The course 21st Century Skills for Students and Teachers was held between 11th and 16th July 2022 by the Europass training establishment Molinos de Viento Amsterdam. Our well prepared and well-organized teacher trainer Jarek Sacharski successfully led our international group of practicing teachers towards an inspiring and practical educational outcome.
The 30-hour training focused on how theories can be connected to real life and how knowledge is incorporated into wide competences. We got familiarized with the connection of skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking with learning and academic achievement. We were supplied with practical ideas for teaching in a world where the knowledge-based curriculum needs to be complemented or replaced with the skills-based curriculum. The fast changes triggered by the technological development of our society highlight the need for resilient students who can cope with them.
We tackled issues like diversity in the classroom, that they are visible and hidden, we learnt to take a different perspective and understand that we look through our filters, which may distort the image we see; matters like equity, equality and inclusion came up; we were given ideas about differences and how our cultures encourage us or discourages us from talking about those differences. As all these elements are in constant change, we teachers need to constantly check and adapt to the needs of our students as individuals and as a class.
Several activities that we completed had to do with physical movement, and the theory behind it was that embodying a notion leads to a deeper learning experience. We found it proven.
Among the theories presented the most appealing to me was the non-violent communication as described in Marshall Rosenberg’s book with the same title, starting from the idea that behind every action there is a feeling and behind every feeling there is a need. Disagreement comes from a need that was not satisfied. Recognizing and handling students’ and our (teachers’) needs makes learning happen.
Though I could go on with the theoretical ideas in which we immersed ourselves, let me present some of the more practical activities we covered. The teacher trainer asked us to brainstorm exercises that we could create related to the topic of the “weather” involving multiple intelligences. Some of our ideas: Put weather related flashcards in every corner of the classroom and give relevant tasks for the students to go there. Register the temperature and make a graph (math teacher). Find the hottest and coldest day in a month. Read a story about the weather. Relate to today’s weather – how do you feel? Go outdoors and observe the plants, associate the weather with fruits and vegetables. Embody a plant: “I’m a cactus.” “I’m a tulip.” Set up a parliament: the rights of plants – debate. “I’m a fir tree and I suffer in the summer.” Cutting up a story related to the weather. Re-order the cuts. Make the story into a roleplay or dialogue or song that children can act out standing up. With this brainstorming we saw the theory working: the more choice we have, the more autonomy we are given, the more motivated we are. The task was creative and unbelievably funny.
We did other exercises, like “Lost at sea,” where we needed to rank items on a list, or the “See, think, wonder” exercise on layers of depth when describing a picture; it showed how we go through thinking routines, and how we can learn to structure our thinking; we listened to classical music and made associations. With the “Tour guide for aliens” exercise we practiced thinking outside the box, seeing the Earth and the people with the eyes of an outsider. The list could go on.
All in all, learning with teacher trainer Jarek Sacharski and the 15 colleagues from Poland, Italy, Spain, Qatar, Greece and Hungary in Amsterdam with the support of the EU and the Erasmus Plus program was one of the best professional experiences of my life.