"Almost from the time I started my working career, colleagues used to tell me that I would be a great teacher. That may sound normal for many, but I guess it sounds rather unusual for someone working for decades as a musician and around the creative industries. From time to time I did give lessons, lectured in courses and took part in music examination boards in two countries, but still my main activity was making a rather loud noise in front of an excitable audience.
Back in 2007 I moved with my wife to her native Finland and I almost immediately started working as a music teacher. Not having a direct pedagogical background, I tried to put my knowledge of my craft to good use and transfer some of my enthusiasm to my students. Musicians are used to doing their work in front of people who actually like them, but this situation was different. Every classroom and every group represented a whole new audience whose respect and cooperation would have to be earned from the start. It did demand work, but it was a more than welcome challenge. The positive experiences made me stay on; students of different ages happily making music has been a reward that goes beyond hours worked or kilometres on the counter.
One thing I particularly appreciate about the Finnish system is the training opportunities offered to working professionals. The University of Lapland has been providing training courses for music teachers and I had my chance to dip my toe in the water. Soon afterwards I found out about the Separate Pedagogical Studies (erilliset pedagogiset opinnot) course offered by Specima and directed to teachers from a non-Finnish background. I applied to join the course, which was merged with the standard course offered to Finnish students. It was very practically organised, combining both tutored and independent study and making perfect use of the web, enabling working students to follow it.
The 63 op/study points course did offer solid theoretical grounding and went beyond the mere theories of pedagogy down to realistic, day-to-day practice. It was also a wonderful combination of students from different backgrounds and disciplines and I did sense that students did get to learn from each other as well. Different ideas, different experiences, different ways to look at the same old problems. It all felt like a breath of fresh air. What I personally found most rewarding was the chance to take a step back and think on my own ways of working while at the same time I was given expert advice: what I was doing right, what I was doing wrong, how could I possibly improve it all and make it meaningful.
By the end of the course I felt like I had developed a way of working that would be possible to constantly adapt to changing requirements and provide maximum benefit for my students. Gaining a professional qualification is one very important thing, but I can confidently say that I walked out of this course a better teacher, and that itself is invaluable."