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I teach my pupils critical thinking and true democracy

10 November 2012 / 00:11:29  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

Anna Kalincheva is a teacher of history, politics and law at the American Farm School of Thessaloniki. Just a week ago, the Greek Ministry of Education awarded her the prize for excellence and innovation in 2012. "The project, for which I was awarded, is entitled "A different history - An educational proposal, at the centre of which is the pupil, theatre is the medium and the flag is creativity." I was trying to find a way to teach history to those of my pupils who suffer from dyslexia and have other difficulties in learning the material. I am engaged in drama in education and I can say that theatre helps these kids a lot to learn the material. I think history is one of the most hated subjects by pupils because it is being taught in a "criminal" way. I tried to change this by making the subject of history more exciting. I used role-play, many children did their projects about life in Ancient Athens, Ancient Sparta, they made comparisons, and new talents have appeared who began writing scripts. An otherwise very naughty pupil wrote a letter from a retired Spartan soldier. At one point, children who could not remain in class for five minutes, stayed and worked with pleasure.

They learned to work in a group, to be a little more honest and look at historical events with a critical mind. In the end, we made a short film in which the pupils played roles and compared the way of life in ancient Athens and Sparta by using funny monologues and dialogues. I was awarded for this programme."


Anna says that theatre was her great love and the first steps she made took her to it. "I was an actress in Gabrovo variety theatre and I got my first degree from the school for directors of amateur groups in Plovdiv. Then, I got an offer to sing in the "Trick" band. So, at one point, I found myself singing in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. That was when the big changes were taking place in Bulgaria."

Arriving and settling in Greece

"When you're 20-21 years old, your motives to leave your country are not usually financial. I found myself in Greece merely by chance. I was preparing my documents to go to Germany, but I did not like the attitude towards young women in those turbulent years. It really hurt me and then, I accidentally found myself in an office, where I showed pictures of my performances abroad as well as a cassette, and received an invitation to go and sing in Greece.

I came after three days, as an absolute adventuress, and it was as if I was stubborn to stay. At that time, there were not many things in Greece that appealed to me. The first thing I looked for was the theatre of Kavala and there was nothing of the kind then. With the first money I had earned, I came to Athens to see the Acropolis and went back. After a few months, I decided that singing in pubs was not my fate or at least, it was not something that I wanted to do forever, and I thought I should go to university. I was wondering whether I should go to a drama school but after seeing a play, I was convinced that Greece had no theatre. So, I turned to the "History and Archaeology" course at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. It was not easy. Meanwhile, I was singing for a living."

Anna, the teacher

When I graduated, I heard that teachers of Greek as a second language were being hired. I, being a philologist, had the opportunity to apply for this position and started working at the International School of Thessaloniki. For three years, I worked with pupils, the majority of whom had come from our neighbouring countries."

When it was the time to present the material about Euripides’ "Elena", Anna decided to turn the play into a comic strip. "So, we made this comic strip in which the "bubbles" were filled with texts in Bulgarian, Armenian, Russian, German and English. This work attracted the attention of the director of school affairs at the American Farm School who, during a visit to the International School, had just asked me if I could send my resume and call him."

Shortly thereafter, Anna was appointed to teach history at the

American Farm School of Thessaloniki

Perhaps the dream of a school largely coincides with it. I have been working there for five years now. It is one of the oldest schools in Thessaloniki. Dr. John Henry House, who had been living in Bulgaria for 30 years and founded the American College in Samokov, founded it in 1904. The history of the school is closely linked to that of Mrs. Tsilka and Ms. Stone. It was established with a missionary purpose and looking at the pictures of the first pupils, I assume that they were probably children of Slavic families.

The American Farm School combines all the mission and purpose of education. It combines the education of mind, hands and heart. So, the spirit, the mind and the dexterity are may be the major components that teachers need to develop in children. It is still true for us because we are probably the only school with practical training. The children plant, pick, take care of animals, sell the products and learn to be independent, to establish contact with the land, they often travel abroad for educational programmes. It feels very nice when children who are not so good at academic subjects prove to be very talented future entrepreneurs."

The most important lesson

Tags: SocietyBulgarians in GreeceEducationAnna KalinchevaAmerican Farm SchoolAward
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