Fulbright Epic Poem
Lend us your powerful voice, old Väinämöinen,
Bard of ancient times.
As we tell the tale of travelers,
seeking wisdom in the land of the Finns.
They come from the North,
come from the South,
come from the East,
and MANY come from the West.
They crossed the vast sea
and flew through the ether to a place of white birches,
cold lakes, and long nights.
Their quest is for the Sampo - the holy grail of all teachers: success in inspiring the young of their lands. Will they find the answers they seek in Finland?
The road is fraught with trials:
How to speak the language with so many letter?
How to turn on lights in one's hotel room?
Why do waiters ask if you want 12 or 16 ml of wine?
But rich with wonders like sauna, pulla, kantele, and handsome young mayors.
Led by mentors Tarja and Mirka with the lovely young ones Inari, Cia, and Maija, the merry band of Americans trek through the wilds of Helsinki, Vantaa, and Joensuu to find their answers.
Informality is the norm.
Mr. and Mrs. and other titles take no form.
Teachers, administrators, and students in a room,
equality and trust are the boom.
What yet do we know as we have traveled so far?
Do we seek a Finnish trick or magical northern star?
And yet here we find teacher autonomy,
trust, respect, even though not problem free.
Supervision - the word my rehtori always says thrice
(supervision, supervision, supervision!)
Without an adult near, U.S. children aren't nice.
They fight and they run; they don't act as they should.
They'd burn down the school if only they could.
But where are the staff during the long Finnish breaks?
Here they rest, and they eat and good coffee they make.
The children are fine: not quiet but good.
Could we do this at hom? Perhaps we could!
College ready and college bound is the way.
Not in Finland, not in Finland, I'm here to stay.
Vocational and college are the equivalent norm,
students have the choice, a choice since they are born.
Testing, testing, oh standardized testing!
Wherefore art thou standardized testing?*
Here just one test matriculation,
"Holistic teaching is possible," says on tiny Scandinavian nation.
Trust for all ages is given freely here,
forgiveness is welcome and community held dear.
Rehtori trust teachers, kids and parents do too.
The teachers trust their students and problems are few.
How much I crave trust from people where I live.
I've learned that to earn trust, trust first you must give.
A breadth of fresh air and boost in my confidence
has led to a big smile in my countenance.
Reinvigoration and personal reinforcement are my takeaways,
off to home and off to work without any delays.
What we sought we have not yet found,
a perfect system does not exist.
But what we have may be of more value,
that what we do as teachers is what makes us proud!
Across the great ocean we again return,
bearing gifts of great wisdom.
In one hand the clippings of the tree of educational knowledge,
in the other, chocolates of various sizes and assortments.
O Teacher, O Teacher, O American Teacher!
What shall you learn from us?
Faith, and trust, and pixie dust?
No, the greatest of these is trust.
Thank you Finland and thank you Finns.
Intellectually, best teaching practices-wise, you are my twin.