Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First post about the girls' school

The Amuri school, as seen from it's courtyard:

Art on the side of the school.

The girls attend the Amuri School. It takes about 25 minutes to walk the slightly uphill way there (Perhaps you'll hear stories from them years from now about walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways.... this is a bit of a Jarvi joke). The Amuri school is a publicly run international school with an emphasis on English. The majority of Brooke's classes are taught in English. By Analeise's grade, the language switches, and the majority of classes are taught in Finnish. She has a special teacher who helps students whose primary language is not Finnish.

Interesting differences from what we've experienced in the US:
  1. Their schedules are the same every week, but they vary daily. This means that Brooke starts school at 8am or 9am and gets home at 1 or 2pm, while Analeise starts at 8, 9 or 10am, and gets home at 3 or 4pm. This depends on their classes for the day. It's a little like a college schedule in the US.
  2. The school provides basic school supplies (paper, pencils) at no charge to students
  3. The school provides a lunch to students at no charge, and no one packs. There is only one choice for lunch each day (ex. fish soup or meat gravy), and it always comes with a hard rye bread that we might call a cracker and salad.
  4. Religion is a required part of their schooling, but the teachers are not aloud to try to convert anyone. In the older grades, they study things such as world religions and discuss religious philosophies. In the younger grades, they learn bible stores. Also, a few times per year, the whole school attends a service put together for the school at a nearby Lutheran church. Parents are able to ask that their children do not attend services and are assigned to an ethics class rather than a religion class.
  5. Classes are routinely 45 minutes in length, with a 15 minute break between each class. My understanding is that students do a lot of socializing and homework during these breaks.
  6. Cell phones are an accepted part of life. They are not to be used during class, but students can use them during breaks and before and after school.

This is the courtyard of the school, where students spend their breaks and
the time before the first bell of the day rings:

Here are a couple of photos of the girls on their first day of school, August 11, 2010:

Finns start school at age 7 and stay with their teacher through 6th or 7th grade. After that, they switch teachers for different subjects. The Amuri school has 550 students from grades 1-9. There is a principal and a vice principal. The regular classroom teachers teach music and art, but there are special teachers for certain classes (Textile arts, Physical Education and more). Currently students only have phy. ed. one day per week, but a law is supposedly about to be passed in Finland that will require more time.

So far, a class they both like is Textile Arts. They enjoy the teacher's "use any fabric in the room" approach. They even get to go shopping with their classes for fabric for their big project. Analeise intends to make a coat. Brooke's class is currenlty making bags, and Analeise is making a purse. The older students (Analeise) were encouraged to bring a mug to class so they can have hot cocoa. Sounds fun!

Students in Brooke's class, like all students in the younger grades,
do not wear their shoes in class.

Brooke has 27 hours of class:
  • Art, 3 hours (one class per week for 2 hours plus 1 hour separately)
  • Biology, 2 hours
  • English, 3 hours
  • Finnish, 5 hours
  • History, 2 hours
  • Math, 4 hours
  • Music, 2 hours
  • Phy. Ed, 2 hours*
  • Religion, 1 hour
  • Science, I hour (I think this is an Earth Science class)
  • Textile Arts, 2 hours*
*one class per week for two hours
Students address teachers by their first names. Brooke's teacher is Anna and is really nice. My understanding is that the class doesn't stick to the printed schedule exactly, with Anna having some freedom to work on things at different times when necessary. I believe there are 24 students in Brooke's class, and she says that the courses are a bit more in depth than what she is used to. She regularly complains that she doesn't like the lunch, which puts her in the ranks of most of the people I've asked about school lunches here. That said, the lunch is hot, free and made at the school every day. Luckily for Brooke, we have tasty food at home (today's snack was an apple, a banana and toast with hot cocoa)!

Analeise has 30 hours of class:
  • Biology, 2 hours*
  • Computer Class, 1 hour
  • English, 4 hours
  • Film English, 2 hours*
  • Finnish, 5 hours
  • Health Ed, 2 hours
  • History, 2 hours
  • Home Ec., 2 hours*
  • Math, 3 hours
  • Phy. Ed, 2 hours*
  • Physics and Chemistry, 3 hours (one class per week for two hours, plus 1 hour separately)
  • Textile Arts, 2 hours*
*one class per week for two hours

Analeise adores her Textile Arts class, saying that it's a minor miracle that she now looks forward to school on Monday morning. English is a boring class for her. Its aim is to instruct non-native English speakers, and she feels like she's back in second grade when she's there. That said, she's learning some British words and phrases, as they study the Queen's English. She is not enamored with going up and down the five floors of the building every day, but unlike Brooke, she does not mind the school lunches.

Both girls have homework regularly. This was unexpected for me, as our Finnish exchange daughter had said that she'd never had homework before going to high school in the U.S. Perhaps is different school-by-school and teacher-by-teacher. There is a website parents have access to, similar to one used by our school district back in Menomonie, at which absences, homework and grade information and messages from teachers can be found. There is a parent organization, but I have not contacted them yet. The principals have an open-door policy. I will volunteer there at least once per week.

Except for a few events organized by the parent organization, extra-curricular activities are not arranged by the school at all but by community offices. There is a recreation space called "The Point" between the school and our apartment that is free and open to students in different grades at different times throughout the week. Brooke tried it out and liked it (open gym, ping pong table, video games, drinks and snacks to buy). We could sign the girls up for various classes at local community centers (arts and crafts, music, dancing, various sports, extra language instruction, etc.) but are going to hold off on that in the beginning, as getting used to a new city, home, school and friends is already enough.

If you want to learn more about the Amuri school, this link will bring you to its website.

Walking to school:

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