Sunday, February 10, 2013

Best high school award goes to...

Muurame Lukio!  
(this is of course subject to change as I visit more schools!)

The Basics: 

This school is located about 10 miles outside of Jyväskylä. It is not apart of Jyväskylä city schools and operated in it’s own city municipality. The residents of Muurame are primarily academics that work at the University and is known as a wealthy place to live. The school has been open for 17 years. There are less than 200 students and about 20 teachers. The school has been one of very few schools throughout Finland to receive a certificate of sustainability for the past 5 consecutive years. This considers environmental, student engagement and entrepreneurship factors.  

A student hang out spot- most schools have these.
Muurame has games and newspapers for students to read!
But, that is not what makes this school cool.  It is the kids and the culture that is present throughout the school. I got to spend about an hour and half talking to the Headmaster, Aki Puustinen, learning all about how this culture was developed.
There is a very clear emphasis on providing a holistic education to students which involves developing a close personal relationships with the staff. This has not been the focus (or even noticeably present) in other schools I have visited.  The Headmaster spoke about the school being seen as the Muurame Lukio Tribe and it is the most important task to take care of every member of the tribe- students, teachers and parents. The school decided on their own values are (translated) Be Rapid (being able to make quick changes as needed), Be Brave, Be Creative, Have Peer Responsibility and Excellence.  The vision is to create a flexible learning community. And this culture comes through every corner of this building.

Muurame Lukio has a very active student council and has student representation in all staff meetings, parent associations and student run activities. Students make the morning announcements and are involved in all decisions.  They have an overnight school retreat once a year where students get to develop leadership skills and run the retreat. They get to tell teachers what to do! Muurame has hosted a Saturday school where families get to come to school and go through the day as their students would.  There is also a big emphasis and support for entrepreneurship  letting students dream about how to be innovators and then supporting them! There are two international students enrolled- one from Australia and the other from France. This is the first time I have seen English speaking students in a school environment. They clearly had a bunch of friends and were adjusting well. Classes are conducted in English when they attend- the headmaster looked at me a little crazy when I asked the question.  Sort of a look that said, obviously we would teach them in a language they understand!  

When we were walking around the school, Aki wanted to show me the listening lab. There were many doors that were open that we popped our head into while teachers were teaching. However, this door was closed so he paused at the door to listen if a class was in there. He then turned and said we couldn't go in because a teacher was teaching. I asked if he ever observed classes and he said, "No, I trust the teachers.  Why would I need to check up on them?" Brillant! He went on to say that he believes that what he knows best is leading the school, not math or Swedish. So his role is to encourage teachers and students to be the best they can be and to develop leadership roles. He very bluntly said, "Teachers know how to teach, that is how they got to be teachers." I stared at him blankly and had to restrain from asking for a job. What a great belief and trust he has in his teachers. This is why education in Finland is so good!    

And as if Muurame needed any more votes in their favor, there was an amazing lunch!  Free for everyone and yummy!  

 I am beginning to understand that even though schools are equal in Finland (and they truely are!) each one is a little different. This one has definitely connected with my educational philosophy and caused me to really reflect on how I can bring some of Muurame Lukio's lessons home!


  1. Fascinating! And I think I would also like to teach there! With you preferably :)

  2. He does not disturb the in-session class, amazing!

  3. Not a single second went without leaving me in utter surprise.