"Teachers' influence is potentially profound"

Teachers learn how to make use of UN educational material

"I pay tribute to the millions of teachers around the world who are working with passion and skill to nurture their students and whose influence on our world is potentially profound," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for World Teacher's Day, observed on 5 October. The United Nations, aware of teachers' crucial role in conveying knowledge and values to children, are dedicated to supporting them fulfill their task.

To help achieve this goal, the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) organized a two-day workshop "The United Nations and global challenges for English teachers" in cooperation with the University of Teacher Education in Vienna (Pädagogische Hochschule Wien), offering 16 teachers the opportunity to learn more about the UN's work and to become familiar with the UN learning tools and services for teachers and students.

The first day of the seminar, which took place on 12 December 2013, started with a guided tour of the Vienna International Centre (VIC), which is one of the four UN headquarters.

UNIS Public Information Officer Irene Höglinger-Neiva told the participants about the activities and special tours on human rights and arts provided by the UNIS Visitors Service.

Afterwards, Franz Kolar, Head of the UN office for disarmament affairs (UNODA) in Vienna, gave advice on educating students on disarmament and presented teaching material on this topic. The first day ended with a lecture by Ruth Schöffl of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Austria, who introduced the work of the UNHCR and gave information on teaching materials about refugees and the current situation in Austria.

On 17 December 2013, the second day of the workshop, the participating teachers were invited to the premises of the University of Teacher Education in Vienna (Pädagogische Hochschule Wien), where Aurora Butean, Monika Hunjadi, Irene Höglinger-Neiva and Antonia Seilern from the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) presented the UN's teaching material, giving a general overview as well as covering certain topics in more detail. The UN offers a vast array of educational resources, ranging from comics, games, a terminology database to the UNEPDApp, a mobile app available for iPhone and Android. The presentation was followed by a practical session, where the teachers formed groups and designed a lesson block on the subjects of refugees, hunger and child soldiers incorporating the UN teaching material. Each group of teachers then presented its results and received feedback from their colleagues. The feedback discussions revealed the challenges teachers face when introducing children to complex topics such as the life of child soldiers or refugees. "It is not wise to simply confront children with a lot of information. A sensitive and age-appropriate approach is essential," emphasized one teacher. Taking these difficulties into account, the UN resources are adapted to meet the needs of students of different ages and so help teachers communicate and students learn more effectively.