We make every effort to provide a trustful, patient and supporting atmosphere for the students to live in at the Tanoda. They can feel that their teachers have confidence in them that they can accomplish their aims and they get support and patience for this. Our aim is to formulate and constantly provide an atmosphere where each young people accept their own self, where they can experience open, authentic and sincere human relationships (teacher-student, student-student and teacher-teacher relationships) and individual care in their everyday lives. We interpret the aims formulated by the students (i.e. finishing high-school, taking the final exams, structured and properly arranged way of life, social relationships, developing a healthy and normal life) as our common aims, and we look for those solutions that provide the most aid for them in order to reach their aims. This atmosphere is formulated by the students and helper-tutors jointly in our everyday life. Its most important component is being together daily at the school: a shared life at the lessons and during the break; spending free-time together; free and spontaneous discussions; cultural and creative activities; excursions, sport, etc.
For most of the students, Tanoda is not only a school, but, as long as they attend this school, is also the main scene of their life. Many students would and do spend their whole day here. We attempt to give the possibility of a whole-day regular activity, which gives the opportunity to formulate meaningful daily challenges, clear short- and long-time goals and a realistic future image for the students.
The helping pair system ensures personal care and attention to the students. They choose their helping pair from among the teachers at the beginning of each year. The most important and essential function of the pair is to support, to follow the life of the student. Every-day relationship is very important, the helping pair has to know the life-style, life situation, schedule and current problems of the student. The pair must know the student in the present and also in the perspective of the years spent in the Tanoda, must see the personality, problems and problem-changes of the young person. It is important to be able to reach and find the helping pair at the school, so the student can find him or her with any problems anytime. The pair means a safe “pillar” and help for the student in problem solving. He or she helps to formulate the true self-esteem and self-image of the young person.
This helping pair system is based on mutual trust, and it is operated by personal affection, acceptance and respect of the other person, and frankness.
We have a twofold task: on the one hand we need to ease anxiety of the students and we have to help them to find success in learning, and on the other hand we have to develop their learning abilities. In the first few months after they join our school we try to find the reason for their learning disability, and with the help of individual development if necessary, but primarily by integrating them into a group we try to improve their learning abilities, giving an assistance in finding learning success and strengthening their self-confidence. Our work is characterised by individual-centred attitude and wide methodic varieties. We intend to find the “key” for each student, searching for those methods, approaches and curriculum which may mean a solution for their problem and which provides success. The students and the problems behind their learning disabilities are all very different, there is no solution that would work for everybody or that would apply for everybody, so it is not routine but creativity and flexibility together that characterises our work. We try to build the elements of the learning method into each lesson. The aim of these are that the students can acquire and develop their ability to find the essence of a text, to learn the techniques of taking notes and making drafts, to improve their text comprehension, to make them able to learn, recall and recite a text after understanding it or to solve exercises related to the text. These are not done in the framework of a lesson, but all materials of any subject are treated by using these methods. Our most important aim is that our students obtain autonomous learning methods and the ability to find pleasure in learning. Our opinion is that in this changing world of the 21th century, only open individuals, who are capable of learning during their whole life, can succeed.
Previous learning failures are often caused by the fact that students are stressed by the high number of students in a class and by those long and complicated explanations of the teacher. They constantly worry about daily and many times unpredictable and unexpected questioning. In the Tanoda students work in student groups of 10 to 15 where the teacher pays attention to and has patience for everybody all the time. Lessons are not characterised by frontal teaching methods but by discussions and differentiated-, group or sometimes cooperative learning methods. If it is necessary, we provide individual consultations and learning rooms for our students. We make our students work by giving them exercises constantly, this way inspiring them to think, to ask questions, to be creative and to reveal themselves – but this is not a kind of questioning but a form or method of learning. It is important not to let them become passive, to make them learn to use their abilities, talents and knowledge and to help them express themselves. The low number of students in a group makes them more free to express themselves and to become more open in front of each other. This is a great field for the development of communication- and discussion methods, and for getting to know and accept each other. Providing individual progress space promotes school achievement success and stronger self confidence. The essence of this is that there are no classes or first-year second-year students but all students learn in the group that is the most suitable for them with regard to all subjects. They can be at, learn or take exams in a different level in each subject. This way it is possible that they can make more progress in subjects they can learn more easily. When they receive the final mark in any subject, they can take a pre-final exam on this – but only on this – subject. They can find more time to complete the subjects that are more difficult for them, and they only have to take the final exam on those subjects when they are properly prepared. Since all students have easier, favourite subjects, they can get success from these more easily.
When a student is accepted at the school, we prepare – together with the student – a personal learning programme, and we put it down in a basic agreement. In this agreement we plan the final exam subjects, the expected date of the final exam or exams and the learning schedule. We revise, re-interpret this agreement in each term, and modify or update it if necessary. This updating is nothing else but the preparation of the timetable of the student in each term. This is also done together with the student, taking individual timing, interests, time and other aspects into consideration. This is recorded in a personal agreement. These agreements can be modified, of course. At the end of each term, we revise the agreement together. From this we can understand what could and what could not be achieved from the initial aims. We evaluate it and try to find the reasons for the failures before discussing the next possible steps. This agreement system makes the aims, undertaken responsibilities, achievements and developments clear and easy to follow by the student, the helping pair and the other teachers. It ensures that the students are always seen in the light of themselves, their undertaken responsibilities and their changes. This is the most important for the students, since this way they hold a mirror for themselves. It is clear that their success is their own success, and they are the only ones who are responsible for their own failures. The joint analysis of the above always focuses on how to proceed, success appears as encouragement and it is possible to learn from the failures.
School years are divided into trimesters, trimesters into workshop periods and exam periods. During the workshop period we become absorbed in the subjects and we work on the syllabus together, and during the exam period the students give an account of their knowledge similarly to the final exams. On the one hand the exam system makes the students free from being anxious about daily questioning, and on the other hand it gives them a routine before the final exams.
The syllabus itself is connected to the requirements of the final exams with regard to content, but we intend to treat it in a flexible way. This is supported by the course method and by thematic syllabus organisation. The essence of this is that high-school syllabus itself is not taught in an order, arrangement, or year that is specified by the frame syllabus by all means, but in a course method developed by us. This fits the interests of the students and the changing world. This way syllabus is handled more flexibly. Besides the syllabus of the final exams, our aim is to give a kind of practical knowledge to the students that can even be used in their everyday lives.
We organize final exams twice a year, (spring and fall) in front of an independent exam committee. Divided final exams and those that are brought forward can be easily fit into these two occasions per year. Independent exam committee means that the students are not examined by the teachers who have taught them through the years, they who are not only their teachers but also their helping pairs, but they are examined by teachers invited by the school from different schools. This is the first time the students are faced with the fact how much they have changed during the years they attended Tanoda, and how much their abilities and knowledge developed. This is the first time they are tested by "strangers". This independent exam committee ensures impartiality and raises the value of the final exam of the students. Even appearing at the final exam is a first step of independent life, a proof of being on the way of becoming mature.
Behind the depression and psychic problems of young people many times we find loneliness, boredom and the lack of success and loving relationships. For them, the most important help in the Tanoda is supporting school environment, intelligent and meaningful daily activities where students can forget their problems with the help of different activities, where they can find success and this way their self confidence becomes stronger. They find relationships among people who are in the same age, and they are confronted not only with their own but also with others’ problems as well. For them a helping pair means an adult relationship based on mutual trust, who gives an aid in formulating problems and helps solving them with patience and confidence.
Many young people have no safe family background, some of them even have to support themselves financially during high-school. The most important is personal care, attention and love for them. Many of them do not take advantage of the possibilities of the social net. Social guidance and administration can be an extremely important aid. Flexible learning organisation and individual progress pace makes it possible for them to work besides coming to school and studying.
Children who come from under state care are especially characterized by a lack of love, irreal self esteem, being lack of ideas about the future, life management problems. It is a problem for them to formulate an independent way of life. They often start dealing with drugs, alchohol and escape to other compensating activities. For them, the whole medium of Tanoda, its helping method and its similar age group can be a great help to formulate an average life. In their case, the helping pair has a key role who can ensure love and individual care and can also give great support in formulating practical life strategies.
There are some students in our school who raise their own child. Many times even they themselves have not grown up to be an adult, they are struggling with self-identification problems and with finding their own place. Most of the times they have no choice but to raise and support their child without assistance. For them, the support of the helping relationship and extremely flexible schedule, individual progressing pace, differentiated learning organisation method and individual consultations could be of great help. Besides solving everyday problems, social and child-raising assistance could help in their case.
Many times there are learning disabilities hiding behind the learning problems of the students attending our school. After exploring the problem, we direct them to a professional. From the aspect of taking the final exam, obtaining the necessary documents could be a solution. Besides, the most important is to provide individual development, differentiated learning organisation, to strengthen their self confidence, and to search for and find activities that ensure success to the young person.
Often we find the loneliness of young people behind this, the lack of adult relationships, boredom, and the lack of meaningful activities, aims and future image. They often escape to superficial contemporary relationships and into the attraction of extreme sub-cultural groups. They easily get involved in deviant behaviours and career. For them, Tanoda as a medium is the most important help where they can experience and learn the ways of formulating normal life and how to spend their free-time meaningfully, and they find a real contemporary community there. The helping pair means an adult relationship based on mutual trust, who helps in formulating their self-knowledge and in finding their own place, meaningful aims and real future image.
Some of our students find our school after using drugs, alcohol or medicines regularly and ask for our aid in keeping their soberness and in getting their high-school diploma. They are mostly characterised by an empty, lonely condition; they have no aims or self confidence, their life is without values, and it is difficult to start again. It is essential for them to put an end to their old relationships, way of life and life space and to find brand-new aims and activities. Tanoda can mean a new inspiring medium, a home that may support them in starting their new lives. With their helping pairs the most important aid is self identification, looking for the possibilities of moving forward, finding new aims, activities and a new idea of the future, and working on the daily routine and schedule. Recovering and learning is a long process for them, made in tiny steps, for which they receive support and encouragement.
Physically handicapped young persons often fight with segregation problems and their psichological consequences. They do not have a realistic self- and future image, their self-estimation is not correct. Often they do not accept themselves, accepting their disability with difficulties. They do not have self confidence and they neither trust the world. They often choose the easier way, utilizing the pity of the people. Their self esteem is formulated by the loving, assisting atmosphere of the Tanoda and the honest, fair feedbacks of the other students and the helpers, giving assistance in finding their aims, talents and place in life. Constant activities are very important for them since this is the only way they can find real success.
Among our students there are some who spent their childhood or a longer period of their childhood in a different country. They fight with serious language problems, especially if they had even spent their elementary school years in a foreign country. Foreign students who speak some Hungarian and live in Hungary have similar problems. This problem has many levels. Most of the times understanding texts, spelling, creative writing and expressing themselves are serious difficulties. The most important problem is thinking in a foreign language. In teaching them, a very important thing is to teach them Hungarian as a foreign language. Differentiated learning arrangement and individual progress pace could be a serious help for them.