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Once upon a time at school there was a listening desk, in a small little room, with a small little door

Once upon a time at school there was a listening desk, in a small little room, with a small little door

Every Wednesday I left very early, crossed half of Rome and half of the province and finally got to school. The first thing that awaited me were the “ticking off the box”, the booking system posted on the door with which the kids could freely and anonymously book a session. I have always observed those small signs written with light handwriting or dark ticks and engraved in the paper, ticks erased, rewritten and erased again.

Then, I waited for a knock on the door. Sometimes it was a new face, sometimes a familiar face that updated me on what was happening to him or her, sometimes a face with tears, sometimes several faces accompanying another. Sometimes someone came to cancel but then stayed.

I was there to listen to the kids. It is no coincidence that what is commonly called the listening desk is called the ICC Information and Consultancy Center in ministerial directives, that is a set of health promotion activities.

So I listened to their stories…

But I wasn’t there just for this. I was there to respond to everyone but above all to those uncomfortable situations before they interfered with the students’ growth processes. I could work with teachers, with classes. I could refer them to social or mental health services.

Anxiety, crisis, study difficulties, disappointments in love, self-seeking, misunderstandings with families, challenges to teachers, separation from childhood, separation from adolescence, family expectations vs personal expectations, feeling beautiful, feeling ugly, new friends and old friends, staying in the past, being already in the future, believing themselves to be giants, believing themselves insignificant, feeling too much, feeling nothing … this is only a part of what young people ask those who have more experience than them.

But why did they come to me asking all these things? Why was I there every week? Did this only attract and reassure the students to trust? Was it that I was physically there? It is enough that the bodies share a space to feel that we can talk about yourself, we can ask for a hand, feel that the questions are not unanswered? What does it really mean to be together, beyond the space that can bring us closer or divide us? We have all rediscovered or discovered since 9 March when all the educational activities in every school of all types and levels were suspended following the containment measures of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The quarantine began and with it new ways of being together and in the world came to life, or at least we all began to experiment. The school could not stop for an infinite series of reasons and the institutes have tried to convert traditional teaching into DAD, distance learning, through the use of multimedia platforms, thanks to the enormous reorganization effort of teachers, students and families.

Even the listening desk could not be interrupted, not only for the moment of new difficulty that everyone was experiencing, but because what makes the difference is the certainty of relationships. Therefore, I had to find a way to bridge the distance that divided me from the students. I had to find it. And not only, I did it obviously: numerous psychological counseling projects have switched to the “online” formula. A new video call listening desk has therefore been launched: I have reseen already known faces, I have met new ones, all grappling with old problems or new problems. We have come to the end of the school year, for some this means final state exams and the end of high school.

We kept a line open to with the kids, the relationship was there, they asked, I was there and I still answered.(the ICC in the time of the corona virus – part 1)

Maria Giubettini

Thanks to Ray Williams for the translation of this article.


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Once upon a time at school there was a listening desk, in a small little room, with a small little door