Satu Mäki-Arvela: "I Really Want Students to Share My Passion for Learning"

Satu is a staff writer for Her Campus at Helsinki but she's also training to be a teacher. This week, we talked to her about the challenges of teacher training and how the school environment is changing.

What do you study?

I’m a fourth year English major, doing the pedagocical studies for teachers at the moment. Even though I’m training to be an English teacher, I entertain the possibility to teach religious education and ethics as well, as the study of religions is one of my minors. I’m not sure what the future holds for religious education in Finnish schools since there has been a lot of talk about combining the different existing religious subjects into one non-proselytising all-encompassing subject. Perhaps eventually all the different religious groups are put in the same classroom, which I don’t consider a bad idea at all. I find teaching languages very different to other humanities, but that is why the English/Ethics&Religions -combination appeals to me. The approach to the subject is very different, but in essence both are about culture. I’m also minoring in film and television studies, and I think that films and tv-series offer many great tools for teaching a language or introducing new topics in a classroom.

What made you decide you wanted to train to be a teacher?

When I applied to Uni, I thought of it as my back-up plan. I still don’t have career plan A so here I am! To be honest, even though I’ve enjoyed the training period so far, I have mixed feelings about being a teacher. I don’t really like being the center of attention, so I’m not in my comfort zone standing in front of the class every day. However, I see that as a chance to challenge myself and grow as a person. What really draws me into teaching, then, is the satisfaction I get when I see a pupil having that light bulb moment and I know I’ve done something right. I’m sincerily interested in hearing students’ own ideas and opinions, and I really want them to share my passion for learning.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about the difficulties that teachers face in their job. What’s your experience in the classroom been like?

All the kids I have taught are sweet and smart and used to teacher trainees, so I have had it easy. Some other trainees have had more challenging groups. I think the hardest thing is to motivate those students who for one reason or another have negative attitudes towards the subject or school in general. Part of the training is to participate in various seminars and discussion groups that deal with issues related to school life, such as multiculturalism in a classroom, teachers’ group managing skills, bullying and students with learning disabilities or problems with mental health. There are many things to consider when you put twenty or thirty young people together and they all have different personalities, different skills and different needs. Some of the examples I’ve heard in the seminars have been quite extreme, and I also have heard some classroom horror stories from close friends and family. I think teachers have to remember to be merciful to themselves and not to take every rude word from a rebelling teen personally.

Has the school environment changed since your own schooldays?

Oh yes! When I was in 3rd grade we went to the IT class once a week and were taught how to find pictures on Google. Today’s kids use digital devices and all sorts of apps on a daily basis, it’s all Kahoot and Quizlet and everything is online. I think that teachers are also more tolerant to kids moving around; it is acceptable to walk around in class if that helps the student to concentrate. All in all the school environment is more understanding and supporting than strict and authoritarian. But that is just my experience.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to pedagogical studies?

The theoretical part of the studies can be very laborious, and the training leaves you only little spare time, so working or doing other studies simultaneously might be too much. What comes to the profession, there is no right way of doing things: all teachers have their own style and that is perfectly ok. Students are all different anyway, so it’s good that they have teachers who are not all out of the same mould.

You’re also a member of Her Campus! What’s the best part of being in the team?

Free bake sale samples.