Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Teacher essay: Training great teachers the Finnish way

By Laura Nelson

Special to The Tribune

First Published Jul 18 2014 12:47 pm • Last Updated Jul 18 2014 12:51 pm

Editor’s note: Laura Nelson, a French teacher at East High School in Salt Lake City, was among 32 Utah educators who recently visited schools in Finland with Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Europe. Read the related story here.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

In Finland, most young people who choose to enter the teaching profession make that decision before they even leave high school. Potential teachers go through a rigorous application process. They have to have high scores on the matriculation exam, as well as an impressive portfolio of work to demonstrate their academic strengths.

Potential educators are then selected to participate in discussion panels where they might watch a video depicting a particular situation in a school and are then asked to discuss how they would deal with the situation. During these discussions, professors use rubrics to rate the performance of the applicants.

Candidates also complete a personal interview. After all of this, they have a 10 percent chance of being accepted. It is not uncommon for students to try to be admitted multiple times.

Once admitted, students choose to either become elementary or secondary teachers, and their programs are tailored to this choice.

The result of this system is that Finland produces highly qualified and highly respected teachers who are well-prepared and enjoy an autonomy that is unmatched in most of the world.

Though we spoke with teachers at the end of the school year when they were obviously ready for summer vacation, they all expressed enthusiasm for their jobs. They felt they had autonomy, respect, good working conditions, and adequate resources for working with difficult student problems.

It seems like we could solve a lot of problems in our system by adopting a similar teacher training process, but I fear it’s more complicated than that.

For example, there is still the issue of teacher salaries. In Finland, teacher salaries are comparable to doctors and lawyers. But if you look closer, you realize that doctors in Finland make significantly lower salaries than American doctors. To many Finns, this balance makes sense, but in the U.S., we may still be committed to the idea that the higher the salary, the more respect you gain.


story continues below
story continues below

This difference in attitudes should not, however, inhibit our push to get the most qualified teachers possible and provide excellent training. Perhaps we could begin with some version of the Finnish system of candidate selection, to weed out those who perhaps would do better in a different profession.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.