Joanna Lukkarila teaches primary school pupils in the middle of Helsinki's vibrant city centre. For her, the ultimate meaning of a teacher's work is worth defending: to defend society's equality and provide a fair and caring growth environment for children.
Class teacher Joanna Lukkarila teaches first-graders in a primary school with more than 500 students in Kallio, Helsinki. In addition to her own class, she teaches optional crafts and information and communications technology courses.
– I like my job because I get to see the joy of learning every day. I also witness the bad days, but those are also part of a teacher's job," Joanna says.
Individual support is important, but sometimes impossible
Before starting her teacher training at the University of Helsinki, Joanna worked as a teacher in various schools. Working as a substitute teacher showed her the everyday work at schools, and at times it seemed to be far from the ideals talked about in teacher training.
Every student is different, and it would be important in a teacher's job to be able to encounter students as individuals. It is the responsibility of the teacher to respond to each individual's challenges and provide the individual support required by the core curriculum. Everyday reality often clashes with this ideal.
– In reality, there can be thirty students in a class, so individual encounters and providing support for everyone is quite hard, even for a professional, Joanna says.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the job is balancing between the job's demands and resources.
– Group sizes should be smaller so that each student could be given adequate support.
Now all you can do is to take one day and one challenge at a time. The situation is mentally difficult because we work with people and every teacher would like to help. Not all first-graders can even read yet, and if there are 30 of them in one class, it is simply impossible to provide individual support, Joanna says.
Work for equality is needed
Joanna considers social equality to be an important value, and she wants to promote it as a teacher. There is plenty to do. Students come from different families, and families have different opportunities and abilities to participate in supporting schooling, for example, due to a lack of language skills. Not all problems can be solved by the school alone.
– I have worked only in schools in Helsinki, but in my work in the OAJ Council it has become evident that inequality is at a high level throughout Finland. It is also reflected in different ways in different parts of the country. In larger cities, teaching is more laborious as classes are very diverse. In small municipal schools, it is more about the declining number of pupils.
The most valuable resource of our society must be taken care of
In addition to promoting equality, it is important for Joanna to be fair, open and cherish education and learning, and ensure that it is safe for everyone to be in school. She is proud of her teaching profession and the skills brought by higher education, and she hopes that more Finns will see how important this work is.
– Without education, we have no civilization, and without educated civilization we have no functioning society. Education is needed so that we can act in a civilized manner.
The good atmosphere of the teaching community is an important resource for Joanna. She enjoys being with colleagues and the flexible cooperation. A shared and valuable ideal of the work helps through even the most difficult days.
– I am proud of the impact of our work on society as a whole. We bring up educated, literate and arithmetic young people with great language skills. Sometimes it is frustrating when you feel that the excellent quality of teaching in Finland is taken almost for granted. But perhaps it can be seen as a sign that we teachers have managed to do our job well despite the difficult circumstances.