A day in the life of...

25th July 2014 at 01:00
With bright summers and pitch-black winters, Helsinki is a place of extremes. But whatever the season, this 5th grade teacher greets his students warmly and ends the day with a spring in his step

When I wake in the morning I'm not always sure that I have actually been asleep. During the spring and summer in Finland, the sunlight that bathes my bedroom when I nod off is the same sunlight that washes over me in the morning. In the autumn and winter months, I experience the opposite: pitch-black darkness sends me off to sleep and envelops me on my way to school.

Although I can never count on the sun in Finland, I can always count on my morning coffee and porridge, which is doused with maple syrup and peppered with coconut flakes.

In Finland, tardiness is a cardinal sin. My first class starts at 8am sharp and I don't want to be late. I set up my classroom the night before, so I'm ready to hit the ground running with my students as soon as I arrive.

My school, Ressu, is a bilingual comprehensive in the heart of Helsinki for 1st grade to 9th grade students. I am the 5th grade classroom teacher on the English side, teaching 11- to 12-year-olds, and I work closely with my partner on the Finnish side. I have 24 students - a typical class size.

My favourite moments of each day occur before I reach the door to my classroom. In the long hallway outside, most of my students are sitting down on the floor and I greet them as I stroll past. I insist on saying good morning to each one. Sometimes I need to interrupt a conversation or an iPhone game for a hello, but I know this gesture means a lot to them. This interaction means a lot to me, too. Greeting each other is the foundation of each school day.

As soon as I unlock the door to our classroom, I wave my students in to start the day with me. Although I teach different subjects throughout the week - history, geography, biology, physics, chemistry, English, ethics and maths - the framework of our timetable is consistent. Each lesson is an hour long, with a 15-minute break in every period. While my students are playing outside, I meet individually with some of them, deal with emails or plan lessons.

At 10.55am, we head to the cafeteria for a 20-minute lunch. Although I'm not required to sit with my students, I make this a priority. Then at 1pm, I wave goodbye to them after our last lesson together.

Before moving to Finland, I would often feel exhausted at the end of a full day of teaching. But my experience has been different here. With those frequent 15-minute breaks and a shorter school day, I have much more energy to prepare the classroom, plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues after my students have gone.

Most afternoons, I'll make my way home to my family with a spring in my step - even if the darkness of the Finnish winter is all around me.

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email richard.vaughan@tes.co.uk

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