Facing the Uncertain

I have always followed a successful rule in my life: if you don’t know how to solve a problem, copy those who are better than you – and when possible, make some further improvements afterwards. The point is that for what concerns the reopening of schools in September, it seems that every country is tackling this burning issue without having any real clue. We’ll have to find our own way, I am afraid.

In the name of school autonomy, introduced in the Italian system about 20 years ago, the Ministry of Education has proudly given birth to a series of smoky guidelines, inspired , they say, by the principles of flexibility and simplification, which could be summed up as follows: “it is up to you”. In compliance with health indications, there should be daily or weekly shifts and class reorganization with a division into several parts;Β  lessons might be provided for groups of students of different classes (and even of different years) and reunification of similar subjects for common explanations.

According to the indications of the Scientifical Technical Committee, no more than 15 students will be allowed for each class ( 25 is the average), a distance of one meter must be ensured between the students and between them and the teachers. It might seem a difficult goal to achieve to anyone, but don’t you worry,Β  the Ministry has cleverly developed a “computer dashboard” with the data of the students of all the rooms available (classrooms, laboratories and gyms). Apparently they had no cadastral maps, how strange. The instrument in question should allow rapid intervention in the most compromised situations in collaboration with local authorities to offer alternative solutions. Moreover, according to the School Building Registry, there are 3,000 abandoned buildings to be recovered for educational activities. The lessons could also be held at locations such as museums, archives, theaters, etc. .

It would sound splendid, but I know how things work here unfortunately and there is one word that makes me doubt more than any other: rapid. Nothing is rapid as far as bureaucracy is concerned in Italy and in summer time in particular, even in emergency times. An example? In my school we have been waiting for the making of ten rooms for three years and it has been said that very likely they will materialize next January, so how could I expect that 3.000 abandoned buildings will be recovered for educational activities in two months only? Let alone how lessons could be held in museums, theatres etc. respecting the protocol distance or the consequent insurance matters.

This said, we are to divide classes, find new places, imagine on line learning integration, but what about teachers? How many teachers are required to make this plan come true? Twice as much? Can a country with 2.500 thousand euros of public debt afford suchΒ  a scheme? In my opinion there will be only 4 options for the future:

FANCIFUL: new buildings miraculously will be erected by August 31th just close to schools, so it will be conceivable to split groups and definitely solve the problem of overcrowded classes. Thousands of teachers will be hired putting an end to the problem of precarious employment in education. If possible, some increase in salary would be much appreciated.

AUSPICABLE: Covid vaccine is found and we will go back to normal.

POSSIBLE: the splitting of groups will necessarily have the consequence of making double shifts and finding new buildings, but if we mean to avoid night shifts, an integration with on-line learning will have to be planned.

CERTAIN: after the first Covid case, the school will be closed and we’ll go back to on line learning.

Mala tempora currunt sed peiora parantur. (bad times are upon us but the worst has yet to come”)

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “Facing the Uncertain

  1. In these Covid-19 times, if everyone (including countries and their leaders) followed your rule of problem-solving by copying those that are having more success in bending the curve and then finding ways to improve upon those successes, we could eventually find your AUSPICABLE option. Unfortunately, with all the different countries and their reactions and sometimes smokey guidelines it will probably not be before your CERTAIN option comes to be. A well written and thoughtful post.

    • You are right. It is strange, but it seems like nobody wants to learn from other’s experiences. Italy for example has been one of the first countries to be struck by the outbreak and we were taken by suprise, but the U.S.? Brazil? Sweden? Why did it take so long to take the measires which had proved effective in other countries? πŸ˜·πŸ™‹

  2. I wish you all the best in what is going to be a daunting endeavor this fall. We have a niece and 2 nephews who are teachers here in Canada. I am concerned for all teachers and the challenges ahead. Best wishes and hugs across the miles.

  3. I had a problem in commenting and wanted to tell you that It Is as clear as Crystal what the ministery staff Is unable to do and that there Isn’t any possible and consistent solution … But grouping people in a Wide space like university lectures held by a subject team for example you and I presenting history or culture or grammar to our common level classes

      • Yeah, I know. Here, they’re talking of reopening with the same issues you mention. Strangely, the Academy of Pediatrics and one other organization whose name escapes me at the moment both urge that children (students) be allowed back in the classroom (something to do with socialization and other factors relating to the “experience” of learning) even as other agencies warn of the dire possibility the virus might mutate to avail itself of targets of opportunity.

        I don’t envy your job, first responders’ jobs, “essential workers” jobs, and I worry about the psychological effect of people having to choose between working and possibly getting infected and meeting their financial burdens.

        We live in a world where β€” due to our high degree of specialization β€” we are in the same situation as many species who face a change in their environment and they can’t adapt. I foresee lots of misery ahead because of a situation lacking quick and effective solutions and tainted by partisan politics.

        Then again, I have to remind myself it’s been less than six months. The one tenuous ray of optimism I hold is that humans have the capacity (when engaged) to resolve monumental obstacles. But, meanwhile . . .

  4. Oh my dearest Stefy, how it all sounds so familiar to me; as in Germany, there’s all the same!! My wife is also stunning how they want to operate their plan with this huge bureaucracy and the lack of teachers! But at first, it is wonderful news for me to hear from you. I’d just wish and may have to pray for the better days. Take care my lovely friend and stay safe with yours. πŸ™‚πŸ˜˜πŸ‘πŸ™πŸ’–

    • Thank you my dear, and if you have problems in well organized Germany, you may guess in what state of distress we are here in Italy. Just finished the exams and two months to find a solution, if you find something, let me know about it. πŸ˜œπŸ˜·πŸ™‹

  5. How dare you, a professional with many years working in the educational sector question the administrators who have to serve their political masters who in turn are elected by an electorate who mostly because they themselves went to school for a little over a decade are all now experts on managing the impossible in that same sector? Shame on you, all you have to do is wave your teacher’s magic wand and all will be well…

    Sincerely, you — and educators around the world — have an impossible task ahead of you, and I wish you all the best that Fortuna is willing to provide.

    And thank you for introducing me to the term ‘cadastral’, I don’t know how I did without knowing it for seven decades and I will now be able to stop an argument dead by judiciously inserting it at an opportune moment! πŸ™‚

    • We truly have no clue. Only the vaccine could save us from misery, otherwise with no classes, no teachers, no more money we truly don’t know how next school year will start. πŸ˜·πŸ™‹

  6. I wish all teachers continued sanity and safety during this chaos. I read about the half-baked and impossible ideas suggested by clueless politicians in England, and I have to say that I am profoundly grateful that I am a retired teacher!

    • The politicians are clueless all over the world. Here we have been told to divide classes and teaching to groups of 15 students top, without having more rooms, more teachers or more money. I’m sure we’ll go back to on-line learning in September as there is no other way.

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