Reflects on Ken Robinson’s video: How to escape education’s death valley

We watched the TED video How to escape education’s death valley by Ken Robinson this Wednesday. When he came to the point of no students should be left behind and human beings are inherent of creative, it reminds me of my exchange experience in University of Helsinki, Finland during my junior year.

The professor in Food Micro lab surprised me at the first class. He asked which language we would prefer when he was teaching, and our options are English, Finnish (the native language in Finland), and Swedish. As all the students were finish people except me as a Chinese student, we agreed to use English in class, but Finnish students can choose all three languages to write the lab report. All students were required to use English in slides and presentations. If the professor lacks the ability to use English, my accessibility to this class would be very limited. His professional English gave me the chance to enrol in this class and explore the world of Food Microbiology. More surprisingly, he always said some simple Chinese greeting sentences before or after class, which made me less homesick and feel more about being supported. It is not easy to study abroad, especially with less native people around (there are about 5000 Chinese in total in Finland). But every time the Finnish people speak Chinese, I felt warm and their friendliness, and respect to my culture.

Many of you may heard of the story of Tower of Babel.  Language should not be a barrie between students and learning. Both students and instructors should put efforts to minimize it. From my personal perspective, uploading the slides or notes is very helpful instead of only talking and writing on the blackboard. It can be very difficult to read hand writing.

Another professor left me a deep impression was the professor in Academic Writing. Most of the students in that class were greaduate student, and the assignments was to write a research proposal and peer reviewing in class. As a junior, I did not know much about research proposal and I did not see why I need to write a research proposal. But I knew that I need to develop my skills to written English, and know more about the language used in academic. So I talked with my professor, and he suggested I can write a personal statement and curriculum vitae for my graduate school application as I would apply soon. I was very happy with that, because the getting into graduate school was more important to me at that point. I will probably never need to write a proposal if I failed to get into graduate school and got a job after college. The composing of personal statement and curriculum vitae also drilled my skills to write professionally. The customized assignment and flexibility benefited me more than the standardized tasks.

I really valued my education experience in Finland, and it was my first time abroad but not bad, even not close to at any point. The value and need of individual student was recognized and respected.


4 thoughts on “Reflects on Ken Robinson’s video: How to escape education’s death valley”

  1. Hi Sihui, thanks for sharing your educational experience in Finland. I especially liked how sensitive the instructor and the other students were with regard to your needs. I feel like, that made you feel validated in the class, and taught a good lesson of altruism for the other students. Whenever I contemplate on my experience regarding my educational career, I always remember the memories that are similar to yours: The moments I realized my thoughts, feelings, experience matter for the instructor and/or the other students, and how these moments of realization boosted my mood, ideals and performance.. As you mentioned, may be the tradition of “recognition” and “respect” for the students’ needs is the very basis of why the drop-out rate is so low in Finland, the grass is green when you water it.

  2. It is amazing how something so small as a phrase in another language can have a real impact on another. This is a great point to make about how even the smallest ways we can connect with our students may have a lasting impact. Sounds like your experiences in Finland had a profound impact on your studies and I am glad to see that it also applies to some of the topics we have been covering in class.

  3. This is really interesting and I honestly never thought about how something as basic as the language could have such an impact on the learning experience. One thing that you mentioned that made me rethink some ideas I previously had is about posting slides. I have always thought that when a professor posts slides for the class online, it makes it easier for student to either not pay attention in class, or not go to class at all. However, when thinking about it in the context of some students may need the slides as a key supplemental learning tool, it seems wrong to deprive them of that. Thank you for your insight, and I’m super jealous you got to spend a semester in Finland!

  4. Hi, Sihui, thanks for sharing your experience. I think your personal story really shows how a mindful teaching can change one’s learning experience. Both of the teachers you mentioned are mindful teachers. The first one considered your special needs in class and adapt to an more friendly language. The second teacher tailored the class requirement to your individual needs. BTW, I am also jealous of your multi-cultural learning experience! Finland then, and USA now!

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