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Professional and Personal Change Text MARTHA ELFORD Fulbright Specialist 2018–2019, Niilo Mäki Institute, Jyväskylä

University of Jyväskylä, EduCluster Finland and Niilo

Finally, my experience in Finland changed me

Mäki Institute invited Fulbright Specialist Martha Elford

professionally by giving me the opportunity to

to Finland to collaborate on enhancing teaching and

witness first-hand what I have heard about edu-

learning with technology, and on developing current

cation in Finland for the past 15 years. By seeing

in- and pre-service teacher training practices by using

Finnish education with my own eyes, I have the

digital guidance systems. Dr. Elford’s long experience

professional responsibility to spread the good

and research in the area was found very important by her

word about what we could be doing in the USA to

Finnish hosts. At the same time, the Finnish experience

incorporate a research-to-practice model that

turned out to be transformational for Dr. Elford herself.

works so well in Finland. Although not everything can transfer directly across cultures, the one thing

Dialogue Leads to Professional Improvement

that makes sense to me is to at least examine more

I had no idea what it would mean to me personally

related to Dyslexia and Literacy. This research

and professionally to come to Finland as a Fulbright

could make an important difference in education

Specialist. My experience as a Finland Fulbrighter

in the USA.

closely the research that is coming out of Finland

changed me professionally by informing me of peda­ gogical practices that would improve my teaching at

The Finnish Work-Life Balance

the university level as I design and deliver online

I grew personally while in Finland through the

instruction. I witnessed the integration of pedagogy

friendships I made. I honestly felt that every per-

into every presentation and course design in which

son I met deposited a token of wellbeing, kind-

I participated — from the Fulbright Orientation to

ness, and value into me as a person. I still marvel

Grade 6 practice teacher. This reminded me that

at how quickly I formed relationships with the

pedagogy should be integral and intentional for edu-

other Finland Fulbrighters. I am sure it was no

cation to be done well. As a professional who focuses

accident, because one of the things I learned about

on teacher preparation, I attribute my experience as

Finnish people is that everything is intentional

a Finland Fulbrighter to instilling in me the renewed

and purposeful.

purpose to infuse pedagogy into the life and work of

I noticed how my colleagues in Finland had a

every special educator and classroom teacher who

healthy work-life balance, and I wanted to bring

enrolls in my university courses.

that home with me. Their examples made me

Another way my experience as a Finland Ful-

believe it is possible for me, too. I started practicing

brighter changed me professionally was by giving me

some new behaviors while I was in Finland related

a voice. I have never felt as valued and as listened to

to wellness and work-life balance. I find it difficult

as a professional and as a person. I am so impressed

to describe how invigorating this has been for me.

by how sincerely interested and committed the edu-

It is as if just being in Finland gave me permission

cators in Finland are to learning and engaging in

to be my best self.

dialogue that leads to professional improvement.

Finland is part of me now. Being a Fulbright Fin-

The conversations I had with Finnish educators gave

land alum adds a dimension to my identity that I did

me confidence that I could never have achieved as a

not know was missing. Because of Fulbright Fin-

professional without this experience.

land, I am a better professional and a better person.

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Martha Elford visiting Valteri with Project Coordinator Juha Lahti from the Niilo Mäki Institute. Valteri is a national Centre for Learning and Consulting. It supports the neighborhood school principle by offering a wide range of services for the needs for general, intensified and special support. Fulbright Specialist Program professionals-specialistsand-teachers-variousfields/fulbrightspecialists-program

Profile for Fulbright Finland

Fulbright Finland News 2/2018  

The Fulbright Finland News is a biannual magazine published by the Fulbright Finland Foundation.

Fulbright Finland News 2/2018  

The Fulbright Finland News is a biannual magazine published by the Fulbright Finland Foundation.