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Christopher Pape-Mustonen – I found my own way to teach

Published on 18.12.2018
updated on 13.12.2019
Tampere University of Applied Sciences

Nearly 10 years ago I came to Helsinki to be with the girl who is now my wife. I have followed a slightly unusual route to the vocational teacher studies in TAMK. Unlike nearly all of my course mates, I am not currently working and have taken the course in order to become a qualified history teacher. I already had a degree in history before I moved to Finland, along with a number of years experience working in the public sector. Since coming here I've finished a Master's degree and begun a PhD at the University of Helsinki.

I became a teacher of English after a year in Finland. I worked as a tutor for school age children, academics and retirees; I provided learning support as a volunteer in a community group; I led after-school clubs; and I substituted in primary and secondary schools. I stopped teaching around four years ago to be a stay at home dad when my first child was nine months old. A second child followed a few years later. Since 2015, I've combined writing a PhD, doing my teaching studies and caring for the kids; though most certainly not in that order!

I applied to the vocational teacher education on the recommendation of a friend who did the same course some years ago and is now a secondary school teacher in an international school. Working as a private teacher was interesting and challenging; it gave me new skills and taught me to teach. But it wasn't quite enough. My students, their parents and the schools were happy with my courses and the results, but I often felt a certain insecurity because I didn't have any context to my work. I wasn't always sure if I was working in the best way and I lacked pedagogical training to fall back on.

I plan to teach in a university, polytechnic or high school. The vocational teacher education offers both theory and practice to support this. I never really understood before I began the course just how important the theory could be. I assumed it would be a vague background to the real job of working with students; interesting but useless. However I have found that knowledge of different ways of working and the different methodologies used in teaching gives you confidence, a sense of direction and provides real skills needed in the classroom.

This course gave me the opportunity and space to reflect on my own way of teaching. I came to realise and practice the methods that most appeal to me and that I find the most effective. I also worked closely with classmates who often had quite different ideas about teaching. There is no one way to be a teacher and not everything you learn in a teaching course will end up being part of what you do in the classroom. But I've gained the pedagogical context I needed, I've learnt a lot about my strengths and discovered the ways in which I'd like to develop further.