In short, the buzz around the Bammy Awards hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive.
My mind raced back to a Bammy-related blog post I had read in the fall. An American teacher (and friend of mine) Pernille Ripp had written about her not-so-pleasant experiences at the Bammy Awards as a nominee. And her list of grievances was long.
The first thing I learned was that Finnish education was obnoxiously criticized at the event, which made me question the Bammy Awards commitment to their own vision statement “to help reverse the negative national narrative that dominates the education field.” According to Pernille,
“The bashing of Finland was misplaced, not a big deal, but at the same time in poor taste. I celebrate all of my students’ success, no matter how others did. I celebrate when my colleagues do incredible things, when people achieve their dreams even if they did better than I did. Even if they achieved something I cannot.
Why you would ever want to ‘beat’ another nation that educates better than we do is beyond me. Education is about connecting and sharing, not about keeping our secrets so that others cannot steal them. We should recognize what Finland has done and then focus on ourselves and the things we need to work on.”
Pernille also noted that the event’s comedian was so distasteful that she felt the need to apologize to the families of her students who were watching live:
“I never wish for any of my students to get sick… I don’t expect gifts and that if they ever do give me a bottle of lotion, an apple mug or a Starbucks gift card… I am surprised and humbled by their generosity. One of my biggest gifts in education are all of my students and their families and yet that comedian tried to degrade that.”
American educators (Pernille included) have also criticized the Bammy Awards for being a popularity contest that recognizes those who are most active on social media. This is a valid concern. It’s so important to honor those out-of-the-limelight educators who are quietly making a difference in the field of education, too.
A Good Idea Though
Despite all of these criticisms, I still really like the Bammy Awards’ idea of hosting an event to celebrate the work of those who are making a difference in education.
Too often, I’m saddened to hear how little American educators are respected and trusted to do their jobs well. And yet I know from experience in American schools, how capable, competent and committed they truly are.
About a month ago, I met an American high school teacher who told me that every day he has to “punch in and out” of school, recording the times that he arrives and departs. No reason is given for this requirement. His district insists on collecting this kind of data, and he does what he’s told.
I shared this with a Finnish colleague of mine and she was appalled. We both imagined the needless pressure that a requirement like this would put on American educators to overexert themselves and measure their worth by the number of hours they put in.
Teachers in the United States need to keep hearing that they’re trustworthy and appreciated. And the Bammy Awards is something that might offer this kind of encouragement.
I know it’s cliché to say “winning doesn’t mean much to me” but I’m going to say it anyway: winning this award doesn’t mean much to me. If (somehow) I win, I’ll be grateful and if I don’t, I’ll still be grateful. This is not an award that I deserve. I know that I’ve been graciously gifted in so many ways this past year.
Already I’m very touched that a “Taught by Finland” reader and Twitter friend – Gwen Pescatore - took the time to nominate me. Ironically, Gwen’s the same person who nudged me to start this blog in the first place! Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have given blogging a chance if it wasn’t for her initial push.
This is what she wrote about me in the nomination:
"Tim is an American teacher teaching in Finland this year. He has provided a window into the Finnish education system, and generously shares his experience with all of those around the world wanting to know more, on his blog, Taught By Finland. Tim's blog does a great job of dispelling myths about Finnish education, celebrating what's great, and recognizing the differences. According to a recent post, Finns say he also reminds them of the things "they've come to take for granted".
In addition to blogging about his experience, Tim co-hosts [a Twitter] #FinnEdChat on Sunday nights here in the US (and wee hours on Monday morning in Finland) with Timo Ilomaki."
Over the last eight months, keeping this blog alive hasn’t been easy. From settling into life in Finland to starting at a new school to having our second child in late-January, oftentimes I've wondered how I would find the time to produce anything of value.
With that said, I have been buoyed by the steadfast encouragement of “Taught by Finland” blog readers. Knowing that many of you have appreciated my writing has spurred me on.
Thank you for your commitment to reading this blog! I’m committed to sharing my experiences with you. Happy Easter from Finland!