7 Ideas for a More Democratic Year at School

Charlot Cassar


The summer holidays are almost over! In the next few days, teachers all over the world will be returning to school, hopefully fully recharged for the scholastic year ahead, doing what we love, creating a safe and democratic space for pupils to grow and develop their potential as active democratic citizens.

The beginning of a new scholastic year is always exciting, often with high hopes and ambitious plans to finally implement all those ideas we looked up while on vacation. Somehow, we are sure that this year things will be different. This year we will be real teachers doing what teachers should be doing. We will be more organised, more efficient, more positive, more emphatic. Above all, we will keep the bigger picture in mind at all times and we will find time to self-reflect and work to improve our practice accordingly. We know that our daily experiences, encounters and relationships forge our identities as persons in teaching. We realise that reflecting on our identity is a fundamental step towards developing democratic competence and no matter what, this year we will set aside time for personal and professional development.

Building Identity Awareness

If you have not done so yet, perhaps this is the time to check “Building Identity Awareness – The Dynamic Nature of Culture and Identity”, the first booklet published by Learn to Change. The booklet offers a brief description of the notion of identity and its importance to the development of particular attitudes, skills and knowledge related to democratic competence. It then describes a 6-hour training session consisting of four reflective activities raising awareness of self-identity, sharing information and feelings about uniqueness, reflecting on the effects and consequences of stereotyping and prejudices, self-assessment and gathering participants’ feedback on the session.

Read more

And then reality hits us square in the face. More budget cuts, more paperwork, more of everything that has nothing to do with what we should be doing. More demands that leave us buckling under the pressure, gasping for time that we would like to devote to our professional growth.

Yet, as tough as it maybe, we can take steps to ensure that we actually put the notion of lifelong learning and professional growth in practice, modelling what we aim to nurture in our students. When the going gets tough we need a beacon that can sustain our endeavour so as not to lose sight of what we truly believe in.

In this post we present a few ideas that can support our professional development during the school year.

We also propose a series of activities that posit the Teacher’s Edition of the Cards for Democracy, recently published by Learn to Change, as that beacon. They can be taken up by individual educators, a group or even a whole school. They can be driven by the school leadership or you can decide to pursue one of these activities under your own steam. The cards will serve as a visual incentive as well as a reminder.  You can play solo or paired up with a colleague but you may even decide to involve your own students in the process. You may want to think of these activities in terms of an action research project or simply as a personal commitment to improve your professional practice.

Get your copy of the Teachers’ Edition of the Cards for Democracy and read on…

It is very easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily demands. It is even easier and perfectly legitimate to claim that by the end of the working week, you are absolutely shattered. Yet, as the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way. Engaging in professional development, even after a week of hard work, can actually be reinvigorating, refreshing, energising. It will also bring teachers closer together and support the development of a community of education professionals – just look at what teachers are doing in Hungary. Once a month, a group of dedicated professionals gets together at the end of the week to share and grow together. Read more about it here or click on the link on the side.

Make this year a different one. Choose to engage in self reflection and professional development and make a habit out of it.

Time is a luxury, but this will be time very well spent.


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