Thursday, May 28, 2015

Less is More

            Less is more. At least according to a blog post about the Finnish educational philosophy. Written by a teacher who spent time in Finland, this post reveals truths about education in general that every educator should consider, starting with the idea that less is more.
            This idea resonates with me because I see it played out daily at my school. A school which targets at-risk teens, we focus on individual attention and developing relationships with students via a block schedule. I have students during a three-hour period for 28-31 days. Often I’ll have the same students for multiple blocks in a row, allowing me to get to know the learning style of the students as well as understand how they process information and their strengths and weaknesses in learning.
            With the individualized attention and fewer teachers, students end up learning more despite the school having a small staff.  In fact, many have commented on how this is the first time they feel they’ve learned something in school.       
            Finnish students spend less time in school and start later. A school day for them begins at 9 or 9:30 and ends at 2:30. What? Can that be? It can be. Research supports a later start to the school day yet school districts continue to have early morning starts.
            Another less the Finnish students encounter is less homework. The belief is that work should be able to be done during the school day. Here, again, is another similarity between my school and the Scandinavian ones. My school is designed for students not to have homework. It should all be done in school.
            There are more similarities between the alternative school at which I teach and those in Finland, which I find encouraging. Alternative education has got it right. At least at my school. Maybe we should reconsider some of the things we do in the States where more is not always better. Maybe we should look into refining our expectations. Maybe we should reevaluate how schools run. Because sometimes, less really is more.

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