Q&A: Pirjo Suhonen, Founder and Learning Facilitator, ALO Finland

We sat down with Global Education Influencer – Finland, Education Influence and the Founder of ALO Finland, Pirjo Suhonen for a Q&A to discuss the challenges faced by the education sector over the last few months following COVID-19, and the longer-term impact on teaching and learning moving forwards.

 

Q: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced over the last few months?

A: Corona stress and how to handle my own fear of getting the virus while teaching. Also, how do you talk to school children about corona, so that they are not too worried about it?

Q: How have you adapted to these challenges and changes?

Day by day... you can't stop living. You can minimize the risks by social distancing, masks, good hygiene and trying to stay as fit and healthy as possible, so that you have a better chance to fight of the virus, if you get it.

And when children have a need to talk about corona or the test they, or their close ones, had to take, I let them talk and listen to them attentively. There has been also some emotional outbursts from children possibly caused by them being anxious about corona, so I let them “let the steam out”, when needed. I offer them plenty of opportunities to have fun too and make the most of their childhood even in the current situation. I let them be kids and enjoy playful learning with their friends.

Q: Do you feel home schooling has changed teaching and learning now pupils are back in the classroom? If so, how?

A: Home schooling is changing the way we see teaching and learning. I would think most of the families are happy that children are back at school and not learning in front of screen anymore. I am hoping that the crisis has brought something positive and has raised the awareness of the important role of teachers, nurses and other professionals in our societies, who should be valued more not only during the pandemia, but in the future.

Schools are important not only individual, but societal level too. I am hoping that school as a fundamentally important institution for the functioning of the whole society can be seen and appreciated more after it has been temporarily removed from the system. Should we invest more into education and give teachers the resources they need to do their job the best possible way they can? Quality education is the whole of society's responsibility and investment into it pays dividends for all.

Q: Do you think remote learning is going to impact teaching and learning for good, or just for the short-term? 

A: Education should never rely on tech alone. It's a good supplement to teaching and learning, but nothing beats live lessons, fun, active and collaborative learning in schools and classrooms.

Covid-19 hopefully improves blended learning and has already showed the importance of teachers both in remote teaching and in schools. With modern tools we can make education more global, but quality education in local schools is and will be equally or even more important now and in the future.

Q: How do you feel the role of the teacher has changed over the last few months?

A: Teachers have many roles in schools and societies. All good educators know that teaching is holistic education and care. Only in safe, relaxed and inspiring learning environment, children can grow to their full potential, make mistakes and try again. I have never thought that only academic achievements matter in life, even though obviously they are important too, but the current crisis have made me even more sensitive about children's safety and emotional wellbeing.

Q: If you could offer any advice for teachers and senior leaders for getting through these challenging times, what would it be?

A: Hang in there... I do believe that we all are eager to get back to normal life and living. We need to be safe and cautious about everything we do, until the vaccine comes out. However, that might still easily take a year or two. Therefore, we need to keep the wheels going as well as we can, even if we need to have alternative plans for the worst scenarios.

In the current situation nothing is more certain than uncertain, but my point is that in difficult times like this, we still need to be brave and strong and keep going forward. Prepare for the worst, minimize the risks, hope for the best and enjoy teaching both online and in schools. And try to offer children great learning experiences despite the times we live in. Perhaps the global pandemia brings us closer and improves us as teachers, learners and global citizens.

I wrote this article in the early days of corona and remote schooling. The aim of the article is to use Finnish double flip-pedagogy (learners as teachers) to enhance remote learning. Ideally it will bring some joy of learning as well as sharing good teaching and learning practices, thus making home schooling a bit easier for all counterparts locally and perhaps even globally.