We attended two programs of our outstanding lecturer Jana Coufalova. Jana has been working at schools in Olomouc for three years. It is a regional capital and quite a big city, where most lecturers have however failed to break through. Jana has persevered and is doing amazingly. She draws not only from her university background in education, but also from her work with teenagers over several years. Jana just “has a knack for them”.
Being in 6th grade feels like a beehive. It’s buzzing and swarming all around. Can you imagine doing a program with such a class? After the school bell rings, children start to take their seats in a circle, become quiet and wait for what will happen. And it is … Jana addresses them with the burning issue of bullying. Judging by children’s reactions, it is a topic that touches them all personally.
Jana handles this uncomfortable and delicate topic of bullying brilliantly. She changes individual activities with gentleness and interlaces them with examples from the real life. They take part in a short scene: with the sense of reality things get a completely different perspective – for example, if you are to face an aggressor and stand up for a bullied classmate. Children are encouraged to try to find answers by themselves – What is actually bullying? What is the difference between bullying and teasing? How can you help a friend who is being bullied? What can you do when you start being bullied?
There is open and friend atmosphere in the final evaluation too. Each child has a chance to say to their classmates for themselves whatever they have on their heart about this program. Even girls, who have been listening rather only quietly the whole time, are able to open up and share in the final part what type of behavior of their classmates makes them feel uncomfortable and what they would like to improve. Let’s go, sixth graders, and enjoy the rest of your secondary school years as a great group of friends. We have learnt during the program that a great group of friends makes the right and best protection against bullying.
A program called Love and Friendship for 8th grade is scheduled after the break. The topic is seemingly trivial and easy but as usually appearances are deceiving. Relationships are exactly one of the burning issues teenagers deal with at this age. Initial giggling and hesitation are soon gone, and Jana gets attendees involved in the program through the first group activity “Boys, describe the ideal girl. Girls, describe the ideal boy”.
A lot of activities are in pairs this time. The teenagers can practice the theory that has just been presented to them. They learn about basic differences between girls and boys – what behavior is natural, what triggers sexual behavior. Boys and girls do perceive things differently, and it is foolish to expect a boyfriend to behave the same way as your best girlfriend would.
It is a shame that people can’t build deep relationships nowadays. As Jana says, often it is rather only shallow holes in the sand, unable to carry loads and burdens that difficulties of life bring along.
Therefore, we are grateful for lecturers such as Jana that help children open their eyes, think for themselves and seek what is truly meaningful in life.
Apart from work at schools, Jana is also involved in the follow-up activities of Fusion, which is a music choir led by Christians. Long-term work and contact with participants are a great opportunity for further and deeper discussions than limited time-space provides at schools.
Lenka Stankova, the Healthy Youth Program Coordinator