Welcome to the first EUDEC Newsletter after the 2016 IDEC@EUDEC in Mikkeli, Finland!
We all know that EUDEC conferences are amazing. Still, this conference didn’t fail to surprise us with just how amazing it was, and the level of connection, support and friendship that was shared. A huge THANK YOU to everybody who helped to make it happen.
We hope you enjoyed the conference as much as we did and have all returned home safely and taken some well-deserved rest by now.
For those of you who didn’t go (or those who were so tired they slept through the keynote days), we have a special treat: You can watch the keynote speeches here.
Marko created a facebook group for sharing photos, videos or anything else that comes to mind. You can find it here.
This is part of a general movement towards creating more and more online resources and events (in addition to the real-life meetings and conferences, of course), in order to make EUDEC’s shared knowledge more accessible! For example, there will be online open space events, like the ones that already took place twice during the lead-up to the conference. Plans were made to have a Start-Up Open Space that will complement the Online School Startup Course. Exciting stuff!
Another exciting development is that more and more members are getting involved in working towards our shared aims! The Online Presence Workgroup is buzzing with activity and working really hard to provide you with a brand-new, shiny online presence for EUDEC, the Google-Grants and Student Exchange workgroups are very active, and there is a new Scientific Research Workgroup which is creating an evidence base supporting DemEd as a valid educational system. Here is a list of EUDEC’s work groups.
Feel free to start a new workgroup on the topic that matters most to you!
There is also the possibility to get involved by helping us out with smaller tasks (see below).
Yet another area where members are incredibly active are regional activities. There will be regional EUDEC meetings in several countries. We cannot even begin to stress how important this is for promoting EUDECs aims, keeping alive and expanding the amazing networking and support platform that has been created over the last years!. Regional meetings have far lower boundaries for people to attend, financially (you don’t have to travel all that far) and language-wise (the meetings are usually held in the language of the respective country). This will help many more members to get involved.
The power within EUDEC is with our members. We as council can make some decisions, but mainly, we’re there to do the (mostly really fun and exciting, sometimes boringly bureaucratic) work that is required to keep EUDEC running and moving forward. All the really important decisions have to be run by the AGM, and thus, by all EUDEC members who want to be involved in the decision making process. However, we want to involve you even more, and are currently looking into online-voting tools, so that we can ask your opinion on the smaller decisions, too. Please get involved, please be active, EUDEC is yours!
We’d be interested to hear any questions or thoughts on these developments via info at eudec.org.
Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the rest of the newsletter.
All the best,
Lena (EUDEC Council)
1. By-Election for Council Seat
2. How to Get Involved
3. IDEC@EUDEC 2016 Workshop Recap: How to Prevent Apathy at Democratic Schools... And whether we should
4. Online Presence Workgroup Update
5. New Oversight Committee
6. AGM Feedback
1. By-Election for Council Seat
As there were no nominations in the AGM for the seat on Council left vacant by Simon Hulshoff, an online by-election had to be held.
Four candidates nominated themselves for the election:
Anna Tabea Meyer
Ihana Fabienne Fabre
Anton Hübner received the majority. We would like to welcome him as a new member of the EUDEC Council and thank the other candidates and everybody who voted.
2. How to Get involved (Lena)
Check out this folder if you want to help us out with the work that needs doing in order to fast-forward EUDEC’s success!
It’s on google instead of the wiki, so that it’s easier to use. Once we have our new website, it will be moved there.
I’ve created two documents, Tasks that need doing, where you can find a list of just that and can sign up for it, and I want to help, where you can put up your name and what you’re good at, so that we can contact you if we need help on something specific. It would be great to see lots of names appearing on those lists, We’re looking forward to working with you!
3. IDEC@EUDEC 2016 Workshop Recap:
How to Prevent Apathy at Democratic Schools... and whether we should (Lena)
At this year’s IDEC in Mikkeli, Finland I held a workshop called How to Prevent Apathy in Democratic Schools... and whether we should.
This was the workshop description:
I've noticed that there is a general atmosphere of inactivity and apathy in some democratic school environments. To me, this atmosphere seems counterproductive. I want to know if you feel the same, if you can think of reasons and of ways to prevent it from happening, or if you think it's a part of DemEd and we shouldn't try to change it.
There were 42 participants in my workshop, which shows that this is an important issue in Democratic Education. Through a short show of hands, 28 participants said that they had experienced this general sense of apathy, and 41 participants saw it as something that should be changed.
I would like to stress that I am not talking about phases of inactivity or periods of boredom (which are essential elements of Democratic Education, and of life), but of a general sense of apathy that is tangible in the whole school and can last for a very long time. This will, for example, influence new students who come to the school, but also staff members and visitors etc.
During the workshop, we discussed the topic and came up with some possible reasons and solutions. Participants who had observed the phenomenon in their schools (as students or as staff members) said that first of all, if the child doesn’t see it as a problem, then it is no problem. Also, a close contact between staff members and students is essential, because only then will staff members know if it is a problem for the student, or if it is boredom out of choice.
What was striking was that some participants who had experienced apathy as staff members reported that students saw it as a big issue afterwards. They did not realize what was going on while it was happening, but said things like “I wasted a year” in retrospect and were unhappy about it. This served as a reason to justify the opinion that the school community should do their best to prevent it from happening, and try and give the learning environment an inspiring, thriving atmosphere.
A possible reason mentioned were staff members who felt stressed and unmotivated themselves. Democratic Schools strive to enable their students to live self directed, happy lives, and it is potentially very demotivating to interact with adults every day who are obviously not happy where they are and do not have enough control over their lives in order to shape them so that they are not overwhelmed. It might make the aim of living a life that is tailored to one’s interests and abilities seem unrealistic, and thus stop the students from working towards it.
Some participants said that it was mainly the middle-school age group who was affected by the problem, and blamed this on exams the students felt they had to take in order to succeed in life, but were not really motivated to.
School was also described as a box that children are put in, among other reasons in order to keep them safe. This becomes a problem when there are not enough connections to the outside world, and children are lacking real life input. Democratic Schools can only work as part of life, and not in isolation from it.
The image of Democratic Education was also mentioned as a possible reason. One participant noticed that DemEd was often portrayed as Doing Nothing All Day or All Day a Break, giving off an impression of inactivity, when actually, it should give children the time and space to discover tools for shaping their lives according to their own standards.
Thus, possible solutions to the problem were working with the staff, creating spaces for them to address how they feel within the school environment or what they really want to do, and how they can support each other in achieving this. If old patterns persist, a change in staff might be required.
A good connection between students and staff members was repeatedly mentioned. Obviously, staff should be chosen very carefully, not only on the basis of whether they agree with the model of DemEd, but also on whether they are ready to take control over their own life, and whether they are able to shape it according to their standards.
Connections and dialogue between staff and students can be achieved by having a mentoring system in place, creating spaces for conversation about life at the school, the community and the learning process. It was also suggested to have a meeting at the beginning of each week in which students present what they want to learn or do, and another meeting at the end of the week where they say if they achieved their goals. A big challenge with this process is that it hugely depends on the state of learning, because it excludes the learning through play, takes away spontaneity and is unsuitable for monitoring the invisible learning that takes place whatever you do.
It is also of the utmost importance to create as many links to life outside the school as possible. This could be by having visitors or going on excursions, for example, by forming partnerships with companies, local businesses, other schools (of any kind), nursery homes, zoos… The possibilities are almost endless.
The DemEd environment could be portrayed as a place to “learn what really matters to you” instead of a place where you can do “whatever you want”.
Real freedom seems to be key to keeping up motivation. The decision about what they want to learn, where they want to learn and with whom they want to learn should be left entirely up to the students.
4. Online Presence Workgroup (Michal)
The online presence workgroup has made a huge progress during and after the conference.We are making big steps towards bringing you a new online presence that will help with a sustainable growth of our community. If you want to contact the workgroup you can write to michal.sienicki at eudec.org
5. New Oversight Committee (Lena)
Welcome Cornelia Thetz, Rachel Roberts and Nicola Kriesel as EUDEC’s new oversight committee!
Thank you for nominating yourselves and thanks to everybody who voted.
6. AGM Feedback (Lena)
After this year’s AGM in Otava, Finland, we held a feedback-round. You can find the points that were made here:
Sorry for the (technical) issues during the AGM. The next one will be better!
We want to thank everybody for their feedback! If there is anything else you’d like to say about the AGM, please contact info at eudec.org or reply to this e-mail.
Thank you to everybody who stepped in and helped, for example through being a vote counter or an election officer!
Thank you to everybody who attended the AGM, thanks for your contribution and the productive discussions!