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.