Exchanging experiences about Global Citizenship Education and getting inspired by the ideas of their colleagues: teachers from different countries travel across Europe and give their contribution to the project.
By Fionnuala Flynn
From the 7th to the 9th of March 2017, 10 Irish teachers and one project staff visited their Portuguese colleagues in Viana do Castelo. The experience was enriching and inspiring for all involved and is one that the teachers will not forget in a hurry. From GCE activities and seminars to cultural dance and food, the effort put in by the host teachers and staff all contributed to make this experience worthwhile and enjoyable for all involved.
Inspired by their Global Schools colleagues who had already participated in exchanges , the teachers filled out identity cards before they left, in order to share information about themselves with their Portuguese colleagues and pave the way for future communication. The Irish teachers also had 4 pre-departure training sessions, which explored various GCE themes and methodologies. The teachers prepared a number of activities and resources before travelling to share with their colleagues.
On the 6th of March, the Irish group travelled to Porto, where they had an opportunity to explore the city. It was a relaxed and enjoyable day, and the Irish gorup had the opportunity to see some beautiful architecture and taste some Portuguese cuisine. They then travelled to Viana do Castelo by train where they were greeted by La Salete from IPVC , our partner in the Global Schools project.
Tuesday 7 March
In the morning, the teachers visited IPVC where they met their Portuguese colleagues. Some shared ice breakers were completed, as well as informal conversation. The Irish teachers also did a GCE activity with the Portuguese colleagues. After this, both groups presented an overview of the education systems of their countries. After a traditional lunch, the Irish teachers split into groups and visited some local schools involved in the project. This was a very positive experience for all involved, and the teachers learned a lot of skills and ideas. Following this, in the evening, the teachers attended a presentation by the audio visual organisation "Au Norte". This was extremely interesting and gave the teachers a number of ideas for approaching GCE issues with their classes in an alternative way.
Wednesday 8 March
The morning consisted of a visit to a local school "Pintor Jose de Brito", where there was a school-based event. The event took place on International women's day and was focused on gender equality. From exhibitions to talks, the children and the teachers were exposed to vital information around this issue. Some local, well known women, including a former Olympic athlete and a sculptor, spoke to the children about their stories and experiences. There was cultural dancing also, and a tour of the school. This was a highlight of the trip for the Irish teachers, particular seeing how such a sensitive issue can be approached in an age appropriate way with children. We were also overwhelmed by how welcoming all of the staff and children were, and how much effort had been put into the event. A big well done to all involved!
In the afternoon, following another delicious lunch of traditional codfish, we travelled back to the city where we met with the local councillor for Education. We were so impressed to see the passion that she had for education, and how genuinely involved with and enthusiastic she was about the project Global Schools.
We then had a city tour. It is such a beautiful city, and the sun came out which was an added bonus, particularly for us Irish. We were brought to some beautiful cathedrals, and it was lovely to wander through the narrow streets. A highlight was the drive up to, and walk around the breathtaking Santuario de Santa Luzia, which sits on top of a high hill, overlooking the city, river and bay into the Atlantic Ocean.
Finally, we headed back to IPVC, where we had a short meeting with some members of the Portuguese expert group, as well as a presentation of a very powerful and thought provoking GCE activity.
Thursday 9 March
The final day of the exchange focused on a seminar organised to mark the launch of the Portuguese Development Education Guidelines, which coincided perfectly with our trip. We were given presentations on the guidelines, as well and how they could be used, and were delighted to hear that they would be translated to English. The large attendance at the seminar of students as well as teachers was also very encouraging.
The afternoon continued with the seminar, however, now the Portuguese and Irish teachers presented a number of their own resources and activities to the audience. This was hugely beneficial, and interesting to see how our colleagues were approaching GCE.
In the evening, we were privileged to attend a traditional cultural evening which consisted of more delicious Portuguese food and - a highlight - a group of traditional dancers and musicians. We even joined in!
On Friday the 10th of March, the Irish group travelled back to Dublin, after an unforgettable few days.
On the last day of the exchange, the Irish teachers filled out evaluation forms and reflected on their experience. The comments were overwhelmingly positive. Aside from the planned activities and information sharing sessions, a huge amount of implicit learning occurred also. Simply being exposed to another education system raised a lot of questions ad interest among the Irish group, and provided a huge amount of ideas. Any suggestions mainly focused around a desire to have more time to speak informally with heir Portuguese counterparts and to be able to share more activities and ask more questions, whihc indicates the success of the week. A google drive folder has been set up where both groups of teachers and staff can share experiences from the trip, as well as stay in touch and further share ideas and information.
Another huge obrigada/obrigado to La Salete, Luisa and the whole Portuguese team for a brilliant experience. Looking forward to welcoming you back to Ireland in the Autumn.