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home / How do you teach when your students are in a country at war? Ukrainian teachers look to Rwanda
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How do you teach when your students are in a country at war? Ukrainian teachers look to Rwanda

18 Mar 2022 - by Stories that Move

On Monday schools across most of Ukraine ‘opened’ again. Teachers are once again back giving online classes – and their students’ two-week school ‘holiday,’ hastily imposed in a message from the ministry the day Russia invaded, is over.

But how do you teach when your students are in a country at war? Despite everything, our Stories that Move colleagues Anna and Sasha have been busy.

Last weekend the Kyiv educational centre TolerSpace organised a webinar to discuss this question. More than 130 teachers managed to join.

Tolerspace webinar 2022

TolerSpace webinar 2022

They opened with a quote from Paul Rukesha from Rwanda, a survivor who now works as an educator for the Kigali Memorial.

“You are courageous to keep working and taking care of youth in such a period of trouble and desolation. You are serving not only your country but also humanity.”

The staff of TolerSpace are psychologists and historians, experts on historical war and trauma. The week before the current invasion, they published Hidden memories, a book on the recent history of Ukraine.

On Saturday, their webinar:
● reminded teachers to take care of themselves, warning that they are in for a ‘long distance race’ – a marathon not a sprint;
● urged them to take time to take deep breaths or other exercises that help relieve tension, as now more than ever students need stable adults to support them;
● highlighted the need to be alert to the impact of traumatic stress on teenagers: regression, apathy and euphoria, and worsening cognitive abilities.

In question and answer sessions practical issues were discussed, such as should teachers carry on giving grades? Should online breakout rooms, common during the pandemic, now be avoided? With emotions running so high, teachers need to have the oversight of what is happening in class, to be able to manage and respond. They were advised to consider doing less lessons a day, so that it remains more emotionally manageable.

Above all, participants reminded themselves and each other that Ukraine has been an independent state for 30 years and solidarity is strong. After the war ends, there will be a huge task to rebuild the country, and everyone should already be asking themselves ‘what can I do?’

Watch the webinar recording here.

Find out more about TolerSpace,

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