Happy anniversary my blog! It was almost a year ago when I wrote the first post (Start) about my new job in Sweden. Starting a new life in Stockholm as an almost graduated novice teacher doesn’t feel so far away from the present time. This Sunday, 24th February, the Finnish-speaking minority in Sweden is celebrating Sweden Finns’ day. It’s time for a quick identity check after one year in Sweden.

Ironically, I left Stockholm right before the Sweden Finns’ day and came to Finland to enjoy the winter break. I’m not even actually sure if that day concerns me. Am I a Sweden Finn or just a Finnish expat in Sweden? Let’s take a look at the definition of Sweden Finns meanwhile I try to make up my mind about my current identity.

Sweden Finns (Finnish: ruotsinsuomalaiset, Swedish: sverigefinnar) are a Finnish-speaking national minority in Sweden consisting of Finns historically residing in Sweden as well as Finnish immigrants to Sweden.” (Wikipedia: Sweden Finns.)

This definition gives us two groups of Sweden Finns: those who were born in Sweden or has lived here for a long time and those who (recently) moved from Finland. The first group, “the locals”, lives pretty Swedish life in my eyes. For many of them, Finland is a place where they spent their childhood summer and Finnish is something they learned from their grandparents. If you ask them about the Finnish culture, you might hear a bunch of old stereotypes, like for example, that Finland is behind Sweden in everything. That might have been true in the ‘60s–‘70s when many people from Finland moved to Sweden to look for a better life – the “finnejävlar” as they were sometimes called.

Back to the definition. I belong to the other group, “expats” (if there’s even a point to separate any groups). I’m an immigrant who was born in Finland, has Finnish-speaking parents and moved to Sweden to work. I listen to a podcast called Ei saa peittää (“Do not cover”) where two podcasters, Loviisa and Marleena, explore the life of young Finnish expats in Stockholm and introduce the differences between Finnish and Swedish cultures. I started to think about how being a Finn in Sweden has changed since the great wave of immigration from Finland 50 years ago. Do we new expats go through the same process of emphasising Finnish culture like the people in the ‘60s before we start to create our own mixed culture?

The reasons for Finns to move to Sweden are still pretty much the same as 50 years ago. The podcasters realise though that the grass is not always greener on the other side and that they feel proud of being Finns (in Sweden). I share the experience of feeling more Finnish than before, but I think that’s because it’s so easy to be a Finn here. If I want, I can follow the local news on Finnish-speaking TV, radio or newspaper and get some of the official websites of Swedish authorities in Finnish. I can meet and mingle with other Sweden Finns in many different groups in social media. And as you know, I even work in Finnish every day! I guess that’s the feeling of being a member of a national minority, not just being an expat – “a person who lives outside of his or her own country” (sanakirja.org).

The new mixture of Sweden Finnish culture is forming. Last year I asked my students if they can say which things in their life come from the Finnish culture and which are Swedish things. We tried to define the word sverigefinska on the whiteboard. At first, they didn’t understand the question at all because they couldn’t find any concrete differences between Swedish and Finnish culture in their life. Instead, they were able to list differences between the countries. They said, for example, that in Finland there’s more forest and that the Finns are quiet people. After discussing the concept of culture, we were able to draw a mind map of some typical features of Finnish culture and Swedish culture. I asked them to form the best combinations of both cultures for themselves. Interestingly enough, many of the students cannot say which one is their first language, but the country defines their nationality. The students who were born in Finland said that they call themselves Finns rather than Swedes.

As far, the definition of Sweden Finns hasn’t convinced me. When I googled “Sweden Finns” (in English), I got one Wikipedia article about Sverigefinnarna and loads of sites about Finland Swedes, aka the Swedish-speaking population in Finland. That’s completely a different thing just like the Wikipedia article goes on: “Sweden-Finns should not be confused with the Swedish-speaking Finland-Swedes in Finland, who comprise a linguistic minority in Finland.” But wait… What about the Finland Swedes who moved to Sweden?

As difficult as it is to define Sweden Finnish culture and as different as the Finns in Sweden can be, we all are members of the same national minority that has its special status in the Swedish society. One thing that we have in common for sure is the special bond to Finland and Finnish culture. Maybe visiting Finland was actually a perfect way to celebrate the Sweden Finnish day! Cheers to national minorities and Sweden Finns!

I learned that Sweden Finns even have their own flag!


SVT: Why do we celebrate Sweden Finns’ day?




This week it was time to thank my students for our first semester together and celebrate my first semester as a classroom teacher! It has been an amazing journey so far and I’m very lucky to continue with the same group to the next grade in Autumn. In this, the last post of the semester, I will reflect on my adventure in Sweden so far; why it was a good decision for me to take this job and stay in Stockholm, and how I did as a teacher according to my pupils.

Since I got to assess such a talented class, I thought it would be fair if the students also gave me an assessment. Last Friday one task was to have a feedback meeting (luokkapalaveri) where the pupils would assess their work as a team and my work as their teacher. We gathered in a circle to discuss the funniest things that happened during the semester (the red square), where the students succeeded together (the blue cloud), which 5 exercises they thought were the best (the flower), what the teacher has learned during the semester (green text) and what she should still practise (pink text) and what their team goal will be for the next semester (the flag). Last but not least, they gave a general assessment of my work. I can happily announce that even the teacher passed all subjects with hög grad (check out Assessment) and gets to continue to the next grade!


The assessment form for the feedback meeting with the class.

We had the last day of school on Tuesday. In our school, the skolavslutning is more like a graduation ceremony for the ninth grade rather than Finnish kevätjuhla (“spring festival”) where all the classes perform something to the parents. After the ceremony, we had our own gathering in the classroom. I was extremely nervous the day before when I realised that I was not only expected to give a speech to the students but also to their parents! My first speech in Swedish! Everything went fine though, and the parents were happy as well. How you manage your job as a teacher has a surprising amount to do with maintaining a successful collaboration with the parents, especially when you’re a novice.

In Sweden, the teachers keep on working on so-called “in-service” days after the students are gone. Yes, I will work until midsummer unlike my colleagues in Finland who take off immediately after the traditional spring psalm Suvivirsi has been sung. I guess that makes up for those many holidays we had during the spring semester, haha! I must say that I found these first three in-service days to be pretty calming though. You have time to clean and organise the classroom and your desk. Time to reset and look back on the eventful semester.

So why was it a good decision to stay in Sweden? Firstly, signing my first employment contract as a teacher felt very important as it currently doesn’t seem that easy in Finland. There are many newly graduated teachers looking for their first job with no luck. This, dear Sweden, could be one way to fix the big lack of qualified teachers here. Some Swedish school headteachers have also realised there is a resource of well-educated teachers in Finland. They have organised recruitment events where they try to tempt graduating teacher students, who can speak Swedish, to come and work in Sweden. If you’re ready to go, you may have a chance to negotiate close to a doctor’s salary for yourself. Secondly, it seems more likely to get a permanent teacher’s position in Sweden which is a huge benefit compared to Finland where young teachers nowadays go from one temporary contract to another.

Nonetheless, I can’t emphasise enough how much of a huge challenge it is to start working in another country with different school laws and a different curriculum, where the work is at least partly in a foreign language. I wouldn’t recommend doing this as a first teaching job. There are so many practical things to learn after graduating so it’s good to do at least some longer substitute work in Finland before considering working in Sweden. Otherwise, I can highly recommend doing it! I think it’s eye-opening to see different education systems and learn from them.

The main thing that makes me want to stay in Sweden for another semester, perhaps even a full academic year, is the social integration which in my case was successful. Knowing the language at least a little bit gives you a good start. For Finns, it’s just about daring to speak aloud the Swedish which we have learned in school and forgetting about our thick accent! (You probably guess what the thing I still have to practice next semester is, haha…) Social networking, traditionally or via social media, is said to be hard in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, but once you’re active and open-minded, you’ll find hospitable locals and other like-minded foreigners.



As my colleagues in Finland are already celebrating the last day of school, I can at least say this week was the last full week in our school. The pupils, as well as their teacher, are waiting for the summer vacation to start! For me, the last big challenge was to assess the students’ development based on the past 4 months. To be able to do it accurately, I had to study a completely different assessment system and then apply it in practice. What a project, I must say! Anyway, I made it, the kids made it and everybody is now satisfied. Now, some words about the differences between the Finnish and Swedish assessment systems and then I’m ready to pack up the books and take the kids to a couple of long-awaited field trips!

It wasn’t such a long time ago when I was (once again) studying the latest version of the Finnish national curriculum (2014) for some school assignment. Even though I have ended up working in Sweden, it was a good base. There are many similarities between the Finnish and Swedish curriculums, ironically, even so many similarities that the Finnish one has been criticised for taking bad examples from Sweden (Enkvist 2016). Anyway, what I think is different, is the culture of assessment. A simple comparison between the number of pages about assessment in general showed that in Finland assessment was really being put on the table in 2016 when the curriculum was released. In the Finnish Curriculum, there are 23 pages about “Assessment of learning” whereas in the Swedish Curriculum under the title “Assessment and certificate” there’s half a page of text. Is it about finding assessment important or keeping it simple? Best to take a look into the actual content. What’s different between the systems?

As we mainly focused on the curriculum 2014 during my studies, the importance of assessment is stuck in my head. It should be continuous, comprehensive and clear. Always think about how you justify the assessment. In Finland, the elementary schools can decide whether they use a numeric grading scale (from 4 to 10 where 4 is failed) or a verbal assessment to describe the students’ learning. Also, the grades have specific words to describe them. 7 is for “satisfactory” and 8 is for “good”. Even though many schools in Finland are now increasing the amount of verbal assessment on the certificates, this old scale is still widely used all around Finland and it’s the scale the older generations know, too.

The first big astonishment for me about assessment in the Swedish school system was that teachers don’t give grades in elementary school (this can vary in other cities). Instead, the teacher answers to an assessment argument in each subject: “The student is assessed to achieve the required knowledge in the Xth grade, provided that the development happens at the current rate”. Basically, it asks whether the student has achieved the specific learning goals the Swedish National Curriculum has defined for each subject. As you can see, the sentence became a closed yes/no question when I interpret it the way I did. However, there are three possibilities to choose from when the teacher does the assessment: i hög grad (”highly”), ja (”yes”) and osäkert(this was difficult to translate but it’s something like ”uncertainty”). How do these words describe the development of a student’s learning?

Basically, if the student has done everything that was asked and showed his/her knowledge, the assessment is ja. “Yes, the student achieves the goals”. If the student does more than was required, its i hög grad. My second astonishment was the meaning of osäkert. Can you say ”uncertain” in an assessment? If you choose this option ”uncertain if achieved the goals”, it means that more support needs to be provided for the student after the assessment. It also has to be verbally explained why the student didn’t reach the goal. Why is the word ”uncertainty” if it needs to be clarified anyway?

The third astonishment was that these options don’t match any kind of an assessment scale. What is there between yes and uncertain? Or if there’s yes, where’s no? If a student doesn’t reach the assessment criterion, shouldn’t we be clear about it? ”No” would clearly mean that we must act. We have to define the problem with relevant arguments and find new better ways to support the student’s learning. To me, ”uncertainty” (or “uncertain” or “uncertain if” etc.) means many different options between, even outside of, yes and no. Furthermore, you could also understand it as ”I don’t know how to respond to this assessment argument”, which would make the teacher sound incompetent. What I’m longing for here are the words that describe how the student’s learning is developing. Osäkert doesn’t really help me as a teacher to be specific with the assessment I give or define the best possible support.

Finally, I can understand the pros of the Swedish assessment model for elementary school. Firstly, it doesn’t categorise students as strongly as the Finnish scale has done, for instance, with girls who got 10 in most subjects (”kympin tytöt”). But what about the division between ihg/ja and osäkert? As the point has seemingly been to prevent comparison among students, I can understand why it’s now more difficult with an unclear assessment model. However, I must say comparing and categorising are natural habits for children. They’ll find a way to do it anyway. Therefore, I think it’s very important how we teach them to read and interpret the assessments – not with respect to their peers but regarding one’s own development. Secondly, the assessment should always be encouraging and it should be clear to the student what he/she can do to improve. In the Swedish model the goal is that everyone reaches ja which can be seen as an encouraging goal. Simply do what is expected and you’ll be fine. But what then? I wonder if a student without inner motivation for learning can or even would aspire for i hög grad if ja is considered to be enough. Since there is no clear scale, I wonder how the assessment encourages one to improve after ja and “climb up”. I think it’s one of the most important aims to turn a student’s outer motivation into inner motivation so that he/she would reach for higher goals, step by step.

Anyway, I guess it just takes some time to get used to a new assessment system especially because I haven’t got much of an experience in different assessment models before.

Read more:

Enkvist, I. 2016. Hur tänkte de i Finland? Stockholm: Svenska Dagbladet. Available: https://www.svd.se/hur-tanker-de-i-finland/av/inger-enkvist

Liiten, M. 2016. Ruotsalaisprofessori ihmettelee, miksi Suomen opetussuunnitelma ”matkii huonosti pärjännyttä Ruotsia” – Opetushallitus: Arvostelu ei perustu tosiasioihin. Helsinki: Helsingin Sanomat. Available: https://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/art-2000002917406.html

The Finnish National Agency for Education. 2014. National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014. Available: https://www.oph.fi/english/curricula_and_qualifications/basic_education

The Swedish National Agency for Education. 2011. National Curriculum for the compulsory school, pre-school class and the recreation center 2011. (updated version 2016 in Swedish). Available: https://www.skolverket.se/om-skolverket/publikationer/visa-enskild-publikation?_xurl_=http%3A%2F%2Fwww5.skolverket.se%2Fwtpub%2Fws%2Fskolbok%2Fwpubext%2Ftrycksak%2FRecord%3Fk%3D2687



I honestly thought I would write this post about my experiences of the immigration process in Sweden much earlier but I decided to wait until the whole process was done. It took altogether four months before I saw my first teacher’s salary on my very own Swedish bank account. There were some obstacles in the road…

Let’s start with the fact that I’ve lived in Sweden before. When I first moved here five years ago, it took me less than two weeks to register with the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), get my personal ID number and open a Swedish bank account. Thanks to the EU and the Nordic agreement (no residence permit or complicated documents needed) it was all quick and simple.

That is to say, I basically had had everything I needed to come back here again to work. But somehow it wasn’t that easy to re-register. The first step was to get the ID number (personnummer) which I applied for immediately after I was hired. I asked Skatteverket to check my previous personnummer in case it was still there in the system. No, they didn’t want to do that. They put me in the line for a new personnummer and ID card. After one week, however, I received the exact same ID number I had had before…

Since I had previously existed in the Swedish registration, I thought that maybe my old bank would also find my personal information. It’s not very clear in Sweden whether the banks are allowed to open new accounts with a personnummer only or whether one must have the plastic ID card, too. Anyway, for me, the answer was no. They couldn’t even check whether they had any information regarding my ID number. They told me they needed the number of the ID card to be able to open an account.

When you apply for the Swedish ID card, you must pay for it first. I’ve heard it has been okay to pay from a non-Swedish account which, of course, makes sense as you cannot open the account without the ID card. Anyway, in my case, Skatteverket didn’t let me pay from my Finnish Euro account (no IBAN number, only the Swedish one). Instead, they asked if I know anyone who could pay the fee for me from a Swedish account…

I waited for two months until I received a letter from Skatteverket. It wasn’t the ID card. They just wanted to inform me that they would let me know when the card is ready to be picked up… I wonder if that was necessary… However, there was the number of the card in the letter which got me excited. Maybe I could finally go back to the bank, open the account and get my salary! Well, you probably guess what they said this time. No, they needed the plastic card for opening a new account. It didn’t matter that I was their customer in Finland or that I had been their customer in Sweden before.

Don’t worry, I’m getting closer to the happy end of this story…

Basically, there wasn’t anything else to do other than wait for an SMS from Skatteverket. Since I had already moved twice during the process, I emailed them to make sure they would really send an SMS, not mail, which would take longer time. Luckily, the Swedish Krona has been exceptionally weak during the spring. I managed to get back some of the money I earlier lost in transit when using my Euro card.

Two weeks ago, the miracle finally happened. I came back home from a long relaxing weekend in Åland and found it on the floor – the letter that finally told me my Swedish ID card was ready to be picked up from Skatteverket! (By the way, I never received the SMS they had promised to send… )

The past two weeks have been full of big events. I got the Swedish ID card eventually, opened a new Swedish bank account and learned how to swicha (Swich is an app you need for your social life and coffee in Sweden). I went to Finland for the weekend to get my Master’s degree in Education and celebrate. Perhaps the best graduation present was, however, to finally receive my salary from the past four months! Let life in Sweden finally begin!



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




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!