Glorija Kliokytė
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Primary school teacher Glorija Kliokytė: “Understanding other cultures allows for personal enrichment and promotes tolerance”

Glorija Kliokytė, a primary school teacher at “Erudito” Licėjus, joined the school community three years ago. Becoming a primary school teacher was not her initial plan, nor was working in a kindergarten, which led to her involvement in primary education. However, Gloria is not only an excellent teacher but also a passionate Korean studies specialist and lecturer at Vilnius University’s Korean studies program. Additionally, she is an avid fan of computer games. She discovered her passion for exploring Asian culture during her early years of teaching.

Glorija believes, “Understanding other cultures enriches personality and promotes tolerance. This is particularly important at a young age. We become open to the world, better understand ourselves, and find inspiration for living.” Glorija became interested in South Korea during her childhood. She completed her East Asian studies at Vytautas Magnus University and acquired qualifications as a specialist in this region. In 2022, she obtained a master’s degree in art theory and musicology, followed by completing her pedagogy studies in 2023.

How She Became Interested in South Korea

You probably frequently receive questions about your interest in Asian countries, specifically Korean traditions, language, and customs. Last year, you even interned at Yonsei University in South Korea and now teach Korean studies at Vilnius University. So, why South Korea?

This love affair began not with South Korea but… with Japan. I remember when I was about five, already attending kindergarten, there was a popular movie about dragon battles. We would actively discuss this Japanese animation after class, sharing our impressions. Those films fascinated me, and I would rush home to watch them.

Once, I found an interesting package in the closet: it contained a peculiar garment and a magazine with many unfamiliar words and pictures, featuring illustrations of strange clothes. I became very interested, and my parents explained that it was a Japanese kimono that my mom received as a gift from her Japanese friend, whom she met in Sweden – my mom is very interested in Scandinavian culture. I started to become interested in Japanese characters, language, and culture. In elementary school, I began to listen to Japanese music – both traditional and pop, and even rock. I didn’t understand anything, but I found the uniqueness intriguing. I vividly remember it was 2009, and I was eleven years old.

However, you chose to study Korean language and culture. Why?

I’m interested in history, oriental studies, Japanese, and South Korean culture. Since I was also interested in music (I studied at a music school for six years – I attended a kanklės class), I also considered studying sound engineering. Nevertheless, I decided that both music and history in my life are only because of Asia, so I decided to focus my studies on this region.

What attracted you to this culture? What was your encounter with it like up close? Did you imagine it that way?

My encounter with this culture was as I expected: I had studied this country well and felt at home when I arrived. Arriving in Seoul, I didn’t experience anything shocking, except maybe for a rock music festival where everyone was exceptionally polite, respectful, and cultured (smiles). Perhaps this is also due to my personal traits: I am adaptable and can easily adjust to the environment. I spent the whole summer in Seoul, and what impressed me the most was the collectivist philosophy of South Koreans – they care a lot about others, show much respect for the environment, yet they manage to juggle between two worldviews – they effortlessly maintain their individualism. This encouraged me to turn away from myself and towards others.

That summer, I intensively studied the Korean language. Learning principles differ slightly from ours: you need to memorize a lot, and it’s just about rote learning. We don’t have that kind of “forging” anymore. Although sometimes this method even proves to be effective. The language itself has similarities with Lithuanian grammar; one hieroglyph represents one letter, the biggest challenge is vocabulary and pronunciation. Learning the language is hindered by the vocabulary; my university students confirm this (smiles).

The Importance of Connection in Teaching

We’re talking at “Erudito” Licėjus, where you work as a primary school teacher. What twist of fate brought you here?

I come from a family of educators: my grandmother was a primary school teacher, my mother teaches Lithuanian language, so this profession has been familiar to me since childhood. When people joked that I might continue the family tradition and be the third generation of teachers, I didn’t fancy the idea; it didn’t seem like my path. I didn’t plan to go to school. However, while studying for my master’s degree, I was looking for additional work and found myself in a kindergarten. I liked it and wanted to get acquainted with teaching closer. Especially since I enjoy trying myself in new fields. After trying out the kindergarten, I wanted to see what was happening in schools. That’s how I ended up at “Erudito” Licėjus. At first, I worked as an assistant teacher, then I got the opportunity to substitute a class and work as a teacher, and the next academic year, I got my own class. I’m very grateful for that.

What do you think is most important in teaching?

My method is learning through discussion, talking, and debating. However much we would like to prepare children for life, we can’t – we can only show them the direction, possibilities, develop certain skills and competencies. The world is changing at an inhuman speed, the amount of information is hard to grasp, we don’t know what will happen in the near future, so we can’t prepare for that future. Moreover, everyone brings with them what they have already developed. Therefore, we need to look at students as equals, pay attention to their opinion. If I have a thought, I express it out loud and wait for opinions – we talk, discuss, listen to each position and thought, thus reaching a common decision. I believe this works in life in general, in any situation. I believe that such an approach would help solve any situation. However, if we don’t learn to discuss, cooperate, communicate, we won’t establish a connection. Authoritarian education doesn’t work anymore these days, no matter how much we want to say, “I really know.” It’s useful for both the teacher and the child to learn to look at the situation from all sides, try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, listen to another opinion, as they say, to stand in another’s moccasins. If we teach children to collaborate, the school of the future will be like that.

Do you believe in the perspective that a child is like a blank sheet of paper on which we write what we want? Or is it a personality with already formed values ​​and clear guidelines that we can only refine?

I personally don’t like the metaphor of the blank sheet of paper; I believe it doesn’t exist – the canvas we bring starts filling with colors from birth, so a child comes to school with a picture that fills with new colors throughout life.

Using Computer Games to Understand Children

What are your observations? How does education in primary school classes progress? How much are they influenced by technology, artificial intelligence?

In the early grades, especially in the first and second, parents have a significant influence, children attend many clubs, and most can only play computer games on weekends. A more noticeable shift occurs around the third grade, where children usually have their own phones, spend more time on computers, and the quantity of information they absorb and receive changes. It is crucial here to help children analyze and evaluate information from various aspects. There is a lot of information now, especially about global events, wars, and sometimes opinions are not always critical. What is written on the internet is often taken by children as unquestionable truth, but they need to be taught to ask questions, delve deeper, and not accept information unilaterally. Fourth graders start encountering artificial intelligence more, but I didn’t notice an increased interest in this topic in the early grades.

What helps you connect with children?

Interest in what they are interested in, and it’s not difficult for me to do that. Sometimes I feel like a child myself, everything is interesting to me, I want to explore everything. We talk a lot about sports, games. I’m not a big athlete…

But you’re a great computer game player! It must be difficult to imagine a better way to connect with children…

Children feel that you are sincere with them, and I am genuinely interested in their lives, what they play – too. It’s true that I like computer games (smiles), and children easily find out by asking various questions related to games. Sometimes they ask if I downloaded any new game, they ask if we can play together. In the first grade, I showed them the game “Genshin Impact”, created by a Chinese gaming company, which combines many cultural aspects. This helps maintain relationships and get to know each other better.

Parents usually tend to demonize computer games. Share some insights or recommendations that could reassure parents about this pastime.

Certainly, not all games are bad! Some games, like “Minecraft”, can be used in the educational process – to learn principles of construction, count, strategize, and so on. The same goes for “Genshin Impact”, which is beneficial for improving English language skills because you need to read conversations between characters. There are many historical games that teach historical facts. However, there are certainly games recommended for children only from a certain age. Personally, I do not recommend the “GTA” series of games, especially for young children, and it’s also necessary to monitor “Roblox” because it can contain frightening, disturbing, psychologically negative, or even anxiety-inducing elements.

I would suggest that parents take the time to find out what games their children are playing, maybe even try playing together – it can be quite a fun activity. Computer games improve reaction time, spatial perception, coordination, teach map orientation, analyze information, develop various language skills, can introduce to another culture, help deepen historical facts.

Speaking of time hygiene, my preferred approach is: 30 minutes of games, 30 minutes of rest, 30 minutes of games, and then another break. An hour and a half won’t do much harm, but it’s essential to take breaks.

From Beginners to Students

How successful has it been to integrate the principles and competencies of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) into primary education? What benefits do you see in this program?

I find this program very interesting because I didn’t have the opportunity to study according to the International Baccalaureate program myself. I was surprised to learn that the IB program starts from preschool. I expected a significant, clear difference between this program and what we teach at “Erudito” Licėjus, and I sincerely say that I haven’t noticed a big difference – in many cases, IB PYP aligns with the educational principles and values of our school. It just offers more sources, more information that teachers have to search for themselves, but I like that, it’s more engaging than just one textbook.

A significant advantage of this program is the encouragement to seek information, compare, analyze, and critically evaluate it. In the age of information, there is an abundance of sources and information, but through discussions, this program helps in seeking truths. It teaches how to gather information, know how to select and sort it, and organize it.

How is internationalism fostered?

I am very pleased with my class because they are interested in other countries’ cultures, they ask many questions. Today’s children certainly have much more tolerance than previous generations. This is related to the amount of information, exposure to multiple languages, mixed cultures, and travels. Soft power, popular culture have a significant influence, students can communicate with each other, national and international classes interact, form relationships. This is genuinely heartening.

This year you started teaching Korean history, so you are not only a primary school teacher, previously working in kindergarten, but also a lecturer – experiencing all stages of education. What do you like about being a lecturer?

I teach Korean history classes, and with third-year students, I will have a course on popular culture. I can say that it’s easier to work as a teacher because the program is clear, we just supplement it, but as a lecturer, you need to constantly update information, read a lot, be interested, select sources, translate them. This is where artificial intelligence really comes in handy (laughs).

The difference between school and university is certainly felt, and it’s evident from the students themselves. I notice that students’ attitudes have changed: there’s no longer the attitude that you have to go to university immediately after school, that you can afford to travel, explore yourself in the world.

Your mother didn’t impose her own interest in Scandinavian studies on you, she allowed you to discover what interests you. Perhaps this is also the key to the success of holistic personality development – allowing discovery and experience, not just from books but also through experiences, allowing better self-awareness?

You won’t achieve anything through force. I think there’s no need to force, notice when a child feels like they’re doing something by force and talk about it. It’s beneficial to educate in a way that if you start something, it’s beneficial to finish it, regardless of whether it will be used. Discipline helps achieve goals. Sometimes life takes us on interesting paths, as they say, you never know what you’ll need and where you’ll end up – I’m also a great example of that (smiles). Of course, you need to help children reveal themselves. The more choices a child has, the more diverse they will be, the better they can unfold. However, it’s important to instill a sense of responsibility in the younger generation – you are responsible for what you start. There will always be obstacles, but it’s important how you overcome them.

“Augusto Didžgalvio fotografija” picture