The teachers and students that I observed were happy. Students seemed to actually be enjoying their learning experiences, and teachers appeared satisfied and valued.The observation of someone who must spend the majority of her time unsatisfied, amongst a group of unsatisfied teachers and students.
It seems like more and more I am hearing about the consuming amount of time that testing is taking up in US schools (and increasing number of 'opt-outs' students refusing to take the tests). They seem to more and more be the source of all the negative things I hear about schooling (because, certainly in my experience, NZ classrooms are not a dull life sapping hell hole!).
Recently John Oliver (who consistently takes his 'comedy' medium to deliver wonderfulness to the world) did a piece on standardised testing in the US that left me wondering just what IS it that our National Party here in NZ finds remotely merit-able about THAT?!
So - quick version of the list (the author of the article expands a little, giving insight into her experience in US schools btw...) - my comments on each point in italics
1. Heavy emphasis on play - play encourages creative problem solving, de-stressing, communication...
2. No high-stakes standardised testing - memory & knowledge stealing time from developing creativity
3. Trust - teachers know what they doing and have space to come up with more great ideas
4. Schools don't compete with one another - because all schools expected to be good!
5. Out-of-this-world teacher prep programmes - teaching is valued and selection for teaching recruits is vigourous.
6. Personal time is highly valued - I love this! Setting children up to realise it is important to have your own time so you can re-energise and focus. What a great life skill!
7. Less is more - Start school at 7 years old. School days shorter. High school hours more flexible.
8. Emphasis on Quality of life - Hallelujah! Happiness of teachers valued.
9. Semi-tracked learning - two different pathways to chose from and both highly valued
10. National Standards are valued - teachers have choice on how to implement these
11. Grades not given until 4th grade - early education has lots of blue thinker's hat and learning how to learn - and I assume developing that love for learning and a growth mindset - YAH!
12. Ethics taught in the primary grades
13. Collaboration and collaborative environments strongly encouraged
I am sure I have another Finnish Education reading somewhere - I need to look for that!