It has been an unusually dark winter in Stockholm. Snow normally lights up the city for a few months but this year the temperature has been too warm, resulting in a heavy greyness. I've missed the comfort of the cold, white blanket that covers the ground and makes everything bright. However, when I open my eyes today at 6.30am, I realise that the sun has returned at last. Finally, I can go to work in daylight again.
I watch the news while I eat breakfast. You can always count on at least one of the stories being about education in Sweden. Schools are dirty, teachers aren't qualified, students' results are decreasing and so on. The question is never what pupils can do better, but how we teachers have failed to adapt and kept students from reaching their full potential. It is tiresome to constantly hear negative stories about my profession. Schools and teachers are criticised every day, but I take pride in the fact that my colleagues and I do an excellent job.
I work in an upper secondary school called NTI Gymnasiet Stockholm, where I teach English and maths. My ambition is not just to prepare my students for life but to do it in creative ways that will inspire and motivate them.
The first lesson of the day is English, with a class consisting mostly of girls who are sweet and high-performing but with low self-esteem. My students generally do very well in English; they think it is important and are always eager to learn. Today, they are working on a blurb for a film we have just watched. They type in silence as I walk around the classroom, helping a student here and there to find a word or correct a strange sentence. Too frequently I catch students on websites they are not supposed to visit, such as YouTube and Facebook. I remind them to get back to work.
After lunch, I see the same students but under different circumstances. In contrast to English class, many of the pupils question why they need to study maths. I remind them that not only is maths a useful tool in everyday life but it also develops the brain.
My last lesson is with a group of smart young men who have chosen to study advanced maths and will soon be off to university. Although their attention and motivation is not always the best, they do very well. I must admit that many of them are smarter than me, but I have been able to fool them so far.
After the lesson, many of the students stay behind to tell me stories and we have a laugh together. Then I finish up for the day, grading papers and planning upcoming lessons. When I finally go home, the sun has started to set. But it won't be long until the evenings are light, which is a relief.
Teaching is almost as demanding as it is rewarding. Even though it sometimes gets the better of you, most days it is the best job in the world. Nevertheless, I look forward to getting home and not having to speak for a while. Silence is golden.
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