Author: Zuzana Šrámková
As the year 2022 is slowly coming to an end, one important anniversary has approached for us – on 18.11.2022 we will blow out the first candle on the imaginary cake of our online educational platform called HELPMATE. The first baby-steps are long behind HELPMATE and the program is well on its way to maturation. In fact, HELPMATE has already passed one very important exam – on the 2nd of November, C4C received final accreditation from the Ministry of Education – for the education of pedagogical staff for all existing modules.
But let’s 😊 not get ahead of ourselves. We first wrote about this project of C4C here, but it certainly does not hurt to remember how it all came to be.
When the idea was first conceived of creating an auxiliary tool for educators and staff in children’s homes, we based it on the experience of our mentors and teachers who have been working with resident children for a long time. We could not fail to notice the enormous demands placed on the staff of these institutions, the burdens, difficulties and complexity of their work, and we were puzzled by the fact that they were not given any separate and specific training, but received only general training with colleagues from other fields – teachers or social workers.
We also realized that closer cooperation with the staff and management of children’s homes would make it easier for us to work with the children themselves, and to find potential mentees to bring out their full potential.
We decided to take a deep dive into the topic.
The Covid conundrum mandated an operational shift in children´s homes, which also gave a clear form to the outlines of the HELPMATE platform: education will take place online! As there were a multitude of topics that needed to be addressed, we decided that HELPMATE was best delivered in the form of individual modules, each of them to deal with one specific issue.
It remained to find kindred spirits in the field of online education. And so Jarka Haľková from Zobárna entered our lives, whose modular microlearning strategy exactly corresponded to our idea of training for educators. The system was flexible, multifaceted and content-oriented so that it could be immediately used in practice.
With the help of psychologist Pavel Wieser, who had worked with C4C before, we started to put together the first module, How to manage anger, which we launched in mid-November 2021. 147 educators and staff from 14 children homes signed up, of which 67 successfully completed the course.
After the launch of this pilot module, feedback from participants confirmed that we were moving in the right direction:
“I have been working here for more than 20 years and you are the first to ask me how I feel, what I need and how you can help me. Thank you!” Luděk Černý, manager, Ledce Children’s Home
“I really like the concept of HELPMATE when I can work and learn at a time of my choosing. Classes are easy to plan and not very time-consuming.” Michala Boušková, educator, Sázava Children’s Home
“I really appreciated the last online meeting. The lecturer was pleasant and explained things so that we could all understand them. Also, the combination of online training, followed by online meetings, was ideal for me.” Petra Polominiová, governess, Children’s Home Kralupy nad Vltavou
We set about further work. Currently, HELPMATE has four completed modules – the already mentioned Anger, How to handle lying in children, How to manage time and at the end of October we launched the module How to recognize bullying. We currently have 126 educators from a total of 20 homes for the current running modules.
After meeting with the directors of children’s homes, we launched the second run of Anger for new educators, and because the interest in HELPMATE has grown to unexpected proportions, we have already prepared a third run.
And who is assembling these modules?
C4C´s core team in creating the HelpMate modules are long-time mentors Markéta Franke and Monika Kavanová. They took on the task of transferring the input we received from our teachers and mentors in children homes to an online platform they created. Additional support is provided from psychologist Kateřina Kopečná from the Ledce children´s home. Her intricate knowledge of the inner workings of orphanages and the problems their staffs face, make her an invaluable asset in sourcing material for the modules. Working hand in hand with C4C´s project manager of the Springboard to Life program, Petra Erguvanli, they complement each other in every way, as Petra relates to the management and staff of orphanages in an open, informal and friendship like way.
And then we have the already mentioned Jarka Haľková of Zobárna. Together with Markéta Franke, these two women give the structural outline to the input we receive from our team of teachers and mentors. The final form of the HELPMATE is their work. My own little contribution to the final product consists of proof-reading their material.
Finally, each module ends with an online meeting of participants, masterfully moderated by above mentioned Monika Kavanová.
So much for our “HELPMATE” team. Of course, the activities and creation of modules by its members are intertwined, so, as you can imagine, we all work on everything a bit, 😊…
Taking the positive feedback we received from educators and staff, we are encouraged that the platform fulfils what we wanted it to do for educators – to give them a helping hand and have a time-out to concentrate and find solutions to the complexity of their work. Helpmate enables them to learn something new in a playful way, without over-burdening them or adding stress to their already difficult work.
Last but not least, it is also encouraging to them that during online meetings, they find out that staff from other children´s homes oftentimes face the same challenges and difficulties and that they´re not alone.