Ten years ago I did not even suspect that one day I would become a resident of Narva. By today I have lived in Narva for a bit over a year and have not regretted this decision for a moment. My closer acquaintance with Narva began in 2004 through a project “Creating a study system for Estonian language as a second language in the preschool age”. As the leading partner of this project was the University of Tartu Narva College then several meetings were held in Narva. Already my first contact with the town left me with good memories. Excursion in the Narva castle and a walk by the Narva river. People we met in the college were open and cooperative. From these meetings commenced the collaboration with educators of preschool teachers in Narva.
While being the head of teacher training department at Tallinn University Rakevere College I collaborated through different projects with Narva College and also with people involved in preschool education subject field from Tallinn and Tartu universities, and Tallinn Pedagogical Seminar. It was always nice to meet in Narva, as this allowed me to visit the town that so far had not been among my travel destinations.
From meetings held in Narva started my acquaintance with Katri Raik, who at the time was the director of Narva College. Katri was the first person who suggested I should link my professional life with Narva College. Ten years ago I was not yet ready for this step. But teaching mostly Russian speaking students in Estonian language, so that it would give positive results both from teaching as well as from learning aspect was a truly enticing challenge. When Tatjana Sile, the head of the Early Years Teacher programme, proposed that I would come and teach the subject of “Education and development during pre-school years” in Narva college, I did not doubt for a minute. That was six years ago.
Since that “yes”, Narva began to draw me ever closer. Next year new subjects to teach followed, yet I was still driving back-and-forth between Rakvere and Narva to deliver lectures. Each time I went there for several days, I used my evenings to walk around Narva city centre. Three years ago I officially became a full-time lecturer at Tartu University Narva College, and today, after Tallinn University Rakvere College was closed, it has become my only workplace.
Parallel to developing the preschool teachers’ curricula in Rakvere College I started to take part in the Narva College curricula development. Already for 10 years Rakvere College was involved in connecting the preparation of preschool teachers with environmental pedagogy and outdoor learning, due to the rise in importance of ecological education. These topics that are so close to my heart I have brought along to preschool teachers’ training in Narva.
An important aspect in teachers’ training in Narva is preparing to work in multicultural study environment. A great challenge also lies in developing and implementing functional Estonian language teaching system for preschool institutions in Narva and Ida-Virumaa county in general, the areas that often lack Estonian language environment to support language acquisition. The skills how to use natural environment when working with children will surely be beneficial in this field as well.
In addition, from Rakvere to Narva I brought along the outdoor learning conferences tradition and today I am also organizing the XI outdoor learning conference. It is a special format conference, befitting its name – workshops, or should I say workgardens, where trainers and teachers-practitioners introduce good ideas for teaching outdoors – take place outdoors on two days. It is an especially enjoyable experience in the plentiful opportunities offered by nature and city environment surrounding Narva College. I invite you all to come and discover life in a border town – in the beautiful Estonian town of Narva.
I am very happy I have the chance to do something I really love – to work as a teacher. Even though I tried to resist this choice of profession in my youth, life brought me back on the right track and always, when one door closes, another opens to new challenges and opportunities. My journey as a teacher began in a school and a small rural preschool. When I moved to the capital city of Tallinn, I was again “forced” to work in a preschool, but that is where I remained, as the work suited me very well.
After 18 years as a preschool teacher and parallel university studies I became by chance a teacher of teachers at Rakvere Pedagogical School. I was able to pass on my practical experiences as a preschool teacher, complemented by the freshly completed Masters’ Studies pedagogical prism. When the pedagogical school closed, Tallinn University had opened its Rakvere College and I continued my journey there as a lecturer.
As I already described previously, Rakvere was slowly accompanied by Narva, and again through new challenges I had the chance to do the work that I love the most, but also consider to be extremely important for the society in general. To be a good preschool teacher is a great responsibility, as the preschool years help build the foundation for the rest of the life for individuals. The more so I feel my responsibility as the teacher of preschool teachers. A teacher must learn all life long, and so today I am again a student, researching the opportunities of the implementation of outdoor learning and obstacles faced by preschool institutions in my Doctoral studies. Wishing a beautiful World Teachers’ Day to all teachers!
Post conference tour: study visit to Narva will take place on Monday, January 20th
Besides visits to education institutions to be chosen during the conference (Narva Colleague, school, kindergarten, vocational School or Estonian Language House) all participants will have a guided tour in Ida-Virumaa, Narva Jõesuu and Narva, open air coffee break at Valaste waterfall, box lunch and a dinner at Narva castle will be included.