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.


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.


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.

How Do We Better Engender a Healthy, Happy, and Productive School Environment where both Teachers and Students can Flourish?

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 we better engender a healthy, happy, and productive school environment where both teachers and students can flourish?“

If you step in a school building anywhere on earth you will soon after a small observation perceive the atmosphere in the school. You can take notice what kind of an environment the school offers – both in physical and in mental sense.

Observe how students and teachers confront. Is it friendly and respectful – both sides? How do they address each other? And how’s the interaction between teachers? How do teachers talk about students’ affairs? Do they discuss professional items and what do they discuss about? How do students communicate with each other?

Observe how the school building is used as a learning environment. The architecture of old schools strongly imply of an old conception of learning. The classrooms are on both sides of a long corridor, the teacher is giving information in the front and the students are passively listening. How this building has been made better for students and teachers of today? Many schools have succeeded in creating cosy spots for students to spend their breaks or to do team works in smaller groups. There are indoor plants in the classroom. The desks and chairs are regrouped in a different way. The desks don’t stand in rows but they are forming different size of learning places. Instead of chairs there could be cushions. Even the colorful curtains bring a joyful and cosy atmosphere. If you can see students’ art on the classroom and corridor walls – it tells you that their work is appreciated. The architecture of new school buildings around the world is nowadays different – the students are seen as active learners in their own learning situations. The new school buildings have spacious open places, libraries and places to work and use ICT.


Photo: Maarit Rossi

Observe what kind of social activity the students are having during the day. How often and how long are the breaks? Do they have places to spend their breaks in? What activities do they have? The worst scenario is that there are no breaks at all between the lessons and the students just enter the next lesson after the other. The best scenario is that the students have satisfactory long breaks during which they can fill their social needs and talk with each other. Otherwise they will do it anyway – by disturbing the lessons.


Photo: Maarit Rossi

Ask if the teachers are offered in-service training. When has the teacher been there last and what was the subject? Do the teachers have personal in-service training for teachers? The world around us is changing rapidly and the schools must adapt in new situations from exploiting technology to develop students’ skills for future jobs!

Observe students dietary habits and exercise during the day. According to research energy and physical training assist learning. This means that the students must have a school lunch during the day and a possible snack if the school day is long. As its best the students are provided with a free, healthy and a nutritious meal during the day. This happens for example in schools in Finland. The food is made by professional kitchen staff, who plans the meals according to the latest nutritious knowledge and serves them in cosy lunch rooms.

Finland is known as one of the best education country. The base for success needs basic blocks as: good atmosphere between teachers and students, healthy school lunches, enough breaks during the day and good working conditions. Another interesting subject to observe, that how much the students’ and teachers’ achievements are followed in schools? Do teachers prepare their students for tests or for learning?

How Can we Maximize the Value of Art and Music in Education and How Can it be Blended with more Traditional Subjects (Math, Science, History etc.)?

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 can we maximize the value of art and music in education and how can it be blended with more traditional subjects (math, science, history etc.)?

Traditionally in schools music, sports and arts are well viewed in school festivals. You can see art in the school halls and in classrooms’ walls. But visiting schools all over the world I have seen schools with none or very little student works on the walls. By putting students’ drawings in open the school administration and the teachers show that they appreciate students and their art.

Mathematics gives enormous amount of possibilities to link arts and architecture. From the very first grades you can teach the students to observe their environment. What shapes can you see in the buildings on your way home? Does some proportions look nicer than others? What kind of shapes can you see on the surfaces on buildings, streets, fabrics? Together with geography, history and arts teachers the math teachers can make a broad entirety of the influence of the visual art and construction art to our environment. On my journeys I have taken photos of gardens’ and buildings’ geometrical shapes.


Topkapi Palace, Istanbul. Photo: Maarit Rossi

You can find fine shapes and their combinations of street tiles also near you, in the suburbs. Teaching students to observe the beauty around us and its link to history and culture is an excellent way of lifting the meaning and appreciation of art in our lives.

The students in the upper grades are charmed and motivated when linking mathematics to visual and construction arts. Again the teacher has a possibility to work with subject unity. When my students are learning 3D geometry they are building miniatures of city parts. They build the parts of paper and glue them according to their plans. The city is built on a movable surface, where you can later put miniature trees and color the buildings. With history teacher they can study the different construction styles. The finished cities are put in the open for the whole school.

In mathematics you often practice finding patterns in numbers and shapes. In this content the task could be: What kind of shapes and their combinations can cover a surface? What kind of pictures continue in surfaces or regular solids? The art teacher can take Escher’s interesting art under study and the students can plan their own continuous shapes on regular solids’ surfaces.

When studying parallel and perpendicular lines in geometry you could also work with optical illusions. How to make two line segments look different long when they actually are the same?

Together with arts you could practice the perspective with one point or two points. Has a human always drawn pictures three-dimensional? A trip to the nearest arts museum will deepen the students’ understanding for cultural development and human’s influence in culture during a longer time perspective. How long time line segment you have to draw, how to divide it to different eras and where will the human step in?

In the history of mathematics we can find many interesting people whom we can call their era’s renaissance- people due to their versatility. Studying Leonardo Da Vinci’s human propositions, his skills in drawing and three-dimensional paintings, can be brought into many math lessons. Mr. Fibonacci can be introduced for example in number patterns and Durer’s number square, magic square 1524, in basic calculations.

Mathematics will show its strength when handling these interesting subjects while studying these concepts in mathematics. We don’t want that mathematics is a mystery we can’t understand. We don’t want to use math as the ancient secret societies used. Their logo was a geometric shape that comes out of two equilateral triangles.

How do You Help Students Accept and Work Well with People of Different Beliefs, Cultures, Languages, Socio-economic Statuses, Education Backgrounds, and Learning Styles?

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 help students accept and work well with people of different beliefs, cultures, languages, socio-economic statuses, education backgrounds, and learning styles? “

My August blog writer is my colleague Jaana Lindfors, Kirkkoharju school, lecturer of Finnish language and literature, Kirkkonummi.

Crossing the bridge to become a global citizen

The world is falling apart. It seems that the people walking on earth understand each other less and less. The rifts between nations are getting deeper and wider. We desperately need professional bridge builders. Bridges make us world citizens. Without them we will lose the touch permanently. “We” becomes “they” and “others”. The fear increases.

A child cannot choose to which society he’s born, nor will he grow as a responsible participant world citizen without the grownups support. School has a crucial role in this bridge building work. To this job the schools need concrete working methods.

In Finland the Ministry of Education have produced practical models in educating world citizens. In this program a lot of new ways was developed in global-, media- and nationality education. The outcome is a bank of ideas, from which the teacher could take influences to his own teaching. Maailmankansalainen ja media –hankkeet (The world citizen and media –programs):


Sustainable development and friendship over culture borders

The school board in City of Oulu and Kerttuli school in Turku invented tools to make immigrant students equal and active members of the school community. The immigrant students were educated as ambassadors in sustainable development and they went from school to school to share their knowledge to Finnish students.

Messages to Morogoro – can you hear Africa?

The students in Riihimäki school in Mäntsälä and Syväkangas school in Kemi created connections to Africa. They noticed that their thoughts and feelings with their age-mates were very similar despite the continents. The Riihimäki school stepped very open minded face-to-face with Tansanian children in a program called Face – Facing – Face to Face.

Creative recycling in Kirkkonummi

The textile and art groups in Kirkkoharju school in Kirkkonummi deepened their studies in decreasing consumption and sustainable way of living in theory and in practise. The themes of living sustainably were brought vividly to young people’s world. They bought cheap textile from recycling centers and sewed them to look something new. They visited the biggest dump in Scandinavia and made there their own environmental promises.


Products made of recycled material. Photo: Marja Lahtia

Virtual expeditions to foreign countries

The Jokela villageschool in Raahe travelled to imaginative journeys to ten countries. The virtual journeys produced a lot of new knowledge, student’s media creations, crashed prejudices and enrichened the whole school life.

The young media makers took their first steps

The Linkkala school in Forssa studied in many different ways the water theme and made a model for further project. The goal was to increase knowledge of the Baltic Sea and work together with another Baltic nation – the Estonians. They had a contact with a school in Tallinn, the Rocca al Mare school.

Stories of a multicultural house

One tenth of Martinlaakso school’s students in Vantaa, have a foreign background. They made a collective play together. The idea was to give a voice and face to school’s own immigrant students.

Get global – the youth made a Net magazine, gourmet trips and ecological acts

The students of Myllyharju school in Loviisa wrote about their experiences in an English Net magazine. Secondary school students edited an English Get Global Net magazine, where eco acts and gourmet trips were made. They also attuned co-operation with other foreign schools. The school wanted to create new ways of advancing sustainable development in their own environment and in a global world.

At the end

The culture is born in a society. If we teachers believe in a human picture that all humans despite their habitation are willing to learn new, create art and think deeply, we are in a good way. Beyond that we need courage and small acts.


What Are the Important Skills, Behaviors and Attitudes that Students Need to Become Contributing Global Citizens?

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 are the important skills, behaviors, and attitudes that students need to become contributing global citizens?“

 – here is my response:

My students are taking part in a 3-year Erasmus program. They are finding out and studying their possibilities to influence and act for the global climate change. In my opinion the best part of this program is that students from Germany, UK and Finland meet each other, work together and visit each others’ schools. These possibilities give them enormous chances to become global citizens. This spring the students met for the first time in Finland in Kartanoranta school.

The third weekend in April the students accommodated in Finnish families. And during the week got to know the families’ habits of living. It takes a lot of adapting for a 10-year old to be away from home, tolerate some home sickness and act independently though in safe circumstances. On Monday their first lesson was mathematics. The curriculum for 5th grades includes statistics and that if something they are going to need during the 3-year project.

The students introduced themselves before entering the classroom. I divided them in groups consisting all nationalities. I had gathered beforehand a lot of different statistics from different newspapers to each group. “The using of bicycle helmets by provinces in 2014”, “The egg consume 2006-2015”, “Living solo has increased in Finland from the 1990s”, “Divorces in Helsinki in 1971-2010” etc. The challenge for the Finnish students was to explain the contents of the statistics so they had to use their skills in English. The first task in the group was to make a question to each other. The students had no difficulty in setting to work. The Finnish students asked me every now and then the meaning of some words. The atmosphere in the classroom was nice and spontaneous. The second task was to choose one of the statistic and make a question of it in front the class both in English and in Finnish. Everyone participated and were holding up their hands and answering. At this point I, by talking to the students, assured the names of the statistic graphs, how important is the figures title and how to mark the axis.

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Photo: Maarit Rossi

The third phase in the task was to make a statistic of their own. The data was collected in the classroom. Only one group member was allowed to collect the data. So they had to share their tasks. They discussed the type of the diagram they would choose, who will collect the information and who will draw the figure. They had to decide the title together, which information comes to the axis and what is the base for the axis. The group topics were: How did you come to school today? How many siblings you have? What’s your favorite color? What eye colors do we have in the classroom? What pets do we have? How many boys and girls? Divide a year in quarters – how does the birthdays set to each quarters?

tiedon keruu

Photo: Maarit Rossi

I could almost touch the enthusiasm in the classroom! Some students made their first statistics of something that touched their lives! There was a lot of laughter, medley of languages and still purposeful study at the same time. Finally I got all the statistics to myself. And this had taken only two lessons!

This was the first learning experience together. The week was full of different learning situations from visiting the science center Heureka to an excursion in the forest. By the end of the week the departing feelings were sad but at the same time looking forward to the next meeting. Though the students may partly change, lifelong friendships were already born.

I have followed many EU projects between schools for almost two decades. The plans build bridges and maintain world peace and at the same time make it possible for the young people to become world citizens.

The teachers also need experience in working with other teachers. The task must be meaningful. I was training Chinese teachers in an occasion arranged by FICEA (Finland-China Education Association). The teachers were getting to know the interdisciplinary math. They made the same statistics exercises and learned how to make math interesting, meaningful and fun for the students.


Photo: Maarit Rossi

How can we teachers and schools get many more students to become acquainted with and to work with students from other countries? I saw my friend’s 10-year old boy give a task to his fellow-players in Minecraft environment. He defines the subject and how long they have time. His  ”acquaintances”, children from different parts of the world, fulfill the task and evaluate each others’ achievements. Here is a possibility for qualitative environmental tasks that children from all over world could solve together and become world citizens.