There is always a bright side……

Pastiera Napoletana

White, green, yellow, orange, dark orange, almost red-orange… red. Red is the colour of Easter in Italy this year. In the whirl of colours which determine what it is possible to do and what it is not during these vacations, the colour red has been drawn by lot: red = maximum restrictions possible. Allow me a little bit of  sarcasm, as, actually, here we don’t understand any longer upon what ground colours are decided and for sure it is not the number of infected or Rt or whatever more to determine it.  Just to understand, with more than 20.000 infected per day, 500 dead, we were orange yesterday, but red a week ago with the same figures and we will go back to orange next Wednesday to allow schools to reopen. One thing more, when schools were first closed at the end of October last year, there was an average of 10.000 infected and 200 dead per day, hence, I am firmly convinced that the choice of colour must be due only either to the alignment of planets or the powerful winds which arise from those who shout the most. For this reason we Italians are not taking these colours so seriously any longer, in fact,  whatever nuance is announced, you see a lot of people indifferently strolling around.

For those who miss social life so badly, any colour downgrading is nothing but the chance to give way to their old habits. Repressed by too many claustrophobic months, you see them darting out at the first occasion, as if they were running out of air. I can understand them, but I have to say that this is not my case. I don’t see why I should fret to do things I can’t fully enjoy. Why should I go to a restaurant? To jolt any time somebody sneezes or stations too close my table? No, thanks. Where is the fun? Actually, I have to say that I have never felt claustrophobic all these months at home, but rather, I have found out that there are a lot of positive sides in this lockdown matter. First, I spend less money, I wouldn’t use the word save, but I do not need to squander all my money in clothes and shoes  any longer, as I have no occasion to exhibit my fancy trophies, which is good. I have also had the  time to practice GIMP, an image editor, which I use to manipulate the images for my power points. I have become addicted to it, it is even slowly  replacing Candy Crush ( I have reached level  8437 in the meantime), if you understand what I mean.

Certainly, transforming  our “Neverland” into “Carbs-land” is the occupation that has taken much of our time, as since the very first lockdown, more than a year ago, we have developed  our cooking skill to a level which borders on perfection. By the ways, I believe that the usage of “we”and “our” may be quite misleading for the reader, so, I need to give a further explanation, as “we”, actually, means that my husband Mr Run cooks and I eat.  In particular the purchase of the Kitchen Aid has helped a lot in this transformation and if you don’t believe me, I’m about to give a sample of some our, ehm, his recipes in the jolly field of Carbohydrates.

Let’s start with bread. We make bread every week and this is what it looks like: tomato and oregano bread on the left and healthy walnut bread on the right.

And this is our super pizza:

If you like Italian home made pasta, here is a sample of what Mr Run usually makes: pappardelle with wild boar sauce and tagliatelle with mushrooms and sausage sauce.

And if you like cakes, here is a Bonet:

More cakes:

And this is what we have prepared for Easter lunch: spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli and special Easter cheese cake (it is still warm) :

I fear, I’m putting on weight only looking at these pictures.

So, this is all from “Carbs- land”. I wish you all a very Happy Easter. This is no the best of our times, I know, but it will end sooner or later, won’t it?.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple”

 

Everyone, who has been teaching for many years now,  knows how learning has changed, since we started. We are now requested to be entertaining, dynamic, technological and on this purpose we are continuously overwhelmed by new educational theories in a sort of didactic frenzy. Another thing I keep observing every year is that school books have become way less extensive than they used to be with a great deals of patterns, photos  and alluring covers. When I was a high school student, schoolbooks were made of words only, dull and the very few pictures were usually/unfortunately placed  at the very end of the book, so when we had a daily assignment of twenty pages, twenty meant  twenty, no discount.

 Books nowadays are 50% made of pictures. Learning must have a visual and quick impact to catch the students’ interest, who actually strain in being focused for more than 20 minutes. One of the most recent learning theories is to segment the lesson in 3, 4 different moments in order to keep their attention constantly alive. But, is this what we have become ? Comedians who seek for the audience’s clapping by means of a good laugh or the wonder of a magic trick? As, there is another thing I noticed. There has been  a growing lexical gap between me and them in time, and I don’t mean in English, but in our language: Italian. Not long ago, I remember translating the word “bedside” into “capezzale” and they looked at me as if I had all of a sudden started to speak German. We are talking about  18 year old teenagers who have never come across a simple word like that and  which they understood only translating it literally from the English: bed= letto,  side = lato, “ al lato del  letto”= “capezzale”. They are of age and can vote.  What has become clear to me is that the outcome all our endeavors in order to keep them away from  the  “boredom-land”  of activities like reading, writing etc.  has only brought to a dramatic impoverishment of their language eventually.

Several studies have demonstrated that the outcome of the decrease in lexical knowledge and the impoverishment of the language consists not only  in the reduction of the vocabulary used, but also in the linguistic subtleties that allow to elaborate and formulate a complex thought. The gradual disappearance of tenses, for example,  gives rise to a thought almost always in the present, limited to the moment: incapable of projections in time. How is it possible to capture a temporality, a succession of elements in time, whether past or future, and their relative duration, without a language that distinguishes between what could have been, what has been, what is, what could be, and what will be after what might have happened, actually happened?

The use of capital letters and punctuation has become on option of late. An increasing number of my students (who theoretically  are supposed to  be used to studying  Latin, philosophy, physics..) are absolutely refractory to start the sentence with the capital letter , for example,– due to the extensive usage of WhatsApp, I know -, but,  every now and then,  they use it with some nouns, like “ Book”, for instance.  Why? Are you German? No useful answer is produced, but distraction. Let alone punctuation. They master “the stream of consciousness” technique without having read a single line from Joyce’s Ulysses;  it just comes natural.  These “deadly blows” to precision and variety of expression  are but symptoms of the difficulty in organizing thinking,  which affects not only learning, by the ways.  Fewer words, fewer conjugated verbs, lack of speech organization mean less ability to express emotions and process a thought. Without words to construct an argument, complex thinking is made impossible. The poorer the language, the more the thought disappears. If there are no thoughts, there are no critical thoughts and  there is no thought without words.

The historical moment we are living, dominated by mass medias way of communicating, reflects exactly what we have said so far. What is this constant polarization in any matter : vaccines, masks, politics, football, but the consequence of the habit of simplification, which leads to the rarefaction of critical thought? We are no longer used to seeing or better understanding the nuances of a question; everything  is black or white, and you know why? Because it is the simplest thing to do, but “ the truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

School should give the tools to understand what is complex, rather than yielding to this process of simplification. Let’s start from words again. Let’s make read and practice the language in its most diverse forms, even if it looks complicated, especially if it is complicated, because in this effort there is freedom. Everything that creates complexity is the real architect of the improvement of human mind. Without complex thinking there is not any truth.

AstraZeneca Drama

I am a very punctual woman, annoyingly punctual, somebody would say. I don’t like to wait, so I don’t make people wait. It comes natural to me. I was born punctual.  So, it was pretty normal for me – but  not for my  husband  –  to arrive at least half an hour before the scheduled appointment to be vaccinated at 4:30 p.m. just yesterday . Actually, I arrived even much before than planned, because there weren’t many people sticking around, due to lockdown. It was 3:45 p.m., when we reached  Fiumicino Covid hub.  There was  just one person queuing before me.” How strange”, I thought. 🤔 When it was my turn a man of the Red Cross scrolled with his finger on the list till he found my name: “Ah, yes , Mrs Tink“. He looked  up and said: “ You are very fortunate. There were a lot of people just an hour ago. It won’t take you long”.🙃 “What a stroke of luck”, I replied. 😜 I hate queuing as much as I hate been kept waiting. Then I started to follow the trail, documents in hand, which took me to the doctor for the anamnesis first, then to another doctor for the jab and then to the final destination, a common space where I was supposed to wait 15 minutes for observation. When I got to that spot, it was 4:10.”Wow, what a wonderful organization” , I thought.🙃 In order to kill time, I soon grabbed my smartphone and I saw that the school chat was jammed with a lot messages, which actually were comments on the following article 😳😳😳:

 “the use of vaccine Astra Zeneca has just been suspended in Germany, France, Spain and Italy  as a precaution, while checks are made into whether there is a link between the shot and an increased risk of blood clots.”

😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱

Just ?” “Just, when?”😨 It appears that “just” was 4:00p.m.😰 , that meant  I was very likely the last person to be vaccinated in Italy with AstraZeneca!! 😱That is why there was actually no queue, when I arrived. Everybody knew but me! 😫The most difficult part was  telling it to my husband, as the frustrating thing is that whenever he is right, I find myself reviewing the Conditional sentences, which I hate😤 :”Hadn’t we moved so soon, you would have had the time to be informed” (3rd type),😡  “If we went to the doctor straight away, we could still find him (2nd type) and ask, if you could get any Cardioaspirin to avoid clots (mixed type). 🤔” You have to know that if you get sick , I won’t take you to the hospital near home, I’ve never trusted them”!😠(1st type) How vexing! 😩I let to your imagination, which level of anxiety he reached the hours that followed. Just to give you an example, in the middle of the night😴 I found my husband awake, while he was delicately perusing, if I was still alive.

But here I am. 😜Apparently I had no side effects, not even the most common ones, till now, at least. The point is that it is absurd to suspend vaccinations in such a way, thus giving rise to general panic. Of course, we must know if there a link between AstraZeneca and the risk of blood shots, but without fueling a general climate of mistrust towards vaccines in general and Astra Zeneca in particular. Once you spread doubt, it is very difficult to uproot it. Let’s hope this won’t be not the case.

What’s Wrong with Teachers

Few years ago my previous principal summoned me to ask my illustrious opinion about the introduction of the latest trend in matter of education, that is: CLIL. Our eminent thinkers, who people the aisles of the Ministry of Education in fervent industriousness, had thought that it would have been fine to introduce the teaching of one of the school subjects in English for at least 50% of the allotted hours, and this the last year of high school. Before my dormant reason could react to make me hold my tongue, I heard myself saying: “bullshit”. Yes, bullshit; because we have a few or no such teachers that can explain a subject like Physics, for example, in another language. Bullshit; because, that is the year of the final exams, and even if there were such experts, this switch in language would inconvertibly mean in a consistent loss in the quality of contents. Anyway, as I feared, I had gone too far – Mrs Tink is not used to such a language, after all – I looked at my principal blushing a little, but she only said: “I agree”, “ the matter is your hands”. Mine? Oh, my! And this is how I have been put in charge of CLIL organization in my school, a position which have held firmly for years as nobody wishes to snatch it from my hands .

Of course, this meant attending tedious meetings at the Ministry of Education, of which I only remember the most amazing lasagne ever tried. I still recall myself attending boring conversations without saying a word , but with the corner of my eyes I endeavoured to spot the next tray carrying, more steaming lasagne to dart over them. Of course, as if the morning sessions were not enough, I was afflicted by  afternoon meetings too. I could hear no word that could convince me of the goodness of the project, till, one last speaker caught my attention, which was still blurred by the enormous  quantity of carbs swallowed. More than a full concept, it was a word: mission. Wait a minute, wait a minute: “How did we get there? What mission are we talking about?” I whispered to my neighbour. They were talking about money and career. This new figure, which they meant to introduce, was actually over qualified for high school, hence, somebody had enquired about which benefits such teacher would have had, in short: “what’s in it for me?”.  “Well, nothing”, he answered. “Let’s call it …. a mission”, he replied candidly.

A mission. This is the greatest trap teachers have fallen into these last years. We have been led to believe that we are not qualified professionals but something more, missionaries, that is people who have received a divine call at the service of education and because of such vocation are expected to grow accustomed to whatever situation or to respond to any requirement students, parents, politicians may develop for……nothing, of course.  That is why for teachers there is not a real career or any prospect of wallowing in gold, we are supposed to be content with the outcome of our vocation only. And whose fault is this? Ours,  just ours, because in time we have abdicated to our original nature of educators to become a sort of hybrid with no more defined identity or clear goal. When did it all start? I don’t know.

The events during this pandemic have made no exception. We have been asked to acquire new skills, mostly technological to tackle remote learning at the best and we did it. Once back to school, we have become computer technicians, Wi-Fi experts, Zoom and Meet masters, but that was not enough yet.  When we realized that the computers we had given or the line did not work properly, we instantly started to bring our own devices or to use our own router Wi-Fi, as it was our impellent mission, of course, to make things work anyhow. When school closed, even if our efforts were actually doubled, or privacy annihilated, for the public we had become do-nothing privileged, who should have gone to work to school in any case, taking the example of supermarket cashiers who never quitted their workstation, real heroes of the situation.

Now, think about any other worker. I would like to know which company requires its employees to use their own devices, or to buy more gigabytes in case the Wi-Fi does not work and use private routers. But we are missionaries, we are expected to find a solution to make things work with nothing in return, and if you dare say something, you are reminded that you are lucky enough in these days to still have a job.

In time we have accepted all this and the pandemic has made it only more clear, if possible . Yielding to all kinds of expectations, different from educating, without even attempting to a fight, has greatly contributed to the breakdown of the old education system, which was mostly based on merit, discipline, effort, to supplant it with a pointless approach where subjects have been replaced by projects, discipline by a maternal, over protective attitude and effort, well, it is a word to be used only for sport, nowadays. We teachers are also responsible for all this and the possibility of a change is all in our hands. I think and it is high time we take off the  – I fear for many comfortable – disguise of  missionaries and change direction; a little exercise could be of help : let’s try and remember what made us want to be teachers and I am sure it was not a matter of vocation , but something more. We have to go back there, from where we started.

Happy New Stats

 

I guess it has been 4 years, at least, since WordPress gave up sending the report with blog stats. Do you remember it? That one with fireworks for each post written, where the more you had posted the more enlightened your screen was. Yes, that one. The stats explanations were just pure genius. They had been conceived to make you feel a sort of Hemingway in being. Even if you had had just 100 readers in a year, family and unwilling students included, they put it in such a way to make you believe it a success, because, they said,  if those 100 readers had been in line, they could have covered a length up to your bathroom.😳 True! I had never thought about it. 🤔 So, when the following year the number of readers increased, you found out eventually that that line had now reached Santiago de Compostela and God knows what distant country it would have touched now, if they had kept writing those stats. I miss them. They were so rewarding, after all.

Therefore, since WordPress has given up offering such precious service, if we want to make a final survey of our  blogging activities, we have to do it on our own.  Having read so many posts of this kind on the pages of fellow bloggers, I thought it was high time to give a look at my stats too. Believe me, I didn’t do it with a light heart, as I knew I was guilty of having been pretty inconstant last year for many good reasons: first of all, reaching level 7740 of Candy Crush takes a lot time and energy; and  if I play, I cannot think or write. Actually, I play when I don’t want to think.  That said, I have to confess, that I am lazy too. I don’t read as much as I should – and I blushed with shame and guilt, when I read on Chris’s page, who blogs as Calmgrove, that he had read 84 books and reviewed 60 last year. 84!! 😱I usually write when there is some event that catches my attention, school stuff and literature of course, so I produced only 30 posts last year. Of course, I mean to do better, every year I mean to do better, but if they keep adding levels to Candy Crush, I fear it will be impossible.

Yet, to my surprise I saw that despite the few  posts, 2020 had been by far the best year in terms of views (27,479) and visitors (16,162). I am wondering which country my line of viewers would have reached by now. 🤔 Of course, I  shared the jolly good news with my husband, Mr Run,  who explained the data, thanks to his prodigiously scientific mind, simply saying that very likely, because of lockdowns people stayed at home more and read more, even my stuff.😳 Hence, I am indebted to these figures to people’s boredom. Good, thank you, love. I feel better now.😤

Giving a look at what these bored readers seem to prefer, the posts on Wilde win over my musings on pandemic and education, but even this year the top of the posts goes to what I could define that only lucky unrepeatable hit that often happens in an artist’s life, which, in my case,  for the fourth time in a row is : “The Mythical  Method” with 2,877 views; a post I wrote six years ago. Apparently, I am a world authority on this matter, as I find myself  on page 1 of Google. I noticed that every now and then there are peaks of viewers of “The Mythical Method” coming from many different countries, as it recently happened from Denmark, Romania and Poland. I might even fancy myself quoted on some books one day: “The Mythical Method” by Tink. 🙃

As for the viewers, well, one of the things I love the most still is to check the countries they are from, even if I am well aware that very likely they just click on my blog, without reading a single word, well, I don’t mind, as they contribute to make the map of the world viewers  more colourful. My readers mostly come from Italy, of course , U.S, U.K, India, Germany, Canada in this order, but from a closer inspection I have just realized that I lied to fellow blogger Emilio, who blogs as Disperser, as we were lamenting the absence of views from Iceland just few days ago, well, I have 17 and it seems that somebody dropped by from Zimbabwe, Bhutan, Lesotho too and last but not least Vanuatu. Oh dear, I don’t even know where Vanuatu is!

For the incoming year I make no resolutions, I have never been able to stick to one, but I’ll write as much as I can and read your posts, as I love being in touch with you. Thank you for your constant support and wish you all a great year. We deserve it.

Nervous Breakdown

It’s  been  only 3 months  since the beginning of school and I have the impression of having lived at least seven lives. I’ve become old, all of a sudden. Whatever I do, whatever I have been asked to do, turns out to be eventually pointless, useless, frustrating. I feel like a caterpillar which is, despite all its efforts, unable to turn into a butterfly. Yes, I feel like a caterpillar, but I remember I was a butterfly once.

If you are not a teacher, I’m sure you would think I’m being dramatic, but I am otherwise sure that the teachers from all over the world, ALL of them, will understand perfectly how I feel. What turns my hopelessness into anger is what I read daily about Government resolutions regarding school opening  after Christmas holidays: no ideas, no plans, everything left to chance, but one thing  they have clearly in mind: we MUST go back to school anyhow.

Of course, when you spent 3 billion euros in one seater  desks, as the only real strategy to tackle this pandemic season, we MUST go back to school, I understand . That is why, with the intent of pursuing this chimera, despite negative figures, spreading infection rate, despite what common sense would suggest, we have been obliged to experiment teaching  in any condition. If you don’t believe me, give a look at this list.

DIDACTIC ESPERIMENTS DURING THREE MONTHS OF PANDEMIC:

  • ALL STUDENTS IN. (done) It lasted two weeks. Then we started to notice that teachers and students were going missing as they were put in quarantine. We noticed it; nobody told us. Eventually, I was one of them.
  • ONE CLASS IN THE GYM(done) Since we were running out of classrooms any space had to be used. Being that big, the sound effect is that of a church, with echoes mostly. No problem if you have a stentorian voice. I haven’t.
  • TWO CLASSES IN THE GYM. (done) Some super smart colleague thought clever to use the mike, while the teacher with no stentorian voice was doing all she could to be heard. Blood ran at the end the hour.
  • TWO CLASSES IN THE LECTURE HALL.(done) Just like in the gym , but with no echo and no lesson actually. Try to imagine about 30 kids who are supposed to follow the English class, while other 30 are following the Math class. Blood very likely to run at the end of the hour.
  • OPEN AIR CLASS.(done) A very romantic option. 30 kids under the school portico, with the soundtrack of the barwoman who makes cappuccinos and coffees – God bless her – while pigeons discharge their excrements on desks and floor, if not on kids or teachers.
  • 50% IN AND 50% REMOTE. (done) Most of the time spent on: Can you hear me? Can you see me? While half of the class watches you amused.
  • 25% IN AND 75% REMOTE. (done) Never reached the 25%, as those who were supposed to stay in class knew that they would have been  the privileged target of teachers’ “attentions”.
  • 100% REMOTE FROM HOME. (done) Paradise. How strange that such a despised option in the past might become absolute perfection in the present.
  • 100% REMOTE FROM SCHOOL. (done) But if any student, for any reason, cannot follow lessons from home, can demand to stay at school and so his teachers are, as a matter of fact, banned from paradise, to stay with him. We might also call this option 100% but one.

YET TO BE EXPERIMENTED AFTER CHRISTMAS:

  • WORKING ON SATURDAYS AND SUNDAYS. No comment.
  • STAGGERED ENTRANCES. Which means starting from 8 in the morning and ending at 8 in the evening.
  • SCHOOL YEAR ENDS IN JULY. I know all those maintaining that teachers  enjoy  long holidays would welcome this option with screams of joy, after all we would look after their children till July, how couldn’t we teachers sympathize with them?

Does it sound like a joke? I’m afraid, it is not.

Looking for Santa Claus

There is one category of people I truly don’t understand these days : the seekers of good news or the blind to bad ones, if you prefer.They are those who, rather than being preoccupied by negative data, work for interpreting them in the less alarming possible way, minimizing them. They believe in the healing effect of optimism. They claim that people don’t have to be traumatized with truths, but rather they have to learn to seek the good in what seems so indisputably bad. If ther isn’t any, they endevour to build one, brand new.

Hence, if you dare say to one of those that the number of dead is increasing, they will reply that it is not so, that the charts are wrong, as they include also those who died for cancer, for example, so, displaying the excellence of their argumentative skills, they have died WITH Covid and not BECAUSE OF Covid.

If you make them notice that intensive care units are filling up rapidly, they will answer that neither the 30 per cent of the available intensive care units has been reached yet, which is an uncontrovertible truth, forgetting, nevertheless, that only the 30 per cent of intensive care units are for Covid sick, hence, if we are now at the 29 per cent, unless one feels like discussing it, the system is very close to collapse.

If at this point they feel backed into the corner, they exhibit articles where some eminent dummy has written that actually intensive cares are emptying, which is, once again, uncontrovertibly true, but they don’t feel like considering that they are emptying, because people are dying.

Even when you show accurate studies which demonstrate that for 100 people who are Covid infected 3,8% die in Italy, which makes us the third country in the world after Mexico and Iran and the first in Europe, they will accurately explain once again, that this is because we include those who died WITH Covid and not FOR Covid, differently from what the other countries do.Their source of information? The usual dispensers of good news wearing a medical gown they worship on Facebook.

Hence, I have come to the conclusion that trying to talk with these people is useless, in fact, I have understood that they don’t want to delude, but rather being deluded. They are just naive, as they are simply unable to accept the truth, especially when it comes in such an ominous shape. They need to believe that soon everything will be all right, that soon is now, otherwise they react as those children once hinted that after all Santa Claus might not exist: impossible!!

And here from this enchanting gardens of this churchyard destined to Covid victims, when I look around and I see dozens and dozens of hearses one after another, a line echoes in my mind:

“So many. I had not thought death had undone so many” (The Waste Land)

I wish I could see Santa Claus here, but I can’t find him anywhere.

The Right to Party

We have lived fortunate times, this is for sure. No world conflicts, economic boom,  lucky enough to have inherited fundamental rights we have not fought for, which have made our lives safer, more guaranteed, more dignified. 

We have lived fortunate times, so fortunate that leisure has become the “pillar” of our lives. In the past only a few bunch of people had time and money to enjoy leisure. The others were quite content, if they could provide their families with food, shelter and education for their children. 

We have lived fortunate times; but the “pillar” which has held up our lives  is about crack under the blows of the outbreak, as our leisures are at stake, since a new lockdown is very close. 

We have lived fortunate times, that is why we are unprepared to fight the enemy. We have never bumped into any, so we do not accept its threatening existence, moreover, it cannot be seen, so it is much easier to close our eyes and try to ignore it.

We have lived fortunate times, to be sure, but solidarity and the awareness of belonging to a community have given way to individualism  and selfishness, thus weakening any effort of developing common strategies .

We have lived fortunate times, times which have produced,nevertheless, generations of parents and children who are no longer focused on fundalental values such as education, commitment, effort, for example.

We have lived fortunate times, that is why we cannot conceive a world  made of common sacrifices and limitantions, even when those are due to an unpredictable emergency. We don’t want our lives to be changed, the life of our children cannot be changed, hence, it has become vital to preserve our right and their right to socialization and fun, therefore, pubs, bars, restaurants etc,  ought to remain open. Psycholoysts blabber about the amount of damages this generation of adolescents will suffer from deprived proximity to friends, forgetting that this generation has made of isolation their distinctive trait much before the pandemic. They have always enjoyed being isolated for hours with their playstation, they are isolated even when they are with their group of friends, always stuck to their cellphones, they live isolated in their families. A month of two of lockdown can have no prolongued effect on our children, for one main reason above all: they are young. They have all their life to live and they will forget, that is a privilege of the young. The only risk they might run is that of  learning a lesson from this event, if we allowed them, of course.

We have lived fortunate times, but are we so sure they have been thus fortunate?

Quarantined


I have always been convinced the re-opening of schools to be merely an ideological issue; now more than even. After fruitless months spent discussing about the employment of one-seater desks with wheels or the right safe distances between students or teachers, which were shortened day after day to stuff them all in “safety” in the classrooms, we have found ourselves in the front line unprotected, unprepared and even without the famous wheeled one-seater desks, which have now been confined to mere urban legend, as we have never seen one of them in flesh and blood.

Of course, the show had to go on, and it did, backed by the propagandistic ministerial cry of war : “schools are safe“. I often wonder, how vital it is to hold important offices nowadays, to be a good story teller rather than displaying skill and training.They are mostly pretenders and liars, who have the nerve to charm that majority of dummies who wish to be lulled by a nice story with a happy end.

Yet, it is hard to keep telling the same fairy tale when the witch, who was believed dead or almost dead is back in the saddle, as after only a couple of weeks from the reopening of schools the figures about Covid-19 transmission started to increase rapidly. So, if the Minister of Education wanted to keep her point, it was crucial to find somebody else to blame – this is rule number one for a good, shrewd politician – so the fault fell on the Minister of Transports. Hence, the story was thus upgraded: “schools are safe, but transports are not. Covid transmission happens on buses and trains because distances are not respected, while we do respect them in schools“.

As a consequence of these remarks, endless tv squabbles followed, but the theme actually sounded more like the chicken and the egg debate. Those who might get infected on buses and trains, then come to school, in fact. Once in, we provide them with masks, which are readily thrown away as soon as they cross the school gate, but even if we invite our students to sanitize their hands and be seated, they are not statues and naturally break the rules as soon as you turn your back or you realize that those at home need to ask a question or have lost their connections. I cannot watch them all. Hence, despite everybody’s good will and efforts, it is impossible to guarantee that the virus is not transmitted in schools, but quite the opposite.

Indeed, I have to say that since our first school day, the feeling of being exposed to the virus has became so palpable, that we have all felt the urgent need to take more precautions than the protocols suggested. Despite all our efforts, pretty soon some of my colleagues started to go missing one after the other, only to discover afterwards that they had been quarantined along with their classes.The net was closing on me, I could feel it. “Only one will remain” I used to say jokingly to a colleague of mine, quoting Highlander, but unfortunately I could not boast to be the last one to survive, as yesterday after a long, brave battle I fell and was quarantined, as one of my students was found positive to his first Covid test. I’ll be back to work in a couple of weeks, ready to be quarantined again as soon as I bump into another positive case or get infected myself.

Since this situation was easily predictable, I cannot help but wonder why we haven’t been able to take the appropriate measures in six months. The school is open, the Minister claims it as her success, but she pretends not to realize that in the classrooms and along the aisles education cannot be found anywhere. Why we haven’t treasured on-line learning  experience, especially for high schools and universities, and invested in technology, bandwidth, for instance, rather than disclaiming it entirely, truly I cannot say. The only answer I can give is that keeping the on-line learning option would have meant admitting that the pandemic was not over and the return to normal was not imminent, and god knows what could happen when a country is not told a good fairy tale before going to sleep.

 

Cassandra

Cassandra was the most beautiful of the daughters of Hecuba and Priam, the Queen and  King of Troy. She was so beautiful that even Apollo, notorious womanizer among the gods, was infatuated with her. One  day, while she was slumbering in the temple, Apollo silently approached her, as he had in mind to win the girl’s love. When she woke up and heard the handsome god professing his passion, she was pleasantly flattered. He courted her gently and  promised to give her a most precious gift that would have sealed their love: she would have been able to see the future, but, there is always a but, only if she consented to lie with him.

Cassandra was intrigued at first, it was a generous gift indeed, but, after accepting the offer, she started to have doubts and changed her mind. It happens, even to charming gods. So angry Apollo, who was not used to being jilted, seeked his revenge. He kept acting the meek sad rejected lamb for a while and implored her to give him a single kiss that he could remember forever. The girl accepted and while she made the move to reach Apollo’s lips, the God spat in her mouth. A gesture of utter contempt. With that act Apollo had nullified his own gift condemning her not to be believed.

From that moment on, Cassandra will start to see the future and, as any human being, will not be able to resist or refrain from telling others what she knew, or to alert those who were going have losses or mischances, hence as prophetess of misfortunes and nefarious events, she was avoided and marginalized, for fear, or the illusion of her being able to change events.

Apollo could have condemned Cassandra to mere silence, but he did not. He gave her the faculty to perceive more than normal, keeping the use of the word, and also remaining aware of the fact that others could listen to her but would choose not to believe her words, indeed, they would consider her crazy and delusional for her insistence, especially when she warned them of immense dangers. She will cry out the negative outcomes of Helen’s kidnapping, in fact, and will try to stop the Trojans from dragging the wooden horse into the city, warning them that it would be the cause of their ruin; but she will always remain unheard.

If we want to give a further interpretation to the myth, we may add that Cassandra’s faculty does not only consist in seeing the future but rather, understanding its signs, or better, she sees the future, because she understands them. In a sense Apollo had made her wise, wiser than anybody else, that is the meaning of his gift. After all isn’t it the destiny of the wise, of those who know how to see far and beyond, of those who are able to decipher the omens and may know how to anticipate them to end up unheard?

The consequence of the scrutiny of future should lead to the rise of a great deal of questions in order to find the best solutions to incoming problems, even if they seem inconvenient at first glance. For example, when Priam sees the horse, he doesn’t wonder why he should receive such a gift in a middle of a war, and why the Spartans had retreated in such a hurry. Why? Wisdom would have suggested him to be careful, but he is not. Worn out by an exhausting war, he chooses to believe in the final peace and ignore Cassandra’s words, and, as he wishes to return to normal life, he accepts the Spartans’ gift and allows the huge horse to be dragged inside the city wall and their disgrace of his people with it.

Hence, we may say that Cassandra’s curse lies above all in her not being able to communicate and interact, thus her efforts remain arid, unproductive and sterile. A double torture for those who profess and need to communicate and interact with each other: being aware of speaking while remaining unheard. Communicating is as important as listening and communication is truly constructive, if made of real listening, because communication is something more than the mere reception of an observation, it is an emotional feedback that changes us, excites us, makes us think and reason in order to modify and improve our system.

In this sense our age, which has glorified communication through medias, has turned out to be the less communicative at all, as we all speak and write a lot, but nobody or just a few takes the trouble to listen. Everybody has a truth, which cannot be even dented. Therefore, those who are entitled to “read the signs” and take us out of troubles, like in this outbreak, remain often unheard or offended. So, even if we see the clouds approaching, we still prefer to turn our back to modern Cassandras and look at that little portion of the sky where the sun still shines, without realizing that we are just dragging the Trojan horse in.

 

 

 

 

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