Have you ever wondered how different and similar a teacher’s life is in another country? We talked to two teachers who are working in Oslo about the advantages and challenges of being a teacher in Norway.
By most comparative measures, Norway is seen as a place close to a paradise on Earth in terms of living and working. It is also one of the most equal state on earth. It has a welfare state that is praised everywhere. Mothers and fathers get a unbelievably long maternity leave on full pay. The country leads the world in the well-respected human development index, which combines measures of life expectancy, literacy and standard of living. Norway is free, rich, peaceful, safe, healthy and, happy. Who wouldn’t want to work in such a worker-friendly, well-run country like Norway? But it might be different to hear first hand experiences to have a better idea of what it is like to do a certain profession. For disclosing this, we decided to talk to people from different professions. In this issue, we talked two teachers, Gul Selimoglu and Samir Taghizadeh about being a teacher in Norway:
– I wanted to influence the upbringing of the children of tomorrow’s society.
Gul Selimoglu wanted to have an influence on kid’s life in the beginning of their education and be a good example for the various minority groups which are represented in Norway
She wanted to know how the education system is built and how she could contribute to the system positively. In other words, instead of complaining about what was already settled, she rather has decided to take matters into her own hands and be a part of solution.
She is pleased with her job but as in other sides of the world, there are some challenges of teaching profession in Norway. Her daily tasks are different from one day to another, but to she loves to be with the kids during different activities.
How did you decide to become a teacher?
I chose my profession because I was frustrated by the education system, and wondered how she can do a positive influence on the new generation.Then I came to know that the kindergarten as an institution is the fundamental ground to start this contribution.
I wanted to have an influence on kid’s life in the beginning of education and an impact on the upbringing of the children of tomorrow’s society.
Kindergarden teacher Gul Selimoglu with her students.
What are the difficulties and challenges of being teacher in Norway?
I like my job very much, but I think we have a lot of responsibilities and little time to carry all the responsibility.
Here we have to deal with some rules and limits. We have something called framework plan. It requires you as a teacher take some formal responsibilities and then there are pedagogical and practical responsibilities. Approximately 7-8 hours of your workday is to be present with children, you should also do some paper work.
Another challenge is that we are too few staff compared to the number of children. There is no law in Norway determining the ratio of techer-student number. That is a big challenge.
How is your working condition? How long is your normal day at work?
The working conditions are very good, as I am leader. I have much authority over my duties and duration of work. But of course, district authority and my manager have supervisory authority on my job, so I am not th only who decides what I am going to do.
I basically work for 37.5 hours a week, but it does not happen in practice. As we do ot have always enough people, there is always much more to do to be able to finish the tasks on time. It means we have to work longer.
For Semihoglu, teaching task is not limited to formal working hours.
You said you graduated in 2005 and got a permanent job as pedagogical leader in the same year. Is it like this for the whole sector, or was this special for you?
In pre-school education sector, there is a pretty big shortage of kindergarten teachers. There are many kindergartens that fail to recruit educational leaders. There is a need for more in our field and the employers need to maintain the contracts with the working teachers. Often my fellow workers usually opt out for other jobs, as they are exhausted and cannot bear any more.
How is the income of your job? Did the salary affect your choice? There is a wide belief that teachers have a lot of vacation. Does this applies to you?
The salary depends on what position you get. There are different positions. Having a job as a kindergarten teacher means lower wages than being a pedagogical leader. It is kindergartens that announce the different positions and salary levels.
The salary has not affected me in my career choice. Wages were not high priority for me, but I can say that income is quite low in relation to the management responsibility and how much work we have compared to other professions.
As we are employed in the district, we have slightly different working conditions than primary school or secondary school teachers. We have less vacation than them. But in a year we have right to five weeks’ vacation as many other professionals in Norway have.
What are the things you like best and you do not like about your job?
I love the cooperation with parents. I also really like to be on the ward and do different activities. The advantage of having this job is being able to be with the children in the daily activity in the kindergarten. I really like approach of the Norwegian pedagogy at daycare and I am very happy to work here.
There are many needs of the young people and they are with us seeking comfort, help, resolving conflicts with friends, sharing concerns and much more. It is very particular and a great feeling to be present for the kids’ needs. The kids are pretty thirsty of knowledge and constantly go on “discovery process”. That is why we are there for them and it is very fun and explore the world with them.
Disadvantage or what we think is challenging part of the job may be the difficult conversations with the kids. There can be sometimes very challenging conversations with both children and their parents. Another difficulty is the writing process. I am not so fond of having many tasks at the same time. Writing lengthy reportsis not my favorite.
About Gul Selimoglu
Pedagogical leader in Språkstigen kortidsbarnehage and Åpen barnehage
Profession: Kindergarten teacher, mathematic and Norwegian teacher for primary school.
Hobbies: Boxing, traveling, going to concerts and cinema.
Samir Taghizadeh is working as a primary school teacher for 3 years.
– I wanted to influence the upbringing of the children of tomorrow’s society.
Samir Taghizadeh, a primary school teacher in Oslo, chose to become a teacher, because it is a very rewarding profession. Samir agrees that teachers have a lot of holidays, but during the school semester they work all the time.
Samir Taghizadeh is 30 years old and has worked as a primary school teacher for 3 years now, he is married and has a 4-year-old daughter. He came to Norway 13 years ago.
Taghizadeh had no regular schooling before he came to Norway and took Norwegian course and the whole primary school in one year. He later regretted it, because he realized he needed a better Norwegian language foundation for pursuing higher education.
Samir is at the same time a football referee in addition to being a teacher and he spends a lot of free time on this hobby. It is getting pretty serious now, since he has been assigned to matches in higher divisions.
-I have been football referee for 3 years and now it is getting serious with higher divisions. There are very close ties between being a teacher and a football referee. I use a lot of what I learned as a football referee in the class, says he.
Game Management and control of the match, you should have an overview of the game. You must follow the players, assistant referees and coaches at the same time. When I am in the classroom, I need to have an overview of the entire classroom. What is a student doing at the back and what another student does in the first row?
Why did you choose to become a teacher?
It is something I am passionate about. I love what I do. The main reason why I chose to become a teacher is because it is a very rewarding profession. You feel that you have passed all in a running race, when you see that a student has learned a new skill.
Children are wonderful to work with. When I go home I still keep being in the school territory. My students from last year writes me that they have got very good grades. Then I feel like I’ve done a good job with these students. That is the most important thing for me. The holiday was not the reason I chose this profession.
What are the difficulties and challenges of being a teacher in Norway?
There are too much paperwork and many meetings. You have also tasks outside the classroom, leaving little time for preparation for the teaching. Since I do not have time to prepare for the next day at school, I have to do it at home in the evening.
We have some challenges with children who have not had the foundational skills in kindergarten or in general from their parents. These students struggle with issues which we cannot teach in regular classes. But still most of them perform well and are quickly running through the school years at primary school.
How about working conditions? How is your regular day?
The students are in the school from 8.30 to 14:45 and sometimes to 13:30, but the teachers are there until 16.30 or later. I need to pick up my daughter at kindergarten and they close 16.30. So you can imagine what kind of rush it is to catch before they close.
Many point out that teachers have a lot of free days. Yes it is true that we have a lot of holidays, but during the school semester, we work all the time. It is not a normal 8-hour everyday unlike many other jobs. We are “at work” around the clock.
How did you start working after graduation?
I started to work as a teacher right after I got the teaching certificate. Norway needs several thousand teachers, and it will continue in that way for some years to come. The community grows and more children start school, so does the need for more teachers.
It is very normal to go straight to work after study. Many students has temporary works at schools before they finish their studies. But I haven’t had this kind of work.
I got to choose between job offers from the places I applied to. There are very few male teachers with foreign backgrounds in Norway. I think it is because that the teaching profession has a low profile with people with foreign backgrounds, especially among people from Middle East. One of the reasons that the teacher profession has low status is low wages. And the hectic days, as I named before, is another reason why people are not willing to become a teacher.
What kind of advantages do you have as a teacher in Norway?
Vacation is an advantage, but that’s not why I chose to become a teacher. If you take teacher education in Norway the job is guaranteed. There is also advantage of having a permanent job as soon as you graduate.
Starting salary for teachers is around 380.000 NOK, it is very low compared to other jobs and education level. It is perhaps 50-60% of the salary of a taxi driver in Norway.
It is important to like the profession. If you are here for the money or vacation, then it does not work. In the start of the university, we were over 40 people in my group but after the first practice period, almost half of the class quit. Teacher profession is not something you can do if you do not really like the profession.
What do you like and hate most about your job?
I am very happy with my job I never thought of getting another job. My wife will also be a teacher; she works at school now but will take a year of pedagogy education and work at school permanently.
We teachers are increasingly required to do new tasks. Almost everything is pre-planned so there is little freedom for us to plan our classes.
As a teacher, you learn something all the time, not just about the technical but also about relationships with people, concludes Samir Taghizadeh.
About Samir Taghizadeh
Teacher at the Trosterud primary school
Profession: Classroom and subject teacher at primary school.
Hobbies: Football referee
Here are some starting salary for different professions:
Nurse: 339.000 NOK
Shop assistants in retail: 280.000 NOK
Dental Hygienist: 360.000 NOK
Preschool teacher: 367.000 NOK