Friday, 6 December 2013


Learning is a part of everyday life so we never stop learning. It is not a vicious cycle, rather, a warm and comforting be able to guide and to be guided. I am an English teacher in Stockholm who not only teaches, but also learns from her students. I was once a learner and now a teacher and still, a learner. Learning begins at home and transcends into something greater, a teamwork between home and school.

I once did  a philosophy paper on Ned Nodding's 'care theory,' in which the teacher is the caregiver and if the teacher shows the students that he or she cares about them, then the students can sense that and care as well, for each other, for the subject-at-hand and for the teacher.

While being interviewed by the principals of some schools in Stockholm, I stuck to Ned Nodding's theory because I wholeheartedly agree with it, but to be honest, it is only common sense. I said that the teacher should show the students that they care and will not give up on them, it is only a good thing and the class functions better that way. Even more, when the teacher shows a passion for the subject that he or she teaches, students can sense that passion and in turn, they also get excited about the subject-at-hand.

I have taught 5th, 6th and 7th grade English in Stockholm, Sweden. Now, I teach 8th grade English. It is very different compared to teaching English in English speaking countries because there is less room for a continuous intellectual discourse between teacher and students and more required room for the basics because English, in Sweden, is a second language.

That means that I am expected to know Swedish before I can teach English. Thankfully, with the help of my Swedish speaking family members, a one-year intense course led by talented teachers and the mere necessity of speaking the language on a daily basis, I am practically fluent (some say, I already am). Most of my students can speak Swedish, most of them understand English, while a minority of them cannot even speak Swedish, let alone English. That is due to the fact that they have just moved into Sweden from other countries such as Iraq, Syria, Poland, etc....

Stockholm, although not as variegated as London, is still quite a diverse city and getting very close to London's level of diversity. It is a challenge for an English teacher like myself.  This is why extra help or tutoring time is necessary within or after school hours. That is why pictures speak louder than words and something along the lines of charades are good teaching tactics. That is why a teacher needs to show that he or she cares for the student and instill hope within that student by the use encouraging words like, 'Good,' 'Excellent,' or 'Perfect!'

The first school I worked in was an international school, the educational system very similar to that of Great Britain and USA. I felt at home. After a few months, I accepted the challenge of working in a Swedish school, where all of the teachers must speak Swedish first, even in English class. There was another difference, the difference of lecturing and majority rules. At the international school, teachers are used to giving instructions and teaching as they wish, sort of like a dictatorship...students almost never have the choice to choose what material they wish to read or how they should read (silently or out-loud).

I, being used to the English system, instructed the kids at the Swedish school to read out loud. Some began complaining that they wanted to read quietly. My partner teacher (there are two per class in this particular Swedish secondary school) said, "Let's just ask them what they want to do. Raise your hand if you want to read quietly." Majority ruled and they read quietly, to themselves.

From my experience so far, both systems work, whether lecturing or majority rules. I just find it so fascinating how they teach and grade at the Swedish schools compared to the English ones. I am very grateful to have such an experience. Each time, I find myself getting more and more attached to the students. I can say one thing, the hardest part about being a teacher is saying 'Goodbye' because every year, there is a new batch of students to break the ice with, guide and then, wish them 'good luck' or 'lycka till' in Swedish, for the next school year.

The following are images of 'farewell thank you' cards I received from my students at the international school, before I transferred into the Swedish school. The first is a note from a 7th grader's parents, accompanied by flowers and the second is a huge card made lovingly by my 5th graders! I miss them and hope to visit again soon.



Every year, I go to USA, I make an effort to meet up with two of my old high school teachers, my English teacher, Mr. Mossler and my Journalism teacher, Ms. Nye. They were both very passionate for their subjects, both really cared for their students and most of all, both brilliantly prepared me for University and the world. They are the epitome of the 'care theory' and the cycle of education. I still learn from them and it gives them pride to see one of their students becoming something in life.

Sunday, 5 May 2013


Jag, mig, själv på Moderna Museet

Is he Obsessive compulsive (OCD)? Is she just pure evil? 

Does he think that people who get married are forced to do so via social norm and that those who actually want to get married are idiots...and then, he meets the gorgeous, witty and smart new girl next door who completely changes his mind?

Is she a hopeless romantic who spends most of her time reading novels anddrinking coffee at cafes, hoping that ‘the one’ will walk toward her, utter ‘Hello,’ and start the venture to a lifelong relationship?

Does his life depend on the wages he makes as a fortune-teller at the carnival until one day, he correctly tells a businessman’s fortune, who decides to, in turn, gives him a business proposal, thereby bestowing him with millions?

Could she be the jobless, single mother who sneaks into her neighbour’s home to steal their gold jewelry, thinking that it is the only path to survival in paying off her debts and keeping a roof over her children’s homes?
Is he the cunning con artist who will change personalities if he has to? Is she the company receptionist who eats up all the gossip and spits it out as soon as she signs in the next person?

::Sigh:: Breathe…take it all in….

Do you know these people? Have you looked into their eyes? Have you read about them in newspapers? Have you seen a ‘WANTED’ AD? Has someone told you a funny, strange or disturbing story that they heard from someone else? Has a friend of a friend of a friend passed down a forwarded story via the internet or text that you found intriguing enough to turn into a novel? Have you looked in the mirror lately and wondered what type of personality should your next character or protagonist exert?

Believable and relatable characters, even extractions of our inner selves become personalities, whether a bubbly girl-next-door or an obsessive-compulsive man. The truth is we look for inspiration around us, often in others and mostly, in ourselves or so…I think. Here are some photographs of artwork I have seen around Stockholm, Sweden. Look into their eyes, can you read their personalities?

'Exhibition Poster' by Andy Warhol
1968, Moderna Museet

'Think...Dow Shalt Not Kill...,' by
Sture Johannesson,1967, Moderna Museet

'Portrait of a Danish Author, Helge Rode'
by Edvard Munch, 1908, Moderna  Museet

'Young Mother and Her Child, Capri,'
by Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann, 1880
'A Swedish Fairy Tale,' by Carl Larsson, 1897, Nationella Museet