The facts of the Ponte school and the “difficulty of words”

The reflection of a teacher

Last Saturday we reported an episode that took place at the Ponte di Lodi middle school (written against a teacher in the student bathrooms) and the measures taken by the school manager. We now propose a reflection by Elena Bulzi on what happened.

It’s Wednesday and tomorrow will be the last day before the Christmas holidays, days awaited by everyone, students and teachers, to enjoy a few days of peaceful tranquillity. It’s Wednesday and I’m in class, like every morning, in a third class on the first floor. We are reasoning around a cognitive autobiography that the children will then take up individually calmly to reflect on the path they have taken. Cognitive autobiography is an important tool: it serves precisely to go back to an activity carried out and think not only about the final product and the vote, but also and above all about the path taken to obtain that result.

It is a tool to return to the effectiveness experienced by working with the group of classmates in building the cognitive product, but also to dwell on the difficulties encountered and the strategies implemented to face them and try to overcome them. The cognitive autobiography then collects the precious harvest of intuitions, lines of work and research that the boys have implemented to carry out the task of reality assigned. All this material will be collected in a file shared with the children and their families, to document the beauty and the challenging effort of finding synergistic and effective ways of working, in the belief of the importance of the social dimension of learning.

The kids listen and ask: they understand that this job is really for them (in fact there won’t be an evaluation of how much they write), it is to invite them once again to stay on what they do and how they do it. It is Wednesday morning before Christmas and we are reflecting on this with the boys, when the classroom door opens and we are informed that seriously offensive writing has appeared in the men’s bathrooms on the first floor (the ones that the classroom we are in also accesses). against a member of our school community. The words I’m saying fall and shatter on the ground with a noise that only I hear… or maybe the students hear it too, as the frost sets suddenly.

A jumble of thoughts swirling in my head that are bottle shards. I look at them one by one, then, looking down, I go through all the other male students in the classes on the first floor. Who could have done such meanness? A sad rage of impotence rises in me. I breathe deeply: I don’t want this emotion to dominate the scene. Not because we are at Christmas and, as a boring rigmarole says, “we must all be better”. It’s not about doing good, and even less about the silly one that comes out on these occasions. It is a precise choice, to be embodied daily and with difficulty in daily micro-actions: how to interpret the role of teacher and educator. And the reactions of anger, which inevitably mount in the face of situations like this, must leave room for broader reflections. And as I breathe deeply, to the “who?” comes the “why?”. This is the question that I consider most urgent, without however wanting to trivialize the gravity of the gesture and individual responsibility. Why can’t a little boy convert the tension that inhabits him into adequate words?

Why doesn’t a kid internalize the principle that “ideas can be discussed, people must be respected” and that “insults are not arguments”? How many times have we worked on these points of the Non-Hostile Communication Manifesto? Actually I know because, even if I sometimes wish it were easier to achieve some goals in a stable way for everyone. I am well aware, as the psychotherapist Matteo Lancini says, that “girls and boys are in a spasmodic search for adults from whom to receive emotional and developmental support” and that “care in creating an atmosphere of serene growth must not be confused with the tendency to the removal of the obstacles encountered on the road to growth and with the denial of the daily difficulties brought about by life”.

This is why I never tire of writing, repeating and living the conviction that all of us adults must take on “new forms of responsibility” without thinking of avoiding them for our children. Even we teachers, together with our parents, beg for a place to give birth to the humanity of our children, but thinking of doing it alone and in a self-referential way today is truly utopian.


The facts of the Ponte school and the “difficulty of words”