Hi, my name is Laura Molnar, I’m from Romania, and I’m a trainer of the Learning to Live Together Programme. In this post, I would like to share with you a little bit about my journey becoming a full-time LTLT trainer.
From the beginning
It all started back in 2009 when, while working as a psychologist for disadvantaged children, I was trained as a facilitator in Geneva, Switzerland. After implementing the program for a while, I started to see excellent results in the children. That is when I realized that I had to bring this program to a larger audience. So when the opportunity came, I took it.
I started working with a young NGO called Sol Mentis where I got the chance to implement the LTLT in a systematic way in formal education. At the beginning, I held many conversations about my intentions with people with more experience in education. Their feedback was often off-putting and discouraging. They would argue that teachers wouldn’t have the resources, time, energy or motivation to implement a program of this nature.
This is when I realized that accrediting the LTLT course with the Ministry of Education was key to the success of my project. With the accreditation on the table, teachers who attend the course would gain credits that could help them advance their profession.
I started the accreditation process by doing some research. I developed a questionnaire for teachers and applied it in different parts of the country. The results showed that ethics education was one of the main learning needs among teachers. With this information on hand, I elaborated the first curriculum of the training course, in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Education and I engaged skilled LTLT facilitators as human resources to carry out the training. I also partnered with different educational institutions in order to have adequate locations to carry out the courses.
It took a couple of months to prepare the accreditation file and a few more to get an answer from the Ministry. Finally, the letter came. We got the accreditation and we were ready to start the courses.
Having in the trainers’ team a practitioner with a lot of experience with teachers was an added value and attracted participants to our courses. The partnership with CN UNESCO for Romania was very useful too, helping us to promote the course through the UNESCO Associated Schools network, and most importantly, translating the LTLT manual to our local language.
Shaping the path
We started small, with a handful of teachers implementing the program in two private schools. At the beginning, many teachers were reticent about the efficiency of the methodology and believed that it would take too much time and energy to carry it out. And not only that, they had to re-arrange their classes to make the sessions fit in a curriculum that was already established.
To overcome these obstacles and to offer more support to the teachers, we elaborated some sets of LTLT sessions for different ages. Additionally, we offered to develop a mentoring program for them, facilitating sessions once a month in every school for the teachers to better understand the Ethics Education Approach.
We also needed to secure the institutional support, so we would rally the schools’ Directors on the advantages that this program can bring to the school, like better-prepared teachers to address problems, a decrease in discriminative and aggressive behaviors, a consolidated group cohesion and getting students more motivated to participate in different educational or social projects and initiatives.
Teachers’ busy schedules made it hard to build a community of practice. We tried to compensate through a periodic newsletter where they could see their colleagues’ experiences and achievements and get some feedback from the students. Meeting face to face and sharing ones’ experience is also very important, so we decided to organize, a yearly trip with our community of practice, offering a proper context to discuss their results and their challenges, and reflect together on ways forward.
We also worked very closely with Arigatou International Geneva in the monitoring and evaluation process. A monitoring and evaluation report was elaborated by Arigatou International Geneva, including relevant data and conclusions.
Reaping what we sowed
By the second year of implementation (2015-2016) we had gained more than 50 teachers from our partner schools. After noticing the results their colleagues achieved, they were motivated to implement the methodology in a systematic way. More than 2,000 students took part in implementations of programs based on the LTLT, improving their capacity to make ethical decisions and developing better social and communicational skills.
We expanded the accreditation to new regions in the Center, South, and East of the country, focusing on disadvantaged communities and areas affected by cultural, religious or ethnic divides. By the beginning of 2017, more than 120 teachers, from more than 15 towns and villages, expressed their interest to implement in a systematic way.
Each year we organize different projects, competitions and events (interfaith and intercultural learning, discrimination or violence prevention projects, IDEP and DPAC celebrations), bringing together schools and others institutions, offering students the opportunity to become more informed and to further develop their team-work and public speaking abilities.
At the end of the school year, teachers reported that students’ showed an increased sense of empathy and respect for the other; They developed better communication skills, improved their ability to resolve conflicts and showed better autonomy to overcome conflictual situations. Teachers also noticed a decrease in aggressive behaviors in the classroom. Children improved their creativity and critical thinking, showed more self-esteem and trust in their own forces, and became more involved with the needs of others.
The teachers also emphasized the changes in their own approaches and behaviors: more tolerance and patience, better conflict management, no discriminative attitudes, a better connection with their students, a higher sense of responsibility for their own behavior, more openness for informal education, and an increased motivation and self-introspection.
In the past four years, I have trained 1,300 facilitators, who have reached more than 3,000 children in Romania. For me, this achievement is more than number, it translates into lives changed, a more peaceful environment for children, and a sign of hope for the new generation.