It’s over. This school year is virtually over, before than expected, actually. It is about to end in the same hysterical way it started and progressed. Truly hysterical, as at first the great thinkers who are in charge of this ship called “School” meant to prolong our sailing one month more, only to make it end eventually a week before. Why? Well, it seems they ran out of provisions and had to disembark some young cabin-boys who were recruited just to be able to finish the journey. To cut a long story short, they had no money to pay the substitute teachers – I wanted to stick to the metaphor, I do apologize -. By the ways, a trip to “Summer School” land was still in their plans with an investment of about 561 million euros, but when they understood that this plan would have been deserted by both students and teachers – whose only thought at the moment is to cut and run as soon as possible – they steered to “Summer/Autumn School” land , where they had more chances to find somebody more receptive. After all, it is part of human nature to forget the past after a long vacation and be more responsive.
Hence, if the initial idea was to extend the school calendar to recover, in a more relaxed way, the time that the pandemic had “stolen” from school, we have come to the conclusion that, after all, it is right to take away precious time from students. Just hysterical. The usual farce.
This year we have been asked to experiment everything and its opposite, without a clear goal, always navigating by sight . We have ended up crushed by a school system which has never been able to interpret the exceptional circumstances, keeping the old bureaucratic structure, typical of the nineteenth century school, intact, despite the many lockdowns, despite the quarantines, despite 100%, 75%, 50%,25 % on-line classes and despite all this, we have found the same heap of useless papers at the end of our journey. So, here we are, squeezed between the anxiety of evaluation and the rush towards the secondary-school graduation examination scheduled for June 16.
Flying towards different solutions has been impossible, as we systematically crashed against the same big rock: the immobility of the school. Italian school is a muscular, non-adaptive system and even if the world around it changes drastically, there is no way of reacting and curls up like a hedgehog. The maximum flexibility the system has been able to imagine has concerned staggered entrances or to extend the school year until the end of June, and – how I could have forgotten this – one seater (useless) desks . Nothing more. School has turned up to be a place with no imagination and vision of the future and this gives an idea of the degree of the structural agony in which it has slipped into.
It is understandable that in these conditions many have called for a return to face-to-face teaching, because it is more reassuring from a professional point of view – for teachers – and from a social point of view, for students and families. The only true novelty that the school-system has forcibly introduced is remote learning, which is not a small thing, unless the remote teaching effort is reduced to mechanically pour the same things that were done in the classroom into the container of digital devices, as it has actually happened in the majority of cases. Not a changed schedule, not a changed program, just the blind obstinacy in seeking the same results with a technique completely unsuitable to obtain them. Only systems which are under a spell of some obtuse forces can think of transporting physical education hours into remote without even thinking about it. That is why teachers are not victims in this story but accomplices of the system.
In the never ending complaining for what we have been demanded to do in these circumstances, the majority of teachers have kept looking back to an ideal past rather than working for the future. I feel like we have missed the chance to take charge of the school system and demonstrate we were able to make it sail to more interesting and modern destinations. This pandemic has been a great opportunity for all of us to experiment new teaching techniques, but rather than putting them together and discussing all the best practices that many colleagues, I am sure, have developed, I fear most of them will be buried to be forgotten as bad dreams in order go back to a school where chalk and eraser must be always at hand. At that point, we will be happy, safe, old.