In October, vocational teacher Triinu Sirol will start her international career by teaching students in Zealand Business College, Denmark. Fortunately, this is a temporary internship, and when back to Tartu, Triinu plans to transform her teaching experience into a new international customer service module that can be studied in parallel in Denmark and Estonia.

Back to school!
Teacher Triinu Sirol, who has been teaching customer service in the business and trade department of Tartu Vocational Education Center for the third year, is actually an alumni of the same school. “After acquiring the specialty of sales manager, I continued my studies in trade economics at Lääne-Viru University of Applied Sciences. All the time I have also been working in the field I studied. In the Selver chain I became familiar with retail, but I have worked in telemarketing for a long time. I have been a telemarketing caller and later I started as middle manager in Valga telemarketing company. There were also Latvians worked in the company and we had to cooperate. The task of our unit was to make calls and get sales, but we also offered support to one parcel services company. Thus, we had to answer inquiries related to the parcel service and sometimes reassure customers. Leading the Valga team, I received the award of the year, which meant that our team did a very good job, ” explained Triinu about her professional career.

A few years ago, Triinu decided to study as a vocational teacher at the University of Tartu, and when the university confirmed her admission, she put her foot back on the vocational center doorstep. “I asked the head of the business and trade department if there was a job for me and fortunately I received an offer. Thus, since 2019, I have been teaching customer service mainly to sales managers, logistics and business administrators, and at the same time I am studying to become a vocational teacher.”

Teacher’s worries and joys
For Triinu, a career change from a successful sales manager to a teacher has meant a loss in the salary, but she has won a lot of joy and bright eyes. “Actually, teaching is so rewarding. I like when I can help and students can really turn to me with any questions. I think that a good teacher is a psychologist, a friend and a distributor of knowledge. It is a responsible job and the best thanks are when the student’s eyes shine, he wants to study and get the final diploma,” said teacher Triinu.

If light could be produced from the shining eyes, then teacher Triinu would not need ceiling lamps in her classroom. Practical and vital examples, where sometimes bright humor and sometimes difficult cases just from her work experience, receive a lot of positive feedback.

Triinu is also an ardent supporter of active learning and therefore decided to write her bachelor’s thesis on the use of active learning methods in teaching theory in vocational schools. “I believe that instead of theoretical lectures and explaining the concepts for an hour and a half, it is more useful for the learners to reach out to the answers themselves. The role of the teacher is to show and support the end of the road, but the students have to deal with the topic themselves, find the answers and discuss them,”confirms Triinu. “I like it and the main feedback is that there was never time to go to Facebook or think about dinner menu,” Triinu gave an example of learners’ feedback.

Erasmus mobility
Triinu´s trip to Denmark began when the vocational education center announced that it was possible for teachers to apply for a free semester and go abroad with the Erasmus mobility programme as part of it. „Together with my colleague Anu Tintera, the idea came up to create an international customer service curriculum to be taught in English, and this idea was supported. At the beginning, it was a bit of a fright, but then it was also a great pleasure that I was trusted and my idea was believed. The vocational education center is a very good place to work and I can see that the support and our feelings are strong here,”Triinu praised.

However, the internship is supported by the Erasmus+, which offers both teachers and students possibilities to study abroad. “My trouble is that I only speak English, so the choice of destination countries was smaller. In addition, corona restrictions. But when Andrei Atkashov, the coordinator of international relations, proposed Denmark, I was sure that this was the best place to work together on an international curriculum.”

In the beginning of September, Triinu Sirol was first time at Zeeland Business College preparing for the cooperation. A long internship as a teacher in another school is not very common and Triinu had to prove, among other things, that she can do it. “At first I was job shadowing the lesson, but then I was asked to do the second lesson myself. I had 15 minutes to prepare, but I did and received a lot of positive feedback from the students.“ In fact, she has attended the classes of all the teachers and now she has a much better idea of ​​how studying and teaching really works in Denmark. “We are communicating on Facebook and it’s good to hear that I’m welcome.”

The Danish school system
The first preparatory week also brought a bright eye to teacher Triinu, as the Danish vocational school makes good use of inverted classrooms and active learning methods. “There is no classical lecture and even the classrooms there have no teacher´s table in front of the black board to give a lecture. Instead, the teacher assigns a task to the students. There are booths in the corridor where students can work independently in teams, study theory themselves or solve problems. The role of the teacher is to guide, support and give feedback to the students, “said Triinu.

Another difference is that students of several disciplines studying one subject, mixed groups are formed. Teachers have to work in these mixed groups, speak and guide everyone at once. “I am going to teach office workers, warehouse workers, sales assistants and business administrators. I will be assisting the teacher but I can carry out some of the training independently, ” describes Triinu of her upcoming work with excitement.

International learning and teaching
Triinu is the first teacher in a vocational education center to teach and study for two and a half months abroad with the Erasmus + program. Also she is the first mobility ambassador and a role model for others.

“My biggest expectation is that the training module of international customer service will come true. As far as I know, there is no such elective module in English in any vocational school in Estonia, also there is no practice that one module can be studied and taught in two schools at the same time. It’s something big and innovative. I really believe in international training and I’m sure that together with Zealand Business College, we are able to do it,”said teacher Triinu.

Another challenge for Triinu is teaching in English and language development in general. “I know the terms in Estonian and give examples from my practice, but it is still different to do all this in English. I consider language practice very important.”

As a mobility ambassador, she has expectations that other teachers and departments will have the courage to do international teaching and learning and bring their experience back to Tartu VEC. She is a pioneer doing something new and interesting, and thus invites energetic students here. “We have many specialties where international studies could be offered in the same way, because the work has become more and more international. If you have had the opportunity to study in English for at least 2 ECVET, then the students will get a lot more confidence for their professional career,” Triinu dreams of studying internationally at a vocational education center.

The energy of Triinu Sirol, our mobility ambassador, is already showing the light. Read more about how she is doing in Denmark on the blog HERE