Orphal: What my students are plotting while I’m across the world

This piece by Skyline High School teacher Dave Orphal was originally published onTransformED, the group blog for the Center for Teaching Quality, and is being posted here with his permission. You can read more from Dave and other teacher leaders at TransformED. 

Greetings from Finland. I’m a Skyline High School teacher who’s here to learn more about what is touted by many as one of the best school systems in the world.

Meanwhile, back in Oakland CA, my Introduction to Education class is following my trip, researching the Finnish education system, and preparing policy briefs for school reform.

A little bit about the course:

Skyline High School is organized as numerous small learning communities. I work in the Education Academy. (There are also academies dedicated to digital media, green technology, performing and visual arts, sports and exercise science, and others.)

In the Education Academy, sophomores start in my Introduction to Education class. Over the next two years, they will take Education Psychology and Peer Education, both taught by our academy director. The academy is populated by students who are interested in becoming teachers, nurses, counselors, or social workers.

About my students’ Finland project:

I am launching a three-year, cross-curricular project with my students. This year, my students will research the Finnish system and make reform recommendations to our school’s governing body. In the eleventh grade, they will take up the endeavor again, doing primary research at our school to see if students, staff, and administration agree with the reform proposals they have assembled. During senior year, they will pick up the project once more, moving into an action phase in which they will attempt to influence policymakers and raise funds to turn their proposals into real reforms. Continue Reading


Oakland teacher goes to Finland to research school system

This piece by Skyline High School teacher Dave Orphal was originally published on TransformED, the group blog for the Center for Teaching Quality, and is being posted here with his permission. You can read more from Dave and other teacher leaders at TransformED.

David OrphalIf you are like me, you have been following Barnett Berry’s posts about his recent trip to Finland. (Find all of Berry’s entries, including the six-part Finland Travel Log, here.)

Barnett, along with Linda Darling-Hammond, union leaders, and other educational reform heavy-thinkers spent about a week together with Finnish education leaders and Pasi Sahlberg, the author of “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn form Educational Change in Finland?”

I am also heading to Finland. On Monday, I step onto the airplane. Organized by PDK International and EF Professional Development Tours, about forty American educators are going to meet with Finnish teachers, university professors, and the Ministry of Education.

Some folks reading this post might ask, “Why Finland?”

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