Written by Janet English

14. The Value of Time in the Learning Process

“It’s better to use a lot of time to something rather than hurry hurry hurry all the time.”

Chapter 14

After nearly seventy consecutive days of travel, I take the train from Helsinki to Joensuu and arrive home to much warmer weather.  The snow is melting, the songbirds have arrived and it’s no longer safe to walk on the lake.  I borrow my neighbor’s bike and strap the video and lighting equipment to the bike rack. In my backpack I carry the tripods and sound equipment.  The sun is shining, plants are growing rapidly, and it’s a lovely day to ride to the university on the forest trail.

Today I’m interviewing Marja Kukkonen, the third grade teacher who earlier discussed students’ paintings of the Finnish forest (Chapter 3). I’m curious to learn how she approaches and teaches problem solving skills to both student teachers and primary students.


“I want to emphasize the point to my (teacher) students that learning happens only if the child’s own brain is working so we can’t put anything in there. So we always have to remember to turn them on, in a way, and then give them something that they discover things themselves. It happens in all the subjects so it’s always the starting point. We don’t give them anything ready, we make them discover themselves so it could be in art it could be science, of course, in mathematics, in mother tongue, anything. It always has to start with getting the children using their brain.”

I ask how she sequences the lessons because Finnish methods are difficult for me to understand.  The Finns don’t have lists of content to cover, they rarely give tests, they rarely grade classwork or homework, and they don’t have online grading programs.  Finnish teachers are given long periods of time to teach their lessons and they  include problem solving into almost every lesson.  How would she teach problem solving skills if she had to hurry through her lessons?

“It’s better to use a lot of time to something rather than hurry hurry hurry all the time. It doesn’t actually pay off like that. I believe that we have to give them time to do things properly and if they learn something well it can be transferred to something else so we don’t have to take just a little bit of everything. It’s not useful in my opinion…. It’s just the opposite, actually. So there are some things they learn very well and then they can use their knowledge and their skills and their thinking in other things.”