For the first time, the CDRSEE – reacting to the conclusions of the Thessaloniki International conference organised in November 2010 – invited teachers from throughout Southeast Europe to take part in common training activities related to the JHP workbooks’ methodology. Accordingly, teachers from Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb joined Bosnian participants from the Canton of Sarajevo for a 2-day workshop in Sarajevo.
An equally international trainer team supervised the 20 participating teachers and led the workshop activities according to a programme created by Goran Miloradovic, Bozo Repe, Vesna Janevski and Nijazija Maslak, and finalised by Dzevdet Tuzlic, journalist in Sarajevo, coordinator of the BiH phase of the JHP.
Dr. Bozo Repe, historian at the University of Ljubjana, opened the workshop with a presentation of the Slovenian-Croatian and Slovenian-Serbian relationship throughout modern history. Vezna Janevski, senior expert for teaching methodology in Skopje, introduced the attending teachers to participative teaching and learning methods aiming to foster free expression and active participation of students in class. Lastly, Nijazija Maslak, professor of history in Bihac, also trained trainer of the JHP, and Goran Miloradovic, historian and President of the Association for Social History in Belgrade, trained the teachers in concrete use of the JHP workbooks.
Nijazija Maslak proposed a teaching methodology based on the comparison of historical sources about the devshirme system in the period of the Ottoman Empire. The teachers were to answer questions about this system, according to the historical sources they were provided with. As the historical sources presented the devshirme in different perspectives and expressed different opinions, the participants’ answers to the questions turned out to be highly divergent. Through this concrete exercise, the teachers were to understand that history is also a personal and subjective interpretation of facts that should be presented and explained as such to children in class, through similar exercises, so as to foster their ability to critically think vis-à-vis partial presentations of their region’s history.
Goran Miloradovic further pursued the training with activities aimed at producing model lessons around the topic of children’s life during the war. Using historical texts and pictures, the teachers developed model lessons based on a multi-perspective analysis of historical sources, keeping in mind the main goal of the JHP training: making history teaching more than a simple matter of memorising dates and facts, by encouraging the students to participate actively in class and to discuss and argue their views, so as to help them understand that, regardless of what their own opinions and beliefs are, history is made of a multiplicity of perspectives and interpretations.
During this first regional workshop, the diversity of the participants’ ethnic, geographical and religious backgrounds represented a new and challenging feature, which was, however, successfully handled by both the trainers and the participating teachers. Even during discussions about highly sensitive topics, such as the interpretation of the devshirme system, teachers and trainers remained focused on the training’s methodological issues, putting their respective points of view aside, thus allowing for a very fruitful discussion about the use of the JHP workbooks in class.
This first regional workshop also proved that people-to-people contact and cooperation work and help people from very different backgrounds get along with each other. Seeing past their differences, the participating teachers exchanged experiences about common difficulties in class, gave advice to one another about teaching strategies, enjoyed the same very friendly atmosphere, and shared the same pride of having been part of this first JHP regional workshop together.