Aroni Gelly

Name: Aroni Gelly
Organization: Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs
Location: Greece

Please explain how you have conducted trainings on the Learning to Live Together Programme. (600 words)

During the last eight years I had the privilege of organizing and participating in various trainings of Learning to Live Together programme not only in my home country, Greece, but in many other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. In this international context, I have worked and trained teachers, teacher trainers, physical educators, facilitators, youth, vulnerable social groups, University students, administrators on the Learning to Live Together programme. I also had the opportunity to implement trainings on the best practice I created, Learning to Play Together (LTPT). LTPT is a manual on promoting intercultural cohesion through school based Physical Education and cooperative games.
In order to conduct trainings of LTLT, I always had to start by considering a series of factors. Placing the learner at the center, which was a priority, means giving time and investing at the preparation of each and every training as they all shared common but also very diverse characteristics and elements. Having the objectives of the training and the Ethics Education Framework in mind I had to identify the:
the personal and the professional profile of the participants (age, gender, occupation, their role in their work etc)
the cultural and faith background of the group
the local context of the country the training took place
the educational context in which LTLT would be used (formal, non-formal, informal)
the participants’ needs and expectations
the facilities available for the training as in several ways the space provided defined ways and methods of implementation.
In my experience as a trainer I have been asked to plan and facilitate a diverse range of trainings on the Learning to Live Together Programme. Trainings that would make participants aware that LTLT is more than just another educational manual with tools and resources for educators. LTLT provides an intercultural and interfaith framework for ethics education for children as well as a pedagogical approach to learning. I took every training as a challenge and while planning and conducting them I grew both as a professional and a person. My trainings included: Sensitization Workshops on Learning to Live Together (Kenya, 2014) with participants who were representatives from the Directorates at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and UNESCO officials. The main aim was for them to gain an understanding of the Learning to Live Together Programme, its use around the world and key elements of the Ethics Education Framework to contribute to peace building. Trainings of trainers (Kenya, 2014) where Ministry of Education officers, Curriculum developers, Teacher trainers and selected teachers participated in order to be equipped to train teachers on how to use the Learning to Live Together programme with their classrooms, create clear guidelines on integration of the ‘Learning To Live Together’ initiative into the curriculum and to promote initiatives to promote LTLT’s values. I conducted local Basic and International trainings for teachers (Greece, 2013, Paris, 2011, Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2014) with the objective to train teachers on the use of the manual Learning to Live Together by making them familiar with its main concepts and methodologies and able to use it with children and youth in their particular contexts. I facilitated Training Courses for Youth involved in Peace initiatives (Azerbaijan, 2011, India 2014) and most recently Teacher Trainings on the use of the LTLT approach, framework and manual for teachers of schools dealing with the Refugee crisis (Lebanon 2016, Greece, 2017, 2018).

How have you used the LTLT Ethics Education Framework? (400 words)

The Ethics Education Framework was the backbone behind my preparation for the trainings. Key concepts, Key Values, the Educational Approach, Learning Modules, Learning Process and Methodologies were my compass while planning for a training. Because of the diversity of participants, trainings’ objectives, educational needs and local contexts defined by the social reality of the places the Framework was my orientation and my destination. No matter which part of the world I found myself into I knew that Human Dignity and Child Rights, Ethics and Ethics Education, Spirituality and Interfaith and Intercultural Learning were my cause. I was there to advocate for these concepts. I was there to work for, about and through the key values. I used the Framework for nurturing the values of participants. For equipping them to be able to work towards participation, empowerment and transformation through collaborative action. I was there to also discuss and reflect about these values and the way they promote respect for their own and others’ cultures and beliefs. I also facilitated and trained through these values, by embodying them, by facilitating in a responsible, respectful way, by creating safe learning environments, by promoting pparticipatory and collaborative learning and by applying appropriate methodologies. The Ethics Education framework by promoting a dynamic way of thinking about ethics is a powerful tool in a global and plural society where fluidity is a prominent trait. Education about ethics is something all religions and societies can do independently; what is unique about this initiative is that it is done inter-religiously and inter-culturally. The Ethics Education Programme acknowledges and affirms diversity. It is not a new teaching method or school of thought but a new way of emphasizing the building of positive relationships. In an ever changing world its approach asserts dialogue and communication within oneself and with others in an ongoing process of individual and collective learning. For me having multiple professional roles (physical education teacher, teacher trainer, Ministry of Education’s Official in Refugee education) the ethics education framework offers me a golden thread that can cut across the different positions and through the different roles.

Explain how the conducted trainings have been sensitive to the local context. (400 words)

Each LTLT training has to be customized to the social reality of the place it is addressed to. This is achieved by thorough preparation. When a specific type of training is being decided the first step is to choose the facilitators for its implementation. Even though LTLT is an Intercultural and Interfaith programme and the diversity of its trainers and experts is among its strengths, every training includes facilitators from the local community. People who are not only trained to implement workshops in LTLP but also locals who are knowledgeable of the country’s culture, customs, traditions. Local facilitators who know better the needs and several times the expectations of the participants. Local facilitators can adapt material, methodologies and techniques to better suit the profile of the participants and at the same time handle possible sensitive issues. They can help with providing cultural and local based activities that are sensitive to local and cultural traditions, and also possibilities to include different perspectives and resources. Secondly, a training, being a dynamic process, especially when the learners have a central role needs to take into consideration their characteristics. Prior knowledge on the local participants’ profile as well as the collective profile of the group is something that needs exploration beforehand. It requires awareness of the issues affecting children and the community, and any socio-political conflict between the groups of participants. Reading and studying material related to the local context is a third effective way to become sensitive to the local reality and social environment. For example having learned about curricula, history of the ethnic fractionalization and their recourse-related conflicts, the concept and philosophy of ubuntu, the Harambi practices, the PEV (Post Election Violence) and the Peace Education initiative set the foundation while preparing for trainings in Africa where constructive social action in the areas of Sustainable development and Youth Leadership, the Bala Shanti and Gandhi Institute scope better prepared me for India. In addition to preparing a training, when implementing one, the end of the day evaluation is a key element to monitor the impact and efficiency of the training and since contextualisation and customisation is a constant concern the skill to be perceptive and critical, the attitude to be open to suggestions and willingness to adapt accordingly lies at the heart of a successful context-sensitive training.

How has the conducted trainings impacted the trained facilitators? (400 words)

It was with great pleasure to observe during the training sometimes small, but important changes at the level of the attitude of the facilitators. Sometimes so small as the way the question or an answer to a peer was given or the self initiated reflection upon the way a professional, for instance a teacher, had been doing its work until now. As a trainer I always ensured that one of the things that achieved, was that the participants were leaving with a “suitcase” filled with methods, tools, positive memories and experiences of working and learning together. In certain cases they were also living together for the duration of the training making the impact stronger on them. As a trainer and facilitator, I have always took care to provide as much material and practice as possible, knowing by myself that the real impact of a training is understood, when years later I look for the educational material, my notes, photos, the contact of a participant in order to adapt and use in my work. Those of us working with LTLP Learning process know that Reflection and Action might take years to sink in. Through the networks established after training, especially in Greece, I have been having meetings with several facilitators and have personally witnessed their transformation both professionally and personally. But what pleases me most is when I read about the wonderful work facilitators do in their own contexts all around the world. In the Ethics Education platform of Arigatou I am witness of amazing stories of implementation, photos and projects that document in the most vivid way possible the impact the trainings have on the trained facilitators.

Please give some examples to show your resourcefulness and creativity to organize trainings of facilitators. (600 words)

I can think of several examples of my creativity but what stands out is the organization and implementation of trainings that combine Learning to Live Together with Learning to Play Together. While in the LTLT trainings there has always been a team of facilitators to collectively organize and design a training in the “combined” ones it was my responsibility to do so as I was the one who created Learning to Play Together in the first place. Resourcefulness and creativity were needed not only for the theoretical part of combining concepts and values, methodologies and techniques but mostly for motivating physical educators. Sport teachers who had to be inspired to participate on the first hand and implement on the second hand a programme where physical education is combined with ethics education to promote intercultural understanding. It was my task to make them familiar with LTLT first and prove afterwards that an adaptation of the programme’s basic concepts, values and methodological approach was feasible and applicable to the physical education curriculum. In order to do so, I decided to have them participate as students. Not as teachers who would be trained on the use of the programme and the manual. But simple students who had to participate at the same sessions, activities, games, reflections I use with my elementary students. They had to feel it in their hands, hearts and heads before starting implementing it with their own students. Their feedback was amazing but it is another discussion…. In the second training I had with the same group or phys ed teachers, upon their own request, I had again to be creative as I wanted them to witness the impact LTLT and LTPT had on children. One of their reservations and doubts was the ability of children to reflect. I wanted them to see that the children are indeed capable if they are properly equipped and guided to do so. Even after playing a game…!!!! What I did is to include refugee children in the training and implement a model lesson. I facilitated a workshop for teachers while implementing LTPT activities with refugee children. After a whole day with them observing we started the next day with a long reflection session on what they had witnessed. That reflection was at the same time the best motivation for the learning process that followed. There are other examples of my “applied” resourcefulness in places like Africa when all material was stolen the night before and we discovered just an hour before starting the training. Or times in India when because of power cuts we could not use the power points we had prepared or the music we had planned. Or in Azerbaijan when we were given a lecture room with unmovable chairs and tables completely inappropriate for our training methods and techniques. I had to be imaginative and inventive in several trainings in Greece when, due to austerity measures, resources were scarce and I had to keep the quality with the little I had. But having “less” drives me and inspires me to be “more”….

How have you provided mentorship and guidance to trained facilitators? (400 words)

The main way I have achieved so is by making myself available and accessible through mails, phone calls, skype sessions and on site visits (locally) in order to support the development of teaching and training materials, training programs or implementation of projects. Even though I do not feel that it was thanks to me, that an informal network of sensilble teachers exist in Greece, I believe that an accessible mentor is important to the dynamic of such informal teams. Communities of Practice formed after a training were another source of provision of mentorship and guidance. I had the opportunity to facilitate one in Greece. As most of these communities of interested practicioners, it transforms its self after the completion of its work and is engaged in new initiatives such as in the time being the refugee education. In Learning to Play Together trainings I have been supporting physical education and sports teachers through the approach of the so called model teaching. This technique uses the direct instruction either through the support of a group of students, or by testing materials and methods with the trainees as mock students. In this way we avoid many unnecessary discussions but also support directly the combination of gaining knowledge and skills. My experience shows, that many teachers understand very well the importance of changing the routine or the classroom management. The ‘what’ very often is not the problem, but the ‘how’ is. In my trainings I support teachers in their self esteem and their skills as professionals, making them aware, that change starts with small steps and right away, the very next day. Last but not least in 2016 I facilitated an Online course for Learning To Live Together during which I supported trained facilitators to reflect and learn how the use of cooperative games can help to promote, through active participation and collaborative learning, the principles, content and values of Ethics Education.

How has the Learning to Live Together Programme influenced a positive transformation in you, in a personal and professional level? (400 words)

Working with Learning to Live Together, whether with my Primary school students in the Intercultural school or with teachers and trainers all around the world, had a profound effect in my personal and professional development. Every country I worked in has provided a distinctive local context, was addressed to a specific target group requiring the constant refining of my context-sensitivity skills. Each training had to be customized to the particularities of the place it was implemented. Working on participants’ conscientization, I was simultaneously becoming more aware of the social reality of the country I found myself working in and the complexity of the world as a whole. My perspective and world view was widened after each training and my competence to relate LTLT concepts, methodologies and activities to specific local contexts and people was developed. In many cases I found myself working with teachers’ trainers and co facilitators with substantial typical as well as essential skills and knowledge not only in pedagogical issues but in counseling and peace education, too. Trainers who possessed a great amount of experience in their field and demonstrated an advanced level of both cognitive and meta-cognitive skills. Through their deep and thought provoking inputs and feedback, their constant questioning and exploration of ways to contextualize the topics, the methods, the techniques, the reflections, they pushed my facilitation skills to an equally explorative mode of continuous elaboration of the sessions’ outcomes in order to meet their expectations and learning needs. I became more efficient, more flexible more open minded and adaptive. LTLT transformed the physical educator in me and developed the psychosocial potential of the subject I taught. Because of it the Best Practice Learning to Play Together was created and became a valuable resource for teachers who wanted to use cooperative activities and games for interethnic cohesion and peace building. Last but not least the greatest transformation was my spiritual growth. As a professional athlete and a great achiever I was once told during an advanced Capacity Building meeting of LTLT that I had to stop being a human-doing and start accepting and embracing my human-being dimension. That I can be without doing. That my inner spiritual self is of equal importance and value of my external works and actions. LTLT gave me inner peace and together with it I can better promote peace in a world that is in desperate need for it.

Please explain how you exemplify a strong role-model of the principles of Learning to Live Together. (400 words)

In Greek we say that we have to “do what we preach”. I always followed this and have been trying to live my professional and personal life with the value system I nurtured for my students, teachers and trainers I work with. I always did as I “preached” or so I was told. By being honest and caring. By leading by example when my professional choices were positions that made vulnerable social groups my work. For twenty years I worked with immigrant children teaching, playing, laughing, supporting, standing by them inside and outside school. I became the “personal volunteer” for several of them living in hostels and under social care and I took them out at weekends for strolls, theatre, museums or just to hang around in order for them to have a glimpse of “normality” in their institutionalized life. Two years ago, because of the work I did (both as a teacher and a teacher trainer) I was asked to join the Ministry of Education in a newly formed Department on Refuge Education as the flows were unprecedented and the State had to take measures. It was while in this position that I became consciously aware of my being a role model. In March I was invited by a young couple in their flat for a celebration they were having. I gladly accepted the invitation and joined them. I was the only Greek there, the only non farsi speaking, probably the older one, also. The couple is from Iran and had been living for two years in one of the many Refugee Accommodation Centers in Athens. Because of my work as I had visited the Centers many times, got to know the children and the young people there and had worked with a few of them when in an Erasmus + sport project I needed mediators and interpreters. It was at that party that I was told “Gelly you really like us. I mean really. Like friends whom you socialize with. Not just because you work with and for them”. I believe I do. I respect diversity, I am a highly empathic and compassionate individual. I am a responsible and passionate reflective practitioner. I do simply work in Ethics Education. I practice ethics with my life. I do not preach about respecting different faiths and religions. I celebrate spring together with my Zoroastrian friends with NowRuz.

Explain how you act as an ambassador and advocator of the Learning to Live Together Programme in your local context. (600 words)

My role as an ambassador and advocator is achieved through my different professional roles. More specifically: Peer to peer: Through the various projects on LTLT and LTPT I am involved in I have the opportunity to share the experience and integrate my teacher colleagues in Intercultural school into testing and applying LTLT’s innovative approach and materials and to sharpen together with them the profile of the school. Moreover, I motivate young colleagues from my school to participate in LTLT seminars and trainings. I can say, that our joint development in our school team has helped to make our school known better as a specialized place for the integration of migrant children which has, among other factors, made the school a prominent example of refugee integration since the refugee crisis started in Greece two years ago. More can be found at the schools’ website we developed in order for our work to be disseminated: Training of teachers and of teacher trainers: Through seminars, workshops and trainings as trainer and expert on LTLT and LTPT I come in contact with teachers, principals, education professionals, University students, NGO’s officials who are involved in children education. Through carefully planned and conducted trainings I advocate LTLT principles and values. By being a dedicated, passionate teacher and trainer myself I advocate that Learning to Live Together is a cross cutting theme. It provides space for reflection, dialogue, internalization and spiritual development regardless the expertise or the subject taught. I motivate teachers to nurture a deep, unconditional love for the children and the well fare of their lives. In my sport background what mattered was to be the fastest, the strongest. The principle was “The survival of the fittest”. I, on the other hand, decided early on when started working with LTLT and later LTPT that I want to make everyone “fit to survive”. And thrive. And this I advocate and stand for. Head of the Department for Refugee Education, Ministry of Education. For the last two years I was recruited at the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs in Greece and later appointed as a Head of the newly established Department. In my role as such I am often invited to deliver speeches and give presentations on Intercultural and Interfaith education as a means for refugee integration. Since my work in Learning to Play Together has also been published and disseminated through the years I am also invited as a key note speaker to events promoting the role of Games and Sports in social cohesion, development of self-esteem of women refugees, promotion of equality and so on and so forth. In all these, Learning to Live Together framework is an integral part that shapes the content and the presentation of it. Photos, storytelling and experiences from my LTLT engagement always give my audience the motivation to explore and discuss more about the programme. Together we reflect and find ways they can apply it to their context and work. At the same time as Head of the Department my mandates include monitoring and management of non formal and informal education provided to refugees from the various NGOs. In regular monthly meetings we have established I have the opportunity to promote LTLT programme and using our Learning Process again motivate them to explore and discover on their own the effect and impact it can have in the refugee population they work with.
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