2020

Justice of the Peace and other Australian formalities

Weeks 32-34

Before telling you about the new part-time job I started a week ago, I wanted to write about some casual relief teacher procedures (CRT) in Australia as I was finally offered a gig after months of silence. Due to Covid-19 and school closings, there haven’t been any teacher aide gigs so I was curious to at least see an Australian school from inside and meet some other educators.

This one-day exam supervising gig was something similar to the Finnish Matriculation Exams or the Swedish National Exams. General Achievement Test (GAT), as it’s called here, is a 3h-long national exam for all year 12 students. My job was to supervise students who undertake GAT and assist them in case they needed to go to the bathroom during the exam. So nothing special about the job itself but accepting the gig was a rather interesting process. Wait for it…

GAT policies

To accept the supervising gig I needed to have a document proving that I’m not related to, or associated with, any of the students undertaking GAT. Also, I had to prove that I wasn’t related to, or associated with, any person engaged in teaching these year 12 students or organising the exam. However, being employed as a casual relief teacher or an administrator by the particular school would have been fine. But what’s the logic of this? I assumed that even as a CRT or admin of the school you would get to know the students and staff but guess not…

Imagine if in the Finnish Matriculation Exams or the Swedish National Exams some random people were supervising the exam. Wouldn’t it feel a bit strange? Usually, the teachers who teach the year 12 students supervise the exams. After all, they are the people who know the exam protocol best. I wonder how come they trust random people (like myself) more than their own teachers to supervise the national exams.

Statutory declaration

The document I needed was called a statutory declaration form. The purpose of this document is still a mystery to me as it doesn’t seem to be a reliable proof of anything. Basically how it works is that you state something on this form, go to an authorised witness (pharmacist, lawyer, police, or doctor for example) and have it signed. You need to prove your identity with your ID card or passport.

Because of the Covid restrictions, getting this one document signed took me three days. Firstly, I had to send it to the nearest paper shop to be printed out. Since they are not allowed to be open normally, it took one day to have the document on a physical paper. 

When I received the document, I had to find an authorised witness. I went to the nearest police station where they told me that they couldn’t sign declarations due to the Covid rules. They advised me to check out something called “the Justice of the Peace” (nope, not kidding) because apparently, that was the place to sign statutory declarations. I googled it and found out that the nearest “Justice of the Peace” was that very same police station. 

I decided to try a pharmacy instead. The pharmacist got angry at me because I had signed the document before her. Apparently, that is something you should never do with statutory declarations. After begging for mercy (since it was already the third day I was dealing with this task), she signed and stamped my declaration, proving that I didn’t know any of the students nor staff members of the school. But wait, how did she know that?

Dress code

In the job description, it said that the dress code for an exam supervisor was “neat and professional”. I asked my housemates what it meant in practise since I hadn’t been given any specific dress code as a teacher before. The teachers knowing how to dress practically and appropriately it usually taken for granted in Finland. 

My housemates said no to sneakers and jeans which I would normally wear as a teacher. So I ended up choosing neat black trousers, blouse, long open-knit cardigan, canvas shoes, and a mask, of course. In my eyes, this was an appropriate outfit for a job where I had to stand and walk for several hours. 

Well, I learned that what is usually considered as common sense in Finland, is not the same in Australia. We had a large team of supervisors working that day and “the professional and neat dress code” was understood as basically anything from classical pencil skirts and heeled leather boots (which by the way, made a heck of a noise when walking around the exam location) to pyjama-looking silk pants, worn-out sneakers, and belly button revealing crop tops.

I did have a fun day at the school and it was lovely to meet other educators. Just funny to notice how differently things are done in other countries. After this another interesting experience in the Australian red tape jungle, I’m happy to start with something a little more stable. From now on, I’m working as a part-time mentor teacher for early childhood educators at HEI School Australia while continuing my own business and having Finnish and Swedish lessons online. I’m excited to meet Australian educators and contribute my Finnish pedagogical expertise in a new context so HEI let’s go!

But how can the authorised witness, the nearest pharmacist for instance, confirm this information?

2020

Lost in Daylight Saving Time

Weeks 30-31

Please welcome my favourite time of the year once again: the clock changing circus. The last time we went through this in March-April was a total disaster. Therefore, I’m now prepared with double and triple checks on all of my students’ time zones to make sure that I know what’s going on. Also, I’ve got some exciting news about the new work I accepted last week.

First let us review the facts. At the end of March, Europe changed its time from winter time (standard time) to summer time (Daylight Saving Time, DST) by setting the clocks one hour forward. On October the 25th they will change it back to the standard time. As we are located in the Southern Hemisphere and the seasons are all upside-down here in Australia, we set our clocks one hour backwards earlier this year. Now, we set the clocks forward to have the standard time again. This means that during the European spring and summer, Australian Autumn and Winter, the time difference between Finland and Eastern Australia is 7 hours and the rest of the year it’s 9h. Pretty simple, eh?

What I didn’t realise, however, was the fact that countries all around the world have different dates for changing the time. Not to mention that more than half of the countries do not observe DST, including some countries’ independent states like Queensland here in Australia. And this means that between those clock-setting dates the time difference between Finland and Victoria goes first to 8 hours for a couple of weeks and then to 7 or 9 hours depending on the time of the year.

Last March-April I wasn’t aware of the different dates when the time difference to Melbourne changed so I managed to mess up my whole schedule for a couple of weeks. The weekly lessons booked from different time zones which either changed or didn’t change the time, overlapped and I had to reschedule almost everything. 

This time I prepared myself both manually and digitally by listing all my students, their time zones, and the time changing policies of their countries and making sure Google Calendar gives me the right times based on the DST changes. After all this maths my brain hurts, however I am happy because once again it is a new task that I can do as a private online teacher.

Oh yes, the new job! I signed my very first employment contract with an Australian employer and I’ll start working next week. So excited! More on this coming up so stay tuned.

Luckily, Google Calendar knows the time zones so I can just set the lessons to the student’s own time zone and it will be automatically converted to my time.
2020

Ruotsia! Svenska! Swedish!

Weeks 27-29

Det är dags att fira! It’s the time to celebrate as I finally managed to get a full-time teacher salary by teaching online through my own business! Whoop whoop! Also, I would like to announce that in addition to Finnish classes, I’m now providing Swedish lessons for beginners. Check out my website for more information about the learning itineraries!

The original goal for Teacher Roosa was to create a business that would support me financially just enough so that I could stay in Australia for my first working holiday year, keep myself active in the world of education, and develop my teaching skills. I’m delighted to see that it has become more than that. My work has started to pay back the six months of travelling I did before settling down in Melbourne. Furthermore, I managed to create a reliable service that motivates and inspires people to learn. What more can you wish for as a teacher?

Inspired by a request I received from a customer about a month ago, I started teaching a basic Swedish course to two Finnish youths whose family is planning to move back to Finland. The timing could not have been better. Coincidentally, I had been chatting with my Swedish-speaking friends and listening to Swedish music, thinking about refreshing my Swedish skills after focusing so much on English. 

In the Basic Swedish course, the students create their own characters – their imaginary Finland Swedish classmates-to-be – and tell stories about them.

But why did the Finnish-speaking students want to learn Swedish before moving back to Finland?

Through the reformation of the Finnish education system in the 1970s, the Swedish language was implemented as a compulsory part of the Finnish national curricula together with the mandatory Finnish course for Swedish-speaking Finns. In its current form, students start learning the second domestic language (Swedish or Finnish depending on their native language) in year 6 and continue until higher education. Therefore, when moving back to Finland and continuing their education in the Finnish school system, students have to attend the compulsory second domestic language course. 

I thought that this preparatory course would be a good way for Finns abroad to catch-up with their peers and learn the basics, instead of jumping straight into the intermediate level when returning to Finland. Thanks to Otava’s great service, I managed to get a Swedish digital text and exercise book called Megafon 1 as a private education provider. This way we can study the same things online as the students’ Finnish classmates-to-be are learning in Finland. Utmärkt!

If you need extra support with the Swedish language, don’t hesitate to contact me through my website and discuss your individual learning plan for beginner Swedish.

2020

Mid-term assessment

Weeks 24-26

“Hey you were in Opettaja-lehti”, my dad writes on WhatsApp being “surprised” and sends me a link to an article in the newest Teachers’ magazine. Of course, I told him about the interview right away when Anna-Sofia Nieminen first contacted me in February this year. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome to see my story printed in the magazine that I’ve seen in my family’s mailbox since I was a little kid. The article reinforced my decision to do something different and continue on my journey, despite all the doubts I had on the way.

So what did exactly happen when the COVID-19 pandemic started in February? 

I had decided to apply for the first year working holiday visa in Australia to see if it was possible to work as a classroom teacher. I had heard both good and bad about the process of getting the teaching license in Victoria: some said it was easy as long as you had all the required documents, some said it could take months to complete the application. I decided to try as I was keen to work with kids again and learn about the Australian curriculum.

As you know already, things didn’t go as planned. The first problem before the coronavirus finally forced all the schools to go online was to pass the language test with the required mark. I chose to do an ISLPR test which was similar to the better-known IELTS tests but customised to your profession and, unlike in IELTS, it was possible to retake particular parts of the test without doing the whole test all over again. ISLPR stands for International Second Language Proficiency Ratings. It had two parts: written and spoken, which included reading and listening. For the teacher registration in Victoria, they require level 4 out of 5 which is described as “vocational proficiency”.

“Able to perform very effectively in almost all situations pertinent to social and community life and everyday commerce and recreation, and generally in almost all situations pertinent to own ‘vocational’ fields.”

I took the exam twice. First, all four skills and then only writing and speaking. In the written test you have to complete two assignments in one hour and you can’t go over or under 10% of the total 400 words. The first time, I panicked in the written part and ran out of time. This has happened to me many times before in exams with strict time limits so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get a 4/5. I got a 3+/5. 

Strange enough, I got the same mark on the second try even though I didn’t run out of time nor made any spelling mistakes (rare for me when writing a foreign language by hand). This time I had 7 mistakes in total, and apparently, you are only allowed to have 2-4. The fatal mistakes that gave me a 3+ were:

  • Saying “I think that was…” (mixing tenses)
  • Using the phrasal verb “to give up” (being too informal)
  • Saying “having the honour of…” (being too formal)

Fair enough, these are quite embarrassing mistakes when you want to work as a casual relief primary school teacher. But sarcasm aside, I wanted to know more about the grading scale because I just couldn’t understand the logic. I knew I made spelling mistakes in the first one, and I didn’t even finish it so how could the assessment still be the same 3+/5? In the feedback session, they told me that this second 3+ was closer to 4 than the first one. I wonder if there are more invisible steps on this scale that can only be found out by trying again.

Even more confusing was the spoken test in which I also got 3+/5 twice. In the spoken test they interview you about your plans in Australia and your career as a teacher. I had the same tester twice and because she already knew me, she just asked how I was doing. My mistakes, or “highlights” as the testers ironically call them, were:

  • Talking too fast
  • “Finglish”, meaning that I mixed Finnish and English (when I asked for examples, they didn’t mention any specific “Finglish” words or structures because generally, it was the way I spoke that sounded Finnish)
  • Pronouncing the word “schedule” as [skɛdʒuːl] (like the Americans do)
  • Pronouncing th, for example “that”, as dh (It was funny that before she started the feedback sessions, she asked me if I were Irish because I “had the Irish th”. Wait, didn’t the Irish people also speak native English?)

I was supposed to go and do the test one more time just for the sake of all the money spent on the registration process and maybe for the sake of my dignity, just a little bit. You can still see the lack of teachers in the job market here, however, there aren’t many opportunities for casual relief teachers. So, I thought I could still apply for jobs as a teacher assistant to somehow help in this crisis. But, once again the red tape got me. Having the “wrong” degree and wrong visa didn’t get me any further with that plan either. You should have a Certificate III (a specific Teacher Aide degree) from TAFE (Technical and Further Education) to be qualified as a teacher aide. Eventually, I didn’t see the point of putting more effort into the process during these times but to focus on my own business.

Despite the obvious disappointment, I have been very happy with the experience I’ve got here in Australia so far. The challenges only made me think out of the box and come up with a plan that was even better than the original. Going through the process as far as I did, also gave me a new perspective to look at life as an immigrant again and think about the language assessment as a national institution. What do we want to achieve with language assessment in general? What means fluency and native-like skills? 

Through my own business, I still get to teach students of all ages, work in English, and even learn about the Australian education system.

You can read Anna-Sofia Nieminen and Päivi Arvonen’s article about different ways to be a teacher in Opettaja-lehti (in Finnish).

2020

Exploring methods for online learning

Weeks 20-23

Still living through Melbourne’s second lockdown. My housemates and I have found a new way to break the everyday routine and have a little bit of excitement in our days of starring the screen: playing social games! So far, my favourite ones have been Monopoly Deal, and of course, the best Finnish outdoor game of all time – Mölkky – which by the way, is not “Finska” or “Battle Blocks” as they call it here in Australia.

The games got me thinking about all the social activities we used to have with my 5th graders in Sweden. That class just loved all kinds of games, challenges, and drama improvisations. And what they learnt through a game or other fun learning activities, they remembered later in the exam. It’s amazing how learning can be boosted by simply making it fun for the learners. So why not to try the same in online teaching! 

The newest project in my private teaching has been converting the good old social games, like Pictionary, Alias (a Finnish word explanation game), and classic card games into online versions in which the students get to practise Finnish vocabulary and structures. For instance, the best ice breaker game on the very first lesson with Finnish as a second language students has been the game called Kuutamolla (Two Truths and a Lie) where the student and I come up with some sentences about ourselves, some of the truth and some of them lies, and try to guess which ones are true and which false. 

In the small group of adult beginners, the game that made me and the students laugh the most was the Finnish Small Talk game which I invented when exploring the Monopoly Deal cards. In this game, I gave the students some questions and responses in Finnish and their task was to chat with each other by matching the phrases so that the conversation would make (at least some kind of) sense. With the wild cards like “No niin” (oh well / so / yeah) and “Mun pitää mennä. Moikka!” (I must go. Bye!), some excitement and entertainment were added to the game when a player got a new turn or made a funny match with the phrases.

Some people claim that small talk doesn’t exist in Finnish but I disagree. I created an online card game where the students use Finnish small talk phrases as cards to build a chat conversation. The “cards” were shuffled and dealt randomly to the players beforehand.

Playing games is not everyone’s cup of tea – or “pala kakkua” (a piece of cake) as we say in Finnish – but it’s certainly an effective learning strategy for those who enjoy it. I haven’t noticed any difference between children and adult learners in terms of the effectiveness of game-based learning. Adults might sometimes be surprised by how beneficial playing language games together with other students can be in terms of learning. Younger learners, on the other hand, are usually more open-minded for different teaching methods; they want to try new learning activities to see if they like them or not. Anyway, the feedback I often receive from adult learners is that they discovered or understood something new about the Finnish language when trying a different learning method as it gives them a new perspective to explore the topic. That’s why I want to encourage all students to try various learning methods. You never know if the new strategy motivates you to learn more!

I am starting four new Finnish courses for small groups in August: 

  1. Learn Finnish through games: adult beginners (CEFR A0-A1) 
  2. Learn Finnish through News: adult intermediate level (CEFR A1-A2) 
  3. Game Club: young Finns living abroad, ages 7-10
  4. Media Club: young Finns living abroad, ages 11-15

The beginner course Learn Finnish through Games and the Game Club for young Finns abroad focus on game-based learning. Meet other Finnish learners and practise everyday vocabulary, useful phrases, and basic grammar through activating social games. In News Club and the intermediate course Learn Finnish through News, the learners are encouraged to explore the Finnish language through various multimedia texts. By learning strategies to read, understand, and discuss Finnish news, the students improve their multi-literacy and communication skills in Finnish. To discover new learning strategies, check out the new courses on my website!

More information about the courses for small groups on my website https://www.teacherroosa.com/grouplearning.

2020

Expanding expertise

Weeks 14-19

Wait, how did one month just pass like that? Melbourne is back in lockdown again and it feels like nothing much happened during the past six weeks. But in fact, something very exciting did happen! I accepted a new job which I hope to open new opportunities to expand my expertise in the field of education.

A Finnish start-up company called Huippu Education contacted me a couple of months ago to ask whether I was interested in creating online content for their further teacher training courses and managing some of their educational development projects around the world. Oh yes, please! As I have been following the amazing work of Huippu since last year, I was very excited to get on board with them and contribute my skills in teacher training and online learning promoting the quality of education globally.

So this is what I have been up to. I began by designing an online course for teachers and other education professionals about critical thinking in primary education. The course is one of the implementations of Huippu Education’s vision to promote OECD’s goals of improving students’ 21st-century skills around the world with the Finnish education expertise. Learn more about Huippu Education, its services, and or course, the fantastic education specialists!

My newest project is to create pedagogical content for Huippu Education as one of their education specialists.

The whole process of creating a course about teaching critical thinking to other teachers through an online platform was a truly comprehensive learning experience. Even though I have been studying and practising online teaching for months now, I had to review, rearrange, and re-evaluate my ideas about high-quality education. I must say that the topic “Critical thinking” really got me there. 

First surfing, and eventually diving through the theories and methodology of teaching critical thinking, I discovered new perspectives to critical thinking as one of the 21st-century skills that I haven’t even thought about before. Moreover, I came up with new ideas on how it could be practised with both students and teachers. I realised there are many points in the theories that also I, as a private language teacher, could, and perhaps even should, apply in my learning service. Even though it’s usually not what the customers primarily require from their private language lessons, I have noticed that using methods promoting higher-order thinking skills is an effective way to engage learners in deeper learning. For instance, when asking higher-order questions or providing students with language problems to solve, they demonstrate a better understanding of linguistics in general and discover their ways to learn the language. From the entrepreneur point of view, methods that support meta-learning (“learning about learning”) improve the quality of the service by providing the customers with more depth than self-studying.

Another skill that I improved during this project, was developing online content. Creating a coherent and compact online course that combines multimedia sources, higher-order thinking tasks, and interactive methods wasn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when conducting everything online. My first problem to solve was to find a way to apply the methods that I was talking about into the training itself. In other words, I didn’t think it would make any sense to teach about higher-order thinking without actually doing it through higher-order tasks. Anyway, I’m very pleased with the outcome. Thanks to Vuolearning online learning platform for enabling social activities such as discussion and peer-assessment.

Gaining more experiences in online training and teacher training has given me new ideas and inspiration for developing online pedagogy. Thanks to these new insights arisen by the project Huippu Education offered me, the power of learning by teaching has been proven once again.

The course “Critical Thinking in Primary Education” is now published and ready to be enrolled by anyone who is interesting in the 21st-century skills in education. Go and check it out on Huippu Education’s online store. I’m excited to meet teachers around the world and discuss the ways to enhance students’ critical thinking skills!

In the course “Critical Thinking in Primary Education” you will learn how to enhance learners’ critical thinking skills step by step.
2020

Group learning

Weeks 12-13

Thanks to all the amazing students who booked Finnish lessons with me, my new career as a private teacher and sole trader experienced a good kickstart during its first two months. I found many new, eager, highly motivated, and hard-working students who gave me fresh inspiration for teaching the Finnish language. Simultaneously, I have enjoyed learning more about my old students and exploring their ways of learning. Knowing my students better gives me confidence and energy to keep on working and creating new ways to teach Finnish.

The newest idea that I launched recently, was small group learning. I created a small group learning model with some of my old students by bringing them together into a video call meeting to practise Finnish through dialogue and social activities. It was important to me to make sure that all the participants would feel comfortable in the group. Therefore, I recommended the first entry-level group to students who are more or less on the same level in Finnish, have similar connections to Finland, and similar reasons to learn the language. The dynamics in that group have been better than even I could have imagined! It’s always a good sign when the students who have never met before find something in common, feel comfortable sharing things about themselves to others, and can laugh together.

On the entry-level, we practise common everyday phrases, grammar, and vocabulary to use in simple conversations with other Finnish-speakers. Through various learner-centered methods, the students will improve their responding, speaking, and listening skills in Finnish. As a teacher, I enjoy having the role of a mentor who manages the learning session in the background while the students learn by interacting with each other. At the beginning of the course, however, I guide the group by using rather structured lesson plans in order to make sure that everyone has an equal chance at participating. A structured lessons plan also helps the group to stay on the topic and focus on the purpose of the lesson. 

We begin the lesson with a casual chat including greeting and asking questions. After that, we have a vocabulary and grammar session, which is usually the only teacher-centered element of the lesson. To have the opportunity to apply the theory, the students will play an activating game, drama, or do another creative activity at the end of the lesson before it is time for feedback. Additionally, we have our own Google Classroom group where I share optional extra tasks and material to support self-studying. As the students get to know each other better, the structure of the meetings will naturally become more flexible; enabling free discussion and sharing experiences. I was pleasantly surprised when the students were inspired to share their own flashcards with the other group members.

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The most heart-warming feedback you can get as a teacher from your student is definitely a drawing of you as a Moomin character. Kiitos Pepper, olet loistava!

I am happy to notice that this kind of small group learning works even with total beginners, and thus, I am looking forward to establishing more small groups for Finnish learners of all levels. I think it’s important that all language students start practising communication skills right at the very beginning of their learning journey because it gives them more confidence when having a conversation with native-speakers. If you wait for too long without practising any speaking, listening, or reacting, you might subconsciously raise the bar for opening your mouth. Social learning in a small group gives students peer support and motivation when they can see that there are others on the same boat. Furthermore, I have noticed that it is also an easier way to start for many students to communicate with other non-natives instead of native-speakers because are able to explain things to each other in a different way than natives. However, in order to prevent misconceptions and provide professional feedback, my role as a teacher is still essential. I like to think of language teaching as a bridge-building dialogue between the learners and native speakers. Students can always come to me and ask about something they do not understand when communicating in Finnish, receive guidance and encouragement, and continue their journey again.

In addition to courses for foreigners, I launched two group learning options for Finnish children and youths living abroad. In these new clubs – Media Club for youths aged between 10 and 15, and Story Club for children aged from 7 to 9 – the goal is to improve the native and second language learners’ conversation skills in Finnish. Through authentic age-appropriate material, dialogue, and real-life connections, I want to encourage Finnish children living abroad to share and discuss their rich and valuable understanding of different cultures. I have always admired their way of discussing different perspectives, and therefore, I would like to create an international platform for them to expand this communication. Starting with cosy small groups, we practise literacy and communication skills, asking questions from a text, and sharing thoughts. The idea is to upgrade the discussion clubs later into workshops, where the same participants who already know each other, would create their own media content or stories.

I am keen to see where the new online group learning takes me. Also, I am excited to meet new Finnish learners. Read more about the group learning options on https://www.teacherroosa.com/grouplearning, sign up for a small group course, or recommend it to a friend! 🙂

2020

Routine

Weeks 10-11

After two months in isolation, the coronavirus restrictions will finally be gradually eased in Australia. Compared to many European countries, like Spain for instance, we have had it pretty easy in Victoria. However, compared to Finland, where people have been allowed to go hiking, the greatest challenge for me in Australia has been the closing of the state borders and national parks. Outdoor activities, traveling as well as visiting schools for this blog, had started to become solid parts of my routine during my year off. Since EduExploring is now happening inside four walls, I would like to share the new daily routine I created for this time as a private online teacher and a sole trader.

Depending on the bookings, I teach around 10-15 hours a week. I meet most of my students once or twice a week, but there are also students who I meet occasionally. In addition to the lessons, I spend about the same amount of time, or even more, on preparation and material development even though moneywise, it’s supposed to be a part-time job. I’m still in the beginning of my new journey as a private teacher, and thus, learning about different materials and platforms simply takes more time. And to be honest, when it comes to planning lessons and creating new activities, I’m often caught up in the flow experience, not even realising how time passes. Ideally, I would have 20 hours of lesson time per week in order to be a full-time teacher again with a full-time salary but baby steps, baby steps…

Like in any other job, there are pros and cons in private online teaching and sole trading. I will now elaborate on the routine.

Sometimes the long days of staring at a screen make me miss school life with its various activities and structure. As a teacher who never used to sit behind a desk all day, it has been a challenge for me to create a healthy routine for online work at home. Working makes me feel tired and less productive if I don’t change the venue. I guess I’ve still got the drive of a classroom teacher going on – used to work at a rapid pace and react to quick changes. I’ve even noticed some of my students having the same challenge. Especially with younger students, it is clear that studying online requires more focus and discipline than going to school.

To cope with the new lifestyle, I have come up with some small tasks to do during the day so that I wouldn’t sit all the time at any device (including phone which often gets an excuse). Since most of my students request afternoon or evening lessons, I start my day by planning upcoming classes and checking the news. I may have one lesson after breakfast and the next ones in the afternoon or evening so, between them, I often go for a run or do some yoga. Luckily, at least running has been allowed during the coronavirus restrictions in Victoria. Even marketing and accounting tasks work like breaks for me. Switching between the sides of the brain helps me to refocus, for example, when I have been working on a creative task (lesson planning) and need something rather logical (accounting), I switch from right to left. Last week’s new option for a little brain break was to grab a ukulele after several years and refresh my long-forgotten music skills.

I must say, though, that to my surprise, I have very much enjoyed working part-time. At least for now in isolation, it has been a great way to combine earning money and self-developing. Developing my professional identity and myself as a person was, after all, the main purpose of taking the year off. I have enjoyed focusing on the quality of teaching (aka practising my pedagogical nerdism) and taking the time to prepare myself for a new full-time position. Additionally, I have had more time for hobbies and practical skills. Finally, I don’t have to choose which one of my favourite hobbies to focus on when I can practise them all. While grabbing the ukulele and playing J. Karjala’s Kolme cowboyta (Three Cowboys) once more, I gather a playlist of easy songs in Finnish for my students to practise in their isolation.

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I put this sign on the door to warn my housemates of a funny sounding language and loud laugh. By the way, Finnish is mentioned as the 7th on https://www.thetoptens.com/funniest-sounding-languages/. What do you think? I think it should be the first because I’m laughing in Finnish every day!

2020

Value

Weeks 8-9

The biggest dilemma I’ve faced so far with starting a business, is without a doubt, to evaluate the price of my time and service. In fact, I spent hours researching other Finnish private teachers and discussing reasonable pricing with friends. Why is it so hard to value your own expertise? Is it just because I’m too much of a humble Finn or is the general value of teaching changing as it’s easier these days to learn whatever skill with free tutorials or almost free tutors?

When I started tutoring in the Finnish language in September 2019, I started it as a hobby with no intention to make it as the main source of income. My rate on the language learning platform called JustLearn was as modest as 15€ per hour. Compared to my regular teacher salary, which normally would include all the benefits such as pension contributions and health insurance, this hourly rate was more or less a half of what I received in Sweden or Finland. At that time, I thought it was reasonable because I was still practising my online teaching skills and I wanted to explore tutoring without worrying about taxes. Also, I didn’t feel right to charge for the time spent on preparation since the role of a tutor didn’t require the same amount of planning prior to lessons as the role of a teacher. After all, the point of tutoring wasn’t to create a comprehensive course plan but to support learners’ self-studying as a native-speaker guide.

Searching for other Finnish teachers and their services online, gave me another perspective to private teaching. Despite the fact that Finnish is a small language with a very marginal target group among all language learners, it seems to have a pretty vast selection of native-speaking tutors, qualified language teachers, self-study courses, and tutoring material online. The prices for learning Finnish vary from free self-study material to private lessons for 100€ per hour. Lessons with a native-speaking tutor without a degree in Finnish language or education, are usually in the range of 10€ to 30€ an hour. In comparison, the hourly rate for an English tutor can be as low as 7€ per hour. Thus, considering my degree – Education as a major and Finnish language and Literature as minors – I should aim for a rate that is closer to the maximum rather than the minimum. 

On one hand, I understand why the prices for private lessons with qualified teachers are so high. As an entrepreneur, you need to arrange everything that is usually done “automatically” by the employer for yourself and by yourself because you are your own employer. You are responsible for your own benefits, such as retirement plan and unemployment fund, that are normally included in a fully loaded salary. And not forgetting the taxes! The value-added tax (VAT) in Finland is as high as 24% for sole traders. To explain the private teachers’ high prices in Finland, you could say that the student is an employer, and as the employer, they pay the fully-loaded salary to the teacher.

On the other hand, I thought about how much I myself would pay for private lessons in a new skill. 100€ is a lot of money and I don’t think that many language learners would be ready to pay such a price for one Finnish lesson. At least not if they are paying by themselves. This brings up another question: do I want my courses to be available for only those who have the privilege to pay the highest prices? After receiving valuable comments on the pricing from friends around the world, I decided to stick to my principles and offer affordable access to learning Finnish with professional guidance.

As transforming from casual tutoring to professional teaching, I needed to take preparation time into consideration before establishing the final prices. The better income would allow me to spend more time planning the new courses and preparing better material, which would obviously improve the quality of the instruction. Eventually, I created a pricing system that represents the average price for Finnish tutoring and teaching as well as the average hourly rate for private lessons in other languages. To kick off the business and explore the market for my expertise, I wanted to enter the market with reasonable prices, however, without compromising the quality. The pricing system also favours package deals making it cheaper to book for example 10 lessons instead of just one. Having more lessons with the same student improves the lesson continuum and creates a stronger customer relationship which makes it easier for me, as the teacher, to truly individualise the learning experience.

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Check out the pricing on https://www.teacherroosa.com/learning and tell me what you think! By the way, you can start learning Finnish by simply changing the language of my website to Finnish as the site is now bilingual. 😉

2020

New path

Weeks 5-7

The past three weeks were insanely busy. And yet, that was mainly because of staring at the wall and thinking in isolation. My job seeking in Melbourne had come to a deadlock and I soon started to lose my motivation for the whole thing. In addition to the fact that there were only a few teaching jobs open, it seemed to take forever for me to get the teaching license in Victoria. The paperwork started to feel like, as we say in Finnish, wading through a swamp when it turned out that the Swedish and Finnish authorities were unable to send the criminal checks straight to the Victorian authorities. I would still need to copy those papers, certify them by a chemist (isn’t that weird, eh?), scan them again and sent them to the Victorian Institute of Teaching. Like the paper circus wasn’t enough, my English would need to be improved in order to pass the ridiculously tricky language test which even some natives had reputedly failed. All in all, I needed a break from that project and instead, focus on something that would give me new motivation. 

As for a good old motivator, teaching my native language Finnish and studying its unique logic has been my passionate hobby for years. I continued giving casual Finnish lessons during my travels, although, this time I did it online through a learning platform called JustLearn. With flexible working hours and usually quite little preparation required, tutoring worked perfectly during my travels. It had also been a great way to keep exploring other cultures the students represented, improve my online teaching skills as well as to stay connected to Finland. 

But once I couldn’t continue traveling anymore (we all know why) and I decided to stay in Melbourne, I was becoming more interested in developing my Finnish lessons and explore the potential of online teaching during the global lockdown. So why not go full power and make it my living? That became a new motivator.

I researched possibilities to work as an online teacher for schools and companies or even together with other private online teachers but couldn’t find anything considerable. Such a shame! I think there should be more Finnish providers that would gather teachers to online teaching platforms. In fact, aren’t all the schools in Finland basically doing something like that now as the teachers work remotely? Maybe it could be something to develop and expand in the future. Meanwhile, I am jumping into something I thought I would never do: becoming a sole trader.

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Preparing for a Finnish for foreigners lesson with the first customers I got through the official Teacher Roosa website.

For me, going full power and jumping into the business world meant heaps of new skills to learn. I would highly recommend adding some of these basic skills of digital marketing and web designing to the national compulsory curriculum as it comprehensively improves not just IT skills and logical thinking but also communication and marketing skills, valuing and critical thinking as well as designing and esthetical thinking. 

Step 1: Products

Although the word ‘product’ sounds too capitalistic to me when talking about teaching Finnish, that’s what I basically have to create in order to call it a business. After all, I am selling service here! I chose two main products to focus on: Finnish for foreigners and Finnish for Finns abroad, both of which I have been working with before as a teacher and tutor. The third product, extra support in primary school subjects, I created for two potential student profiles: the first one is a Finnish speaking student who does their primary school curriculum in another language than Finnish and the second one is a second language learner who goes to a Finnish primary school. Therefore, the third itinerary, as I call these three learning plans, also supports language learning.

Step 2: Website design

The next step was to learn how to make a website. By the way, a great skill to learn and lots of fun once you get into it! I wanted to build the site on the story of EduExploring and by doing so, invite the students to join the amazing learning journey I’ve been on so far. All the pictures on the new site, for instance, have been taken during my EduExploring travels. As currently a “mamu” (nickname for an immigrant in Finnish) myself, I want to inspire my students to share their inspiring stories on Finland and other cultures.

Step 3: Marketing

Buying my own domain and opening a professional email address was a moment to celebrate! Once having the link to my brand new website, it was time to get viral. I shared the link in different Facebook groups that I thought would find it interesting. Thanks to my previous jobs and the EduExploring visits to Finnish schools abroad, I already had the network of the potential students. The next level on this skill will be Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Excited!

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Here it is: Teacher Roosa

And many steps still to go… But for now, welcome to visit my new website on www.teacherroosa.com. And come on, don’t be shy! I highly appreciate your insights, helpful comments, and suggestion on the website and services provided. You can drop me a message on the comment box down below or send an email to info@teacherroosa.com! Cheers! 🙂

 

P.S. This post was dedicated to fellow mamus all around the world. Especially the expats in Finland who struggle to find a job or to pass the YKI test, you have all my sympathy, it’s not easy to be a mamu!

 

CORRECTION: The Finnish authorities did send the criminal check straight to Victorian Institute of Teaching but due to the coronavirus, it hasn’t arrived yet and it’s not guaranteed that it even will.