values are good for them to know too.  The leader of the school has the most important role to maintain and show that values are respected in the school community.

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Photo: Steve Weaver

Role of teacher

How we behave in daily situations in school? We have hundreds of ears and eyes around us. We are role models for students all the time, even we are not conscious about it.  We can operate as agents of high ethics modelling acceptance and empathy. Furthermore, as teachers it is important to promote the development of social and emotional skills and knowledge in our students that promote mindfulness, empathy and compassion. We can be facing situations like bulling where we are expected to have opinion or solution to solve the situation.

It is important that as teachers we have common ideas when building the rules of schools. Are the rules of the school more for discipline or as a guideline to increase young people’s understanding of wrong and right? There are still schools in this world which have detention time instead of having discussions why the student did something not acceptable. In some countries teachers are still allowed to use a cane to hit and discourage the student! These practices support distrust and unfairness. How to promote the values of thoughtfulness and empathy?

What role do we give for students in the school?

I am so proud of the ways how the biggest celebrations are organized in my school. All the students from the grades 5, 3 and 1 are performing in the end of autumn term.  All students from the grades 6, 4 and 2 are performing in the end of spring term. Teachers have planned such program numbers that every child has a role. Every child is appreciated and have an important role in school community.

In many countries students have their own school faculty, where they learn how to influence and give their opinion what they want to have or change in the school practices. What about when they have a change in planning of their studies? In the Finnish curriculum this is one of the most interesting adding to student’s rights.

Shortly, celebrating unity diversity in different level, opens the doors to ethics and support high values of thoughtfulness and empathy. I hope that schools provide the best education opportunities for every child across the globe.  I hope that schools sets students on positive life tracks that will carry humankind, today and tomorrow.

How Do We Ensure the Next Generation is One Which Communicates Civically, Values Honesty and Recognizes Reality?

I was honored to be named in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2017. This month we look to answer the following question “ How do we ensure the next generation is one which communicates civically, values honesty and recognizes reality?”

My school in Kirkkonummi supports the family’s upbringing. Together with the guardians we carry out our school values, which are safety, honesty, responsibility, respect and joy of learning. Our values are in the eye of a storm! In this world we have reached the point where we have to emphasize the meanings of values in our school work .Do the values mean anything anymore if the adults act against general values and procedures? Is it okay to do whatever it takes just to achieve your own goals? Even the USA has a president that claims lies to be true. We hear arguments that something is true because it feels like it!

What separates the right news from the wrong one? How do you know if the news are true or false? Schools around the world are now pondering around the basic question. What do we need schools for? The strong common knowledge and the knowledge of history and culture, give us an ability to understand people who think differently from us. When we study foreign languages it gives us the opportunity to follow other countries’ data exchange. The media education has a key position while practicing student’s ability to analyze the data flow and its truthfulness. How prepared are our schools to quickly update our curriculum in this rapidly changing world?  Are we alone in this task?

In Finland in February from the year 1995 we have had a News week in schools. The News week is an important campaign between schools and the newspapers. – one of the biggest media education event in the whole Finland. During the week the newspaper companies give the contents of their digital papers to schools for free. The teachers can find information and teaching tips from sanomalehtiopetuksessa.fi site. And even invite a reporter to school. Finnish press companies have made material for all schools (sanomalehtiopetuksessa.fi) to study the reliability of media.

We had the News week during 30.1.- 3.2.2017 and the press challenges us to ponder our own media world, what do you believe in the internet and why. The press all over the world is worried about the ability to read media and about transmitting the right knowledge. We have seen earlier how the work of press have been restricted, how the reporters have been threatened even killed. We have seen how the media houses have been taken over so that the new conquers have reached their position. Beside that we are now facing the so called fake news world.

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Photo: Maarit Rossi

It’s natural to gather people around you that think like you, so does children and adults. But if your view of the world is made by your mates’ opinions or just by a few news or publications – there is a danger of a very narrow picture to things. Special groups will be formed, groups that only want one truth. Democracy makes this possible but democracy only works if we accepts others’ opinions and give space to real facts. The task is challenging as well to schools as for private teachers. The co-operation between schools and professional press companies make this possible and in the same time show young people how adults defend democracy.

The media education is more important than ever and will probably always be part of school education. As an adult I just hope that the children can remain as children long enough. This adult world can wait!

 

 

What is the Best Gift You Would Recommend for Your Students this Holiday Season?

I was honored to be named in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2016. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ What is the best gift you would recommend for your students this holiday season?”

My December blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

In Finland we are closing our fall term at school. 18 weeks of hard labour! Well, not only hard  we’ve had some fun, too. We have familiarized ourselves with the new curriculum OPS2016 since August. Some things – hopefully – have changed a lot and some things have remained the same. We believe that students in ages 7-12 learn best by playing. In a good, educational play:

– you have to take others in condiseration

– you have to find your best way to reach the goal

– you have to follow the rules

– you sometimes have to find the right questions

– you sometimes have to play together with an other player

– you have to strive to the end – even if you don’t like the game!

I could go on this list forever but I think you’ve got the idea.

So what do I tell my students to do during the holiday? Play games? Perhaps. Get some rest? Sleep late? Forget the school? Read some extra? Reread the subjects? This list could also be quite long.

But what I really would like to give them is a gift. Not just any gift or present wrapped in a silver paper. The gift of dreaming.

I’d urged them to reminisce when they small, smaller than today. When they were small and they still believed in Santa (who honestly lives in Finland!). When December started, Christmas carols were heard in the malls, mother baked gingerbreads, father looked mysterious, everyone being nice and helpful…. To catch that feeling again. Waiting for something special to happen. Not really knowing what or when. But the sense of expectation, the warm feeling, the tickle in the stomach… that feeling is worth the search. It will give them a huge amount of motivation, duration and eagerness for the coming spring term.

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Photo: Maarit Rossi

Sometimes the reality is something very different. There is no warmth around you. Nothing to expect. No one to share it with. And the future looks frightening. If you have this one gift – the gift of  dreaming, you can fight your miseries, you can leave them behind if only for a little while. Maybe the thing you expect and want most is the school start. There you have people who care about you. Want the best for you. And believe me, the school will begin again in January!

The things we want or need can be very different. But the ability to dream and hope is the one gift that can save us.

Joyful Season Greetings

How Do You as Teachers Support Children Who are Confused or Frightened by Events Going on in the World?

I was honored to be named in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2016. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “How do you as teachers support children who are confused or frightened by events going on in the world?”

My November blog writer is Kirsti Savikko,Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

It was almost four years ago, one beautiful spring morning one of my teachers asked me if I could take her lesson because she had an appointment in the hospital. She had suffered heartburn for a longer period and they were going to endoscopy her stomach. She would be back after lunch. She never came….. She had a “garden – a cancer plant garden” as she herself subscribed to us later on, in her stomach. The news was devastating to us and to her students.

The class got a substitute teacher – and we all tried to go on with our work and lives. The substitute teacher didn’t have an easy job. The students were sad, felt lost and probably also angry – and the only way they could express their feelings was anger and frustration towards the substitute teacher. We all tried to support and help the students and the teacher. A year later it was again one beautiful early spring morning when we got the phone call that she had lost her battle.

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Photo: Maarit Rossi

During that year we had all been sad, desperate and uncertain about the future. But we have had hope – she was ill but she was alive. Now that thin and vulnerable string of hope was also gone. For bad things that happen in life, we have at school a sorrow box. It’s not a box of sorrow – it doesn’t contain items of sorrow. On the contrary it contains items to heal the sorrow. It has practical things like a white, clean tablecloth, candles, matches, an empty photo frame…… It also has poems, comforting words and stories. It has telephone numbers to experts that can help you in different ways. We had a quiet ceremony in the classroom, knowing that the pain was too near and too strong just on that day. Afterwards we talked a lot, memorized the good times, cried a lot and put her picture on the table and lighted a candle.

Over the years I have been forced to buy a bigger sorrow box. As the sorrow has many different colors so have the disasters many different ways to influence our lives. I have had disasters in my life and I have dealt them in my way. But I have to say I felt small and lost when I had to comfort the entire school unity. Bad things happen all the time around us in smaller and bigger scale. Family abuses, fires, killings, school threats, wars, climate change, endangered species…… How can we support our students? Or can we? Being at the same time in that same fear. Yes, we can and we should. We should all have some kind of a sorrow box somewhere. Fill it with our experiences, feelings, comforts and hopes. We should tell our students the facts – and tell them that it’s okay to be scared BUT to trust adults around them – parents and teachers – that we will take care of them the best we can.