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Why I am here.

I wanted to get the opportunity to live and work in a different culture and be able to experience that which might benefit me, my school, my family and my community – to gain INTERCULTURAL and MULTICULTURAL experience.

Essay

(I had written this essay for the Fulbright Commission of Prague before I left for the US)

Previous immersion experience

Haifa 1991 – foreign study

„A teacher should be a human among humans“
William Littlewood

I was surrounded by 28 participants from different countries and continents. It was a course on Early Childhood education – The Child with special Needs held in Israel at the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Centre (MCITC) in Haifa in the autumn of 1991. I was the only person from Czechoslovakia.

The study program was very demanding, consisting of lectures, group discussion, workshops and observation visits. In the beginning, this time-consuming program helped me to forget my homesickness. I missed my sons, my husband and my friends. Moreover, my English was somewhat deficient. Thus, I was given extra language lessons. During the study at the MCITC we lived and studied together for several months, sharing our knowledge, professional experience and feelings. Through this difficult challenge, we made firm friends. I will never forget Shanta, a kindergarten teacher from Nepal, who helped me with writing my final project.

One time,we were sitting in the empty classroom and working all night. Gradually, I settled down, started to relax, began to sing and play the piano and guitar. Music is often worth a thousand words. In the end, I was able to make my final presentation. I will never forget the words spoken to me after my presentation: „Jari, „eser“! It means „Well done“ in Hebrew.
I looked at my work with a sense of satisfaction…

In summary, I believe that I increased my awareness and understanding of the concept of the child with special needs. Nevertheless, the most enriching experience was the awareness of multicultural/intercultural tolerance and understanding. I developed my own identity. These are moments we never forget…

Sarajevo 1996 – foreign work

Do not walk in front of me
I may not follow
Do not walk behind me
I may not lead
Walk beside me
And just be my friend.

Albert Camus

The idea of carrying out of my Human Rights project came during and after my stay in Sarajevo in summer 1996 where I had been working as a member of the Council of Europe team in Human Rights Education and Civics Summer School.

The Council of Europe, The United States Information Agency and the American Centre for Civic Education provided this training course for teachers in primary and secondary schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After four years of warfare, which had made international professional contacts impossible, the seminars provided the opportunity for Bosnian teachers to meet colleagues from other countries, and to obtain information and practical training in human rights education, civics education, intercultural education, non-violent conflict management and community development for establishing a peacefully multicultural and democratic society. The course took place in different towns of the Federation.

I was the only person from Eastern Europe to work in the international team that was composed of five Americans and a council of Europe teachers/trainers. We were supposed to establish contacts and working methods and to prepare courses. Each of us was asked to plan his/her workshops for approximately 25 hours.

It was one of the saddest experiences I have ever had. The more I realized that I was a Slav, the less I understood how this sort of thing could happen. Sarajevo looked like a war zone. Some of the pictures I saw were simply unbearable. There were teachers whose students were killed in front of their eyes. They told me: „We had no tears left to cry.“ Therefore I had to be very careful and sensitive by using appropriate methods, particularly when using music therapy…

In Bosnia, I realized that freedom is not a gift from heaven and that each of us has to do something for our country in order to keep our dignity, self-confidence and honesty. I realized that teaching human rights is not enough. Therefore, I decided to involve these topics into the English Lessons so that students would be able to express their ideas, values and beliefs and enhance their personalities in an informal way while developing their language skills, critical thinking and analysis of information from different sources.

Consequences

The courses that challenged me the most were foreign courses – either study or work visits. They helped me to realize that I must take three components into account when teaching: head (cognitive), hands (practical skills) and heart (emotional and social skills). The most significant decision I ever had to make was the decision to study languages.

Ways I plan to use the experience abroad in my professional work in my country and to enhance international education in my school and community:

The most important thing is to promote intercultural learning about each other. I expect this experience to impact my professional and personal development.

I believe that Czech teachers should foster an informal atmosphere in which the teacher is both a friend and a mentor. Someone who makes education appealing and interesting, not just demand work. This is one of my primary rules as a teacher and after so many years, I believe it is one of the main reasons I still adore teaching so much!

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