Europass Course: Soft Skills for Strong Teachers
report by: Steve Szabó
Florence 4-9 April 2022
Our nine-month long 2021-2022 Erasmus project called Building a network in the field of education within the EU, has come to an end with this third mobility taking place in the magnificent Tuscan regional capital Florence, famous for its Renaissance vibe and architecture.
Representing the Avicenna International College from Budapest, I took part in a six-day programme with the Europass Teacher Academy under the title: Soft skills for strong teachers by our very sympathetic and enthusiastic teacher trainer Cristina Salvatori.
I was the only male in the 14-member strong classroom of teaching colleagues from eight different European countries. Interestingly, there was one English lady as well, remnant of a pre-Brexit programme postponed for the Covid crisis, making it a truly unique, vintage ensemble of teachers.
The course was scheduled for every weekday from 9 am to 2 pm with two coffee breaks and started on Monday morning. We had ice-breaking activities on the first day, which meant having to introduce ourselves and our schools and teaching environments in general where we also exchanged good practices. About 80% of the participants came from elementary school and only 20% from high school, two of them from vocational school.
On the second day, we were introduced to an app called GooseChase which is an excellent team-building tool that can increase student engagement and enhance learning by getting them to explore, discover and learn actively. This tool takes the traditional scavenger hunt to a new level. To learn and use it, we were separated into three groups and sent out into the city following the instructions and completing the tasks set by our teacher in 90 minutes of time. It helped us socialize better and also get to know the city and get in touch with the locals.
On Tuesday afternoon we started the soft skills training that went on until Friday afternoon. Hard skills, also known as academic knowledge and know-how, are often the direct and only focus of our education system. To complement and shake it up a bit, soft skills are more and more on-demand by the workplaces and the labour market, therefore it is worth investing into these interpersonal and intrapersonal abilities, as we came to know them in more depth during our Erasmus training at Europass.
So, we were introduced to:
- Effective communication methods in the classroom,
- Discussed the forms and advantages and disadvantages of group work
- The strategies we often use to effectively manage group work
- Workload sharing and motivation to increase student’s retention rate
- How to write a professional personal statement
- Ed puzzle and Ted-ed platforms to create video
- Theories of creativity, the Reggio Emilia approach
- Pre-schooling advances
- Dangers of confirmation bias
On the last day, we had to devise a lesson plan with the aforementioned soft skills integrated into it and discuss it in small groups.
The real gem of our stay in Florence were the extra-curricular, cultural activities. We were given one afternoon, after the classes, to tour Florence with a guide introducing us to known and also unknown treasures of this marvellous, jaw-dropping city, to its natural and man-made architectural beauties, the stories that shaped the past and present of the Tuscan capital.
On the last day, day six, Saturday, we went on a Day Tour discovering Tuscany by bus. We left Florence at 8 am and returned at 8 pm which gave us an indescribably mesmerising insight into how beautiful Tuscany really is. The touring of the Tuscan landscape was interrupted only to visit fabulous cities of the region such as Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena, and on the way back we stopped for a very welcoming wine tasting in the Chianti wine region. That day made our day, in the sense of experiencing all the beauties this region can give us.
It was an absolutely beautiful and fulfilling experience, I can only recommend it to anyone.
I was very satisfied with the management, having looked at it from the eye of a manager. The timekeeping, being always on schedule, the due and reliable communication and the academic as well as the cultural activity management, the levels of organisation, the attention paid to the students and the details, ‘sono andate ben oltre le mie aspettative’, i.e., exceeded my expectations.
I have to emphasise the outstanding importance of the support of the European Commission who has funded this mobility through Erasmus+, for which I am truly grateful.
This mobility was funded by the European Commission.
The information presented here does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.
Vice-principal in charge of educational and student affairs
NCUK Academic Manager
Teacher of Biological Sciences
Avicenna International College