Teachers’ work is rewarding because you can see students succeed
“Teachers’ work is rewarding because you can see students succeed. Teachers can also develop themselves continuously and influence in many professional networks. Teachers participate in building the Finnish society,” tells Head of Teacher Education Kaisa-Leena Ahlroth from Tampere University of Applied Sciences’ School of Professional Teacher Education.
Teachers’ profession is valued in Finland and trust in teachers’ professional skills is high. Formerly teachers had to be greeted cap in hand and they were high authorities. The change from the past to the present-day school is however large. In addition to teaching, teachers have to be up to speed in the changing world and meet the challenges of inclusion and development of teaching.
Schools and educational institutions continuously test new working methods to meet the present-day and future competence needs. Even if the media tell horror stories of teachers’ work and there are conflicting pressures between teacher education and social expectations, things are not so black and white.
“Teachers still work with studying and learning and meet people. They are teachers’ core competences. The environment has however changed as teaching and learning largely take place in digital environments,” describes Director of Professional Teacher Education Hanna Ilola.
Professional teacher education develops education of mathematics, science and technology teachers
Professional teacher education follows social changes and curricula are developed to meet competence needs. As a rule, professional teacher education studies are completed after a master’s degree and thus the competence criteria follow the Finnish and European qualifications framework level seven.
“We see this as a step to the right direction,” states Ahlroth.
During the past years, Finland has become aware of the meaning of mathematical skills. Mathematical skills have been emphasised as a basic competence in all studies.
“Our mathematical skills are now at the same level as in many other countries, especially the OECD countries, tells Ahlroth. Because of this, we in Tampere also participate in several national and regional development projects in mathematics, science and technology,” tells Ahlroth.
TAMK’s School of Professional Teacher Education will start a new teacher education group for mathematics, science and technology professionals.
“Professional teacher education has seen the need for professional teachers in the field of technology because there is already lack of professional teachers in technology and many of the teachers will retire soon,” tells Ahlroth.
Networking skills are emphasised in teachers’ work
The times are over when the teacher went to the classroom, closed the door and planned and implemented teaching alone.
“Teachers’ work used to be independent but now it has strongly developed towards a collegial direction. Teachers now share their expertise with others. They also work in a network-based manner,” describes Ahlroth.
Teachers’ work is done in different cross-institutional networks and teachers are no longer alone in charge of their teaching but they plan the teaching contents in teams. Ilola describes teacherhood as putting together a mosaic. In addition, teachers need situational awareness in keeping many balls in the air simultaneously.
“Utilisation of skills is learnt gradually. It is important that teachers are aware of the situation and know when they work in the role of a teacher, supervisor, colleague or mentor,” Ilola tells.
Networking and interaction skills are emphasised nowadays as studying has largely become time and place independent.
“Working in digital learning environments may exacerbate feelings and thus teachers need emotional skills in these situations,” Ilola considers.
Diverse learners bring challenges to teachers’ work. It is the school’s task to implement inclusion in such a way that special needs are considered in pedagogical solutions and individual paths are built for different learners.
“We can utilise the fact that we also have professional special needs teacher education. Our staff have competence which we can use widely in teacher education,” rejoices Ahlroth.
Pedagogical studies also benefit other professions
Even if most teacher education students already work as teachers, there are also some who do not. The studies can support their career development.
“They do not intend to work as teachers after the studies but want to have pedagogical competence to support their work and career development,” tells Ahlroth.
Multiculturalism is a matter Ilola wants to take a stand on.
“The diversifying Finland needs multicultural teachers in teacher education. I hope that multiculturalism would be more visible in Tampere. People identify the phenomenon but multicultural people should also take part in solving the challenge,” says Ilola.
Text: Arja Lundan