Up to seventeen pupils, children of emergency workers, regularly attend a "substitute school" provided by volunteers from the UP Faculty of Education. As in the autumn of 2020, they are again preparing a full-day’s programme for them and helping them with on-line teaching in the premises of the Stupkova Primary School in Olomouc, which is close to the campus of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and University Hospital Olomouc.
“Every day is different. Some days there are more children, some days fewer. Sometimes we also have children with special needs, and we are learning how to work with them step by step,” says Pavla Richterková, one of the volunteers who take care of the children. “My shift actually starts the day before. With my colleague, we talk about what we are going to do and prepare materials and activities. In the morning, I start by finding out who is missing, how many classes each of them has today, who goes home at what time, and plugging in all their laptops. On their screens, you can suddenly see several different teachers, all teaching something different. In addition, there are also children who don’t have any on-line classes or have their classes later. Some bring a long list of homework, other kids reach for board games. In the meantime, I have to go around the class several times,” says Richterková, a student of Teacher Training for Primary Schools, about her regular day at the “substitute school”.
The afternoon programme usually consists of an arts class, a walk in the neighbourhood, activities in the gym and playing board games; the children also enjoyed a carnival.
“What’s in it for me? New experiences in working with children, especially those who have various educational conditions and disorders. I’m also learning how to handle technical problems and how to manage my time to get everything done. This work is enriching me the most in terms of communication – with parents, school management and staff, as well as other volunteers. Every parent perceives this substitute school differently. Some of them understand that children sometimes don’t have time to do all their homework, and are still thankful for what we do. On the other hand, other parents would send extra tasks,” says Richterková, adding that she had immediately agreed to participate as a volunteer, despite the ongoing exam period.
Anežka Běhávková, also a student of Teacher Training for Primary Schools and Special Education, has a similar view on this adventure. “I know now that I have chosen the right field and that I will enjoy my work. Although I’m often really knackered when I go home, I never regret it. Where else would I have so many amazing and funny experiences – at this time? What is most rewarding for us is when we see that the children also enjoy their time with us and do not want to go home. One day, a dad came for his son, but we didn’t know the parents yet, so we asked the children whose dad he was. No one raised their hands, but then one boy said, ‘Miss, I think he came for you!’ Every day, these children make us laugh with their words of wisdom and teach us things we adults have forgotten.”
This provisional class for children whose parents are needed in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic was set up by university volunteers in cooperation with Stupkova Primary School in November of last year. After Christmas, the activity was renewed and continued until the university semester started. Since mid-February, volunteers have been coming on Thursdays and Fridays, when they have no classes. At this moment, six volunteers are taking turns in this “substitute school”.
Would you like to participate in this volunteer activity? Please contact the coordinator of the “substitute school”, Lenka Nosková, via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in other volunteering, not only in the fields of tutoring and minding children, you can contact the UP Volunteering Centre: email@example.com
“We have made a few changes now. We meet in the after-school club room, where there is enough space for games and relaxation and at the same time there are small tables where on-line lessons can take place. Compared to November, there are more children now, from twelve to seventeen. In order for the group to function smoothly, simple rules were created on the very first day – the children actually wrote them themselves on a poster and confirmed with their signatures that they are determined to comply with them,” says Lenka Nosková, the coordinator of the activity and a doctoral student of the UP Faculty of Education, concluding, “Once again, all UP students went to work with great enthusiasm and perseverance. They pay great care to the children and it is obvious that they care about every single one of them. Thanks to the personal commitment of these students, the children are having a good time and will have many nice memories from these difficult times. Our students gain valuable experience every day, which makes me truly happy. Teaching experience is really the best way to get your teaching experience.“
Pavel Hofírek, director of Stupkova Primary School, also appreciates the cooperation with the volunteers. “They are very talented and their care for the children is outstanding. They have an individual approach to them in on-line teaching and manage to overcome the difficulties associated with it, no matter how tricky they are. After class, they prepare an interesting programme every day. I really appreciate how skilled these students are, considering they are not officially qualified teachers yet; in addition, they deal with an extremely diverse class of children from various schools in Olomouc. On behalf of our school, I can say that we will be very happy if we can continue our collaboration with these students – now within the volunteering programme and later as our employees. I’d also like to thank Lenka Nosková for all her help and cooperation in this challenging time, and Zuzana Pejpková from the UP Volunteering Centre and Vice-Dean Pavel Neumeister for supporting these students and our school.”