Heikki Tuurihalme, a former English philology major, talks about life after university, teaching, and music. He gave a few insights into the life of a teacher and his own transition from school to working life.
You recently graduated from the University of Helsinki – how can you describe the transition from student life to working life?
Finding work is usually the first challenge one faces after graduation. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy for a teacher to find temporary work as a substitute. However, landing a permanent teaching job is not always that easy, especially here in Helsinki where you have so many applicants for each position. Although I’m currently working almost full-time, I’m also still constantly looking for work.
Starting any new job is usually a bit stressful, because there’s always so much to learn and you want to be good at what you do. But I think that you also shouldn’t be too hard on yourself at the beginning of your career. Things will fall into place eventually…
As a new teacher, what have been the biggest obstacles or setbacks you’ve experienced?
I wouldn’t say that I have come across any major obstacles or setbacks, but facing new situations on a daily basis can be a bit overwhelming at first. Also, it seems that I’m pretty much always in a hurry and there never seems to be enough time for planning lessons, for example.
Teaching must also have its rewarding sides – what are the moments when you have felt proud or accomplished in your work?
Obviously it’s great when your students do well in their studies. Reading an impressive essay or seeing students perform well in any other way and learning something new is always great. And getting positive feedback from the students or colleagues can be very nice as well.
What age groups have you taught? What are the main things to keep in mind when teaching kids of varying ages?
Although I have been mostly teaching high school (upper secondary school) so far, I do have some experience teaching pretty much all age groups from the first grades of elementary school to high school.
You certainly have to consider their stage of development and accommodate your style of communication, for example. Also, students are interested in different things at different ages, so that’s something you might want to consider as well.
How well did you feel your teacher studies prepare you for the actual job?
In many ways my teacher studies were interesting and beneficial, but it’s only a start really. There are so many things that are not really covered in the training that you just have to deal with and learn as they come. The teacher training doesn’t really prepare you to deal with the various problems you might face with the students or how to communicate with the parents, for example. There are many other practical things as well, and I certainly have a lot to learn still.
You also write music and perform live. Do you feel that this background has in any way helped you with the teaching?
I think that performing in front of an audience has probably helped me a little bit, although it is very different from being in front of a class. But any experience of performing to an audience is probably good for you.
What kind of music do you play and listen to?
I like to listen to all kinds of music, although I usually prefer real instruments as opposed to sounds created on the computer, for instance. Although I certainly like talented musicians, what I really appreciate is good songwriting more than anything else. A good song is always a good song, no matter what the genre is. Rock, folk, country, pop, blues… anything goes really.
These days my own material consists mostly of just my voice and my acoustic guitar, so I guess you could describe it as singer-songwriter music of some sort.
Can you describe any of the creative processes that go into your music?
Writing a song usually begins with an idea of some sort. It can be a short melody, a chord progression, or just a few words. But you always need that magical first idea to get you started and then you start to build on that. When you have a melody for a verse, for example, the melody for a chorus usually follows sooner or later. One thing leads to another. I usually write the lyrics last and that tends to be the hardest and the most time-consuming part about songwriting for me. When I’m happy with a song and feel like it is maybe worth sharing with other people, I record it. I have a little recording setup at home that I use to record and mix my own songs.
You can check out some of my tunes at www.soundclound.com/lucky-lane!