Sava Kovacevic is a teacher from Montenegro. He is a proud awardee of the title “Best Teacher of the Former Yugoslavia” and is someone active in networking teachers from Montenegro with teachers from other countries in the Western Balkans. He has been working in education for 14 years. In teaching, he uses an integrative approach that correlates with modern digital achievements. He finds his inspiration in this kind of teaching and nonformal education, as well. He considers the connection of practical – work skills and teaching contents to be the basis of functional learning. He is the co-author of 12 professional development programs for teachers accredited by the National Council for Education in Montenegro, the Institute for Education and the Ministry of Education of Montenegro. He is a Youth activist and a trainer for the introduction of ECDL standards for young people and adults. He is currently working on the regional project “Schools for the 21st Century” and “Teacher for the 21st Century” organized by the British Council.
Motivation is a condition for success is my motto in private and professional life. It is good when you awaken the spark of success in children. It is a process that begins with a structured plan. In the beginning, the student receives various stimulating external motivators, until he/she becomes a strong internal motive for learning and self-improvement. At the end of this process, there is a strong, confident and confident person in front of you who is self-critical at the same time. I believe that self-discipline is the key to success. When at one point you achieve a high level of motivation in students, then all you have to do is work with them. I think that the combination of online teaching and classroom teaching is a phenomenal “recipe”. During the online classes, I used various external and internal motivators with my students.
In the beginning, I created Viber stickers with messages that I used in all phases of work and on online platforms. The messages we send to students are key to their motivation.
Online Teaching—Challenges and Solutions
The project “Learning at Home”, initiated by the relevant Ministry of Montenegro, united the entire educational community for the first time. The teachers breathed as one and all worked diligently to give each of their student’s knowledge. The learning process during online teaching is different, more challenging and more interesting. Classes were conducted via TV screens and posting materials on a variety of media ranging from Moodle platforms, Google classrooms and Viber groups At the very beginning, I was guided by the opinion – The choice of tools is very important for successful teaching. Depending on the teaching content, we used different tools.
For communication, we used the Moodle platform and the google classroom where students were given assignments. There are discussion forums on Moodle platforms, and you can follow the activity of each student individually. You can set the settings by rating the activity of each of them and in the end, you can easily rate the students. We posted the presentations on YouTube using free apps to create video lessons as well as interactive presentations. On-line classes, we used a zoom app and Microsoft teams that can be recorded and sent to students who could not attend their class.
Activities for checking knowledge and getting feedback, I used Testmoz, Quizlet, Google dock, Kahoot, etc. Webinars conducted by the students themselves on the topic “Montenegro – My Part of the Planet” where they created presentations and presented them to other participants where other teachers, parents, students and the like were present. An online film scope on which the students suggested films and finally finished by presenting their critical attitude. There is a range of various digital tools to offer and it is the teacher who chooses what suits him best for the successful implementation of teaching. In my “twisted classroom” during online classes, students have developed the skills to independently create certain materials, movies, commercials and then give their product to critical judgment to their friends, parents, other teachers and thus learn that critical thinking and analytical attitude is a prerequisite for a democratic and strong society.
TV Show or Class?
During the online classes, I was engaged in the #LearnatHome project. I recorded the contents for teaching Mathematics for the age of 10. In Montenegro, each teacher recorded classes for his subject and class. Classes were held for primary school, secondary school and secondary vocational schools in major and other subjects. Recording classes on TV is an unforgettable experience. Standing in front of an “empty” camera and establishing communication with hundreds of thousands of children was a new challenge. At one point, you were a teacher to all 5th-grade students in Montenegro. You have to admit that it is a big responsibility. You have been exposed to the court of the entire Montenegrin public and beyond. A challenge in which it was important to design teaching activities that will be interesting to everyone: children, their parents, colleagues and the general public.
I wondered how to gain integrity while remaining worthy of my profession. How to motivate children to stay with you from start to finish. I constantly included them and asked for their opinion, and they gave ideas. And it was a two-way process in which they had the opportunity to participate. After class, I would receive various letters of support and messages that I used to ask, “What would you like to see in the next class?” And thus, get new ideas. However, I must say that I am very satisfied at the end of that process. After 15 years of experience, only now has my work become recognizable to everyone. The Learn at Home project has become a tool that will, after it, serve all children to acquire knowledge in addition to the school and their teachers. At the end of the project, each teacher received a letter of thanks and material support for participation, which shows that the Ministry of Education of Montenegro takes care of its teachers.
How to Improve Online Teaching?
The children’s online classes were new. An unexplored breadth in which they did not have clear guidelines “where” and “how”! WE teachers were their guide. The beginning was certainly difficult and required the teacher to completely switch to a different way of learning. We first trained them on how to use certain tools, and only then did we think about the contents. The fact is that we are not next to the student to explain all the ambiguities in detail. There are no social relationships that affect the relationship itself. During the classes, we had a problem how to reach their little heads in the most picturesque way, clear and precise, to understand the content. Already in the next phase, everything was much easier and more interesting, when we teachers were confident in ourselves and our possibilities and began to explore other tools and have freedom because it is much easier to “swim in the new sea” of digitalization. We also need to be aware that we need to be supportive of parents who have taken on the role of teachers for a moment.
Here it is important to explain how to work with certain teaching contents. I would develop the #LearnHome project in the direction of providing a unified plan and program at the state level. I am aware of the fact that not all students in Montenegro can learn the same teaching content at the same time, but they can have elementary outcomes. Such an approach could be provided by the proposal of the Ministry of Education of Montenegro and the Institute for Education that certain teaching outcomes, as well as specific teaching contents, be realized in a certain school month or time of year. What I would do differently at a later stage relates to uniformity in the use of online tools, in terms of the same paid platforms. I would offer all teachers and my children one of the tools for each activity in which each teacher could monitor the progress of students in the digital world. I would focus on practical things in everyday life and connect them with the knowledge they have acquired so far.
New School Year and Online Classes
I look forward to the next school year ready and excited because I am welcoming a new generation of students. The period taught me many things and now I feel ready to respond to the many challenges I faced, to be supportive of children and parents when they didn’t know what to do. Honestly, I would very much like to meet my new generation in the classroom, to get to know each other and to lay the foundations of a new friendship in which we will grow together. I think that the best place for students is the upbringing and education of children.
Everything is much easier when the classroom is full of mutual love between students and teachers, the support and trust that the classroom provides, interesting teaching that is imbued with a living word and the use of digital tools. However, when health is more important to us than knowledge, everything is possible with a planned and systematic process with the wish that the day will come when we will meet in the classroom.