“Professor, now that, from June, I am ‘out’ of school, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you. Unfortunately, I am harbouring a certain ‘hate’ for the Italian school, because, you shall agree with me: it does not work. The school should be like a second home, should make you feel motivated and never out of place, should help you understand your mistakes and help you to overcome them, not to give up. We enter into this world at the age of 6, and we spend there every day! And, according to you, the way in which the professors relate with us is or not very influential? Not all of us have the same aptitudes, right? Therefore, we should try to understand what our inclinations are; am I wrong? Well, if you do not have the predisposition to study certain subjects, the school makes you feel out of place. You are compared to other students; some teachers treat you as if you were stupid and ask you why do you continue to attend school if you do not like to study…
Then you start thinking of not being capable; you go down and your self-confidence lowers. Slowly slowly, without knowing it, you die inside, because you know that you will have to deal with that environment every single day till you reach the high school diploma. Then with a level of ‘self-esteem’ equal to zero, you manage to obtain the diploma with the minimum marks. At that point people start to ask you: ‘How did it go???’ And you, at that moment, you wish you can bury yourself. But fortunately, life goes on! No school, no pre-exam anxiety aaahh…… the morning air is so serene! Your brain activates, you have a thousand ideas! You experiment, you do, you read, you put yourself to the test and no one is there to give you marks, you will be the one that will criticize your work and that will improve every time! When I realized that hell is finished, my mind has started to develop a fantastic sense of inner peace. I am much more relaxed, I always smile and now I am not obliged to. I have started again drawing and every day I draft a different project. I am improving and I learned to criticize myself. I am happy about the fact that not all of us live the school in the same way and that there are people who are able to feel fulfilled with it. But should not be the same for everyone?”.
I just finished reading this letter, my mind went back in time, making me review all my school years: from primary to high school. I have discovered that I do not remember anymore a big part of the teachers. And those that come back to my mind, are divided in half: between those who left me with very bad memories and those I have appreciated a little for their effort in being honest and loyal. But nothing more. No important figure. No charismatic teachers. No reference point.
However, there is a person who has been like a meteor in my school life: a young teacher that was with me just for one month, in fifth grade. A sweet substitute teacher, affectionate and demanding that replaced my teacher only for one month. But that month was worth for all the other years!
She had a sweet smile, she was teaching with a calm and persuasive voice, and she would have made even the phone list sound charming. While talking, she was making you understand that all these concepts would become important for you! When she used to ask us to do a research, it was as if she was telling us: “Nobody ever will do this research the way you will!”.
I still perfectly remember my work on the platypus. I did it for me and for her. I felt united with my teacher and I felt that she cared for me, because she looked at me like you look to a good little girl. When she was pointing out errors, simultaneously, she emphasized all the beautiful things that we were able to do. I was studying and I was happy to study!
Then my teacher returned and, with her, the usual boring routine: marks, tasks, questions, talks… sadness. Yet all of us are born to know and experience. God has given us the intelligence because we use it to the maximum!
“if, indeed, you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding” (Proverbs 2, 3), ” Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you (Proverbs 2, 11). Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and to insight, ‘You are my relative.’ (Proverbs 7, 4). “Blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom and reasons intelligently” (Sirach 14, 20). “God saw her and apportioned her; he rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension, and he exalted the glory of those who held her fast” (Sirach 1.19)… and I could continue for pages and pages!!!
In the last century, we have discovered that there are many types of intelligences. Just as you say: each one of us is born with different abilities and intelligence! You, with your good sense, you understood what Howard Gardner said to the scientific world at the beginning of the ‘900: “The forms of intelligence are many and various. Then those tests of intelligence that we do are nonsense, because they are based on standardized theories”.
Every teacher should help the student to “exploit” the intelligence he / she received as a gift, promoting in every possible way the gaze of wonder towards the world. Then I am happy that you now, are cultivating your curiosity and your desire to experiment. But I am very sad because at school we did not manage to make this exercise of discovery beautiful.
Brava Giulia! Experience, draw, read, learn and “… and whatever it takes, get insight”. (Proverbs 4, 7)
Ps Intention for the new school year: lead pupils to the threshold of their mind.