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Two years after – the mid-term impact of the Everyday Creativity project

Can education improve life? Can a few teachers improve the education system? Can one project consistently improve the practices of several teachers?
We will try to find an answer to these questions, examining the mid-term impact of an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership project in the field of school education. This project, entitled “EVERYDAY CREATIVITY – boosting the internal creative resources of European schools with Finnish models for education for creativity”  was finalized more than two years ago.

This time we will not ask the consortium members to evaluate the impact of the project, we are not asking how their institutions have grown from the experience, how many new opportunities resulted from this project, how their management staff became more competent, more open-minded and more resilient.  We will not even consider the considerable target audience that the project reached, the over 200 teachers taking part in the creativity boosting workshops, the over 500 educational stakeholders that attended our dissemination events, the thousands of teachers who followed our website, used our self-assessment tool and read the handbook developed in the project, and we will not count the numbers of viewers of the inspirational videos created from the final conference presentation (by Jukka Sinnemäki, Global Teacher Prize nominee). Numbers are just numbers.

This time we will not even refer to how our project products got into the circuit of international research on education for creativity, being appreciated even by professor Pamela Burnard, the leading theoretician of multiple creativities and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the creator of “the flow” theory.

This time our only focus are the practicing teachers who took part in this project. To get an impression of what this project meant for schools in Romania, Finland, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands, how it changed the teacher’s perspective, we asked for a first-hand reflection from these teachers who were not only our direct beneficiaries, but also multiplicators, co-creators, forerunners of this project. We returned to them with a Google form, two years after finalizing the project, in May 2021, with two simple questions.  

At first we asked them to reflect on their past two years: how their professional life, their work at school has evolved since the Everyday Creativity training, if they can identify any elements that are directly or indirectly related to the impact of the project. Let us quote from some of their answers:

The project has had a great impact on my way of thinking about education, teaching and child development. The training helped me realize what my role is (as an educator), and how I influence the children. It is still a learning process and I'm constantly challenging myself, rethinking my methods, and my teaching philosophy overall. The follow-up activities were constant reminders of that and really helped me to stay on track.”

“The training first of all gave me self-confidence and encouraged team-work with my colleagues. As for the Teacher Handbook, I still use it for summer camp activities, extra-curricular activities, "science fairs". I have purchased some STEAM equipment for my class, and I use them when teaching Math, my students are very creative with them and it helps them to learn easier.”

“My approach has become more child-centered. I pay much more attention to the child's perspective, development, values, and search for their goals. I try to apply Jukka Sinnemäki’s philosophy in my work saying to my pupils: If just once you feel I don’t like teaching, tell me not to come to school the next day."

“I have become more aware of the importance of promoting and embracing creativity in schools - in my school in special. The blended learning programme provided a kind of unconscious preparation for the online education that followed in 2020. This project opened up our creative skills that were useful when we were facing all kinds of challenges. Even Covid 19.”

“The most important thing that has influenced my work since then has been to focus my attention on the well-being of pupils and the importance of trust between all stakeholders in the learning process. We don't need the best, most expensive, most advanced technology if we can achieve a partnership and consistently built trust between teacher and students. I have since articulated this in many places and in many ways, and have since incorporated it into teacher training programmes and teacher development projects.”

“I have learnt a lot from organizing the training event and chief editing the Teachers' Handbook. Since then, the Handbook has been widely used in the courses of my university and beyond, and I can use it as a good reference point in other projects as well. Currently I am coordinating seven international expert networks, in one of them I manage a working team that develops a course on Multilingual learning environments.”
“The first thing that has changed was that I put gym equipment for students to exercise in the classroom. Furthermore, we are moving more and more towards formative work. I have held several workshops on this subject, following what I have seen in Finland. Another special thing is that Finland has been the start for further professionalization around internationalization. We have established an upper school committee to embed internationalization and world citizenship in a good way in vision and policy throughout the entire school community of OSG Singelland.”

“For me personally this project has been the start of my promotion trajectory and has resulted that I am now almost graduated as project leader in education after my new study. The trip to Finland has been an enormous inspiration for myself, my students, colleagues and our school community!”

“I have organized multidisciplinary projects trying to use teaching methods that inspire creativity. I prefer team work, experience-based learning and learning by doing. I have been trying to find new ways of cooperation inside and outside school and to focus on collaboration with my colleagues and my with my students’ parents. I never forget that Jukka Sinnemäki told us that the most important is the relationship between teachers and students, and I never forget neither the relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere of the Finnish school nor the trust between each other that was unique.”

We think that the above testimonies are convincing enough: one project can indeed change the life of several teachers.  But how can we convince more teachers, more schools to join such life-changing Erasmus+ experiences? We asked our wonderful teachers, missionaries of child-centered, interdisciplinary, resilient and creative education to help convince their colleagues to join the Erasmus+ opportunities, and make specific recommendations to teachers and schools who are just thinking about getting involved for the first time in an Erasmus+ project, highlighting the benefits but also the challenges.

Embrace Erasmus+ projects, because these projects give you the unique chance to international insight into quality, innovation and child-centered education, and ensure a guaranteed possibility to keep your mindset open as teacher. And this is more than half way to success.”

“The co-creation aspect is very inspiring so I'd encourage everybody to take part in knowledge exchange and the co-production of learning materials and/or collections of good practices. In brief, participation is very stimulating. Challenges include the (sometimes fundamental) differences in work cultures and approaches to team work, and finding a balance between trusting the partners and at the same time making sure that good quality products will be delivered.”

“It is a hardworking and intensive experience but you can learn a lot of new information, exchange ideas, share experiences and make valuable partnerships. With the follow-up projects you can provide useful inspiration for all your colleagues who are interested in developing themselves and growing in their teaching profession.”

“For schools, the opportunity to participate in Erasmus+ project is invaluable. It can really promote innovation processes in schools, provide the sharing of experiences and best practice and mutual learning, as well as mobility for teachers and students. In our experience, schools can find the administrative aspects of participating in Erasmus+ projects very challenging. Our recommendation would be to partner with well-experienced organisations initially, who can provide ongoing support and help, so that key teachers and school personnel have the opportunity to "learn on the job".”

“In order to benefit effectively from an Erasmus+ project in the long term, it is essential to prepare participants in advance. The most important thing is not language or cultural preparation, but an honest and reflective assessment of themselves and their work. A programme can only be truly successful if participants are aware of their own scope and potential and focus on what they can and do have an impact on.”

“Be prepared to work with different cultures inside the project, this also means that a lot of learning happens outside of the actual project itself. You learn a lot about yourself too.”

“Get ready for a lot of work, open ears and eyes. And don't hesitate, get involved in an Erasmus project. It just gives good!”

This article has been edited by Csilla Lazar, the project manager on behalf of the consortium leading organisation, the Spektrum Educational Center Foundation (Romania) and it includes quotes from the following teachers: Domonkos Németh, Alpár Ferencz-Salamon, , Guydolph Dijkstra, , Tamás Péter Szabó, Boglárka György, Maaike Bergsma, Szidónia Ráduly, Edit Páll, Anikó Vári, Michela Lupi.
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