Strengthening and Capitalizing on Interpersonal Skills: „Soft Skills for Teachers, Trainers and Educational Staff”

Soft Skills, known as interpersonal skills, are associated with emotional intelligence and go beyond the formal education level (Hard Skills), being just as necessary and useful to the individual, both professionally and personally. They are ways of tackling certain situations at the behavioural level and comprise a vast area of manifestations.

During May 6th -12th  2018, I participated in the course entitled „Soft skills for teachers, trainers and education staff”, which took place in Bologna, Italy, under the Erasmus + Ecotraining project, reference no. 2017-1-RO01-KA101036080, launched by the Economic-Administrative Technological Highschool, in Piatra-Neamt, Romania. A total of 10 teachers in our institution take part in six training courses, lasting 5-7 days each, concerned with ICT training, counselling and professional guidance, parenting, internationalization and international cooperation, including e-tweening, in Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Malta and Portugal. The training activities are validated with Europass tools. The duration of the project is 24 months. As a result of dissemination activities, college teachers and students of the institution will benefit from concrete information on attractive teaching methods, increased parent involvement, up-to-date content tailored to the trainees’ needs in order to ultimately achieve better absorption of graduates on the labour market in Romania.

Here are some examples of soft skills: communication (interpersonal, public, public discourse), conflict negotiation and solving conflicts, time management, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, flexibility, teamwork, networking, assertiveness. The course in Bologna brought together teachers from schools in Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Malta, Poland, Croatia and Romania, who attended theoretical activities followed by practical activities, coordinated by the IFOM trainers (Istituto per la Formazione, l’Occupazione e la Mobilita).

The topics discussed and applied are:
– basic concepts in the neuro-linguistic programming approach;
– teamwork theory;
– teambuilding exercises;
– leadership styles and team roles;
– teamwork in a multicultural environment;
– conflict management theory;
– conflict negotiation and conflict management techniques;
– the basics of public discourse;
– styles of communication and learning;
– planning a public speech;
– effective design and delivery of the speech.

One of the sequences that seemed interesting to me was that each new course day started with a wrap-up, a review of the previous day’s information, involving teamwork and brainstorming, writing the information on a flip chart, and the presentation was done by either a leader or by the individual members of the team, presenting their own contribution. Working and decision making at team-level increases group cohesion and the efficiency of the review. Applied in class, teacher-student communication is no longer based on the questionnaire, on the individual answer, but each pupil has the chance to make a contribution, however small, to speak in public and feel successful. The result will be that student’s motivation for performing school activities increases. On the other hand, the source of information is not the teacher solely, but also the other students. Shyness, fear of failure vanish, and a pro-learning attitude develops. Part of the dissemination will consist in the elaboration of a teacher’s guide, precisely to capitalize, not only on the theoretical notions acquired during the course but also on the extraordinary practical activities chosen by the mentors.

A consistent benefit of this mobility is the cultural dimension of the area visited. Walking in the city where the first European university was founded (1088), in a multicultural group, accompanied by volunteers who introduced us to a different area each evening, meant to get a bit addicted to the spirit of the place. Le Due Torri (The Two Towers) is Bologna’s meeting point. Pinacoteca reflects a ray of light on the Renaissance painting. The Museum of Modern Arts displays dynamic sculptures in unconventional materials and abstract painting. The Teatro Comunale di Bologna, where we spent magnificent hours watching Vincenzo Bellini’s ”I Capuleti e i Montecchi” opera, has majestically painted ceilings, golden walls decorated with bas-reliefs of cultural geniuses. What about architecture? The central part of the city, with miles of sidewalks covered by arches called „portico”, is a wonderful outdoor museum. Residents? Friendly and communicative. The vast majority speak English, especially because there live many students.

We end the brief presentation of what Bologna meant to us by saying that we have met special people, have learned how to do things in a more interesting manner, for both ourselves and our students, and have seen wonderful places.

June 27, 2018
Teacher Aurora Moscalu
Economic Administrative Technological Highschool
Piatra-Neamt
Romania

 

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