All of us were students once. In the middle of school desks which saw friendships and rivalries flourish, we shared a common sentiment: anxiety. When teachers came into class with checked homework, had fallen the silence, while we waited, anxious, for the result. One could not reply the professors, self-criticism was not an option. Today, things seem to have changed. In some schools, marks are only a distant memory. The last teaching frontier is the “school without marks” or “School of the gratuitous”. Its goal is an education which frees us from disastrous influences of the culture of “profit”.
This type of school is inspired to Sister Paola Elisabetta Ceroli’s pedagogical method. At the core of her pedagogy, we find the natural and spontaneous motivation, of every schoolboy to develop his gifts, promoting critical knowledge and cooperation between all those schools, without fear of judgment. And it works. You can see it in the first primary class of the private school “Cerioli” in Orzinuovi, province of Brescia, a complex with more than 600 members. The team leader and father Antonio Consonni.
“How stupid! Lucy, I’ve messed up everything.” exclaimed Marco, fourth grade, when looking at his test. “What’s going on, Marco?”, asked the teacher Lucy. “I have been stupid, I could have been more careful”. That day he was more distracted than usual and did not have much desire to study. The teacher had the opportunity to propose a new educational method, self-evaluation. “Children, write me a sentence on how you have done in the test”. And her little pupils, with no problems, began to write: “I have not understood what I had to do…”, “It was a bit too long, when I get tired I cannot make it more… “, “You’re wily teacher, there is a trick here… “. Since then, self-assessment became a normal thing, carried forward with serenity, without the fear of a negative judgment.
In the “School of the gratuitous”, even terror is positive. “If someone makes a mistake, the others help him/her and he does not repeat this mistake – tells a child -, Whereas in other schools they are berated by teacher, my cousin told me that”. To remove anxiety we must avoid the negative components of the assessment, as the idea that the mark is a verdict on the person, with the consequent, and inevitable sense of humiliation. “If a child has done well, we give him/her a five – explains Lucy -, if he did mistakes, we give him five twice, because s/he did his/her best”.
The idea of an education based on the “free” education has impressed several people, as Carolina and Christian of Vercelli. Intrigued by an article by Ferdinando Ciani in the periodical “Always”, have decided to experience the “school without marks” in a highschool class. Over 28 students whose accession had been asked, 22 agreed. For a semester, students were given only well-articulated reviews. The numerical marks were visible only on the electronic register, available to the parents. Unfortunately, some families have “cheated”, secretly letting their children know them. A slap in the face of development education.
“There is a change of perspective – say the two professors – to which points also a different lexicon: no more verification but test, no longer mark but communication, no more error, but an attempt”. In any case, work still needs to be done on the ability to learn from mistakes and to support those in difficulty. But the project has had overall positive results. Above all, it allowed to overcome the anxiety due to marks, which Clare, a student who now attends the university, can describe very well: “Marks that seem to obsess school at present…those numbers destroy all desire to teach and study, believe me!”
Also a mother, Patrizia, talks about anxiety: “I was worried by the fact that my daughter ended up in class with a friend of the family; I was afraid of not being able to support a year of comparison and sense of inferiority”. But for this woman there was a surprise: she has enrolled her daughter to the private school “Cerioli”.
Among the parents there has been some concern, at the beginning, but fears dissolved rather quickly. What really counts, to educate children well, are the words with which every comment on a test opens: “Dear/Dear… “.
Freely taken from “Always”