The wisdom of cowardice


applejudgeThere is one aspect of my job that really annoys me: rules. As a teacher I have to make sure that my students give the due respect to the place and the people they interact with every single day. There is nothing wrong, I know, however in recent times, fewer and fewer families seem to be aware of the fact that teachers and parents share one great goal: the success of their children. We should co-operate for their “Bildung”, the making of their personalities as future men and women, even teaching them the importance and the necessity of following rules, rather than being considered the enemies that crush the image that a parent has of his child. That’s why recently I have started to hear voices. Yes, voices. Whenever I see a student smoking near a big NO SMOKING sign, or using their mobile in class and all the other things students shouldn’t do at school, it seems as if I heard somebody whisper: “Uhmmm, troubles!!! Ignore him! Turn your back and go away! Mind your own business!!!” Of course, I can’t follow this advice, even if sometimes I would and I can tell you, it is very sound advice.

Boy using a cell phoneThis episode happened in Forlì, central Italy, only few days ago. A teacher caught a boy, age 12, while he was watching porn pictures on his smart phone in class. The teacher diligently confiscated the smart phone and urged the presence of one parent to get it back. Nothing strange so far. I guess, nobody would have wished to be in those parents’ shoes, just picturing the tone of that meeting. However, the next day the boy’s mother did show up and she was no alone. She was in the company of a lawyer, as she had resolved to protect his child charging the scrupulous teacher with theft. It seems to be a paradoxical situation, but this gives a clue on how the school system works nowadays, at least here in Italy.

After having heard what the teacher had to say, the loving mother heartily defended his son saying that after all those pictures weren’t that hard as the starring lady was not completely naked, but was wearing a loincloth. It’s not a joke, this episode was actually reported by the mayor of Forlì, Roberto Balzani, on his Facebook page, who commented:

“Parents nowadays don’t accept the punishments inflicted on their children, maybe because they have never received one or maybe because they can’t (or don’t want) read the truth…..with our principals besieged by unscrupulous lawyers and  desperate teachers, students try to take advantage of the false protection of their parents. The truth is that  planet school has been attacked by a devastating virus.”


Hadn’t I told you that my little” voice” was a very sound voice? 😉


45 thoughts on “The wisdom of cowardice

      • She explained to me the way in which the family as an institution is placed above all others. If people are not family, they are nothing to you. She said same when she lived in Spain. There was great suspicion between pupils and teachers in the school where she sent her daughter for a little while.

      • I can understand her. I was wondering, while I was reading your last post and “Mrs Sensible and I” , why you chose to live in Piemonte, rather than Sicily. I do love Sicily and Piemonte is such a cold place ( I live in Rome). Great fun of your blog. 🙂

      • We are living in Piemonte because Mrs Sensible said there are more job opportunities up here, as soon as she gets her full time contract (she has only been waiting 7 years) we will move to Sicily.

        I am glad you like my little blog of madness. 🙂

      • 10 years!!!! She entered the latest concorso and passed, but she is still waiting.

        Her English and especially her grammar is better than mine, she should be teaching English at a secondary school but as you know, teachers In Italy are not employed on their ability but how long they have been on the ‘list’ or who they know who can tweek the system

      • Exactly. This is the country of lists. However, once your wife gets her full time contract ( keep calm, it will happen sooner or later), if she has a degree and the “abilitazione” she might teach at secondary schools as well.

  1. Stefy the story of he Mother’s reaction makes me shake my head. How could any parent argue that that was all right? Good grief some days must be frustrating in your position.

    • Hi Sue, well, I’m learning to listen to my voice. Almost ever, whenever there is a borderline child , there is a borderline family, therefore troubles. What’s frustrating is that the rate of these families is increasing and many of us have become just like Don Quixote : destined to fight against wind mills.

      • It is sad to see such deterioration. When I reflect back on raising our kids we lamented that the parents who let their kids do anything and didn’t have rules made it so much harder for those of us who had boundaries. In the end though the hard work of being consistent was worth it and our adult offspring tell us it was those boundaries that were so helpful even if at the time they moaned loudly about the implementation. I don’t know how you can keep your patience with all of it Stefy. Bravo to you and all teachers out there.

  2. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this. When I was doing my student teaching a fellow employee (the librarian) demanded that I be let go because her daughter was made to write sentence (the entire wrote, “I will not be disrespectful. I WILL follow the rules. or something of that nature 100 times…I let them stop at a much lower number though). Her reasoning? That I must be incompetent to have had the class get so far out of hand and obviously her daughter is an angel and wouldn’t have been yelling anyway. Her kid, while normally quiet, started the mess.

  3. Mrs Sensible is a teacher in Italy. Because she teaches in a small village school she has 7 nine year olds who sit on the left hand side of the room and 10 seven year olds who sit on the right hand side of the room. She attempts to teach them at the same time and just to make it interesting there is a little boy who obviously has special needs who likes to sit under his desk.

  4. Well Stefy you can take great comfort in knowing that when little Mr porn viewer gets a job, he may just have to follow a few rules in the workplace. His mother won’t be able to come running with a lawyer in tow. 😉

  5. That is nuts! I’ve heard these types of stories about the UK, but didn’t realise that attitude had reached Italy – what a shame! The mind absolutely boggles – how do these parents imagine their children are going to learn that actions have consequences unless they ever have to face such consequences?!

  6. The parents think they’re doing the kid a favour, but I feel sorry for him. Life will be that much more difficult for him, not learning to take responsibility for his actions.

  7. It’s like that everywhere.
    Teachers are responsible for teaching kids everything their parents don’t have time for (raising them), but they aren’t allowed to stray from the curriculum and teach anything enlightening. On top of that, teachers have no say and no power in how these feats of magic (teaching kids who are taught at home to disrespect them) are supposed to happen.
    It’s the teacher’s fault if a student is failing.
    If a student were to unfortunately be caught with drugs, it would be the teacher’s fault for not telling the parents that their child was addicted to drugs, but that teacher would not have been allowed to search that student’s possessions for drugs. When by some whimsy of fate the student has been found with drugs, they would simply miss a day of school (at home playing video games) and would not turn in any homework when they come back school.
    Does this sound hostile?
    At this point, I have no idea what to expect of the future. My hope is that at some point teachers will regain the respect they once had, that teaching will happen at school, raising willin happen at home, and that everyone will learn how to respect one another.

  8. Hi – well I actually this post last week and came back to comment – I like your point and I have encountered some families like this – and I really like the quote from Don Quixote : destined to fight against wind mills….

  9. That was rather brave of the teacher. No guess it is a fine balance between the rules and the support of rules by the parents. They are instrumental in many ways… Thanks for sharing this story 🙂

  10. Watching porn……how rude of the kid, normal curiosity got him in trouble.

    The only thing here, is that nowadays students have smartphones to watch porn and in my days the teacher would only confiscate my porn magazine. And I couldn´t go back home and say “mom, go with a lawyer the teacher has my magazine!” She would ask “what magazine?” So since I didn´t want to get smack by saying “nothing, just my porn.” I had to shut up.

    About smoking, I had fun giving the run to the teachers when we smoked in school premises, we had it down to a science, or like a organise gang I should say. There would be certain places we would be, we would then move to another place after several minutes, we knew the routine of the techers, we would have a lookout so when the teacher came all she saw was a bunch of smoke but nobody actually smoking so they couldn´t do anything except scold us.

    It was a bit extreme bringing in a lawyer though. That sends a message to the kid that if he does something bad, well he´ll be Scott free. So his personal responsibility goes out the window,not good for his future when he becomes a man.

    • Hi Charlie, ahhhh the good old times! You’ve got to believe me if I tell you that we work with shadows of lawyers that haunt us. Especially at this time of the school year when there is the “redde rationen” and many parents and students may not be ” satisfied”. 😦

      • You got to be kidding that it is normal in Rome to bring lawyers….

        I have an idea, punch a student in the face if he gets to cooky and tell him you have a friend in Spain, which by the way I´m pissed off today, and he goes and tells, your friend in Spain will hunt him down and make him wish he was never born.

        A bit of mafia tactics is necessary sometimes 🙂

  11. In my opinion the problem are the parents because they educate their sons and the sons reflect their parents. Today often the rules are not followed because there are not appropriate punishment. People breaks the rules because they feel more stronger and important, but this is not the right way. The rules are made to live together in peace and to respect everyone.

  12. I personally think that professors and students shouldn’t be friend on Facebook (and of course in real life) until the roles that they have change. In ten years of course I will not be a student of Ms. Gioffrè anymore (I might be if I fail all my exams) so maybe we can be friend just to remember the great old times!
    In the end: professors shouldn’t be friend on Facebook or follow on Twitter (or whatever) their students until they’re respectively a student and a professor.

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