Free democratic schools are like oceans

In 2020 I finished my degree and I became a teacher. Last year I worked in different schools in Barcelona and now I’m here. This is school is so different from all the others that I’ve seen before. I’m not used to it. Sometimes I don’t know how to act, I’m wondering which is my role here, what do I have to do… I guess all the volunteers wondered these questions during our service.

For me, the school is always flowing, but sometimes I’m not able to flow.

What can I do here? Which kind of workshops can I organize here? Would I be up to the school level? Since I arrived here I’ve been thinking about workshops and activities, but sometimes I’m completely lost.

One day I admitted to my tutor that I didn’t have ideas. “I have the feeling that I’m lost like in an ocean”. And she answered me: “Okay, our objective will be turning this ocean into a sea”.

I liked this metaphor. She is always talking in plural “our objective”. So yes, sometimes I’m drowning in the ocean, but I’m not alone. I realized that I will still be lost, but in a different way.

These last months I started doing my own workshops: Spanish, cooking, music… To be honest, they joined fewer kids than I was expecting. Sometimes only one kid joined me. I was completely shocked. “Welcome to democratic school”, said one teacher to me. This is normal here and it’s nothing personal. All the staff have experienced this. Teachers warned me about that, but when you experience this by yourself it’s hard to deal with your feelings.

To be honest, I’m scared of the word “no”. I’m scared to be alone at the workshops. If a kid said that he/she doesn’t want to join my workshops, it’s not personal. Kids have their interests, maybe are not the same ones as mine. Maybe that specific day they are tired and they prefer to do other things. Is that my fault? Of course not. It’s not the kid’s fault as well. It’s being part of a democratic school.

But what happens if only one kid will join my workshop? I’m used to seeing low numbers negatively. But here is different. Kacper (a staff member of the school) said to me that if one kid is joining my workshop means that this kid has a real interest in that. When I was a teacher last year, I was doing lessons for a lot of kids, they had to join all the activities (it was mandatory) but sometimes they weren’t interested in it. So now I’m thinking: Were they learning in these lessons? Were they enjoying it? Do the teachers think about the motivation of our students?

Following my conversation with Kacper, he also taught me a really good lesson: Teachers and mentors are prepared to teach, but sometimes kids are not ready to learn. The process is slower.

“Sometimes I don’t know what can I do for the kids”, I said to him. “Do things that are important for you. Do what makes you happy and step by step kids will join you. If they see you having fun at school, they will do it too. If you take care of the school and the people, they will do it as well. Maybe one day they will ask you “What are you doing?” and perhaps next time someone will join you.”

So, to conclude this article, I just want to say that I’ve been here for three months but sometimes I’m still lost here like in an ocean. It’s normal, it’s okay. Now I realize that the problem is not the ocean or the sea, simply I have to learn how to swim in.

The project is co-funded by European Solidarity Corps.

Ester Sisó Casabón

Author: European Volunteers in Poland

A blog curated by volunteers taking part in European Solidarity Corps initiative in Poland and coordinated by Active Woman Association

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