Social Impact

Stories of CHANGE

Learning to be tolerant
by Boryana Teodosieva, School psychologist at 84 OU Vasil Levski Sofia

2B class is quite a colorful class. There are so many differences between the children and each one of them has it own unique qualities. However, as it is in life, in the class there are few students who stand out with their capabilities and behaviors – the so called difficult children.

А Romani child joined the class аt the end of October 2019. She moved from her previous school as her schoolmates were too rude and insulted her because of her origin and color of skin.

In her new class the girl (with a fiction name Niya) had difficulties in the beginning. Her new classmates avoided her and didn't wanted to play together. They thought she was too different from them and didn't accept her. And Niya felt sad and lonely.

Every Friday was the day the class played with The Poppals. Things were different then. The students knew that there is a condition of playing with The Poppals that all of the children should participate (if they want so) and be part of a team. In the beginning there was a lot of resistance and rejection of the so called different children. Nobody wanted to be part of a team with them. Except Niya, there was Vladi, a child with an intellectual disability, Pepi who was hyperactive and couldn't concertate even for a minute, and Lisa, who was very, very bad at Maths.

Me, together with their teacher, we managed to balance the teams so in each team there were children, who performed very well, children who had minor difficulties, and children who were quite challenged. Also, in each team there was one different child. And the rest of the children were encouraged to integrate them in their team and to help them.

Before the games we often talked with the children about differences between people. That some are proficient in Mathematics, others are great in Sports, thirds are performing very well with the Bulgarian language. That one becomes a musician, another a painter, and every single person is unique and valuable. This conversations helped calm down the emotions of the students and helped them overcome their resistance. With time they became more tolerant towards students who were different, who had difficulties in Maths or Bulgarian language, or who often were in the role of outsiders.

Thanks to The Poppals, the students had the chance to exercise their tolerance and to learn to accept other people differences. Also, despite the low score they sometimes had at the end of the game, they felt encouraged and appreciated by their teacher and the psychologist because of their high team morale.

These were the moments, Niya, the Romani child, had the chance to be part of a team and get involved in a group activity. She was very happy, and despite the difficulties of solving Math problems and lowering the score of the team, she had the support, the help and most importantly the acceptance of her teammates.

After the games we were having discusions. Students were invited to share how they felt, what made them happy and fulfilled, what have they learned from playing in a team. Every time Niya shared her own feelings as well. She was feeling wonderful, becuase she was accepted by her peers, they helped and supported her, and nobody insulted her.

Our main goal is to have a significant social impact in a sustainable way.

To increase public awareness on the problem that more than 50% of students worldwide have low level of proficiency in collaborative problem solving.
To increase public intollerance on the lack of systematic education on teamwork related skills – this seriously jeopardizes the success of our children in the 21st century in personal, social and professional terms.
To build community that do cares and makes initiatives that drive changes in our educational systems – teamwork related skills should become part of our compulsory education.
To start developing teamwork related skills in our children early, in primary school (where their true socialization begins) – skills like cooperation, communication, tolerance, empathy, etc.
To turn our childrens in real Poppals - people who CARE. Care about others. Care about nature. Care about the entire world.
To increase children's awareness on different egolocial problems – to know that each one of us could help by changing a little bit our daily routines.
To make learnig more relevant to our children – technologies and digital games are inevitable part of our children's life and therefore should be integrated into our educational system.
To promote learning through play – the most natural way of learning in children (and adults as well).
To integrate all students so nobody feels isolated and rejected – through teamwork games children become more close to each other and improve their interpersonal relationships.
To increase children's engagement and motivation to learn (and improve their academic success) – the competition between the teams is a strong stimulus for self-development and continuous improvement.