Reetta Nisonen teaches visual arts for students in both upper comprehensive school and upper secondary school. She also acts as an internship instructor for teacher students. She feels motivation plays a big role in the work of a teacher. She has a clear message for the teacher students concerned about the complexity of the work: the most important thing is not to be perfect but to be present as a human being to learners.
Reetta Nisonen says that already in upper secondary school she realised she wanted a job that combines visual arts and interaction with people. Inspired by her friend's example, she applied to study art education, and she has not regretted her decision for one moment.
Now Reetta teaches visual arts for students in both upper comprehensive and upper secondary schools at the Viikki Normal School.
– The work is really interesting and varied. Young people are awesome and funny, and it never ceases to amaze me how smart they are, Nisonen says.
Young people are awesome and funny, and it never ceases to amaze me how smart they are.
The core curriculum also sets goals for the teaching of visual arts. The freedom to use one's own creativity in achieving goals keeps up the interest in the work. Many would be surprised at how diverse the subject of visual arts is.
– Art is more than just doing things with your hands. During the lessons, we look at things from many different perspectives because art is related to society, current debates and news in many ways, Reetta says.
A teacher supports and helps students to find their strengths
According to Reetta, the importance of motivation is emphasised in teaching. If a student feels that they cannot draw something, they cannot be left alone to complete the task.
– If a student comes and says, 'I'm bad at drawing', it is my job is to tell them that visual arts is not simply about drawing. Together we can explore the things they could be good at and how we could practice these things together, Reetta describes.
If a student comes and says, 'I'm bad at drawing', it is my job is to tell them that visual arts is not simply about drawing.
In addition to her work as a visual arts teacher, Nisonen acts as an internship instructor for teacher students. Guiding students to become teachers has also helped her reflect on her identity as a teacher.
– If I would describe my relationship with my work with one word, it would be 'committed'. I am committed to what I do. I am committed to the work community and the young people with whom I work every day. And I am sure all this reflects in my work.
Teachers need more support at the beginning of their careers
At Reetta's workplace, teachers guide future teachers who complete their teaching internships at Helsinki Normal Lyceum. As a tutor for future teachers, Reetta knows about their thoughts of choosing a teacher's career.
– Surprisingly, future teachers are often worried about how they will cope with this job. The perception of the work's heaviness is probably partly due to the way the media report on the work of teachers and partly because the work is really demanding. People applying for the sector are also often really conscientious and prone to perfectionism.
Surprisingly, future teachers are often worried about how they will cope with this job.
Conscientiousness, combined with demanding work and the fact that a teacher does not have working hours like other professions, can quickly lead to exhaustion. Reetta encourages every future and current teacher to be merciful to themselves.
– In a teacher's job, it is important to learn to draw the line on how much you demand of yourself. I won't be of any use to the students if I have wearied myself pursuing perfection. Students don't expect that either, but they expect the teacher to be present, honest, open and humane, Reetta says.
She hopes that every teacher at the beginning of their career would receive peer support in their first job from a more experienced colleague.
– Support should be provided when it is most needed. Yes, a teacher's job becomes easier as you gain more experience, teaching materials and self-confidence. They all make everyday work easier.
Support should be provided when it is most needed. Yes, a teacher's job becomes easier as you gain more experience, teaching materials and self-confidence.
Reetta hopes that teaching as a profession would be attractive in the future as well, as the work contains so many good and essential aspects.
– The best part about working as a teacher is that you are constantly learning new things. It's also great when a teenage student says visual arts teaching has opened up new perspectives or completely new ways of thinking. Such feedback feels heartwarming, every time.