Flashback of our Journey towards Living Values for the School Year September 2010 - June
Teachers of young children are at the beginning of a wonderful life-long enterprise of nurturing the human spirit. Our actions and teachings have the potential to endure over time - long after a child leaves our care.
My whole world changed from the first time a child called me "teacher". That very moment I felt like I was transformed into someone who has power and magic in the eyes of young child! Consequently, with the feelings of power also came the responsibility to provide the best to every child entrusted in my care. Therefore, I became a companion and advocate for children in their learning journey.
I believe that true teachers do more than fill children's heads with numbers, shapes and letters"¦Do not get me wrong! These skills are also important. But, at the same time, true teachers change lives. In order to do that, we have to reach out to both, the children's hearts and their minds.
As a result, starting in September 2010, I enriched my educational activities with an amazing journey towards living values. This journey was named "Workshops for Living Values in Education: Good Education begins from the Heart!"
The workshops took place in 7 pre-primary schools and almost 200 children, aged 3-6, participated in the program. This journey lasted three months and the experience was magnificent!
My primary goal was to create a safe place where children are free to investigate the world around them, to discover their inner landscape of emotions and to explore human relationships. By emphasizing Peace, Respect and Love, we create workshops based on the essence of Living Values in Education: "Good Education begins from the Heart!" Imagination, creativity and fun were key. We used a variety of teaching techniques such as brainstorming, dramatization, stream of consciousness, artistic expression, silent trip, role play, team work and music-movement.
Activities were organized in three chapters.
Many workshops in this chapter addressed the "I Am Special" theme. The main goal was to encourage children to understand and appreciate themselves by discovering their talents and skills thus promoting healthy self esteem and independence.
Also, some activities addressed the development of the children's emotional intelligence. During these activities, they were assisted in developing skills such as recognition of their emotions as well as the emotions of people around them. This activity aimed at helping them promote a healthier socialization pattern and cultivating positive interpersonal relationships. Specifically, through the development of their emotional intelligence, children were achieving high levels of self knowledge, emotion control and empathy. They were exposed to activities promoting acceptance and understanding as well as treating others nicely. Some related activities included: "The Journey of our Names", "Mirror, mirror", "I am a proud Kid", and "I can see with Your Own Eyes".
These workshops aimed at developing positive thinking about others, establishing the "experience" of peace and appreciating the peaceful world. Some related activities were: "Imagine your Peaceful World" - "The Story of Peace" of Aristofanis - "Dancing the Peace", "The Advertisement of Peace", and "Arms are for Hugging".
These sessions focussed on developing skills necessary to express love and kindness. For example, skills such as sharing and caring as well as managing anger were included. During the activity, "The most Beautiful Heart" participants were asked to offer a piece of their painted heart to anyone they wished. It was an amazing experience for me and for them. At the end of the activity, they were asked to put together all the pieces that they received from others and make the most beautiful heart. Other activities related to this theme of love, were "I can think with my Heart", and "You are my Friend and I love You".
The material which was used promoted their curiosity and imagination. Materials included scarves, musical instruments, fabric, pillows, roller paper paints and posters.
Despite the vital importance that a teacher has in a child's life, parents remain the most powerful force. So, for the success of the program, their help was necessary. They were involved during the whole journey. At the beginning of the workshops, a meeting was arranged to inform them about the Association of Living Values and the workshop program (with a slide show presentation). Their reaction was very positive. Actually, many of them expressed the statement that teaching values nowadays is a necessity.
The 'Parent and Child Home Sweet Homework Sheets' were designed to inform them about what their children were learning and invite them to participate in their children's education. This idea was taken from 'The Kindness Curriculum' book written by Judith Anne Rice. By the end of the program, each child's sheets were collected and a book named "The Book of My Values" was prepared for them.
Another very effective idea, taken from the same book, was the use of coupons of kindness. Kindness is the best characteristic of a good life. The act of kindness, important to people, does not include actions which we might think could impress, such as giving expensive gifts. In contrary, the powerful acts of kindness which stay with us and change our lives are the simple, unsolicited, and seemingly insignificant acts of pure giving. So, I prepared a set of 'Coupons of Kindness' for each child and I asked the parents to use them as rewards for daily simple acts of kindness performed by their kids. Parents were asked to appreciate such actions and present coupons whenever they felt their child deserved it.
A mother talked to me about them and said: "It was the first time that my daughter let another child play with her bicycle. She was so proud of her action! I gave her the coupon which said: 'Good for sharing'."
At the end of the programs in January and June 2011, I organized seminars for the parents titled: "What is the meaning of being a good parent in our society- The Meaning of Living Values" by Clinical Psychologist - Andrea Stylianou Hoplarou
To conclude, my experience was really unique. The children's enthusiasm, innocence, spontaneous thinking, curiosity for the unknown, and their agony to express their thoughts helped me bring life to a program with huge success.
The children thought the Living Values Workshops helped them discover and explore their own uniqueness as well as the magnitude of everyone around them. They were guided along a journey of magnificent feelings. They felt proud of themselves and learned to recognize and respond using positive behavior. They now feel free to express themselves and enjoy giving love and kindness. The children did not just offer me a beautiful journey; they offered me the opportunity to build the foundations of interpersonal relationships and communication by utilizing love and respect!
Once upon a time I dreamed to be a teacher of LOVÎ•. I was inspired by Leo Buscaglia, a professor of love! Î™n one of his books he wrote:
'We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death'
Now as an educator this is a goal of life!'
As the Living Values report mentions, it is globally accepted that young people are increasingly affected by violence, social problems, and a lack of love and respect for each other! It can be said that Cypriot youth did not remain unaffected from these negative global tendencies. I believe that one of the main reasons that these phenomena appeared in Cyprus Society, besides our ethnic problem which is a negative part of our everyday's life, is the mixture of population since 1990 when a significant number of immigrants came to Cyprus in the search of a better life. Although the Cyprus population is of multinational origin, multi-linguistic and multicultural as substantiated by the existence for hundreds of years of the two traditional ethnic communities - the Greek and the Turkish - as well as by the presence of small communities by the Latin, Armenians and Maronites, the addition of the immigrants caught the Cyprus society unprepared something that resulted in the appearance of incidents of racism and xenophobia. The massive admission of 'international' pupils in our schools has been a major reason for the emergence of serious problems: extreme nationalism, marginalization, racist and aggressive behaviors.
According to the conclusions of one of the Barcelona European Union's Summit Meetings 'the educational and training systems need to change in response to the challenges of the society for knowledge and globalization; noting in particular that these play a significant role in the construction of social cohesion, prevent discrimination, bar racism and xenophobia and assist in the promotions of tolerance and respect of human rights'.
After all, as Claude Levy-Strauss mentioned, "Discovering others is discovering relationships, not barriers."
For this reason Intercultural Education has been set as a vital issue of high priority in our educational system and Living Values are strongly recommended to be included in everyday's teaching process.
As I specialized in the field of intercultural education, I am convinced that Living Values is a substantial part of a form of education with a pluralistic orientation.
One of the main objectives of my recent research titled "The challenge against the 'different': claiming for intercultural practices in initial teaching training" was to provide students (i.e. teachers to be) with the sensitivity and the competence necessary to develop techniques which will assist children in living and working together in a society for all.
Living Values Association gave me the motive to expand my activities based on Living Values. Consequently, it is safe to claim that Living Values enlarged my pathway of teaching! Being a Living Values member, seemed like a crucial step for me and my career in the educational field. Since April 16th of 2010 I am pleased to be a member of the Living Values' Association as a Focal Point in Cyprus.
Past Activities - Workshops & Seminars:
December 2009: Educational Workshops/ Seminars for educators titled "Human Rights and Living Values in education".
Two LVEP seminars/workshops in Cyprus took place in Nicosia and Larnaca in December 2009. The two speakers were Dr. Gelly Manousou and Mrs Anastasia Papaioannou. Both of them are promoters of the Living Values' Association in Greece. The seminars were addressed by Mrs Leda Koursoumba, Commissioner for the Protection of Children's Human Rights. All participants were principals and educators of public and private schools. The seminar participants talked about the 12 values presented in LVEP and were acquainted with the program overview, content, goals and principles. There has been great interest in the Living Values workshops that followed where the participants involved with a lot of enthusiasm and willingness to learn by working collaboratively.
March 2010: A seminar/workshop titled "The differentiation of teaching: A proposal for an Inclusive Education".
The presenter was Mrs Ellen Gavrielidou-Tsielepi. Mrs Gavrielidou-Tsielepi is a Special Educator. Her main goal was to present and discuss an alternative way of thinking in 'facing' differentiation. She discussed the role of the educator in promoting ACCEPTANCE, RESPECT and TOLERANCE.
Poster painting by a 15 year old
'Body and voice are narrating a fairy-tale' by Eugenia Kouroumtzi & Anastasia Stylianou:
November 2009: "A story from our heart" by Anastasia Stylianou
My first writing effort was dedicated to the International Day of Children's Rights. It was inspired by the two best books in international literature - at least in my opinion. These books are:
'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' by Richard Bach. An allegorical tale about a bird who soars high and inspired millions of readers to reach their own lofty aspirations. As Bach advised us"¦ we must never stop working on love!
The second book is the 'Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who makes several profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature. The story's essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince like:
"We only really see with the heart. The most important things can't be seen with the eyes"
Both authors touched my heart with undescrible gentleness. It can be said that they have offered me perspective in new horizons. For that I am grateful. Skillfully they send the message of understanding and they show the pathway for love leading to a more hopeful future! I strongly believe that we as adults, teachers and parents, are obliged to lead our children through those pathways.
My story deals with the Living Value of LOVE and is addressed to children, parents and educators. By the end of the narration we organized some very creative activities that included both, children and parents.
Some of the activities were:
- Dance the loving steps.
- Create the recipe of love
- Express ideas on how they would help the unhappy kids of the world
February 2010: "A surprise for ELMER the multi-colored Elephant" adapted by Anastasia Stylianou
The well known heroe of David McKee negotiates the issues of RESPECT, TOLERANCE and LOVE. The fairy-tale was presented to schools and public theaters. For example, children and parents had the chance to participate in the celebration of Fairy-Tale in the beautiful place called "Natural Caves". We were honored to have the support of the Strovolos Municipality.
Some activities that took place with the children and parents were:
- Writing their own letter to ELMER and express their feelings about tolerance and love
- Decorating their own ELMER with a variety of materials
- Dancing with ELMER
- Express themselves by painting the story pictures
- Express themselves by acting
- Problem solving exercise: Î—elping ELMER find solution to his problem
- Playing with colors
July 2010: "The good hearted Shark" by L Varvarousi-Adapted by Anastasia Stylianou.
The story negotiates the values of friendship and love. Children were working collaboratively in preparing their own 'Ocean of Friendship'. They were given the chance to express their feelings around friendship and how they should behave in order to acquire friends. Among others, the technique 'the pathway of consciousness' was used.
They also had the opportunity to realize that 'appearance and how we look is not the important factor in life. On the contrary, our soul, feelings and sensitivity are vital in being a prosperous member in our society!'
All the hands together - 'The Ocean of friendship'
Living Values and Music:
March 2010- June 2010: The goal of these presentations was to sensitize children about classical music and make them feel the magic of respect, love, peace and happiness by utilizing music.
Through music and movement lessons, taught by Mrs Wesley Bender Hoplarou, children learned that respect and love must be shown to the environment. Children learned that by respecting environment we show care and concern for everything around us. This gives us hope for a more peaceful and happy world to live in and for keeping the earth beautiful!
The magic of Spring has been celebrated in music, art, dance, and poetry for ages. Composers like Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov, Smetana and Tchaikovsky all wrote beautiful tributes to Spring. So we decided to organize and enjoy a full lesson of a special music program where children explored iconic music pieces about Spring through focused listening, story-telling, movement and dance, instrument playing, and other enjoy full activities.
For Fall 2010, we intend to hold a proper LVEP Train-the-Trainer in order to offer a deeper insight into LVEP.
In addition I am planning an Educational Program titled "Workshops of Living Values - the right education begins from the heart". This program is based mainly on Living Values Activity books as well as some other books like the story of 'Peace' by Aristophanes, 'Make the world of Difference' by Dawn C. Oparah etc. It will include activities based on discussion, communication and exploration. These activities are going to be carried out by the use of various techniques such as brainstorming, dramatization, a stream of consciousness, artistic expression, silent trip, role play, team work and music-movement.
Our goal is that the program will give both teachers and students the chance to work some important living values with imagination, creativity and fun. It will address skills and concepts which are important in growing up in our society such as recognizing and learning about peace education, respect, love and cooperation and, most importantly, knowing that everyone is unique and special. There will be many activities that address the "I Am Special" theme so children can appreciate and discover their talents and skills and thus, promote a healthy self esteem and independence.
I hope that my work as a Focal Point of Living Values Association will be a model of good practice towards the implementation of Living Values education policy in Cyprus, because as Buscaglia stated (1988):
'Not a single leaf can fall down without having consequences to everyone of us. There is no place to hide for anyone. That is why is good to start constructing bridges, otherwise the cracks will become so deep that we will never manage to bridge!'