Teaching the United Nations - the tables are turned as teachers become students

Recognizing the significant contribution of teachers to the healthy functioning of society as well as their role in helping students develop a sense of global citizenship, the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna regularly organizes workshops for teachers in cooperation with the University of Teacher Education in Vienna (Pädagogische Hochschule Wien).

Supporting the United Nation's efforts to promote multilingualism and wishing to reach out to a larger number of teachers, UNIS once again organised a workshop for German-speaking teachers with a focus on children's rights on 26 May 2014 at the Vienna International Centre (VIC).

The teachers started off their busy workshop day with a guided tour of the Vienna International Centre (VIC), one of the four UN headquarters. After receiving a warm welcome by UNIS Acting Director Martin Nesirky, Ruth Schöffl and Marie-Claire Sowinetz from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Austria familiarized the participants with the refugee organization's work and presented the educational resources on the topic of refugees and seeking asylum. Aurora Butean, Antonia Seilern, Džana Šorlija and Judith Ulirsch from UNIS then introduced the Convention on the Rights of the Child and provided in-depth information on particular children's rights before the teachers had to rely on their own expertise during the following practical session. Using the background information and educational resources given earlier, the participants formed groups and designed lesson blocks on chosen subjects.

This part of the workshop did not only provide ample food for thought, it also gave teachers the opportunity to exchange best practices with colleagues and receive fresh impetus. Given the mix of teachers in the group ranging from primary to middle and high school teachers - a lively debate unfolded, particularly on how to best introduce students to sensitive subjects. However, all of them agreed: however delicate the subject matter, there are no taboos.