Home » Culture » Honestly, I’ve seen these “Finnish Lessons” before…

Honestly, I’ve seen these “Finnish Lessons” before…

Pictured from left to right: Aki Puustinen, Jennifer Botzojorns, Timo Ilomäki

Pictured from left to right: Aki Puustinen, Jennifer Botzojorns, Timo Ilomäki

By Kavan Yee

Honestly, I’ve seen these “Finnish Lessons” before… everyday in Chicago, New York, LA, DC, etc. I’ve observed some of the best teachers, students, administrators, and school communities all over the world. Putting aside cultural differences and priorities, the only difference between the Finnish Education and the American system is consistency. Throughout this frozen country, you will find warm hearts and passionate minds. You will find devoted trust and commitment in their professionals towards the development of the whole child. You will hear common vocabulary spoken from every facet of the institution. I spoke with an administrative assistant today about how she feels “just as much as part of the school as the teachers. The teachers trust me as much as I trust them.” The description of their values, practices, and community all resonate the theme of mutual respect of an individual’s development.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of sharing a forum with Finnish students, parents, and educators. My new colleagues Timo Ilomäki and Aki Puustinen drove from the outskirts of Helsinki to spend just an hour with us– “You travelled thousands of miles to be here, the least we can do is drive 3 hours.” This consistency of sacrifice was not only exemplified by this gesture, but it is quite evident in the passion each “cog in the wheel” displays daily in their system. A quote that stood out for me this evening was: “We don’t want to be #1, we just want the best for the development of each child.” That belief is the mantra I’ve been hearing over and over again. Do I believe in this? Do you? Of course we do, that’s why I’m here and you’re reading this! But for an entire nation to believe in this, that’s what stands out for me.

Questions or observations I’ve received consistent answers to:

Do Finnish schools have challenges? Yes. Are they affected by budget cuts, core standards, and social issues? Yes. Do they have high stakes exams? Yes (Upper Level and IB programs). Do they believe in a child-centered approach? Yes. Do they instill a safe environment that promotes taking risks? Yes. Do they believe in protection of play and free-time? Yes. Do they find the importance of compulsory art, music, drama, and physical wellness? Yes. Do they believe in differentiation? Yes. Do they trust each other? Yes. Do they think their doing anything special? No. Do they want this attention from the world? No.


  1. Kavan, Thanks for framing so clearly our experience this week with Finnish colleagues. The Finnish lesson for me is the powerful effect shared beliefs, values and vocabulary can have on the lives of school children.

  2. Joe Mazza says:

    Kavan – you hit it on the head. These are good people here. I have been lucky to know Aki and Timo for almost 2 years now via Twitter. They are just as genuine online as they are in person. They practice what they preach – a good lesson for all educators on Twitter.

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