My second meeting of today was with math and science teacher Soheila Ghafouri. She teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. She has been a teacher for 22 years; 9 of which were in Iran and 13 of which have been in Sweden. We had a great time talking about the Swedish school system. It was a wonderful conversation since we both bring our own experiences and expertise from other countries before becoming parts of the Swedish school system. You can check out the school’s website here.
The school is made up of many buildings since it is k-9 (as most of the schools are set up here). Each building houses a different group of kids and serves a different purpose. These pictures are of me in front of the building that Soheila teaches in as well as the new cafeteria building which also has some classrooms. You can check out a few more of her photos here.
As I heard from everyone else here, Sweden really needs teachers. Soheila had her own thoughts as to what has caused the acute lack of teachers. It includes that students can now attend any school in the county (including charter schools) and do not have to attend the school in their neighborhood. She also thinks that the fact that teachers have a lot of administrative work to do instead of just teaching stops people from wanting to become teachers. Lastly, she thought that the pay (average teacher pay in Sweden is similar to the US) contributes to not enough people wanting to become teachers.
I also spoke with Soheila about the positives and negatives with the school system here.
There is a lot of democracy and choice for students and teachers in Sweden. As stated, Soheila immigrated to Sweden in the 1980s, and she pointed out that Iran was very strict and was a dictatorship. She said that this was even the case in schools, and teachers were told what to teach and students were told what to learn. She really enjoys the freedom and flexibility that students have here. She also thinks that, compared to the American system of funding, the Swedish system is much better.
Soheila said that since the system was introduced where children and parents can choose almost any school to attend, teachers have felt a lot of pressure from parents to bend to parents’ desires. In one week, parents can say that want it quiet, loud, group work, individual work, etc. And, if they don’t get what they want, they will move schools. We chatted about how moving schools frequently can’t be that good for kids. However, school choice is also good. As with anything, we came to the conclusion that balance is best.
Lastly, we talked about technology. Soheila’s school has computer carts so that there are enough computers for 1/2 of the students in each of her classes. If she needs, they can pool computers. She also has a smartboard in her room. We also quickly discussed the furniture in her classroom. As I had seen with the other schools this week, the furniture was small table and chairs that could be easily moved into different configurations. I have yet to see a traditional American school desk with a chair attached in any of the schools that I have visited. Not a single one. : )
We plan to work together at some point in the next year with our classes.