Continuing professional development, high quality teaching and striving to cater for our clients` diverse needs have always been set high on our priorities list. That is why we decided to take part in the Erasmus+ KA1 project. We had some experience in writing and participating in such projects because I was one of the project team members when YALS (the Association of Language Schools of Serbia) took part in the Erasmus+ project. Still, working on your own, searching for partners, understanding the school`s needs and priorities, completing the project and waiting for the results was a completely different story.
I will not write about how to complete the project application because our national agency “Tempus” (https://tempus.ac.rs/erasmus/) regularly holds webinars and face-to-face workshops to explain all the details, and is always ready to help with advice or practical tips. I will, though, point out that it is important to find credible and trustworthy partners on the project because together you make a team and are there to support each other. The best way to do so is to use either EPALE platform (https://epale.ec.europa.eu/en) or School Education Gateway (https://www.schooleducationgateway.eu/en/pub/index.htm). Why partners on the project are important became obvious to us during the Covid-19 crisis because our partners were there to give us valuable information about the situations in their countries and to support us prior to and during the mobility period. And believe me, it is not easy to plan a trip when the travel restrictions have just lifted and when you do not know what to expect. You are a bit apprehensive of what might happen, you are not completely sure about the rules and procedures, and still, you feel obligated to enroll and finish the structured course as planned in the project. That is the time when your team members and your partners on the project show how immensely supportive they could be.
Our project team consisted of six members and all of us completed different yet carefully chosen structured courses aiming to empower our teachers to work with different types of students so that we can, in return, help our students work within their individual learning plans.
Mixed Abilities Classroom course, organized by “Jantar”, Split, Croatia, provided training on adapting educational programs to classes with mixed ability students. It covered topics of managing mixed ability classroom, individual learning styles, adapting teaching materials, developing cognitive strategies, developing assessment tools, and covered training on the most common learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD.
Classroom Management course, organized by “Jantar”, Split, Croatia, covered innovative classroom management methods, student-centered learning, dealing with difficult behavior and giving adequate feedback. The course also provided broader understanding of establishing classroom rules and general pedagogical principles behind giving instructions, classroom groupings and error correction.
Motivation in the 21st Century course, organized by “Jantar”, Split, Croatia, provided training on how to use innovative methods and technology to motivate students in diverse classrooms, stimulate their creativity, maximize student engagement and help students succeed.
ICT in Classroom course, organized by “Jantar”, Split, Croatia, offered practical ideas and solutions for including a variety of ICT tools in the classrooms which could be used to present and share information both by teachers and students, suggestions on how to use online resources efficiently in order to motivate and engage students as well as assess them.
Cultivating Entrepreneurial Mindset in Education course, organized by “ShipCon”, Limassol, Cyprus, provided the participants with the opportunity to acquire in-depth understanding not only of the theory related to the five practices of entrepreneurship education but also how to apply games and exercises in each one of them in order to create a stimulating learning environment.
Digital Marketing Strategy course, organized by “FU International Academy”, Tenerife, Spain, provided practical experience and training for working with digital communication channels, creating relevant content for online publication, and creating social media strategies.
The structured courses had an immediate impact on the teachers as they enhanced their language and methodology competencies, enabled them to learn a range of new practical teaching activities which in turn enlivened and enriched the everyday classroom routine. Furthermore, shifting the focus of the lessons to a more creative and innovative one, implementing the use of technology in everyday classes and constantly working on improving all language skills was evidently mirrored by a rise in student motivation and the motivation of the teaching staff as well. We managed to build a strong positive team atmosphere and firm marketing channels which helped us position our school better on the market and achieve our project objectives.
Together with the structured courses we attended, the dissemination phase of our project proved to be very important for our project team and our school. Each mobility participant cascaded the newly gained knowledge first with the whole Oxford School team. Those workshops gave us an opportunity to try out and discuss the activities, choose the most useful ones for the external dissemination and also consider adaptations and suggest their further development and implementation into the school syllabus. For the young teachers it was an opportunity to strengthen their presentation skills as well. In the next dissemination phase, the most useful activities were shared with colleagues from other schools, both locally and nationally. The feedback we received was favourable. The results of the analysis showed that most of the participants found the activities presented easily applicable and motivating for the learners. The analysis of the in-house and external workshops’ feedback shows that most of the co-teachers and teachers absolutely agree that they have acquired new knowledge and rated the workshop content as excellent. That is why we created a resource pack for teachers with the most interesting activities from the courses attended and the pack is available on our school`s website for free download (https://oxfordschool.rs/materijali-za-nastavnike/).
All things considered, having been actively involved in the Erasmus+ funded programme for two years has been a very important part of my professional career and an opportunity I would welcome any time. All of my project team members agreed that the mobility part of the project and the dissemination phase were a valuable experience for them as the courses met their needs and expectations, they were satisfied with the extra-curricular activities and the groups offered possibilities for sharing the knowledge and expanding their professional network. Not only did we have a chance to review the methodology and practice English, mostly with native speakers, but we also had the opportunity to travel, learn about the culture of the target countries firsthand, meet new people and colleagues, share our ideas with them and inspire others all along having been inspired by others.