TO MY ITACA
<<To teach Latin to Giovannino it is not enough to know Latin, above all you need to know Giovannino>> wrote Jean Jacques Rousseau in 1762, in the Emilio.
The phrase is so shareable that today it seems obvious. Yet in the school system that I know and experience every day”get to know Giovannino” is too often not a priority. It is as if the axis had moved only on the performance of all the actors in the school (including teachers) and not on the relationship between the actors which is the platform for any learning possibility. What matters is what the student knows or can do and not what the student is. It is the product that counts beauty! The product that derives from abstract merit, the violent and competitive one that pushes us all, like so many obedient little ants, towards the obsessive search for the result. What are you saying? What about inclusion? What about personalization of learning? And the Bes and the Dsa? …I don’t know, they don’t convince me, because too often they become a way to hide behind a “certification”, a label of deficit sewn forever on the student’s skin, which maybe solves (in part) the mechanical learning difficulties but it focuses little or nothing on the person. But when it happened that we stopped being curious about the human being in the other, when it happened that we stopped loving our students’ adolescence which is our own adolescence , when we have accepted to be ants and not bees of a colorful hive to be built together and above all why are we surprised if the kids then rebel? Because they know the difference between an anthill and a hive… ants work on the ground, bees can fly….
Certainly it is not easy to carry the beauty of adolescence with you throughout your life, that “warrior spirit within me roars” … the “care illusion” that made you live everything in an absolute way, even when you were bullshit, you fell in love with an idiot, you despaired over a silly joke or you defended a friend tooth and nail … But I know that I chose to do this job because I see that beauty in the eyes of my students every time I enter the classroom, I see it even in the most fragile or bewildered gazes and I am sure that it is from that beauty that I must start from to be a teacher, it is that beauty that I must safeguard… A titanic feat? Maybe… How much will it cost me? How much will it force me to come to terms with myself? Much. Always.
A few years ago, at the end of a five-year period, on the day of the makp 100, some students dedicated to me Itaca, the poem by Konstantinos Cavafis in which the poet recounts the journey home of Odysseus. The hero sees incredible things, faces monsters and storms, discovers unknown men and civilizations but the poet suggests him to“Do not rush the journey in any way”, not to fear the Lestrigons or the Cyclops, because it is on that journey that he will meet true wealth and, once he reaches his destination,“wise as you will have become, with so much experience, you will have understood what an Itaca means to”. At the end of the poem the pupils had written three words: << To our Itaca>>.
In that exact moment, faced with that gift of infinite tenderness, between a smile and a tear, I understood that basically to be a teacher I should have simply been Ithaca. I don’t know if I’ve always succeeded, but I’ve always tried because along the way, I too met my Itaca. I never told her that was been my Itaca, I never told her that I owe her a lot…so, today, I want to dedicate this article to her.