Let’s start at the Finnish

It’s a new year which comes with new resolutions. However, my resolution isn’t new. It has been my ambition for many years to learn Finnish. Why Finnish, a notoriously complicated language with 15 cases belonging to the obscure Finno-Ugric language group? The most obvious reason is that my mother is Finnish, but I think the real reason is my love of learning.

There is a joy to be in the classroom learning new things, grappling with new concepts and developing new skills. There is also the thrill of succeeding and making progress; feeling the sense of accomplishing something worthwhile. I’m sure that many teachers have felt the highs of learning and perhaps joined the profession to enable others to feel the same.

Did I already mention that Finnish is very difficult language? While there are highs in learning the language, there are also many lows: trying to learn vocabulary that bears no relation to English, choosing the correct ending for every noun you utter and trying to pronounce combinations of tongue-twisting vowels. Don’t even get me started on consonant gradation!

As teachers, we naturally find our own subjects easy and we can forget what is like to be the learner in the classroom. Going back into the classroom and encountering problems and challenges can remind us that learning can be tough and slow-going. It allows us to empathise with our pupils, but more importantly to develop the strategies which we can share to help our pupils persevere and move forward from failure.

Teachers should never stop learning. I firmly believe that only learners can become effective teachers. How can you teach effectively if you can’t remember the joys and challenges of learning? Teachers don’t even need to take up a new subject or skill as there is much to be learned about teaching itself. There is no excuse for teachers not to undertake CPD, whether it is through INSET days, book groups or Teach Meets. Doing the learning is just as important as what we learn.

On Monday, I start attending Finnish lessons. When I’m finding it tricky to stick with my resolution, I should remember that I can’t expect my pupils to persevere, if I don’t.

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