Motivated by the International Office I decided to seize the opportunity and apply for an Erasmus+ teaching mobility exchange in Helsinki, Finland.
A colleague from Germany and I were picked up from our hotel by Mr. Esa Penttinen on Monday morning. Soon afterwards, Mr. Penttinen showed us the University of Helsinki and we were able to participate in a seminar right after the university tour. We led a discussion about the differences of the school systems in Finland, Germany and Austria in a pedagogy lecture for language students. Everybody eagerly participated in the discussion in both English and German.
Six students from the German department registered for my block seminar – held in German - „Children’s books in German lessons and the Austrian education system”. For three days, we have discussed Austria’s education system and methodological and developmental-psychological approaches to children’s literature. Especially the children’s books and practical methods (which the students tried out right away) were well received. Since many of the students were rather reserved, it sometimes took methodological tricks on my part to draw them out. „Finnish students rather listen than talk“, said the participants. On the one hand, they feel like the professor has all the professional knowledge and expertise and on the other hand, they fear to fail in front of their fellow students. Thankfully, this is different at PH Wien!
Professor Esa Penttinen organized two visits to very different schools for my German colleague and me. In the center of the city, close to the university, we visited an architecturally old school building. There we had a talk with one of the English teachers and were able to attend an 8th grade lesson. I was very impressed by the school desks: Single tables facilitated fast changes of social arrangements. The blackboard pointer, which actually was a wooden sword, fascinated my inner child and me as much as the desks.
We got to know a completely different side of Finland’s school system through the visit of a new school building complex at the city outskirts: a new concept with 12 grades in one building (nine grades comprehensive school and three grades upper school). Various buildings surrounded the large cafeteria in the middle: big gyms, areas for recreational activities and a huge ceremonial hall where we watched a performance of the school band. Another interesting aspect was that an extensive part of the school was dedicated to special education care.
I also enjoyed Helsinki as a tourist with its harbor, the Rock Church and the wide streets and parks. I will gladly visit this beautiful city again.
Mag. Michaela Ziegler