HAMMOND | Juniors and seniors in William McCullom's Advanced Placement English class at Clark Middle/High School in Hammond had an opportunity to get a taste of the culture and life of the people of Finland and the Republic of Estonia in Northern Europe when he communicated with his class Friday via Skype.
McCullom is part of a program touring those countries that was organized by the American Federation of Teachers. He is spending about two weeks in the region. He is scheduled to return next week.
IPad in hand, he connected to the school district's computers and led a discussion on the culture and life of Europeans, their language, money, education system, lifestyle and people.
The students, along with substitute teacher Mary Eggers and Patrick O'Rourke, Hammond Federation of Teachers president who assisted with the trip, peppered McCullom with questions.
McCullom told students he discussed with an educator in Finland the number of standardized tests American students take. "She laughed," McCollum said.
"They don't do that in Finland, and they have one of the most successful education systems in the world."
"One of the major cultural differences here is that people will run you over if you don't get out of the way. Stay out of the way," he said with a smile.
To a question from O'Rourke, McCullom said it may take some time to develop a relationship with the country where a Finnish teacher can spend several weeks in the School City of Hammond. McCullom told students there are seven political parties, including a Tea Party similar to the one in the United States.
"In Finland, the driving age is 18," he told students. "Anyone can smoke here, and they can smoke anywhere inside or outside of public buildings. They deal with many of the same issues we deal with in the United States. They also have a drug problem."
McCullom also used his time to go over assignments with students. For instance, the juniors were reading "The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven," by Sherman Alexie.
Clark junior Maria Ulloa, 16, said she thought the discussion was interesting.
"The teachers there seem to have more freedom to teach kids than we do here. I also think it's better that they don't have so many tests like we do. That means they learn more throughout the year, rather than constantly preparing for testing," she said.