Lifelong Learning Programme

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Teachers Experiences

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Olga Preto
head teacher
Professional Secondary School
Students with learning difficulties
This is the story of Manuel, a student who attended the Social Animation course at the ETEPA Professional School. He started his secondary school career, in Castelo Branco, in the school year of 2008 and finished in 2011. At the beginning of the course, the student showed learning difficulties and a poor relationship with teachers and peers. He was shy, very reserved, he often refused to participate in school activities due to his emotional discomfort, he felt fear and shame. He had many difficulties in writing, reading ... he trembled whenever we approached him even with simplest questions. However, he had a good attendance record. Manuel comes from a humble family, reserved, but very polite and supportive.
Throughout the first year, the School Board and the teachers tried a number of approaches to help Manuel overcome his learning difficulties. The school contacted the family in order to help Manuel. His mother and sister were very supportive and his sister tried hard to help him with homework. A range of conditions allowed him to improve his learning and increase his motivation for study. He had constant positive reinforcement, he was constantly stimulated, motivated, his work was acknowledged, he was encouraged to go further, by all that were around him. We believe these were the most significant success factors in this case.
In the second year, the student showed considerable improvements, wanted to participate in all school activities, having improved his relations with the colleagues as well. The colleagues also realized Manuel’s needs and never left him alone, helped him to develop activities/work whenever Manuel had greater difficulties.
Throughout the course, Manuel had to experience on-the-job training at a kindergarten, in Castelo Branco. The student quickly gained the love of the children and of the educators. During his lunch hour he welcomed being with the children, in the playground, and playing with them. After finishing his training the student kept visiting the kids and was greeted by them with great affection.
Manuel became a resilient person, willing to learn, and his perseverance helped him complete his training. He is currently a socio-cultural animator.
The school that Manuel Attended, ETEPA, is a small school, but big on achievements. “A family” as the students say. The School Board and the teachers are aware of the students’ needs, they work as a team, they involve the students’ families and the community. Manuel’s success has to with proximity.

Comments on this Teachers Experience

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Date: 2014.05.16


Message: The story of Manuel causes one to reflect on the importance of the decisions we make as teachers and how these choices inevitably influence the lives of our students who are more emotionally fragile.
The first thing that really struck me was the presentation of the boy: Manuel is described as a fragile, shy student who needs particular attention; he needs to be accompanied in the “unprotected” world, where it is easy to fall if you do not find the “proximal zone” that is most adaptable to one’s own interior being. In this research, the teacher found the proper dimension: she inserted Manuel in a delicate working context, not easy to manage, but that required interpersonal competencies surely within the capabilities of the student. This chosen course would not have produced the positive results described, had the teachers limited themselves to only focusing on his difficulties, seemingly at odds with the requests of the professional profile of the school in question. The ability of the teacher to recognize the strengths within the sphere of the “student’s weaknesses” enabled the transformation of such weaknesses in great potential when working with individuals more emotionally compatible with the student (children, for example!)
During my career in teaching, I have had experience in preschools for my students with learning disabilities: they were two different experiences, but both were extremely significant.
In 2008, together with my colleagues of the Class Advisory Board, we decided to insert one of our students attending the fifth year of the Professional Institute for Hotel Management of Grosseto, in a training session in the kitchen of a Municipal Pre-School. The student had demonstrated great difficulty in work planning and in the performance of tasks assigned by the kitchen crew, also due to an inferiority complex in respect to his classmates, who were better able to perform increasingly, difficult tasks autonomously. Thanks to the support of the tutor of the Pre-school training work experience, with whom a precise training course was shared, our student was able to perform the work assigned, which involved a level of difficulty comparable to his technical knowledge. Upon returning to school, the student demonstrated an ability to work constructively with his classmates even during assignments that were not easy, such as the preparation of official events organized by the school for external agencies.
The second experience had an even greater tangible positive development and involved a female student with Down Syndrome, who attended the Professional Institute of Hotel Management with a Major in Reception until 2010. The student, who had an incredibly supportive family that had always motivated her to become independent and to interact with others, was able to follow a protected, job training course based on a collaboration between the scholastic institute and the Territorial Employment Agency. After having completed two experiences in the Reception sector, she participated in a competitive job call for workers in the Municipal Pre-School in her town. She currently works in the structure with dedication and commitment, and has established a trusting relationship with all of the children such that the people in charge not only renewed her contract, they made her an active part of the educational staff that cares for the transition of new students at the beginning of the school year.

Date: 2014.05.05

Posted by Georgia Lazari (Greece)

Message: This is a fine example that real education has more to do with team social work and less with the execution of quantitative "educational plans".

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.