Graduation, Final Thoughts and Goodbyes!

Yes, here were are, at the end of the FDAT- Fall. I had been working so hard with my study on ” Historical Thinking and Understanding, the Use of Primary Sources in History Teaching and Learning”, so it was a privilege to present my work for the audience at the University of Indiana, Bloomington on the 6th December 2016.

My Prezi-presentation pointed out that teachers value the use of primary sources, but unfortunately they don´t always have the time to analyze and evaluate the sources together with the students.  There was a significant difference between the IB teachers and AP / regular history teachers´ use of primary sources: IB teachers used the IB format, which made them to go deeper into the analysis process.


As I brought up after my presentation: this research and the encouraging atmosphere at the Indiana University has been the best part of my whole Fall. I had the time to reflect my own work and to concentrate on something I have been interested in for years, however never had the suitable moment for that. I really enjoyed conducting my research and would definitely like to continue my work in Finland. My topic is valuable for IB teaching, furthermore it will be highlighting some aspects concerning the Finnish New History Curriculum for National Section as well.

All the FDAT teachers presented their own works; lessons plans, teachers´materials, research papers like mine. It was again an honor, just like in the beginning of the program to be one of these amazing teachers from all over the world.

Oh, I will miss them! But now I can also say; I have friends in so many different countries and could visit them whenever.


Nazir-Singapore, me, Back: Maija, Weifeng-Taiwan, Marina-India, Lay Kheng-Singapore, Sam-Mexico, Keitsumetse-Botswana, Jhennyi-Taiwan, Hanan-Morocco, Gaone- Botswana. Front from the right: Simon-New Zealand, Karina-Mexico, Khalid-Morocco, Pratz-India, Diana-Mexico, Nourit-Israel, Hasnan-Palestine, Sarah-New Zealand, Haya- Palestine, Peiwen-Singapore.

And The certificate by United States Department of State, wau. Once a Fulbrighter, always a Fulbrighter. That is what they told us. So I already have some plans in my mind, let´s see what the future brings along.


Christmas is coming to Bloomington, Indiana!

It was also the time to say goodbyes. Jill Turner and her daughter Eleanor have become so good friends with us. It is just amazing that during one semester, it is possible to meet such nice people. All the Fulbrighters, Jill, Eleanore, our Swedish friends Lena, Stefan, Ida and Elsa and so many more. I am grateful  for this opportunity.



Jill and Eleanor with us in their Christmas wonderland


Our elder children: Juuli and Mitja, thank you for all your efforts, so that mom could make her dream come true. Soon we´ll be all together again..

A great thanks for all our relatives and friends back home! Thank you all.Especially those dear ladies, the “Markku”-group: Mari, Arja, Riikka, Kaarina, Kaisu and Ulla and Dear Anna, Arja& Jarmo, Juha & Anne, Paula, Riitta, Anu & Ari, Sanni, Emmi and many others. Without you this could not have been possible.We as a whole family have faced some difficult issues back home, but you were always there to help and to encourage me during this Fall. Life isn´t always just sunshine, however with your help I was able to find the sunshine also in bad moments.




Leaving Bloomington, Campus View Apartments, Bye-Bye!

And the  last, but not the least: Thank you dear Heikki and Lilja!

California, A Bad Dream and Life goes on

During the second week of November I had a great opportunity to visit El Dorado High School in Placerville, near Sacramento. At the same time this was of course a marvelous chance to see a glimpse of Northern California, Sonoma and San Francisco. And yes, it was the time for  THE elections and for that big decision: so many people had terrible nightmares about the possible result. I was hosted by Tiffany Larson, my Fulbright colleague, who is going to be placed in Jyväskylä for the next spring as a FDAT Grantee. We had a great time and  I am so happy to have the chance to host her and continue collaboration in many ways in the future.

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What a time to visit the school: you could really feel the tension and for so many times I heard teachers and students saying: ” If the other candidate will win”…  And that was what happened, that bad dream came true. A hot line was established between Jyväskylän Lyseo and Sacramento State House, when me and Tiffany contacted my colleagues and IB students at the time of the election result broadcast. During the Messenger call, the predict turned in favour of  Trump and my American colleague Tiffany could not  believe it. She was devastated like all my American acquaintances and friends in Indiana and California.

A hot line between Jyväskylän Lyseo and the Sacramento State House


According to Fivefiftyeights- Analysis: Donald Trump won the presidential election despite polls that indicated Hillary Clinton was favored. One popular explanation for this is that some people were afraid to admit to pollsters that they supported Trump — what’s being called the “shy Trump” phenomenon. A review of the evidence, however, suggests that probably isn’t why the polls got Trump wrong.The “shy Trump” theory relies on the notion of social desirability bias— the idea that people are reluctant to reveal unpopular opinions.

At El Dorado High School I also had an opportunity to follow history lessons, interview two history teachers and also the Principal for my research, so it really was a good one. I have now observed 31 social studies lessons, visited 9 different high schools during my scholarship semester. All the schools have been very different from Finnish counterparts;  first of all, the students are not allowed to leave the school building or either the school area during their school day. As one of students in Indiana pointed out: sometimes it feels like you are in a jail for a day. Is that for safety reasons ? Maybe, but it has also something to do with this tradition to sue people. As it has been explained to me: schools are afraid that something bad is going to happen and the parents will sue the school  because of that.

Well, for a Finnish teacher this seems to be very odd as a practice.

As a whole Social studies´teaching is filled with quizzes, independent work, answering surface level questions. A quiz is like a formative test and that could take 25-30 minutes/ lesson (very often). According to my observations AP and regular US history teachers usually ask very simple questions like ” What happened and When? What was the name of this” ?  Not so many deeper approach demanding questions like ” To what extent”–? or “Justify the claim”. This surface level approach could be explained by the amount of the tests and those multiple-choice-questions, which require to memorize the facts instead of challenging students historical thinking skills. You really see your own system´s benefits as a whole in a different light.

Don´t never give up, do your best, try and think positively. There is nothing wrong with those phasers. Challenge yourself, speak up and take part in and everything is going to be okay. The result could be awesome, great of either good. Surface level questions or not, innovations come up and people have good self-confidence. Maybe there is something to think about.


After the time spent in Sacramento in was a time to move on to Sonoma and San Francisco and to explore a bit of beautiful Northern California.  We rented a car and headed to Sonoma to see my high school friend Riitta. What a great re-union it was! She is married to a Canadian and they have been living in California for about year and a half. It was so interesting to discuss and share views on American way of life and on everything else you can just imagine.


And then finally: The visit to San Francisco! I truly can say that I liked the city, its beautiful old buildings and the atmosphere. It was still so sad to see that huge amount of homeless people on the streets. The American dream is not always a dream to come true.


Good Bye California, back to business in Indiana. Only three weeks left and so much to do with the project, report and the presentation. But enjoyable at the same time.

See you!

Thoughts of November

Time passes quickly, it is already November. Seven school visits completed, one to come in California. How to reflect what I have seen and experienced? The most striking issue comes to my mind: this positive approach is something I would like to take with me back to Finland. It is  so true: people are friendly and you get the feeling that they are interested in you and your country. Of course when someone asks you ” how are you”, you are supposed to say “good” instead of telling your whole life story or going through in every detail what you have experienced for the last few days. But there is something good in that positive approach: maybe you become more creative when you are not wining all time and pointing out all that ” what is so wrong”.

Finnish education system in appreciated everywhere you go and you start to wonder; yes it really is something very unique. Why don´t we take the best out of that? We Finns should be arranging more visits into our schools and make it our best selling product, so much interest is there out in the field. For that we would need  more creative thinkers, reflectors, inquirers : those words from the IB learner profile would fit quite nicely in that!


From the Bloomington early voting place


Project-Based Learning School in Columbus, Indiana


Two weeks ago I visited an IB school in Indianapolis. The School had almost 4000 students as a whole, but the IB section was a small nice department inside that huge building. My observations and interviews on historical thinking were a success; I managed to get useful material for my project, which is now really in my mind almost all the time. The data has almost been collected and after the last school visit to California I´ll focus my whole energy on that. The submission date for all the works is December 9th, so I’ll know what do during the Thanksgiving break.


North Central High School, Indianapolis

Elections coming up next week. You can feel the tension and excitement throughout the town. People won´t be voting only on the president, there are 20 other issues to be dealt with. One of the most important ones is the referendum concerning the school district funding. The Monroe County voters will be asked for more tax payer´s money to  the schools: otherwise  supplies for the school will be reduced decisively and almost one hundred teachers will be kicked off.

The upcoming week will be full of excitement all over this country. Let´s hope that the common sense will prevail.

Have a good one!


Lilja In Indiana


Lilja has been now going to school for more than two months. She understands English a lot, does not speak so much, but life is getting easier out there, for sure. Everyday life is so different here for a child of her age: you can´t go out alone, you need to be together with your guardians all the time. Lilja has been saying for many times, how she really appreciates now those short schooldays and freedom back home. And also the healthy Finnish school lunch gets her appreciation!

She has made friends at school and one of the families; Jill and her daughter Elionor have been really amazing: they have taken us to roller-skating and groceries ( by their car..) and been in many ways a very nice touch of local way of life. Of course she misses her brother Mitja and sister Juuli and all her friends a lot, but she has been very brave! She has been recalling those first days at school in here that the ones were the most challenging days of her life. She did not understand the language at all and everything was new. And still there is a lot of excitement around, but she likes to go to school and that is really awesome.


After two months of her dad taking her to school every morning by public transportation, she started to take the school bus. And now she is also having lunch with her schoolmates, Heikki is not any more joining her during the lunch break. So she has been adjusting well, in many ways. Even so we all have been experiencing a culture shock in some ways, we have managed.

Lower Cascade Park, Blooomington

The biggest disappointment has been the fact that Heikki has not been allowed to join any of the lessons at Lilja´s school. In beforehand we really though that in the US parents are welcomed to participate in many ways, but at this school that has not been the issue.  Especially in the beginning it would have been a relief for Lilja to have him around, but it never happened. Finnish education is appreciated in many occasions here, but a Finnish Elementary teacher is for no use, that is weird. But when in Rome do as the Romas do and you will survive!

Chicago                                                                 Dinner party at the University

Bye, Have a good one!

October, Mid-Term Program Stop

Time goes by and I am in the middle of the Program, actually already passed it last week.  School visits will continue now to  Indianapolis, Columbus, Evansville and hopefully in the beginning of November to  Sacramento, California.

Yes, history teaching and learning is different here: testing takes a lot of time from interactive teaching and learning. Multiple-choice questions on  history; who did what and when? Was was the name of the treaty signed after WWI? To some extent those questions sound so irrelevant, when I think about historical thinking and understanding. Multiple-Choice questions leave so little room for terms like causation, change, consequences, significance, continuity and perspectives, which are really valued very high for historical understanding.

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The US educational policy ” No Child Left Behind” was introduced in 2001 and  according to the legislation, schools must pass yearly tests that judge student improvement over the fiscal year. These yearly standardized tests are the main means of determining whether schools live up to required standards. If required improvements are not made, the schools face decreased funding and other punishments that contribute to the increased accountability. So there are lots of tests all the time, because no child should not be left out and the guarantee for that is to test and to test…

In a sense I now see my own IB system´s benefits even more: we really need to concentrate on those approaches and terms, in order to succeed and also become familiar with the term historical consciousness, which is THE ONE  for deeper understanding of the past. History teaching and learning is not about memorizing the facts, it is so much more.Historical method requires students to question the past, propose a hypothesis, check the available sources and analyze the source with respect to their reliability. Finally the aim is to answer the research question and find different interpretations. Instead of being knowledge givers, we teachers should be knowledge facilitators. What I have seen so far, has not been  so much related to historical thinking and understanding. But, next; An IB school visit  in Indianapolis, maybe that will make my day!


All the experiences will enrich my FDAT- Grantee semester; This is a good opportunity to reflect my own teaching and work as a whole. This program is a chance to develop teaching skills and understanding of U.S. educational policy and to enhance abilities to work in diverse and multicultural environments. Schools in the US are really characterized by rich ethnic, cultural, language and religious diversity.The Progressive Policy Institute ( 2008) has estimated that 50 million Americans (0ut of 300 million) spoke a language at home other than English in 2008. Hence the term “multicultural education” is a reality in here.


See you!

Elections, Critical Thinking and Historical Understanding

I, TOO, is a poem by Langston Hughes, written in 1925.  This poem was titled as the headline for  The New York Times article on the opening of the African-American Museum in Washington D.C last week.

” I, Too, sing America.

I am the darker brother,

They send me to eat in the kitchen, 

When company comes, 

But I laugh

And eat well

And grow strong.



I´ll be at the table

When the company comes.

Nobody´ll dare 

Say to me, 

“Eat in the kitchen”




The´ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed-


I too am America.”


This poem and the news dealing with the opening of the fist African-American Museum in the United States of America make me think.  ” The opening of the Museum makes a powerful declaration: The African-American story is a central part of the American Story”, this is how the New York Times brought it up on September 22, 2016.  This opening means that you can´t just select a comfortable version of history. You can´t ignore the basic evidence and all the facts, even you would be making good business. Donald Trump questioned President Obama´s Birth certificate in 2014 for several times and that just brought up also his approach on African-American community as a whole. After almost eight years of presidency, a non-white president needs to prove his birth for the American people. Welcome to a country of freedom and equality.


Sunrise in Campus View, our American home.

The election day coming up quite soon ( November, 8). I have been visiting the Bloomington North High School for several weeks now and there are opinions going around about the presidential election. After the first debate between the candidates, the students were asked to express their views on the success of  the presidential candidates. As you may imagine; for and against. The Teacher, or like they here call us, the instructor pointed out how unprepared Donald Trump was for the debate and how that has been the key issue for his success so far. People want to hear about easy solutions, but is maybe not enough any more. Every scientific poll  in the U.S  suggested after the Monday´s debate that voters thought  Hilary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the debate.Some of them showed her winning by a wide margin — wide enough to make a good bet (though not a guarantee) that she’ll gain in horse-race polls against Trump over the next week or so.

Here in Indiana it seems that the voters are going for Trump; according to the polls; 5,5 % for Clinton and 94,5 for Trump. For the whole country it has been estimated that Hilary Clinton has 62.2 % chance of winning and Donald Trump 37.7 % of winning. In  Indiana Donald Trump’s focus on a local air conditioner factory and its imminent move to Mexico seems to have had a big effect.People consider Trump as a man who says what he what he wants and does what he promises. He is not s typical politician and people are tired with those. As a whole it is a question of values, but do those matter when you are loosing your job and ready follow the man with an easy solution?  There are still possibilities for Trump to win the elections; one is the number of ” Missing ” white voters, who could have a serious impact on the results.

And what has this all to do with my research?  A lot. I am investigating the historical thinking and understanding, historical consciousness and how history is taught by using primary sources like speeches of Presidential candidates. How are the American teachers evaluating the sources by their origin, purpose, value and limitations. How can we make the students and the people to see what is biased and in what way? It is so important. It is actually the way to prevent authoritarian rules to rise to power or maniacs to take over.  I feel I am privileged to be here at this historical moment.

Students are not allowed to leave the school building during the day for safety                           reasons.