When I was teaching first grade in the Greater Boston area, my Finnish wife, Johanna, loved to tell me about schools in Finland. Most of what she told me sounded mythical.
According to Johanna, Finnish children started first grade at age seven. Their school days were often just four hours long. Her close Finnish friend, a first grade teacher in Helsinki, worked about 30 hours each week, including prep time.
For years, I refused to believe my wife. My reality as an American first grade teacher was just too different from the one she described.
Many of my first grade students were a full year or two younger than their Finnish peers. Our school days lasted seven hours. Unlike Johanna’s friend, I was pulling in 50-hour weeks of teaching and planning. I just didn’t believe that another way was possible until I started teaching in Finland.