Unification News for July 2003

IEF Seminar for Educators in Russia

by Robert Beebe

Since the summer of 1993 IEF has been conducting Teacher Training Workshops (TTWs) throughout the former Soviet Union and Mongolia in order to introduce the My World & I moral education curriculum to schools and train teachers in how to use these materials in their classrooms. As a result, thousands of schools have adopted the curriculum in their desire to guide their students into a healthy lifestyle and to protect them from the many social dangers threatening to corrupt them at younger and younger ages. Over the years IEF has received numerous testimonies from school directors, teachers and students about how this curriculum has helped them in their personal and family lives.

On this foundation in 1998 IEF initiated what would become an annual event known as the "model schools conference". The official theme of this conference has been "School Education and the Moral Renewal of Society". Invited to these conferences have been schools that were already using the IEF material but which desired to expand the curriculum to a school-wide level -- in other words creating a moral education program in their school based upon the My World & I curriculum. Over the past five years more than 100 schools have participated in this event as well as many representatives from various ministries and departments of education.

Subsequently many of these schools have gone on to establish themselves as truly model schools in their regions or cities, winning recognition from the education establishment. One such school in the new capital of Astana in Kazakhstan, School #36, has started an outreach program to other schools, holding training workshops themselves to which they invite education officials and teachers from other schools to learn about the IEF material and see it demonstrated in their classes. In Kazakhstan My World & I has won an award for being the best moral education program in the country.

This past June 26-29 IEF held its 6th annual conference at a sanitorium outside of Moscow. Thirty school directors, vice-directors, methodologists and other specialists gathered from such diverse places as Kazakhstan, Moldova, Ukraine and various parts of Russia. The first evening was an informal gathering where participants got a chance to introduce themselves and get to know each other. In a very short time a warm atmosphere was created which attracted the attention of a school director who was attending a different education conference at the same sanitorium. She became so enraptured by the spirit of our event that she ended up spending most of her time with us, eventually bringing two of her colleagues with her.

The next morning the conference officially opened with words of greeting from Mr. Jack Corley, vice-president of IEF International, on behalf of IEF’s president, Dr. Joon Ho Seuk. He warmed the hearts of the participants by calling them the true heroes of their countries for their commitment to the education of the younger generation despite low, or sometimes even unpaid, salaries and having to work with outdated or inadequate materials. Then, Mr. Robert Beebe, Eurasian director of IEF, made the opening presentation on "The Need for Character Education", using the Power Point system.

This was followed by a talk on "The State of Ethical Education in Russia" by Prof. Alla Shemshurina, a specialist in ethical education from the Russian Academy of Education and author of several children’s textbooks. After lunch, Prof. Vadim Kukushin, a pedagogue from Taganrog who has been teaching the My World & I curriculum for nearly ten years, shared with the participants some of his techniques and experiences in using this material. Following this, three IEF-trained teachers demonstrated various interactive teaching methods that the My World & I curriculum employs as effective means of engaging teenagers in the classroom.

The conference also offered several opportunities for participants to share with each other their experiences in promoting the moral development of school children. Svetlana Povekvechnova, a methodologist with the Ministry of Education in Kazakhstan, spoke about their work in developing the curriculum in Astana centered upon School #36. Later in the conference Tamara Romanova, an inspector with the Department of Education in the Samara Region of Russia, spoke about how they are using the My World & I material to combat the problem of drugs that are influencing the youth of that area.

The second day of the conference focused on the issue of teen sexuality. Presentations and discussions revolved around the topics of sex education, promoting chastity to teens, the physical and social development of adolescents and ways of working with parents to guide their teenage children effectively during these difficult years. This day also was the "Day of Heart", a unique aspect of IEF’s seminars and conferences, in which the participants are asked to form themselves into groups and create performances in song, poetry and drama promoting the theme of "True Love". This opportunity stimulated their creative juices as the participants produced several touching as well as laughable new renditions of old folktales.

On the final day participants were asked to think about and then present to each other concrete plans for the introduction and implementation of moral education programs in their schools during the coming school year. They submitted to the IEF staff written "Action Plans" in which they spelled out the steps they would take, who in their school would be responsible, how each part of the school community would participate and, finally, how they plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Their plans varied widely, reflecting their schools’ character and the problems they are facing. But all participants were united in their desire to make their schools a place where their students, teachers and staff want to be; a place that has a vision for itself and a sense of noble purpose to raise up a new generation of citizens and leaders that will seek to change their countries and the world for the better.

The conference ended with a final banquet at which the participants received their certificates for completing the program, shared and laughed with each other, and finally broke out into the inevitable traditional songs that teachers love to sing, concluding with "Moscow Nights".

One participant’s reflection seemed to sum up the feelings of many. She wrote: "Here I received great moral satisfaction, a moral recharge and renewed conviction that there is still much good and of useful value that can be done in our schools. We must not give up out of fatigue and hopelessness. We are in the position to stand in there, as there are many patriots and heroes among our teachers."

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