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Stories that Move, moving teachers too

29 Jan 2021 - by Zlata Hrzenjak

Zlata Hrzenjak taught English at a vocational education and training (VET) college in Croatia before becoming a teacher trainer at EuroCompetent in Đakovo, Croatia.

One of my former students, who is herself a teacher now, said she first became aware how sensitive a teacher’s job was when one day I raised the subject of shy and silent people who needed other people’s attention and kindness. She told me that the whole class knew who I was talking about although I didn’t name the girl or her problems, but they had not known how to approach her.

As a teacher, I was often faced with problems of prejudice, non-acceptance, even intolerance. I had to put a lot of effort into raising awareness among my students that being different is one of the basic human rights. And I had to work just as hard to reach to the students being discriminated against, because they became introverted and uncommunicative. Those were the moments when I realised that social inclusion is a crucial element of education.

I heard about Stories that Move through an eTwinning webinar and was delighted with the plethora of teaching materials which the platform offers. Although I don’t work with school classes any more, I have found it very useful for my workshops for teachers. I used video from the section Facing discrimination as a starting point in my workshops on Social inclusion for integrating immigrants in local community, for teachers and youth workers in NGOs – who are often volunteers with very little or no pedagogical education.

Some of the participants admitted they did not give much thought to the emotional and inclusive elements in their lessons, as the curriculum is mostly focused on academic knowledge. They were apt to associate low results with a student not working hard enough, and thought “being inclusive” was only needed for those with disabilities or lacking opportunities.

Workshop on social inclusion in Dakovo, Croatia

My former pupil was deeply moved by the stories of young people on the STM recordings and how openly they talked about the problems they cope with. Đakovo is a small, rather conservative community, so young people are apt to hide their differences because of fear of being laughed at or rejected.

She referred particularly to the videos where LGBT+ teenagers speak about their sexual orientation, which can be a very serious problem for young people in small towns.

STM’s life stories – teenagers presenting real situations of prejudice and discrimination – motivated the workshop to analyse the groups they work with, identify similar cases, and create a number of activities to integrate social inclusion in their own work.

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