Teach Like Finland: A Must-Read for All Educators

What if the best recipe for creating successful schools was developing relaxed, safe, and joyful ones? What if the key to raising achievement (even as measured by standardized tests) was to have students engage in authentic, student-driven, choice-based, and fun learning? What of this isn’t a pipe-dream but is actually what’s happening somewhere in the world right now? And what if you had an actual teacher who could help you make small, reasonable, and practical changes in your daily practice to help you get there?

Enter Tim Walker.

Tim is an American teacher who moved to Finland and taught in a Finnish school. He got to experience, first hand, the system that has gained Finland international acclaim as the world’s best school system.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve heard about the Finnish system. Perhaps you were inspired by The Finland Phenomenon, hosted by Tony Wagner. Or, perhaps you have read any number of articles that are out there. Unfortunately, much of what you’ve heard probably sounds idyllic and out of reach American educators.  After all, a true national curriculum and a centralized and prestigious teacher-training program sound fantastic, but they aren’t likely in the US anytime soon.

This is Tim’s great gift. In his book, Teach Like Finland, while he touches on some of these broader structures in the Finnish system, his main focus is on classroom practices. He digs into what teachers in the US (and elsewhere!) can do to make their classrooms more like ones he experienced in Finland.

The book is divided into five themes: well-being, belonging, autonomy, mastery, and mindset. In each of these categories, Tim details practices that teachers can try, and the practices read like an exhausted and disheartened US teacher’s dream list. Here are just a few of the 33 practices he suggests:

  • Schedule brain breaks
  • Recharge after school
  • Simplify the space
  • Breathe fresh air
  • Know each child
  • Celebrate student learning
  • Pursue a class dream
  • Offer choices
  • Make it real
  • Teach the essentials
  • Bring in the music
  • Seek flow
  • Vacate on vacation
  • Don’t forget the joy

Importantly, Tim writes in an easy, relaxed, conversational tone. You feel like you’re kicking back and hanging out on the couch with a friend as he shares stories of frustration, surprise, confusion, and joy.

I highly recommend this book for all educators. Teachers will find practical and powerful strategies—ones to try right away. School leaders will find ideas and themes they can use school-wide, along with the reassurance that what they’re doing can lead to greater achievement. This would be a fantastic book-study book for a school or district. Enjoy!

  • Mike Anderson
    Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It MatterThe Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.

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    Mike Anderson
    Leading Great Learning
    Durham, NH
    Phone: +1 413.658.7907

    Leading Great Learning

    Mike Anderson is an energetic, experienced, and highly sought-after educational consultant who helps facilitate great learning in schools all over the United States and beyond. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, consultant, presenter, and developer and has authored many books and articles about great teaching and learning.