Dear reader, welcome aboard! My name is Roosa and I am a Finnish teacher exploring opportunities to work abroad as an educator. While studying different education systems and their ideas of learning and teaching, I provide personalised private language lessons in Finnish and Swedish, and design teacher training courses.
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.
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.
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:
Learn Finnish through games: adult beginners (CEFR A0-A1)
Learn Finnish through News: adult intermediate level (CEFR A1-A2)
Game Club: young Finns living abroad, ages 7-10
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!
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org! 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.
The first month of living in Melbourne and I already started to forget how to stay optimistic in the process of getting the Victorian teaching license. For sure, the Coronavirus has also had its impact on my mood as I started to get calls from my now pretty much closed home country and as the people around here are going mad with the unreasonable hoarding panic. For the first time, my family back in Europe would say that they are happy that I’m not there.
Despite the less restricted life in Australia (for now), I couldn’t help but question my recent decisions, realising, that this is not an ideal time to be an unemployed teacher in a new country. What if the license process takes until the end of the term and I run out of money? When I finally get my license, what if they close the schools in Australia as they are now doing in Finland? However, I refuse to write a letter of complaint. Here’s how I try to keep myself motivated and out of this widespread end-of-the-world mood even as unemployed in a new country.
Concern 1: What if I still need to wait for months to get the Victorian teaching license?
Waiting for an administrative process to be done is probably the worst thing I know, especially, when it keeps me from getting a job that I was trained for.
Solution: Keep busy.
The situation has given me time to re-think what I really want from my career. It made me research today’s educational field and find new interesting opportunities. I was inspired to study and expand my qualifications.
Luckily, I also found myself a part-time job as a homeschool teacher to a Finnish-Australian family. Getting back to teaching year 1 Finnish classes, I work towards maintaining and improving the bilingual kids’ Finnish skills. Thanks to Kulkurikoulu, I will simultaneously improve my own skills in teaching year 1 Finnish. What a perfect deal!
Concern 2: What if I run out of money?
Obviously, both, exploring a new country and sitting at home, cost money. Paying for waiting definitely doesn’t make it any easier to be unemployed.
Solution: Get creative.
Forced to expand career options, I have been working on my online Finnish lessons and considering to turn it into something bigger than just a hobby. As the current global situation is getting strictly limited as well as becoming quite unpredictable, the online teaching providers have (unfortunately or fortunately) found the school closings as a great opportunity for business. Might as well get on board with my online Finnish lessons! I warmly welcome all tips and recommendations regarding online teaching and starting your own website!
Concern 3: What if there aren’t any jobs when I get the teaching license?
Ironically, when I was writing this, I heard that the state of Victoria is going to close some of the schools this week so this question remains unsolved. My criminal history checks are still in process, either stuck at the authorities in Finland and Sweden or stuck somewhere on the way here. This means that the process will be delayed anyways. Not much I can do to hurry the international post in this situation.
Solution: Make the plan B to become a plan A.
I guess the only thing I can do now is to focus on the plan b’s, such as online teaching and homeschooling. Nothing is certain yet, except that we are definitely living interesting times. Stay tuned as this might be an opportunity to start something exciting!