Kalypso Filippou – 15/03/2022
What I’ve learned in the last 4 years from EmJoy!
As many of you know, emJoy was inspired in 2018 during the International Festival of Education – FIEdu in Romania, where Andi and Dimitra were participants. What many of you might not know is how I got to be part of emJoy as I did not attend the FiEdu festival. Keep in mind that I know Dimitra and Andi since 2012, when I started my master’s degree studies at the University of Turku where the girls were already studying the same degree, since 2011. Fast forward a few years, I still remember when in August 2018 while returning from Cyprus, I met Dimitra in Helsinki’s main bus station where she shared with me the idea of emJoy and asked me to join the team as three people were needed to start an official association. I admit that at that moment I couldn’t really grasp the whole emJoy vision and with the doctoral studies on my back I was quite sceptical about it. But now that I look back on the last four years, I am very proud of what we have achieved. So, in this blog you will read the five main things emJoy taught me!
1. Social media – essential tools for every organisation but not a solution to all problems!
Before emJoy I was an average user of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Soon enough we realised that to reach out to other education enthusiasts we had to create accounts where we would upload material, create content, and share with our followers. What I did not know is that different times in a day and different days in a week have more responses than others as people are more likely to engage or react to a post. So social media marketing was a completely new area that we had to familiarise ourselves with. However, being consistent with our posts and having scheduled posts helped us expand our network.
Similarly, I had never created a sponsored advertisement on Facebook but when we wanted to share our Joyful Festival of Education, we realised there are many options to reach out to people which also explained how all these advertisements in my newsfeed show up. However, people won’t register to an event just because they saw it on Facebook. It took time to convince some people that we are a legit association with noble motives, but once people get to know us, they trust our platforms and posts.
2.Friendships – Long-distance friendships last and it is never too late to meet a new friend!
In the last months, I realised how the frequent communication between the emJoy team has kept our friendship going. We even managed to see each other in person before the pandemic in the 1st Joyful Festival of Education! During our festival, which took place in Athens, many of our friends showed their support which I highly appreciate. We even had a mini reunion as many alumni members of our master’s degree programme enthusiastically came to support us as workshop facilitators from Finland, Hungary[KF2] and Germany. Also, one of my closest friends showed her generous support by travelling from Cyprus to be a workshop facilitator and participant. I’ve met some incredible people whom I now call friends! The first person that comes to my mind is our IT genius Matina, whom I had never met before emJoy, but also many of our events’ participants and speakers whom I’m still in touch and I’m very glad I met.
3.Teams across borders work!
Even though the emJoy team members live and work full-time in four different cities and three different countries (Finland, Switzerland, Greece) we managed to organise an onsite two-day festival with more than 40 participants representing a variety of countries such as Finland, Cyprus, Greece, Germany, Romania and Qatar [KF3] (just to name a few!), two online two-day festivals, and monthly Teach Clubs. Our secret? Persistence, good communication and organisation skills! So, teams can definitely be effective online! Please keep in mind that all these have been done in the form of volunteering! Yes, none of us are getting paid to be at emJoy but we do it because we know that teachers need other teachers, so we have created a platform to bring people together, and we also bring research knowledge closer to the practitioners. As university staff myself, I learn about numerous projects related to teaching and learning but we know that the research results do not always get to teachers. So, it brings me joy that through emJoy we have brought teachers and researchers together!
4. Teachers rock!
There is no simpler way to put this than “Teachers rock”! Teachers are awesome human beings and exceptional professionals. They are creative, enthusiastic, full of ideas, imaginative, generous, and true lifelong learners. Teachers work hard and they really care for their students and colleagues. Teachers came to our events even though it was a weekday evening or a weekend. They were willing to collaborate with each other before they even met each other in person! Despite a pandemic shaking the world, they would join our online meetings to share their best practices, challenges, and questions. All societies should recognise their hard work and appreciate them more and by that, I mean higher salaries, better working conditions, more opportunities for professional development, more classroom support [KF4] and school resources. Disclaimer: I am aware that there are teachers who do not fit the description I wrote above but believe me, the people who joined our events fit that description and I salute them!
5.When you have something in mind you can make it happen!
Matina, Andi and Dimitra showed me that when we have something in mind, a plan, an idea, a vision we can make it happen! Obviously, it was not as simple as I make it sound, it took numerous meetings, time, thinking, planning, scheduling, emailing, contacting people (some of them never responded!) but emJoy is still here! Andi had the idea to form a teach club in her town, she did it and people loved it! The pandemic came, but we kept going, we changed it to an online mode, we tried structured and unstructured events, and most of the time it worked. It’s like a recipe, you have some ingredients in mind, you start cooking, then you taste, adjust, and balance the flavours. Sometimes you will have an exceptional meal and sometimes it would just be edible. And to be honest, help sometimes comes in unexpected ways. For example, people whom we did not know before contacted us to collaborate, so you never know who your next supporter might be.
It is not a goodbye, it’s see you later!
The reason I’ve decided to write this blog is to conclude my emJoy journey as vice-chair and to write my thoughts, greetings, and thanks to all of you who are reading this and especially to the original emJoy team: Dimitra, Andi and Matina. I thank you for this learning journey we experienced together and for your friendship all these years! You won’t get rid of me; you will just see me less on screen 😊! Lastly, I want to wish Paula and Laura an enriching and fulfilling journey as new EmJoy team members!