Teaching in Skellefteå

11 januari 2018

Emelie Eriksson is a teacher at Norrhammarskolan in Skellefteå, one of 33 schools in Skellefteå municipality. We asked her about her experiences of teaching in Sweden, and in Skellefteå in particular.

What is the best thing about being a teacher in Skellefteå?
There are lots of good things. First, Skellefteå municipality is very progressive, educationally. The municipality (the Swedish version of a UK local authority) Is keen to ensure that  teachers not only embrace new developments in teaching but also prepare our students to be well-rounded people.

Students are not just here to learn the things we tell or show them. We want to make sure that we equip them with a critically-analytical mind-set that they can take into the outside world or onto university. We also, of course, want them to be good human beings.

As an example of Skellefteå being forward-thinking, the municipality has encouraged us to have a thriving ICT department at the school. The municipality knows that digitalisation is going to totally change society and we’re kind of sculpting the curriculum around that inevitability.

I was also urged to become involved with eTwinning, an educational platform for teachers around Europe, to communicate, collaborate, develop and share projects with other European schools.I have been working on eTwinning for two years and it's the perfect way to let students know that we're part of a big world. It's not just Sweden, and this little place in Sweden –we’re operating in a huge world. I think it’s great that Skellefteå encourages us to do this. Otherwise, Skellefteå is just a great town. It’s manageable, friendly and close to some amazing nature.

How much freedom do you have in setting the content of the lessons?
I have almost total freedom to manage the content of the lessons. The curriculum offers us guidelines but it’s up to usteachers to put the lessons together. We can be really creative –it’s great.

For example, I run 15-20 minute, micro lessons for children about very specific subjects such as the Eiffel Tower or Rosa Parks. The kids seem to really love that storytelling approach. How much emphasis is put on exam results? Not much until the children are in their mid-teens.

We think the most important thing is that the students are happy at school. Then they learn. If they are sad, worried, or insecure, it is difficult for them to enjoy learning.

How are Swedish children taught to think? Are they taught critical analysis?
Yes, the children are taught critical thinking. It’s in the curriculum. It is important, especially today, that the students develop their ability to critically review information, facts and circumstances and to realize the consequences of different options. We have a lot of good material.

For instance, we have a site that shows short films about how to be critical about what you read on the internet and so on. How to spot fake news,for example. We watch one movie and then we talk a lot about that. We ask, “How can we take lessons from this?”

How much emphasis is placed on learning outdoors?
It is probably different for every school but we are close to the forest, which means we have the opportunity to work outdoors. I think most schools work outside whenever they can. I worked in a preschool and we were outside very, very often, sometimes even to ski!

How does the Swedish system deal with disruptive students?
We work with inclusion. Education should be adapted to each student's needs. Therefore, teaching can never be designed equally for everyone. In challenging circumstances, it’s best if we can have two teachers per class –one to work with the pupil, or pupils, who need help and the other to teach the general class.

What sort of ongoing education/training do teachers receive?
We have lots of opportunities to develop ourselves professionally. The Swedish National Agency for Education offers many courses and we’re encouraged to take advantage of them.

I like to keep up to date and test new tools and ways of working. I’m taking courses on digitalisation, courses through Microsoft Education, etc.

How many hours do teachers work a week in Sweden?
45.5 hours a week. 35 hours at work and 10.5 hours at home, although it’s all very flexible. We have a good work-life balance here. Also, the relationship between the teachers and the municipality is great. Really collaborative and supportive.

Skellefteå really is a great place to be a teacher.


If you want to read more about teaching in Skellefteå, click here.