Post-war education and upbringing of children: a teacher from the “Superheroes School” told about studying in hospitals
Mykola Denysenko is a teacher at the Superheroes School at the Zhytomyr Regional Children’s Clinical Hospital. For several decades he has been teaching in particular for young patients.
He considers the attitude to the health and psychological state of students to be the most important priority. And learning foreign languages and mastering IT technologies are the main requirements for modern education.
2019 was a turning point in hospital education in Zhytomyr Region. In the homeland of the curator of the “Superheroes School” – TV presenter 1 + 1 and the Unified News Marathon Natalia Moseychuk – opened two educational spaces in the regional and city hospitals. Due to constant shelling, schools are temporarily closed, but we believe that everything will be back on track.
You need to find a thread that connects the child to the adult teacher
How did you get into the team of Superheroes School teachers and how unique is this experience for you?
I have known this school for many years, not the Superheroes School, but the former hospital. And it belonged to our Stanyshiv school. Back then I was the deputy principal and my job was to get acquainted with the system of work, because we certified them as teachers. Then the school was closed for a long time. And then, thanks to the Superhero School project, it was reborn. I saw these sprouts of formation, the birth of education in the hospital.
What is the difference between your practice in a regular school and a hospital?
Mostly we work with children who are in a long-term treatment without parents. Imagine a child of 5th – 7th grade! A child without parents, without friends. And here, there are the procedures, injections. The child, of course, finds it difficult to adapt. Studying at the Superheroes School becomes more individual. When preparing for a lesson, we take into account the physical, emotional and psychological state of the child. The difference is that our lessons start at 9 o’clock. We take into account the free time from treatment, and work between procedures.
Does communicating with children in the hospital affect your approaches to teaching and worldview?
Of course, the individual form of work prevails, and here it is important to quickly adjust when submitting the material. We don’t know where the child was before it got to the Superhero School. When children get sick, they are first treated at district hospitals, then come to us in the regional. Some period passes – and we must fill these gaps. It is very important to establish contact with the child quickly. I always start the first lessons with beginners from the introductory conversation – I am interested in who you are, where you are, how you are, who is a father, a mother. And then the children open up quickly, always approach me. Perhaps this experience is noticeable. You need to find the thread that connects the child to an adult teacher or educator. And then there is the lesson. Classes at the Superheroes School are being attended by those children who want to.
I often go to the manipulation rooms and sit next to the children who are waiting in line for procedures and communicate with them: “Children, we have a school and lessons.” And the children have such deep breaths: “Wow, you know, we’re tired of that school at home.” I ask, “And what subject?” And children often say, “I don’t like any subject.” And I sit next to the children while they wait for the procedures and ask: “What are you tired of that school, children? Where are you from? From Berdychiv?” They tell me that you do not know that village. And I say: “What do I not know ?! I know everything!” And then I ask them how they would react to such school, where they will not be graded. There’sa pause for a second. And I continue to say that no grades, you can come in, you can leave the class. No one will argue about why you didn’t take the pen, why you’re not ready. Vice versa! If you need to call, you can leave and return. And we will encourage you. See what badges we have, what superhero forms and bookmarks we have. Let’s go and see. This conversation takes 5-7 minutes and they go. And then one or two children come. I listened, saw this lesson. No shouts, no discontent, no remarks. And if you don’t like it here, you can go. And then, of course, they come to this school. This is the advantage of this school. And in a regular school, we can’t do that when you have 25-30 students. That someone came in and out. Because you will not have a lesson, and since we have more individual and group training here, we allow ourselves to do so.
Give children a tiny spark of life
What stories from working in the “Superheroes School” will you often mention?
It is special to work with children who are treated in the oncohematology department, because these children are rarely visited by strangers. There are children who are hospitalized for a month, two, six months, a year. It’s too difficult. Although I have a lot of experience, I did not know what to do with them, what to talk about. But they mastered themself. I told and read them fairy tales. I let them read on their own. And then they adjust – adjust. Sometimes you come to the class and there is no child. Where is it? And it is in intensive care. And the students tell me that the child asked to come to her. It’s in the onco, heavy ward. And it’s even harder. You go to that ward. But that’s why we stand guard to come, to stay, to tell them something a little bit to give them a tiny spark of life. This is worth of our work. I had such girl Lyudmila Andrushchenko. She came to me for a lesson and brought her works. She wrote about all the stories and poems. I gave her the task to write about the hospital, about the teachers. We have classes once a week. And she says, “I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.” And she wrote them so competently. I told her she was unique. Such children are very memorable. And in general, children who have desires, who come, work, want and you want to work with such children.
In your opinion, what important experience should hospital teachers of the Superheroes School share with teachers of ordinary schools?
The main thing is the child’s health. It is very important to focus on children who return to regular schools after treatment, because they need to adapt.
Education in hospitals is not in vain
Given your long-term pedagogical career, what areas of educational reform should be a priority in the coming years
Creating conditions for quality education. That’s where we have to work to the fullest. The child should feel the teacher and the parental care. Next – knowledge of the language. Knowledge of languages: Ukrainian, English, German, Polish and others should be a priority. Because the war showed who is who. How many people went to Poland and how many will stay. A certain percentage will marry there, will study. At a meeting with my graduates, I invite them to come to school and talk. And they, those who go abroad, ask me to tell my current students to study well. And to be sure to learn languages. I ask, why languages? Let them teach mathematics! And I am told that everything can be counted on a calculator, but knowledge of the language is a must! And I never thought that those guys who didn’t really want to study are now such activists. And now you can’t get away from IT technologies. The modern world has all these technologies and our children must also know them well. Applied sciences. Mathematics and physics are also indispensable. And the formation of a holistic attitude to the history of Ukraine. So that these Moscow idiots do not tell us that we are Lenin’s Ukraine. We must know the history of our country very well!
How do you see the future of hospital education and what do you think is its importance?
Ensuring the right to education in hospitals is not in vain! After all, we need healthy and smart children. We live in a democracy and have no right to abandon children. Because these are the future defenders of our Motherland. These are teachers, doctors, who must be able to use all the knowledge acquired, both in a regular school and in the “Superheroes School”. I do not know what will happen from September 1. We do not know what will happen. No one knows. But the teaching will be in any case. Some time will pass and we will return to a peaceful life. We will defeat and expel the rascist from our land.
Reference: “Superheroes School “ – is an educational project founded in 2016 by the public organization “Small Heart with Art”. Its purpose is to ensure the constitutional right to education of children in inpatient treatment in medical institutions. The curator of the “Superheroes School” is Natalia Moseychuk, host of 1+1 and the United News Marathon. She helps drive school reform in hospitals with the “Right to Education” charity team and 1+1 media.
Since 2019, under the social franchise, branches of the Superheroes School have been opened in eight hospitals in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kherson, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Khmelnytsky. To prepare teachers for work in hospitals, the team of the Superheroes School has developed an online course “How to teach superheroes?” An online training course for hospital teachers”, posted free of charge on the EdEra platform. In December 2021, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine signed a Resolution on the establishment of the state institution “Superheroes School”.
With the start of the war, the category of children we work with has changed – now it’s mostly children affected by the war – with severe injuries and loss of body parts, whose parents died in front of the children. These children, despite the horrors of war, seek to continue their education while in hospital. Therefore, the Superheroes School continues to work with the support of the Democracy Fund of the US Embassy in Ukraine and the Transatlantic Health Fund.
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