When you think of your time at school, what images come to mind? For many, the idea of childhood education is synonymous with rote learning, uncomfortable uniforms, or stressful exams. Such negative perceptions are what Dr. Kalypso Filippou and her colleagues at EmJoy Education are hoping to change.
EmJoy is a non-profit organisation aiming to bring together teachers and educational professionals, to provide a network for the exchange of ideas and to encourage members to embrace joy in education. Although members, and indeed, the EmJoy team themselves, are spread around the world, this non-profit organisationwas born right here in Turku. Kalypso and her classmates, Dimitra Spyratou and Andrea Magee, are graduates of the MA Education and Learning at the University of Turku, and it was here that the idea for starting their own organisation first began to take shape.
– EmJoy was really born around summer 2018. The idea came when Andrea and Dimitra attended a successful educational conference in Romania established by another UTU graduate, Alexandra Anton. Everyone got really inspired, and people were encouraging Andrea and Dimitra to do the same – to organise events and bring teachers together. We put our heads together and we established EmJoy as a registered non-profit organisation here in Finland. The fourth member of our team is Matina Kallivoka who is an experienced web-developer responsible for our website. Having someone not working directly in the field of education has greatly contributed to the development of our organisation.
Starting a new organisation in a foreign country can be a tall order, but fortunately whoever EmJoy turned to, including the registration services and other authorities, have been supportive. The team are also delighted that the connections and relationships formed during their studies have endured even several years after graduation.
–The three of us still have a close connection to the Faculty of Education where we graduated from. Both the Director of the Master’s Degree Programme, the Programme Coordinator and the teachers have really supported us, for example by promoting and sharing our events with the alumni network. We’ve been really happy to collaborate – for instance, we give discounts to alumni members and current students, and we promote both the master’s programme and the University of Turku. Mentioning the University of Turku and the programme is unavoidable as whenever we share the story of EmJoy at events we always go back where everything started, in Turku.
From Theory to Practice
EmJoy aims to be accessible to all professionals currently working in education. The relationship between theory and practice can often be one-sided, with data from the classroom making it into academic journals, but rarely the other way round. Given the professional backgrounds of the EmJoy team, this is a problem they are uniquely qualified to address.
–Andrea and Dimitra are teachers, and what came up a lot from their experiences is the need to have another community to support each other, where teachers can share the challenges but also share ideas, materials, and networks. As I followed an academic path, I thought that this is also a way for the university to come closer to the practitioners, and to the teachers.
EmJoy’s mission is inextricable from the sense of community between professionals in education. With every member of the organisation steeped in academia, they were acutely aware of both what’s great about this community, and what could be developed further. Mainly its connection to classroom teachers and educators of every stripe who work daily with students and do not have time to familiarise themselves with the latest in academic research.
–We write academic articles, and we go to conferences, but do the findings actually reach the teachers? EmJoy offers a way to do events where university staff can switch the language of academia to the actual practitioner’s language and then bridge this knowledge gap.
EmJoy offers three main types of events for members. First, there are the ‘Teach Clubs’, where teachers can network and share their experiences. Secondly, they organise seminars throughout the year, where university researchers can present their latest findings. Finally, there is the annual ‘Joyful Festival of Education’, a two-day conference packed with inspirational speakers and practical workshops. Whilst the 2019 festival took place in Athens, the 2020 edition, like so many events this year, had to be moved online. However, this didn’t change the positive feedback from participants, and also allowed for more members to get involved.
– I thought people would have been tired of online interaction and webinars, but somehow everyone was excited about meeting other people with positive attitudes. Participants got to learn and reflect during the workshops, first about themselves but also about their work, and also got new ideas about their teaching. So, it was great, and we’ve already started planning for next year!
Inspired by Finland
The fingerprints of the Finnish education system are all over EmJoy’s ethos. It is common knowledge that we do things a little differently here, particularly during early-years education. As an example, take the STEAM project that incorporates science and technology learning into the curriculum starting in early education with playful and engaging classes in subjects such as chemistry and physics. The concept of finding and embracing joy in education comes straight from the Finnish playbook and provided the spark for EmJoy to emerge.
– There are so many good aspects to education here, especially supporting students to be themselves, having a stress-free environment and being in nature. I’m from Cyprus, Andrea is from Northern Ireland, Dimitra is from Greece… We know that we come from more competitive, high-pressure education systems, so we thought joy and feeling content by what you are doing as teachers and educational professionals is a key point we can use and aim for through our events.
EmJoy is a small team, but they are hopeful that their international members will be inspired to help expand the organisation by spreading the word in their home networks and organising their own meetups.
– One of our followers has recently moved to Australia so we are supporting her to start her own events, perhaps under the EmJoy umbrella. Here in Finland, it would also be great to give more options for members, for example by inviting more speakers.
Finally, Kalypso encourages anyone else thinking of starting their own organisation in Finland to take the plunge, as the infrastructure here allows international talents to submit the necessary paperwork in English. There are also plenty of services able to support you.
– Everyone in the registry office has been really helpful. We hadn’t done this before so we were not sure about the application process or what documents we needed. Definitely ask for help from these kinds of services and use the resources that exist!
Read the rest of our Talent Showcase 2021 by clicking here. The other stories include Slade Takala-Lamey, a video production professional from London and other testimonials of Turku-based international talents!