The first phase of the project, Feeling School – Feeling me, is the students’ first communication effort based on their school life and how they experience radicalisation spontaneously. Questions and relations such as; in what way the school form the students being a teenager, a girl or a boy etc. What kind of problem might arise from how they feel school? How the students understand radicalisation and extremism and how radicalization and extremism relate to them and to their school. If the students can imagine other ways of schooling that could influence how they ‘feel school’ and how they ‘feel me’.
Each practice partner created pupil teams that were to communicate amongst each other about above-mentioned issues. Following are extracts from the process of Feeling me- Feeling school from each practice partner institution:
In the ‘Who we are’ project, the students were to question and explore I order to enhance one’s own emotional, literacy and responses to content and in order to share different perspectives and viewpoints. Students were working with problem solving exercises and were encouraging students to think about doing things differently, entertaining new possibilities and exploring alternatives.
The students therefore worked with issues such as moral reasoning - critical thinking and the consideration of what makes up our own core values and shared beliefs. Choices and consequences – the impact of actions and decisions, including considering the impact on victims. The students developed short exchanges about ‘belonging’ and identity’ and explored aspects of our identity which define us thus evaluated why individuals become motivated to join extreme groups and commit violence and analysing the consequences and effects of violent extremism. Furthermore, the students developed skills to think critically by considering how young people can be involved in influencing and affecting change, understanding how people feel being a member of a group, what attracts people to being in a radical group and what are the different groups of people in Turkey. By this, we tried to increase young people’s knowledge and understanding of radicalisation and its roots.
Exercise 1: Just words. Students were asked to write down any words or phrases that instantly come to their mind when seeing following words: Pig, Teacher, Police Officer, Turk, Syrians. After this was done, they were asked to respond the questions below.Following exercises were some of the activities that the students were participating in:
- How quickly did you arrive at a response?
- Were there things you thought but did not write down?
- Were you conscious of what other people might think?
- Why do we put people into categories?
- What are the consequences of doing that?
The activity was to establish the fact that words and phrases that related to identity can create quick and create strong responses. Students explored how we hold quite firm beliefs and attitudes about things and people and also how we can sometimes hold some thoughts back, and that sometimes we may consider the impact of sharing things or making statements out loud.
Exercise 2: Story of Baran and Mert.
Students were told a fiction story/case. After having read the story, the students were to answer and discuss following questions:
- How do you think Baran thought when he saw his old friend throwing stones to bus?
- Why do you think Mert ignored Baran?
- Why did he not greet his old friend?
- How do you think he feels?
- Is it possible for them to become friends again?
- If so, how could this happen?
The story: Baran and Mert grew up together in Kayseri. They were never ‘best friends’ but knew each other well and enjoyed each other’s company. They would meet up with the same group of friends over the summer and play football, swim in the river and cook meat on a fire. As they grew up they would occasionally bump into each other, and chat and be on good terms. Sometimes they would be in the same cafe drinking tea and watching football. On Wednesday, Baran saw Mert in a cafe, nodded and said, ‘hi’, Mert smiled and said, ‘hi’ back. The following Saturday there was a big terrorist bomb attack in İstanbul and many people injured or died. Everybody knew that it was an action of PKK, which is a terrorist organization. On Monday an ordinary passenger bus leaving from city of Van was passing around Kayseri. Then a group of people stopped the bus and they started to shout and throwing stones to the bus. Baran, who was there for his relatives from Van in the bus and tried to help other people in the bus, as well. Suddenly he saw Mert, he was also shouting and throwing stone to the bus. He tried to stop Mert and told him that there were women, babies and innocent people in the bus. But Mert ignored him and even tried to hit Baran. Mert carried on booing and throwing stones with group. Then the bus left quickly the area.
Note: Kayseri is a city in central part of Turkey, which you can find Turkish nationalist people.
Van is a city located in eastern part of Turkey, mainly Kurdish people. Baran is Kurdish as well. (But never mentioned about while telling the story)
The activity of “story of Baran and Mert” was intended to provoke discussions about how groups can affect behaviour. The activity also asked the group to engage with a story and then consider the causes and impacts of a person’s actions on another.
Exercise 3: Draw me a picture. Students were asked for six volunteers and given a paper and a pen. Then they sat in a line facing away the teacher. The rules were told so the first students in the line turned around, and was briefly shown the picture by the teacher, they were then told to quickly draw it. The second volunteer was then asked to turn around, they can only look at the picture the first student has drawn, and the process went to last student. Each reproduction was only shown to one person, who then draws his or her own version of it and shows it to the next person and so on until everybody in the line has drawn a picture. At the end, the teacher places the pictures in a line in the order they were drawn. The whole group were invited to look at the work and comment on the differences between pictures. All students were asked to respond to the following questions:
- What changed about the image?
- When you were drawing your own version, what details did you remember the most?
- How does the original compare to your version?
- Now that you have seen the other pictures, would you change anything?
- What was it like looking at the original?
- What did you learn from the exercise?
- How easy or difficult is it for information to become changed and misrepresented?
- What are the consequences of that?
This activity was intended to catalyse a conversation about rumours and how details can be forgotten or exaggerated and it worked perfectly.
Students found out that information when passed on within groups could lose detail and have detail added. The exercise opened up a conversation about how actual details (the truth) can change when information is passed on and we are not able to have direct contact with the source. The activity opened up a general discussion about the transfer of understanding and knowledge through communities.
Exercise 3: Introduce and show the film and Responses. Students were told to watch a video about a real incident in Turkey. Students were asked to imagine that one of the people who attacks the bus is Mert and one who tries to stop them is Baran.
A brief note about video: PKK the terrorist organization, mainly finds militant among Kurdish people who live in eastern part of Turkey, attacked Dağlıca military camp in 2015 and killed 15 Turkish soldiers. So, some angry people in Kayseri attacked the innocent people who was travelling by eastern passenger bus firm because they think that they were terrorist as well.
The video was shown - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkX4sNT3AZY
- Why do you think the people attack to bus?
- Who are the people in the bus?
- What has it made you feel?
- Do the people over there know each other?
- Did anything upset or get angry you? Why?
- Do you think any of the actions were justified? Whose and why?
- How does the video relate to activities we have done?
- How can relationships be made better? Or repaired?
- Has your impression Baran changed?
- If you could say something to someone in the video, whom would you talk to and what would you say?
This exercise of questions aimed to get the responses of the students and to make links with outside life and the activities done so far. It also gave students an opportunity to explore how differences are handled in Turkey.
All the students involved in the exercises actively. They found the exercises so interesting and different. Students learned and realized the definition of radicalisation more and deeply throughout the exercises. At first all the exercise seemed to have no relation between each other but then, students started to discover that activities were getting meaningful and everything they questioned, answered and analysed had a reason. Their feedback was very creative and we found the students very problem solving oriented.
Exercise 3: Unfold my arms. The teacher stood in front of the group and folded his arms.
Then the teacher told the group that they must try to get him to unfold his arms. Students tried a range of tactics, but that they were not allowed physical contact in any way. Some of students tried to do some of behaviours and strategies, the teacher resisted because it did not work to unfold hands. Finally, the teacher opened his arms when a students hold their hand out to shake hands. Once unfolding has been achieved, teachers congratulated the group on success and explain that the handshake offer was the key. Students were asked the following questions:
- What happened during the exercise?
- What tactics were used? And why?
- What assumptions did people make about how to solve the problem?
- When did change occur?
- How does this exercise relate to what we saw in the short video?
- Where do we see people getting frustrated for not getting what they want?
Exercise 4: Letter from an old friend.
Students were told that in the bus video, they might chose somebody who is inside the bus. (They asked to imagine that Baran is in the bus). Then students were told that they are going to do an activity, which imagines they can get in contact with this person. Students were asked to write a letter, email or social media message to anybody who is attacking the bus
The aim of the communication was to find a way to re-engage and not to make matters worse. Students also shared how they felt to see a friend of them stone throwing, and what worries them have about the future. Then, students were asked to pass the letters around to each other. The students stood in a circle, the letters were passed around, read aloud and shared.
Following questions were asked
- How could we find out what is making another person or group to be so angry?
- How could we usefully do something about this?
- How can we engage with the person in the crowd?
- Was it easy or hard to put yourself into another person’s shoes?
- Do you think your letter would be helpful/useful?
We organized regularly interesting conversations, role plays, other structured exercises regarding these topics: “who am I”, our strengths and weaknesses, pride, love, inner power, women’s rights, being different, tolerance, other cultures, stereotypes and racism. We had to explore what young people have in mind about all these themes, and their own approach or own experiences. We formed groups and had talks together and later with foreign students who study psychology in a University of Budapest about radicalization. We never insist on giving definitions to the phrases but by questioning and playing, we could point out the meanings of the words.
Some example of exercises we did:
Ecercise 1: Step forward if you can! Everybody has a person and role on card. The card gives a short description like:
- You are a 14 years old boy from a family with 1 member, living in the countryside, in a small farm, far from the first neighbour
- You are a student at a famous university of the capital city, your father is an attorney and your mother is a doctor
- You are a physically disabled young man with a pensioner father living together
- You are an Afghan migrant in this country without any job
Everybody stay besides each other in one line. The teacher is standing in front of them and read out certain sentences. If somebody could say yes, then move one step forward, if would say no, then doesn’t move.
Some example for the sentences:
- I can go for holiday and travel abroad at least once a year
- I have support to solve my problems, and a lot of people ask me for advice
- You are never afraid of getting hurt or bullied on the street or in the media
At the end, there is a map of the society by people standing in distance to each other. Then we discussed about the reason of the steps or non-stepping. What does that mean? Is it up to their will or how can we define the reason? (Many topics came out as traditions, habits, exclusion, religions, cultures, etc.)
Exercise 2. Let’s make a poster together! Small groups of students got the task to make a poster together about saving our environment but everybody got a written stigma on a small paper glued on the forehead only for the others to read.
Examples for stigmas: ‘I am very smart, always accept my ideas!’, ‘Do ot follow my ideas you will find them stupid’, ‘Speak to me as I was a child from kindergarten, age 4’ etc.
After they made the poster, we discussed about their impressions and feelings.
- What did they feel?
- How could they handle their frustrations?
- What kind of feeling did exclusion cause to them? etc.
In small groups of Hungarian students with a foreign student talked about pictures which showed relevant things to topics of radicalization. Every group discussed about how they appear in their own countries. Later they shared their conclusions with the other groups.
We found it It was easier to talk about the topics after they had experiences on their own. From the act, we could talk about the subjects freely and they could raise their empathy toward certain group of people. The students liked the plays and exercises. It was unique to meet and talk to foreign students and listen to their own stories about their cultures and problems in their own societies.
Getting to know each other – Learning contract. The aim of this first encounter was to let the members of each team to get to know each other, in order to create an atmosphere of trust and security, to set and express the basic rules for the operation of the team and to define the activities. In this framework, experiential exercises were used to make it easier for the participants to express their desires, expectations from the team and to interact with each other. It was important that the students were active participants in the process also leaving them to be the carriers of the information to the other students of the school.
Defining the meaning of Radicalisation. The aim of the second encounter was for the students to gain knowledge about of the main elements contained in the concept of radicalisation. The students were here working with brainstorming, common elements that define the concept of radicalisation, a shared definition of the term amongst other things.
Recognizing my feelings as well as the emotions of others. The students should be in a position to recognize their feelings and their role in their behaviour as well as to understand and manage the emotions of others. This was the centre focus for the third meeting and was done through shared knowledge, and experiences both in verbal and non-verbal communication forms.
The role of the school in the processing of our feelings. In the process of the Feeling Me- Feeling School phase, it was also important that the students were to understand the role of their school and recognised its contribution on the processing of our feelings. This was done mainly through narrative storytelling as a way to creatively expressing feelings and experiences thus also making connections amongst the students.
My personal image – recognizing my wants. More work followed that asked for creativity in the fifth encounter where the students made ‘advertising posters’ as a way to familiarize the students with the mental empowerment processes.
The communication in the pedagogical relationship as a factor in forming and cultivating psycho-emotional climate in the class. In this encounter, it was important that the students were able to define the concept of communication, to be able to recognize the communicative skills, to exercise in the active listening and to realize the communication barriers finally, to recognize themselves as model active listeners in relation to their classmates. Role-play played an important part of this encounter.
Managing of conflicts in the team. This time the students were to recognize the usual ways of dealing with a conflict and its consequences, and should exercise on skills about solving conflicts. The students were working with analysing incident discussing how to deal with this and were doing role-plays as a way to work with cases.
Management of behavioural problems in the classroom. In this the last meeting, the students were to be aware, that there is a diversity of performances of the causes of behaviour and were to work with identification and selection of appropriate techniques to manage problems. Students worked with dysfunctional forms of behaviour they had encountered in school talking about the consequences and the handling techniques for such behaviours.
In the Feeling me- Feeling School phase, we proceeded with the student teams creation. We decided to involve students of the 2nd year of secondary education in order to guarantee their participation along the entire project duration. We created three teams of seven students each because of the great interest shown by them. We organized specific meetings to inform parents, specific moments of project presentation in all classes of the lower secondary school and different activities with the students. We used different approaches during the activities (ketso method, reading groups, role-playing etc.) and students always had an active role in it.
We used Ketso for focus groups because it enables people with differing levels of confidence and ability to engage and share ideas and it can be used at many stages in the project. We prepared the Ketso kit (four pieces of flip- chart paper stuck together and set out to be a mind-map) with the legend in the centre reading ‘Feeling me, feeling school”.
Then we added branches to the mind map where branch 1 was ‘the ways school impact and form me as a teenager through the way we work’, branch 2 ‘the ways school impact and form me as a teenager through the way we learn’, branch 3 ‘the ways school impact and form me as a teenager through the way we interact’ etc.
The post-its had following codes:
- pink post its for things that are already known
- green post its for new possibilities
- blue post its for barriers and problems
- yellow post its for solutions
We prepared and asked questions, then gave participants two or three of the correct colour leaves / post-its and give them a few minutes to jot own their ideas.
Then, taking turns, the participants say what is on their leave and explain which branch they will place this onto, and why it is going on that branch. At this point, others in the group may join in and discuss the comments. We let all participants take a turn to read out their idea and place it on the branch and allow discussion to develop before moving onto the next question in the set. A carefully designed facilitation process enabled all participants' views to be expressed and stimulates both individual and group thinking, which is needed for any successful project.
Defining radicalisation was not simple; on one hand experience because of the students’ age and on the other hand due to media influence that use to interconnect “immigration” to “radicalisation”. In many occasions, students choose to focus on “exclusion” and “discrimination” as risk factors that could lead to radicalization. They also discussed a lot about the way they feel school and about things necessary to change in order to make school a more inclusive space. They proposed to interview other students about these items and they are still working on it. Our students’ thoughts and suggestions are very precious and will be collected in a brief report about how school could really be “their school”. They often started their discussions with “my school should be…” telling what is important to change.
We also organized role-playing activities, focusing on “exclusion” and “discrimination”. Students tried to identify what kind of exclusion they experience in school, what they feel about it etc.
The student teams participated actively in the organization of activities during the national week against discrimination (20-26 march) and they informally presented the project to other students from other schools. They also went to the Public Library to visit the exhibition about racism. This issue is very important because it can be a starting point to understand why conflicts in different groups can lead to forms of radicalisation.
In all activities, the most positive feedback students gave us is that they had possibility to express their opinions and feelings out of a “ judgement space “ and the active role they assumed to decide about activities and ways of sharing with other students of the school. Working with three teams and sharing with all school classes took us more time for the activities and we did not have the possibility to share with other practice partners, as we would have liked to.
In Lithuania, the project called ‘To Unite and Learn’ were a kick off to look deeper into social life of young people. The students were to go beyond the school programme to study complex topics based on real world issues. In this wrk they explored relationships and shared findings with each other, gathered information from multiple sources, including internet and interviews with experts. The students were working with collaboration skills, how to manage our emotions, resolving conflicts in groups, detect destructive behavior and how to help those in need.
In the meeting of the military recruitment chief D.Voveris following topics were discussed: Sense of identity and joining the Lithuanian army and what it means to a patriot? In another meeting with juvenile affairs officer, police inspector V. Doda a constructive talk on many important issues regarding radicalisation such as young people being violent and radical behaviour, identity loss, addictions etc. were held.
Lastly, the students also met and had an open dialogue with National and commercial TV projects producer, programs and event organizer Jogaila Morkunas. The students wanted to know whether he had ever met or worked with a radically behaving person and what his attitude towards them were. Jogaila Morkunas answered: ‘Every day we meet/live/work or study with the people who are radically behaving or extreme, for example choosing their food, occupation, free time activities - even friends, etc. I do not always agree with them but as long as they do not bring any harm to the society, let them be!’
In conclusion, the activities inspired by the project is what we find very interesting, exciting, developing and valuable. The people we meet and the impressions we get are unforgettable. We all broaden our mind and learn from these meetings and from each other.