After a successfully implemented workshop with teachers and special educators from Albania and Kosovo in the year 2019, and a workshop organised with participants from North Macedonia in September 2020, teachers and special educators from Bosnia and Hercegovina were the fourth and final participants to join the Learning compass project with a training organised from November 4th to November 6th 2020. The event took place in a virtual venue as a direct result of adjustments to the COVID-19 pandemic, that may present logistical and health adjustments for international programmes but is also an everyday challenge for teachers in educational systems worldwide.
The three-day training started with introduction remarks presented by Jernej Grahor, CEP Project Manager. Together with Mrs. Anica Mikuš Kos, Slovenian Psychiatrist, Paediatrician and President of the Slovene Philanthropy, and Mr. Marko Strle, Director of the Centre for Communication, Hearing and Speech Portorož, participants were welcomed in the Learning Compass network and were encouraged, to share their experience and contribute to the sessions. This is the way to find solutions for joint challenges and good practices all teachers, special educators and other school employees can implement in their work and by doing so actively create a more inclusive, engaging and inspirational learning environment for the children in their classes.
The program of the first day included a presentation by Marko Strle on the topic of ‘Inclusion as a specialty of normalit’ and ‘Problem-based learning as a starting point for collaborative learning’. As Mr Strle presented, an inclusive school sees differences as a benefit, that can transform the school environment from a uniform approach to a place of plurality and different approaches, and by doing so enable the acceptance and recognition of all the students, their strengths and weaknesses. He later on presented good practices on how to build on the cooperation of teachers (coming from different backgrounds, teaching practices and with various formal education) so to build a comprehensive learning program.
Anica Mikuš Kos continued with the topic of ´School failure and its impact on children´, starting from the wider environment of elements (family, free time, community, health, school and other) that all have an impact on children. The same is true for school failure, that can not be simply explained by a lower academic success. In the effort of enabling a child to reach their full potential, a close emphasis needs to be given to their strengths, weaknesses, a wider environment, their motivation and other equally important elements. The last seminar of the day was devoted to the methods of activating resources for helping children with school difficulties. Special emphasis was given to the role of volunteer work as a valuable learning and teaching experience. Children, youth and the civil society can be a valuable human resource for all organisations and institutions alike, with the experience being equally rewarding for the volunteers who receive knowledge, work experience and other values through this form of solidarity and cooperation.
The program of the second day started with two discussions prepared by Mrs Mikuš Kos on the topic ´Specific learning difficulties and their psychosocial accompaniments´ and the topic ´Hyperactivity and Attention Disorders´. Special attention needs to be given to the recognition of such difficulties children might face and actively work to make the learning process and the environment engaging, safe and inclusive. Each child is unique, and their development depends on a wider environment constructed by their parents, family, teachers, school environment, peers and many other elements. That is why the exchange of experience, knowledge and best practices among participants in the training was very welcome to more efficiently overcome the challenges in the educational process and difficulties their students are faced with.
The training was continued by Mr. Strle, who presented the topic ´Adaptations of learning and teaching in educational work with children with special needs´. The participants were included in a dynamic learning process with methods they can implement in their everyday work. The activities continued with a discussion on how to approach and engage children with signs of challenging behaviour so to build a safe and engaging school environment.
The program of the day concluded with a presentation by Mrs Tamara Velikonja on ´The origins and role of conflict in the psychosocial development of children and adolescents´. Conflict as an everyday occurrence in life (and the school environment as well) can be seen through different lenses if we look at it closely and give attention to the effects causing conflict. Such an approach is also more prone to reach a peaceful resolvent through the consideration of one another.
The COVID pandemic has been present worldwide for more than a year and creates our new reality, with effects on the work process, school systems and everyday life. The program of the last day therefore also touched upon our new environment, starting with the presentation prepared by Mrs Mikuš Kos on the topic ´Children and school in time of coronavirus disease´. A discussion included various aspects of the disease on children, from their understanding of the challenging situation, struggles in school, perception of the disease as presented in the family circle, solidarity in the community and other important topics. Mr Strle continued with a discussion on the practical organisation of online classes and various aspects that should be considered with such a challenging adaption of the educational process. The teachers exchanged their good and bad experience, presented challenges, and jointly searched for solutions schools and teachers face on a daily basis.
The program continued with a presentation by Mr Strle on the topic of Individualised Educational plans. The lather included a discussion on general educational plans in comparison to individualised educational plans, namely to what extent, the use of which methods and with what target aims can individualised plans for children be implemented. Personalised teaching approaches with special attention to the learning process of individual children can also be efficient to identify and address anxiety in learning. Mr Strle concluded with a presentation of best practices that use creative approaches in the schools system, building on the strong power of poetry, drama class, storytelling, other art forms and activities that engage students and empower their strengths. Mrs Tamara Velikonja presented the last session of the comprehensive three day training with theoretical and practical advice on how to create a supportive school environment.
Participants who were actively included in the three day program, exchanged their experience and best practices unfortunately could not be acknowledge with a hand shake from the organising team as custom, but were rewarded with a symbolic certificate presented to each and every individual digitally. The training program might have concluded, but it is just the beginning of a learning process that aims at the sharing of knowledge with new teachers, special educators, parents and other individuals that actively work with children struggling from various disabilities. All the involved groups form a Learning compass network, that will strive to stay connected and continue upon it´s important mission.
Project is part of CEP’s program activities financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia in the framework of Slovenia’s Development Cooperation.