How to Bring Finnish-Style Teaching and Learning to Your Classroom

Like many other U.S. educators, Timothy D. Walker thought the schools in Finland sounded almost “mythical.” The rejection of high-stakes testing, a curriculum based on critical thinking and problem-solving, smaller classes, the time reserved for collaboration between teachers – these are just few of the pillars of a system that has been heralded around the world. In 2013, Walker moved to Finland and was soon teaching fifth grade at a public school in Helsinki. He began documenting his experiences on his blog, Taught by Finland, and in a series of articles for The Atlantic. Being a teacher in Finland, Walker says, has “challenged my thinking about good teaching and learning,” and, as it turns out, a lot of what works in a classroom in Helsinki can work in anywhere in the United States. In his just-released book, Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms, Walker offers U.S. educators a lively and practical guide on implementing Finland’s best practices in their own classroom.

The discussion about the differences between Finland and the the U.S. is usually centered around major systemic differences, so what’s unique and innovative about Finnish schools seems out-of-reach to most U.S. educators. Did you want your book to serve as a sort of a bridge that teachers can use to bring at least a little bit of Finland into their classrooms?

Timothy D. Walker: Yes, that is exactly what I’ve tried to do in my book! Most U.S. teachers encounter a much different teaching context than Finland’s educators. For several years, I’ve kept a blog about Finnish education where I’ve highlighted lessons I’ve learned in Finland, but I admit that I’ve rarely blogged about what American teachers could actually implement in their classrooms.