Howdy folks! Jasmin here. Coming all the way from Croatia.
After finishing my master's thesis in computer engineering I have time to try myself out in a totally different branch of work. I wanted to see if my field of studies is really what I want or is the path of education the way for me to go. I've ended up becoming an ESC volunteer at “Wolna szkoła - edukacja demokratyczna i wolnościowa” which is a free democratic school located in Zielona Góra, close to the border with Germany, around 2,5 hours by train from Poznań.
I already knew some people from the school. I've met them on a ERASMUS+ training course in Lithuania, back in 2016. One of them is working in physical education, and another is helping kids learn English. They've told me about the school and I've become astounded by it. They told me that a computer specialist would be a very helpful addition to the crew so we started working on the idea of me joining them through ESC.
My service would start in the beginning of October, 2018. I've bought an earlier ticket in September so I can get accustomed to living in a foreign country for the first time in my life. I wanted to stabilize there before my ESC starts. Zielona Góra is a pretty small city for Polish standards. With around 100-150 thousand people, it's just a town for them. For my Croatian standards, it would be the in the top 3 biggest cities in Croatia. Because of it's size, I've decided to commute the city with a bicycle and avoid public transportation as much as possible. And not just any bicycle. I've decided to take my own bike from Croatia to Poland. It was a challenge to find a bus/train route that would accept bikes. After a long search I've managed to find a route through Vienna, Dresden and Zgorzelec and all of them accepted bicycles as luggage.
Before my ESC started, my friends kindly hosted me at their place until I've moved to a place of my own. I would visit the school from time to time to get to know how it works and for the kids to slowly get to know me. The kids were pretty shy as they rarely get foreigner in the school but that didn't stop them to approach me and try to establish a communication with me. Be it through their weak English or my weak Polish, a lot of hand gestures and even me using a northerner Croatian dialect which I found out was surprisingly closer to Polish than the rest of Croatian. Needless to say, my presence alone had a huge motivation boost in them to learn more English.
The adult crew was much easier to communicate with. They invited me to their classes, workshops and plain old silly stuff they do with the kids. One of them being filming a school news show called “Słodkie newsy” where the kids would manage the entire process except the cameraman position. They write their own topics to be discussed, talk to the camera and even do the video editing with the help of adults. They even had a green screen!
One of the main topics that was discussed in the news is the amazing sales performance the other kids had one day. The end of September is grape season here in Poland and the school had grapes growing in their garden. Those little entrepreneurs gathered them, put them in bowls and baskets and brought them to the sidewalk of a pretty low-traffic street. As the day passed by, their fruit stand was getting prettier and more advanced. They gave their best to attract passing pedestrians and rare cars that would pass by. The scarcity of people didn't lower their enthusiasm as they spent almost 4 hours outside in the sun. As I was observing them from the 1st floor window, I've noticed them stopping a van. The guy opened the window and the kids started their sales pitch. I was slightly worried in general about van stopping and talking to little kids so I've very carefully observed what was going on. They talked for a while, the kids gave him a sample of their “product” and the guy decided to stop the van on the sidewalk next to them and got out of the van. He seemed like a decent guy. As he got out, more kids got engaged in the whole process and the excitement went through the roof. I didn't have to hear much to know that he just asked them how much grapes do they have all together. As he finished that sentence, the kids scattered and searched for as much grapes as they can. After a short while, they were coming back carrying as much as they found. The guy told them he'll buy everything they have. Since pretty much all of the kids were outside, the crew was smilingly observing the process from their windows. Then came the crucial point of the sale. The kids entered the house screaming and yelling for us. WHAT HAPPENED?!? They were asking for spare change because the guy only had a bill of 100 złoty. I don't know how much they gave him back but I'm pretty sure it wasn't more than 30. That means the kids just earned the equivalent of 15 euros in one go. I could imagine how I would've felt at their age if I would get that much money. They we're jumping around the house, celebrating the fruit of their labor.
At that point I fell in love with this school. I knew it was something special. I cannot imagine such a thing happening in conventional schools based on formal education. I couldn't wait to see what awaits when my ESC officially starts. Stay tuned for my next post. It might be in the format of one post per month or it might become a weekly thing.