March 2020: the separation
Suddenly, one day in March of 2020, lockdown begins. At the same time, our online listening desk for schools opened as well.
All families find themselves living a new and unprecedented reality: parents and children, necessarily together, together forever, 24 hours a day, without the possibility of separating.
The young ones up to that moment were used to live a daily life separated from their parents, in which they faced the didactics, the questions and the tests, the relationship with friends and with the teachers on their own. A whole world in which they could put themselves on the line in complete autonomy! This on one hand made the kids responsible, but at the same time certain illnesses and critical situations could not be seen by parents who met with their kids only at dinner time.
The lack of separation from the family context during the lockdown has sometimes highlighted the inability to stay together but even and especially not to know how to say NO when a relationship became stifling, maybe when there wasn’t even room to get away and work out a difficult relationship.
And so, many kids started writing to us…
And then there were the parents, who could be more in touch with the reality of their children. The most attentive and sensitive ones recognized the possibilities of their kids and at the same time the difficulties they were facing and that maybe, in the whirlwind and frenzy that characterized the society until 2019, had not been able to see. In most cases, the dialectic within families has increased, leading to greater mutual knowledge between parents and children. In other cases, parents who were crushed by the worries of the period, poured the anxiety on their children becoming intrusive with respect to their school and social world. Here, too, the most attentive parents have recognized their shortcomings and this increased awareness pushed them asking for help by contacting us.
And also teachers. During the lockdown some of them with all their human sensibility managed to propose a new way of doing class and looking after teenagers. They put in place that way of teaching that Sara Lazzaro in the interview you can find on our blog, called “knowledge activation”, that is not only to impart knowledge within the relationship teacher-learner, but something new, in which students feel themselves as active part of their education and in which the interest of adults emerges. But it must be said that, unfortunately, very often this has not happened.
Teachers sometimes continued to offer a frontal teaching, without worrying about the personal reality that each kid was forced to face, perhaps because the teachers themselves experienced very difficult personal realities. All this has prompted the sensitive teachers to report critical situations and at the same time to turn to the listening desk to ask for help on their difficulties as teachers and adults who face an online lesson.
September 2020: disappointment and rebellion
After the lockdown, another significant moment for the school was the start of the new school year. We reached September from summer 2020 in which there had been many reopenings. The adolescents tasted again a possibility of freedom, of separating themselves from the different contexts to live their own world knowing that behind them there were responsible adults, but they were again disappointed by the adults themselves. During the March 2020 lockdown they were disappointed by distressed parents who were unprepared to face the new reality and by teachers often unable to invent a new relationship with students. Initially they returned into class at 50%, half online class and half in attendance. But shortly after the start of the new school year another disappointment, the closure of schools after two months from the start, and all back in DAD (Distance Learning).
The disappointment is partially related to the fact that adults, parents and teachers, were once again in difficulty, and teenagers who wanted to live their experiences supported by adults found themselves without references, instead pointed out as irresponsible for increasing the number of COVID cases. The kids, in some cases, rebelled but in a pathological way, in the most serious situations with self-harm, cutting themselves, or stopping to eat or with organized fights in the street.
Many other kids, however, have found a different solution: they asked for help, they wrote to us again…
2021: simple solutions
We tell you about a meeting with all the first classes of a high school. We asked them how the transition from middle school to high school was and how they were coping with the new school. Old and new problems and many resources have come to the fore. Think that the students of the first year, who since September faced the teaching at 50%, for much of the year have never met all their classmates. This sometimes led to a clear division between students: imagine a class divided into two by alphabetical order, as if people were numbers, as if they were really two different classes. In other cases, however, thanks to a sensitive school staff, the teaching was organized by mixing the two groups and allowing the whole class to get to know each other. This is an interesting example of how simple things can work, how an adult who is attentive and sensitive to the needs of adolescents can make a difference by recognizing that school is a predominantly social place.
And the kids understood it perfectly: the requests they made to us were more personal and profound; they distinguished more clearly the fact that there is crisis and crisis, problem and problem, one thing is a normal adolescent crisis or difficulty, one thing is a different crisis, one other thing is to be sick.
The kids in front of all the news of recent years are asking questions to us, are looking for something new.
And are we new enough to respond?
Walter Di Mauro
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article