Kaija's story: Experiences of different workplaces have improved me as a teacher

Career story

The ability to encounter different people in unexpected situations is important for a teacher. Experiences from different jobs give a lot of skills for this.

I have worked as a teacher of religion for about 30 years. First, I worked in upper secondary school for about ten years, after which I became a teacher in lower secondary school.

After upper secondary school, I spent a year as an exchange student in Mexico. There I became interested in the diversity of religions and cultures. After returning, I studied folk music at the University of Tampere for a year. The course in anthropology I took that year inspired me to look into cultural research and especially religion as a subject, which I went to study at the University of Turku the following year. Realistically, I estimated that by specialising in pedagogical studies, I would also gain the qualifications to become a teacher. I took psychology and later philosophy as minor subjects. For my Master's thesis, I went to Nicaragua to find material on the liberation theology that influenced the revolution.

During my studies, I had summer jobs as a cleaner, salesperson, counsellor on camps for persons with intellectual disabilities and confirmation camps, and in museums. I started teaching as a substitute at the end of my studies when I had enough knowledge and confidence. Every workplace has brought functional pieces to my work as a teacher. The subject teacher's work requires mastering extensive learning content and pedagogy, but the ability to encounter different people in unexpected situations is equally important for my classes to go smoothly. Experiences from different jobs give a lot of skills for this.

The teacher's work is challenging but meaningful

Teacher’s work is demanding. When I started a family, I noticed that the daily planning time required for teaching at the upper secondary school threatened my coping. I became a primary school teacher. Classes with growing lower secondary school pupils are unpredictable and sometimes challenging, but it is easier to pace your work and plan the lessons. The hurry in the school world, changing adults and the diverse difficulties of pupils' families are also challenging. To counterbalance this in my life I have music that I can immerse myself in by singing or listening which does not leave space to worry about things. 

As a teacher, you can experience many kinds of successes. I get great pleasure when a former student ends up becoming a teacher as an adult. I feel joy when the restless pupils say they are coming to the "best class of the week" and sit quietly in their seats until the end of the class. Happiness is getting the class to reflect on a difficult ethical question and to discuss it even during the recess. The best part of teaching are everyday classes.

If you dream of teaching, dream of meaningful work. The culture is transferred to the next generation by teaching. The school institution - which relies on a joint agreement on what is important in our culture - plays a major role in teaching work. By becoming a teacher, we become part of an institution that shares our culture and understanding of this world to new generations.

Kaija Saari