Getting back the discipline and normal order in the classroom has now been my main task. You could refer to it as the “norming after storming” stage like in the classical group developing model. I will now introduce you to two routines which I introduced to the pupils in order to maintain discipline and promote peace in the classroom. I can proudly say they finally work as they should making the daily life in the classroom much easier!

To provide some background information, I think it is worth mentioning that one big difference compared to the standard Finnish school system is that here the lessons are 60 minutes long with 10min recesses between. Still, for some 4th graders, it is a challenge to get out on time, especially during winter when you have a lot of clothes to wear. For me, the schedule was also a challenge in the beginning because I was used to the Finnish 45min+15min system. I realised that as 60min is too long for the children to remain focused, it is a challenge for me to plan a 60min lesson without the hassle of children becoming too tired by the end. 60min is also too long to stay seated.

Math Yoga

We started doing Math Yoga (matteyoga/matikkajooga) in order to increase concentration and also to move more during the long days at school. This idea was a mixture of the Finnish Liikkuva koulu project, Yoga with Adriene videos and some Pinterest pictures (“yoga for kids”). The idea is very simple. When the pupil has finished one page of math exercises he/she can go to the yoga corner (the corner at the far end of our classroom where we put some floor pillows), pick a yoga pose from a catalogue with pictures and names and hold that pose for 10 seconds. Believe it or not, they will come back and continue calculating! I also noticed that it’s good if they have the possibility to do more pages in a row and have a longer relaxing moment afterwards. The rule, however, remains the same: 1 page = 10s yoga. (See an example of a yoga catalogue below.)

Tasks of the day

Nowadays’ kids should be good at programming and coding, right? Maybe on their devices but not necessarily in reality when it comes to assigning tasks to themselves. Even though the students are very active and enthusiastic, I noticed that they aren’t independent enough to start a new (at least not a didactic) task spontaneously when the first one is completed. They come to ask me what to do next even though there are still exercises left on the same given pages. Some of the students cannot concentrate on the same subject for 60min so I figured we need more freedom to get better self-guidance and thus better order.

What really helped the children and me was to write the tasks of the day for each subject on the board every morning. I still present the new topic at the beginning of every lesson, but once they have completed their tasks they are free to move on to another subject or carry on with tasks which may not have been finished in previous lessons. On one hand, this system helps them to focus on difficult subjects where some extra time is needed. On the other hand, it gives variety to their lessons and freedom to choose what is the best way to reach a goal. Like in coding, there are different ways to get to the same goal, but the code must be thought-through with your own best logic.


Yoga poses by https://afterschool.ae




Start the game, check. Select the language, check. It’s time to choose the character. As a permanent teacher who has his/her own class, you are the closest adult to your pupils at the school. They will turn to you if they need help with exercises, if something happens during resets or if they have social issues. You are the one they lean on and whose advice they trust. But what is the role of a substitute teacher? Who am I from the pupils’ perspective?

When I was working as a teacher on call during my studies, I learned how things are done in different schools and I got to meet many students and teachers in a short time. However, I cannot really say I got to know the pupils I met since I only worked as a short-term sub for different teachers. As a short-term substitute teacher, the goal is different from regular teacher’s. Often you are called early in the morning to jump into the role of the absent teacher. Your purpose then is to make sure the pupils are safe and that they do their daily school work (if some instructions are given). Usually, you don’t know anything about the students’ backgrounds or even their names. If I think about the substitute teachers I had as a primary school student, I must say I cannot recall their names. Maybe I remember some funny things they did. But most often, short-term subs, they come and go and life goes on.

At the beginning of this job, I was often compared to the permanent teacher by the children: ”you have the same shirt” or ”we used this app with her too”. That is, of course, a good thing. Finding similarities between me and the permanent teacher makes the pupils feel safe. Also, I felt safe when hearing ”ihan sama ope” (literally translated ’the same teacher’) because then I knew I was doing it right.

Now I have been working at the school for one month. (By the way, I cannot believe how fast it is going!) At this point, I realise I’m not only a walk-in-walk-out substitute teacher whose purpose is to replace the regular teacher. I actually have my own pupils to take care of for a longer time and I can do it my own way. The children are realising the same as well. We are little by little getting used to the mixture of the old and new routines. Furthermore, this week I noticed we have begun to trust each other more. If they wouldn’t trust, they wouldn’t protest. This is at least what I try to believe now when the kids have started to tell me ”I don’t care, teach” (ironically, ”ihan sama, ope” in Finnish).

Finally, what is the difference between a regular teacher and longterm substitute teacher? Once we are settled into our new routines and we have begun to trust, we get more responsibilities and rights concerning each other. During the first month, I’ve gathered a better understanding of the students’ ability and skills which gives me tools to evaluate and support them academically. Concurrently, the children come to tell me about more personal matters and ask for advice. Even though I’m extremely tired after these two weeks of protests and testing, I’m happy to see the sign of ”we take you as our teacher”.



After sportlov I’m feeling much more confident with everyday routines at work. It’s time to focus on the special features of this new learning environment. As I’m a new teacher in another country using two foreign languages in addition to my own native language, it will still take some time to settle into this position. The motivation for being fluent in Swedish is now higher than ever because it would definitely make the work easier for me. To understand the students’ communication and their culture is one of the most important things in teacher’s work, if not the most important one. But what is the communication like in a bilingual school? How does it work to teach in two languages?

In a bilingual school, instead of one teaching language, there are two languages with academic status, which is why the lessons are usually given in both languages, more or less at the same time. The exceptions in our school are of course the Finnish and Swedish lessons where everything is in one language. The goal of this particular type of bilingual education is so-called additive bilingualism. Basically, it means that the aim is to improve two languages simultaneously and give the students good academic skills in both the major language (Swedish) and the teaching language (Finnish). Additive bilingualism is often applied in minority language schools, such as Finnish or Sámi schools in Sweden, to support the status of the national minorities.

But how to teach in two languages simultaneously? It is still a mystery to me how it is supposed to work fluently. At first, I thought it would be something like CLIL or language immersion where the goal is also to improve two languages. However, the difference to bilingual education is that the teaching language in these cases is not the students’ native language. For example in Finland, the language immersion programs (kielikylpyluokka) in Swedish are designed for children whose parents are Finnish speaking and who speak Finnish as their first language. The same with the CLIL programs in English – the students don’t speak English at home, but they learn it at school where it’s integrated into different topics. In these programs, the teacher can (in most cases) assume that the teaching language is new to all students. In bilingual schools, however, the students’ level in the two teaching languages varies. And what I’ve learned this far is that it varies a lot. Like most of the schools in Stockholm, also ours is multilingual/multicultural, not only Finnish and Swedish. Some students might even speak three languages at home in addition to the two spoken at school. Therefore, it can be very hard to define which language is the student’s “first language” (L1) and which one should be taught as the “second language” (L2). I’m getting a bit lost here with all the different concepts so let’s go back to practice.

For those students who are fluent bilinguals (both FI and SE as L1), it’s not a problem to switch between languages during the lessons. For instance, if we read a text in Swedish, the bilinguals can continue talking about it in Finnish without translating. However, I was surprised how much we need translating after all. It seems to be very important and interesting for the pupils to compare the languages. I started to question the method where the teacher should not translate but stick to the teaching language and explain the difficult words with that. If there’s a translation that means the same, why not to switch the language and translate? The translations are especially needed in math and science since the students should learn the important concepts in both languages. Usually, we mix Finnish and Swedish material depending on the topic. For those students whose Finnish is much weaker than Swedish, we have the exact same math books translated into Swedish (Tuhattaituri/Karlavagnen). Furthermore, I sometimes give instructions in both languages to those who need it. However, as I’m not bilingual (FI/SE) myself, I’ve still got a lot to do with my Swedish to be confident enough to teach fluently in Swedish.

If we go out from the academic world and listen how the pupils talk, we’ll find a third language spoken perhaps even more than “pure” Finnish or Swedish. On my first day, the students showed me a little dictionary of the language they speak with each other. They’ve started calling this mixed language as Swefi, meaning Swedish-Finnish spoken by the Sweden Finns. Mainly it’s Swedish with Finnish grammar rules, which makes funny combinations like “vessata” (means “to sharpen a pen” but to a native Finnish speaker like me it sounds more like “need to pee”). I think learning Swefi is the key to good communication and cultural understanding with the students. So the goal is set! Let’s see how it goes!




Celebrating my first holiday as a teacher, wohoo! After these rather hectic weeks in Stockholm, sportlov (winter break) had the best possible timing. To have some time to breathe and reset my mind was very much needed. Also, it is finally the time to start writing this blog! A lot has happened since I came to Stockholm two months ago. You may read the intro to get the general idea of this blog and my background. However, I will begin by telling you how I started my career as a teacher abroad.

I was very much honoured when I got the job offer from the middle school vice-principal of the very same school where I was about to start the last internship of my training. In his email, the vice-principal encouraged me to apply for a maternity leave substitute teacher’s position. At that point, the duration of the substitution wasn’t confirmed but I understood it was a chance I shouldn’t miss. I have always wanted to work abroad as a teacher but I never could have thought I’d start with that!

Things started rolling quickly. Firstly, I got the job which meant I needed to find my way through the red tape jungle of the Swedish authorities. For those who are generally interested in moving to Sweden and working there, I will later write more about my experiences with the paperwork. Secondly, I had my first salary negotiation. Nowadays in Sweden teachers have to negotiate their salaries according to experience and skills. Also more about that a bit later.

While still completing the last week of my internship at the secondary school, I was orientated for the new job as a middle school classroom teacher. Those days were filled with a lot of practical information. Learning about my new tasks and of course getting to know my new students and coworkers were the main things to focus on. I remember my mind being so overloaded that when I tried to do grocery shopping after work, I couldn’t think of any ingredients I would need for cooking. For example, müsli+yogurt was simple enough to make after a day at work.

Since I jump into the role of a teacher in the middle of a period, I had to do plenty of research about what the students had done before and what kinds of methods the teacher had used. Fortunately, the permanent teacher has been extremely helpful and a good mentor to me. I can highly recommend applying for maternity leave substitutions as your first teaching job after training because the permanent teacher is then, at least in the beginning, available to give you orientation. On the other hand, it is also challenging to learn the other teacher’s methods when you have already been practising your own way of doing things. However, I wanted to make the change of teacher as easy as possible for the pupils, too, by continuing the same routines that they had had before. On the first day as the teacher, I made a deal with the children that as much as I’m their teacher they must teach me about their routines and school life. I was lucky to get many enthusiastic experts to tutor me!