In the last week of July together with teachers coming from 7 different countries we've explored the world of soft skills and emotional intelligence. It was an intese and interesting journey that enabled participants (and trainers) to discuss about how to capture the attention of the audience/class, how to understand the emotions of the students, how to lead a group, how to manage conflict and how to the students to develop emotional intelligence and soft skills.
During the course we had the chance to explore many of the most important soft skills from communication and public speaking to leadership, from conflict management to emotional intelligence and empathy. Our journey started from analysing the most important principles of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and discussing the importance of going out of our comfort zone. For this reason, we challenged the participants to write down three negative beliefs that had somehow limited their life and to discuss one of them with a random person in the group. In this way, the participants saw how the comparison with another person allows to identify new strategies to overcome a problem or, in another way, to build together a new, more constructive belief. In fact, communicating a difficulty or an obstacle is the first step in identifying strategies to overcome it.
Another topic that was analysed during the training days was how to lead a classroom and a team. To the question "is there one leadership style better than another"? together we found the answer: “No!”
Each leadership style is more or less suitable for different types of situations. Therefore, the participants challenged each other to associate leadership styles with different situations, discovering that each context requires different leadership skills.
Participants had the chance to discuss and practice the differences between aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive and assertive communication, getting acquainted with the principles of the latter. The participants created a vademecum with the main verbal features of each communication styles (aggressive, passive and assertive), in order to be able to use this tool in the classroom to define the communication guidelines.
Furthermore, one of the aims of the training was to recognize the different communication channels (verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal) and to be able to manage them productively. Communication is not only about what we say, but also how we say it. To further work on this topic and on improving public speaking skills the participants delivered a 2-minutes public speech that was analysed by the whole group with the support of the trainer. This activity was highly appreciated since gave the participants the possibility to receive personalised feedback from both the other teachers and especially the trainer.
Lastly, an important issue is conflict management. Through brainstorming, groups of participants tried to identify which kind of words and phrases encourage conflict and, on the other side, which kind of words promote communication and cooperation within a group.In fact, being aware of the consequences of “positive” and “negative” words is the first step in resolving and mediating a conflict, a soft skill that is very important for working with groups of people. Finally, thanks to an education-based role-play simulation the participants had the chance to feel on their skin the different challenges that conflict are posing in education.
To improve emotional intelligence, the teachers were also challenged to associate correct emotions with different kinds of behaviors, in order to train their ability to be aware of their own and others' emotions.
Of course, there was no lack of cultural activities! The artistic and colorful landscapes of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale enriched the afternoons of the week, allowing participants to get to know each other, to network and to build a multicultural team!
It’s been an intensive week of exploration of... Innovative teaching methods! During our first week of August, we hosted 15 educators from all over Europe! Aušra, Vaida and Jūratė from Marijampolės Sūduvos gymnasium (Lithuania), Dorota and Tomasz from Powiatowy Zespół Szkół Nr 1 Im. Króla Jana Iii Sobieskiego (Poland), Tamara from Inicijativa - Centar za edukaciju (Croatia), Kristīne from Riga Centre language school (Latvia), Francisco Miguel from CDP San Bartolomé (Spain), Maria-Gabriela and Violeta from Association Exe - Expertize for a knowledge based society (Romania), Anja from Zavod sv. Stanislava (Slovenia), Svetlana, Anna, Ēriks and Marina from Liepaja Liedaga secondary school (Latvia).
The four main topics discussed during the week were the following:
PROJECT BASED LEARNING – An introduction to this very recent, innovative and effective teaching approach in which students proceed in the discovery and acquisition of the knowledge by inquiring, investigating and conducting research about a given problem. The positive aspect highlighted by participants about this approach was the fact that by investigating a real world problem, students are able to develop a high level of connection with the topic discussed, and consequently with the learning process. Learning is not perceived as a “duty”, but rather a mean to discover more about the reality around them.
ICT TOOLS – After more than a year of global pandemic which forced many of us to go through a phase of online teaching, we have realised how crucial ICT tools can be in our teaching approach. Getting back in the classes shouldn’t mean that we put all the acquired ICT knowledge behind: it should transition with us, inside our classes, in support of our students. Amongst the tools practiced, we tested Socrative, an app for administering test in a more engaging and efficient way; Mentimeter, a website to create presentation which encourage audience interaction; Quizlet, the perfect tool to study new concepts using digital flashcards sets and strengthening group sprit; and EdPuzzle, the answer to your wandering in case you are looking for a video-lesson creation tool.
NON FORMAL EDUCATION – The power of the Non Formal Education approach has been already proven in length and breadth. In this session, we focused on how to bring the Non Formal approach into the formal education system, and tested some of the tools which can be useful in class with our students, to make our lessons more engaging and effective.
OUTDOOR EDUCATION – Following the trail opened by Non Formal Education, we then explored the basic concepts of Outdoor Education and applied the approach in an urban setting. We explored Bologna city centre by taking pictures, pay attention to details around us, describing monuments, reading about fun facts and curiosities, counting natural elements, answering to quizzes, interacting with local people, interpreting Roman writings and overall, learning about the people and the places that make Bologna what it is. Precisely the Outdoor Education mindset!
By Friday, team spirit was so high that it was difficult to say goodbye. On the other hand, each person in the group was very eager to go back and start applying all the many ideas that emerged during the course. Another great week of inspiration was over, but only to be continued back in Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia and Poland!
Want to hear the experience from the point of view of one of our participants? No problem! Have a look at the article Tamara wrote about her week in Bologna :)
After sharing their expectations, contributions, and fears, they started to discuss what a Supportive Classroom is like. The teachers shared their opinions based on their experience from the school routine. One of the most interesting topic for them was the relevance of Social Emotional Learning in creating a supportive classroom and the importance of teaching our students about Emotional Intelligence, a concept developed in great details by D. Goleman. We explored the 5 pillars of EI: self-awareness, self-control, self-motivation, social skills and empathy. During the practical exercises, they created awareness maps, worked as “emotional investigators” to feel other person emotions and feelings, and practiced their empathic communication.
Later on, the group moved to the topic of Group Dynamics, another essential detail to look after when strengthening Classroom Management skills. There were discussed supportive classroom settings with the funniest membership and collaborative activities, which were evaluated as helpful and valuable both for school and everyday life. Besides that, exercises about growth mindset was a big part of practical language activities. Then, the group explored several Differentiating Instruction methods: our participants spent the day reflecting how to make their lessons more interesting, cooperation with pupils more productive and how to create a motivating environment for everyone by analyzing 4 elements of teaching: content, product, process and environment.
Then it was time to practice different ICT tools, an essential support to a Flipped Classroom approach. They had the opportunity to test one tool for video lessons, one tool for studying and revising concepts and one final tool to share interesting resources in a more engaging way. One the last day, we delved in Conflict Management conversations, specifically how to approach the conflict and communicate during the conflict. Teachers concluded the part by putting to test their conflict management skills taking part in a role play. To celebrate the ending of our week together, the group made a summarizing collage which presented everything they learnt during this active and effective week of training.
From the 11th to 17th of June, our course “Dual education and work-based learning” took place in Bologna. 6 teachers from Liceul Technologic Special Vasile Pavelcu (which specialises in students with deafness and other minor disabilities) and Liceul Technologic Nr.1 (specialised in food technology areas), both from Romania, came with the common goal of “making the best for their students”.
After a cultural tour around the medieval city centre of Bologna and tasting the local cuisine, they were ready to immerse into dual education and work-based learning. They had the chance to present themselves and the role they have in their schools, so that the course could be adapted to their necessities. Afterwards, they were able to learn what dual education is, its history in Germany but also the differences with the education system in Italy: two different ways of dual education and work based learning, and so many more opportunities!
During the week they could learn about the different models in which dual education can be implemented and the role of the companies, as well as creating together a checklist to find new partners for our school, taking as an example two Bolognese schools that have been collaborating with Ferrari and Lamborghini for almost 10 years to give students the opportunity to learn and practice in a big company, improving their employability at the end of the course.
On Thursday, the teachers had the opportunity to hear the experience of Paulina Walacik, transnational WBL coordinator of IFOM, a social enterprise that support the transnational work based learning of thousands of students each year. With Ms. Walacik they could understand the advantage that a WBL experience abroad can offer: learning a new language, becoming more independent, managing their own budget and getting to know a different culture and work environment. They also met Francesca Fava, Stefania Sabella and Irene Lucisano teachers and managers of FOMAL, a vocational and professional school where education and work are in synergy, providing a 360º learning to their students and real professional abilities and opportunities. Thanks to them, now the participants got to know good and innovative practice in the field of dual education and work based learning.
Finally, they could work together on a plan to implement dual education in their schools back in Romania, with a new and bigger network here in Italy to send some students for their internships. After a goodbye dinner and a last trip to Venice, they left full of inspiration, ideas and tools to start implementing these new methods in their own schools.
This is the question that guided our 10 participants during the course “Soft Skills and emotional intelligence for teacher and educational staff”, which took place from 04/07 to 10/07 in Puerto de la Cruz, in the amazing island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.
After a long journey to arrive there from all over Europe, the participants had the opportunity to meet each others: Susanne, Cornelia and Juliane from a secondary school in Austria, Tsvetomira and Teodora from a kindergarden in Bulgaria, Ilias, Georgios, Ilias and Aikaterini from an evening secondary school in Greece, and Anna from a secondary school in Estonia.
In the beginning, the group explored the broad concept of Soft Skills, the interpersonal skills which allow us to interact with other people. By investigating the topic with activities and exercises, the group discovered that Emotional intelligence plays a crucial roles in developing our interpersonal skills. Practicing activities of self-awareness, self-control, self-motivation, building social relationships and empathy with our students it’s a critical step in order to enhance their capacities to recognize emotions and act consequently, both with themselves and other people, and our 10 colleagues tested some concrete examples on how to do it.
Then, we dedicated time to explore the topic of Leadership and teamwork. By reflecting on the characteristic of great leaders, the group investigated the main leadership styles, distinguishing when it is appropriate to use each of them and eventually coming up with ideas and suggestions on how to develop each style. By using some role-play activities, each person was able to contribute to sharing knowledge about what makes a good leader, especially in relation with his/her team. Finally, the participants woke up their creative side when they were asked to portrait the characteristics which transform a group in a great team. A real success!
After that, we focused our attention on Communication styles: Aggressive, Passive, Passive/Aggressive and Assertive. Communication is not simply important, communication is everything. For this reason, I wanted my participants to investigated each style of communication in great details: first by analysing some case studies and exploring the emotions each style can trigger, then watching some videos, recognising clues which help us recognize a style among the others. As a result, the groups was able to determine typical goals, beliefs, looks, actions and feelings which characterize each style. After a successful morning of work, the rest of the day was dedicated to cultural activities, a tour which took some of our participants in the most beautiful and remote places of interest around the island.
Toward the end of the week, we started to feel the hard-work of the previous days was catching up with us, but the curiosity and the willingness to improve the skills was the fuel feeding our engines and this guaranteed another great day of training. This time, the topic was Non Verbal Language and Public Speaking. Did you know that 55% of what you communicated passes through your body language, and only 7% by your words? By analyzing photos and videos of positive and negative body postures, gestures and facial expressions, the groups was thrilled to have learned to read body language. We concluded the day by investigating the topic of Public Speaking: things to do and not do, to say and not say, and how crucial the audience’s role is in all of this.
Have you ever asked yourself if all conflicts are bad? How can we find beauty in conflicting situation? These are the key questions that guided our reflection on Conflict Management. Learning how to manage a conflict, and understanding other people’s reaction and interactions in a conflicting situation can be a valuable asset in order to gain something positive out of it, instead of feeling overwhelming stress.
To conclude our course, I asked my beautiful group to use again their creative skills to express their emotions: 10 pieces of art were created and presented, each of them highlighting different aspects of what they appreciated the most about the week, all of them with one thing in common: the happiness of feeling something had changed, and that new seeds were planted in their minds. Now it’s time to nurture them, and wait for the fruits.
The course was really appreciated by the teachers: “The course was very well structured, useful and interesting. The mentor is wonderful!”
The trainer, Giulia Zambon
Week 5-11 of July. Nine teachers from different countries are together to take a course on a common topic useful to all: stress and conflict management. The group is very heterogeneous: the teachers come from CEIP San Miguel in Spain, BGSZC Hunfalvy János Két Tanítási Nyelvű Közgazdasági Technikum and Fényi Gyula Jezsuita Gimnázium és Kollégium in Hungary, Tallinn School No 21 in Estonia and KCVJŠ in Czech Republic. After a day dedicated to the discovery of Bologna’s city center and the delicious typical dishes of Italian cuisine, the trainer Francesco introduced them to the main topic of the course and they started to get to know each other through some practical activities.
During the week they learned how stress can affect us on different levels and what we need to do to help our students: they tried to find good and bad practices to manage stress through a lot of practical activities, such as breathing exercises and visualization. They also thought about the importance of time management, especially for the students.
OnTuesday evening they also had the opportunity to climb the Asinelli tower in Bologna: 498 steps for a breathtaking view of the city from above.
The topic of resilience was also investigated: after a brainstorming about what this word can mean, they spent some time exploring their values and their self: understanding what is important in our life and what we love to do the most.
A tour of Florence, which ended with a typical dinner, was the perfect ending to a long day!
The teachers explored as well the topic of gratitude: how important it is to express it? Some “homework” was then assigned to them in order to apply what they have learned to their everyday life. They also delved into healthy eating and daily exercise. In the evening the teachers attended the final dinner together: gnocchi and tortellini were very popular and left a wonderful memory of Italian food.
In the end the last day was about conflict management: why conflicts arise and what we can do to see them as learning opportunities. Thanks to role plays and other practical activities the focus was on how to resolve conflicts within the classroom and how to make the most of them.
After the certification ceremony, the teachers were ready for a new trip out of town to discover Ferrara.
The participants truly appreciate the course and the tools acquired: “The course is very helpful, not only theoretical but also practical. We learned a lot of techniques that can be used in everyday life as well as work”.
We know they will be able to teach their students what they have learned here!
Have you ever been positively intimidated by how great, powerful, secret and mystical nature can be? Have your thoughts and feeling ever been inspired by some great urban or natural views, when you were visiting a city or maybe walking barefoot on the beach? If you have (and I am pretty sure at some point in your life you did), you know how good it can make you feel.
Surely, contact with the outdoor has a considerable positive impact on the cognitive, behavioural and emotional development of human beings since prehistory. So, how can we bring this into our classes, or rather better: how can we take our classes into the outdoor?
During our training course in Tenerife from 27/06 to 03/07, Kristina (from Osnovna šola Marije Vere, Slovenia), Ulrike and Verena (from BG Rein, Austria), Evgeniya, Polina and Kapka (from Kindergarten "Bratya Grimm", Bulgaria), Agnieszka, Grażyna and Krzysztofa (from Szkola Podstawowa nr 4 Mysłowice, Poland) and Magdalena (from Šolski center Postojna, Slovenia) tried to reply to this guiding question by exploring different aspects of Outdoor Education.
13th to 19th of June: a new immersion into Preschool Education began. This week we had the pleasure of hosting 9 participants from Bulgaria, from the schools Detska gradina 1 "Vedrica" Blagoevgrad, DG Bulgarche and DG44 "Velentina Tereshkova" and 2 from Romania, working in Gradinita cu Program Prelungit nr.37. They got to know each other on Sunday, during the cultural activities and the traditional lunch and dinner, where they had the chance to explore Bologna and taste the local cuisine.
The course about preschool education started on Monday morning with some practical activities to break the ice and get in the right mood. The teachers had also the chance to present themselves and their schools to the others: this was a perfect way to get to know how preschools work in other countries.
Tuesday was a day rich in experiences: in the morning the trainer Sara explained the importance of play based learning and of non formal education and, to better understand the method, some activities and games were implemented. In the evening we had the pleasure of virtually hosting a Montessori teacher from the Carducci preschool, who was so kind to explain the group the history and main principles of the method and she showed videos and pictures of the main materials used in the school. The evening was spent by the teachers exploring the churches of Bologna and enjoying a delicious pizza night.
Wednesday was free for the participants to enjoy a full day trip to Florence, learning about the history, culture and cuisine of Tuscany.
On Thursday the group had the chance to meet Carlotta of “Naturalmente Bambini”, who brought the participants in the magical word of outdoor education. She showed them all the spaces of the Podere, where the kids were playing in the sun and told them a bit of history of the place. The group was enthusiast of learning so much about a different reality such as this one.
In the end, Friday, was dedicated to the Reggio Emilia approach. The teachers learned about the 100 languages and the most important spaces that can be found in a Reggio Emilia school. With a goodbye dinner the week arrived to an end and it was time for the teachers to come back home with a luggage full or memories and experiences.
A new week of courses has just passed and we are here to tell you all about it!
From the 20th to the 26th of June, four participants came to Bologna to take part in the course about outdoor education, to explore tools, ideas, games and best practices together with practical experience and first-hand knowledge on how to integrate an outdoor approach in formal education.
Margarita from Bulgaria, Lenka and Natalia from Czech Republic and Maroš form Slovakia were ready to start their unique experience on Monday, together with the trainer Giulia, after a Sunday spent eating typical food and exploring Bologna.
Second week of June 2021, a sunny Sunday. Six teachers from different countries landed in Bologna, ready to start an incredible journey. They come from Sant Marc and Ricardo Campano schools in Spain, Dječji vrtic Rijeka in Croatia, and Da Vinci preschool in Czech Republic. After a nice day in the city centre, accompanied by a lunch and a tour of the city, theparticipants were enthusiasts of starting their training on Preschool Education on Monday morning.
Monday began with some get to know each other activities, where the teachers had the possibility of getting acquainted one with the other and meet the trainer, Sara. The first day rapidly went by talking about preschool education best practices and group activities with the aim of involving all the educators in enriching discussions about their experiences.
Tuesdays was about exploring the power of play-based learning and non-formal education, topics which were investigated through learning games, practical activities, group reflections and brainstorming.
On Wednesday the group delved into the Montessori method, a philosophy and pedagogy developed by Maria Montessori in the early 19th century. A presentation of pictures of Montessori authentic environment and materials was the starting point for discovering the method in a practical and experiential way. In the afternoon the teachers had the possibility of enjoying Florence, an amazing historical and artistic city close to Bologna.
Thursday the team headed to “Naturalmente bambini”, an educational association in Bologna developing an outdoor education project inspired by the experience of “The kindergarten in the woods”. The group is warmly welcomed and guided into the four hectars of Podere Ringoni by Carlotta, educator, pedagogist and president of the Associaton. Getting to know how the outdoor space is planned, organized and experienced by children and educators, meeting the children as well as having a look at the rich and creative documentation produced was according to one of our participants “the best way to understand the pedagogy”. The day ended with an explanation of the Bologna preschool outdoor experience and some ideas and advices on how to implement this pedagogy.
The last day was about discovering the Reggio-Emilia approach. A historical and theoretical background on this peculiar approach was followed by a practical session where participants could get in touch with concrete experiences through the support of video documentation.
After enjoying the last moments in Bologna, our participants got ready to travel back home. As one of the participant commented, “the course made me smarter with knowledge that I can now share with colleagues in my country”, and we can’t wait for them to share the knowledge and experience gained in their schools and countries, so as to inspire other preschool teachers and spread even more innovation and new approaches in early childhood education.