The quality of relationships within the school context – both between peers and between students and teachers – is fundamental when it comes to education and learning and is one of the main antidotes to early school leaving. It is from this idea, together with the belief that good teaching practices can be decisive for the future of children, that some professors of the Morgagni high school in Rome were born with the idea of a School of relationships and responsibilities, one of the experiences of participatory education included in the September issue of Vita. It is an entire section, inaugurated in 2016, within which experimental teaching methods are applied. “Once, the famous learning psychologist Daniela Lucangeli came to give us a training”, she says Vincenzo Art, one of the promoters of the project, “and showed us some graphs, which showed that in Italy the school, in general, is very anxious. Then there is another episode that made me think a lot: once we went with the students on a trip to the Museum of Science and Technology in Munich and I communicated to the students that, back home, they should have a report. To which a girl told me that I had ruined a trip she had been expecting for six months ”. A reflection arises from these episodes. Why not let everyone face educational experiences with their own sensitivity, respecting everyone’s time and promoting well-being in the classroom?
One of the fundamental elements of the School of relationships and responsibilities is that, during the school year, there are no numerical marks, but only discursive evaluations by the teachers. “We were given a report, highlighting our strengths and weaknesses,” he says Irene Giampaolo, a freshly graduated student with full marks, one hundred out of a hundred, “who did not belittle us, but focused attention on our characteristics on which we could have focused and on the aspects that we had to strengthen instead”. In recent times the students have also agreed to be able to ask for a numerical consideration for the evaluation – recalls the young woman – in order to avoid surprises in the report card. Another element of growth for adolescents is self-assessment, a skill also useful for entering the world of work after school. Often, in fact, many students tend to have low self-esteem, which leads them to think that they have carried out tests that are worse than those actually carried out.
“We try to make the time when the children are at school effective”, Professor Arte continues, “in order to leave as little work as possible to do at home; we keep them as active as possible, so that they always do something, because they remember better what they have worked on personally ”. Often, within the class, there are several “stations”, where each pupil can find different exercises. Many times it is the students themselves who support and help each other according to their predispositions and abilities; thus the children feel more involved, listened to and understood. And, for this reason, the percentages of school dropout are lower than in the other sections. But we must not think that it is an address that sacrifices preparation. At the test of the final exams, the School of relationships and responsibilities held up more than well: in the last year, among the students who attended it, there were two hundred and honors and three hundred. Contributing to these successes is the reduction of anxiety and stress.
“We organized with the professors for scheduled assignments and interrogations”, says the student, “and this helped me a lot: I did figure skating at a competitive level for many years and combining school life and sports life would have been very difficult in another type of address”. With the teachers, the students say, the relationship was not vertical, one of imposition of one on the other. “We have established a peaceful relationship with the teachers,” recalls the girl. “Even those who did not do so well in school or had difficulties managed to find a meeting point with the teachers, it was a common handshake, a sharing of a path; in class we worked a lot, but without excessive stress ”.
The September issue of VITA is dedicated to the theme of early school leaving and its prevention. Buy it here.