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Non-Formal Learning – not always easy to recognize, but all the more important

Skills and Knowlegde for the Future as a Teacher

Name: Emily
Age: 18
Home-country: Germany
Volunteering experience: 10 months in Austria, starting from September 2020
Volunteering programme: European Solidarity Corps (ESC)

Emily is a current ESC volunteer in Vienna. She works in an alternative school called Ätsch. It’s a school which provides an alternative way to follow the curriculum by using more innovative methods; such as project teaching, feedback instead of notes, learning without homework or pressure, parent involvement and learning mentors instead of teachers. The reason why Emily ended up in this project was simple: after high school she already knew that she wants to become a teacher in the future, but before studies she wanted to get some important experience on working with children. So she found VIA e.V (her sending organisation), Grenzenlos and the project in Ätsch – and was ready to move abroad.

By supporting in daily routines at the school, Emily has got the confirmation for her future plans. “I really love this, I feel that I’m good at this, so I want to do more and work as a teacher in the future.” Already now, after a few months of volunteering, she feels that she has learned many useful things for her upcoming career. “At the moment I work a lot with a child with intellectual disability. It’s new for me, I didn’t have any experience on working with children with disabilities before, and I have learned so much, it’s very interesting. In addition, I have learned and got experience on providing face-to-face learning support for children, taking responsibility and dealing with new and changing situations. It’s a bit different than I expected, as I thought I would do more formal teaching and regular classes, but actually I enjoy this a lot!”

During the coming months Emily hopes to learn even more spontaneity: “Normally I have all the things well-planned and I like to go according to my plans, but with children situations change quickly and you can’t organise or plan everything beforehand.” Also, she will probably do some own project in her volunteering placement later: “Maybe some English classes or something, it’s for tee future so I’m not doing it right now. But something that is my own project and contribution.” 

Non-formal learning happens also outside the work. This time in Vienna is the first time for Emily to live alone. “I’m 18 so I haven’t lived independently before, and of course I’m learning a lot about everyday life things, like planning and organising laundry, groceries, bank and money issues…” As we all know, this time with the COVID-19 pandemic is not the easiest with all the uncertainty and changing rules and restrictions. But at the same time it provides a good learning option.
“I’m a person who can quite easily get home-sick, but here I need to learn to cope with it. And the corona sets some challenges to hang out with other people and get to know locals. But then for example I have learned to visit more places alone and I’m enjoying to recharge my batteries by taking time for myself.”

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