Impact on teachers
Partnership for Children trainers have recently returned from Bulgaria, introducing Zippy’s Friends to future teacher trainers there. One of the key principles of the programme is to emphasise the positive and give lots of encouragement and reinforcement when children come up with healthy strategies and solutions to problems.
‘This is going to be quite a change for our teachers,’ said Maria Tchomarova of Animus, our new Bulgarian partner NGO. ‘In Bulgaria teachers typically criticise children and point out what they’re doing wrong. Even if an answer is correct, they will say, “That’s right, but…”’
‘And as parents we do the same with our children at home,’ added her colleague, Nadia Kojuharova.
Bulgaria is by no means unique in this respect – we’ve heard similar comments before. Teachers in many countries still use authoritarian and punitive teaching methods. Children are not there to be listened to, but to be told what to do.
But we know from experience that Zippy’s Friends can have very positive effects on teachers as well as on children. In a survey of Zippy teachers in six countries, 89% said that teaching the programme had made them better teachers.
One young teacher in Mauritius told us that he had completely changed his teaching style since starting to teach Zippy’s Friends, and that his job, which had been a chore, was now something he enjoyed.
A Lithuanian teacher commented, ‘This programme is so useful in my work. If I could, I would turn the clock back to know it earlier.’
In China a head teacher told us, ‘One teacher in our kindergarten has changed a lot since she implemented the curriculum Zippy's Friends. Now she is more willing to share her feelings and thoughts with us. She is able to consider other colleagues’ feelings. I found it is easier to communicate with her.’
An older Zippy teacher in Brazil told a teachers’ conference that she had been due to retire that year, but her family had told her, ‘You can’t retire now – this programme is having such a good effect on you!’
Even in countries where it’s more usual for teachers to have a facilitative teaching style, teacher training courses rarely cover children’s social and emotional wellbeing, or what teachers can do to promote children’s mental health. The emphasis is more often on attaining targets and completing the required paper work.
Teaching Zippy’s Friends can be quite an eye opener, with many teachers expressing surprise when they see how eager children are to talk about their feelings and how many ideas they can generate for coping with difficulties. Over time these teachers will move on to new classes in new schools and perhaps teach children of different ages, but they will take this new realisation and understanding with them, so furthering the programme’s impact.
It will be fascinating to see what impact Zippy’s Friends has on teachers in Bulgaria.