...a story about migrating to Italy

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

20 Short, Zen and 20 and a Train Ride.

20 Short.
What a terrible day. I spent my day with a bunch of five year olds who made me almost want to cry. They didn't listen to a word I said, bar a few of the more introverted children, who sometimes listened and sometimes went along with the crowd.
This week I am relieving a teacher from the other campus of the Montessori school I am now employed at. Next month, I will start my own class of roughly thirteen children at the Nido campus, aged 18 months, together with another teacher who speaks fluent Italian.
But today, I have not gained much confidence for my ability to manage a classroom. There were children running in and out of the classroom, hitting each other and overall not doing what they were supposed to. Other teachers sympathised "It's Monday, they are always unsettled," "They don't know you," and other words of consolation. But by the end of my school day, at 1pm, I was inconsolable. I started off for the bustop in a huff.
However, I failed to calcuate train and bus times, this location being different from last week when I was helping out at my future work location, and I wound up at Mantova train station with a three and a half hour wait for my one and a half hour train ride home.
Now verging on tears, exhausted from my 5am start and my seemingly failed attempt at teaching, I called Giuseppe. I plonked my guitar and satchel down on the steps of Mantova station and sat down to wait for Giuseppe's forty minute to an hour commute in heavy traffic.
I counted the coins that we scraped together from his mother's car. He drove me to Cerea station this morning in her car rather than his because she needed her car parked at the front of the shop later that morning to do the vegetable and fruit pickup. Four Euro and 60 cents. Or centessimi. However you spell it.
I approached the girl at the bar while scanning the cigarettes on the shelves behind her. I was relieved to find a familiar brand at an affordable price: Peter Styvo's for 3.80 Euro. But I am an ex-smoker, purely on a post-smoking, nervous binge. Therefore, I also required a lighter. Which cost 1 Euro. Through broken Italian peppered with 'Thank you's' and 'sorry's, I managed to communicate what I wanted before realising I was 0.20 cents short. She waved me away, smiling as she took my coins, leaving the smokes and lighter on the counter as she turned away. Perhaps sensing my aura of 'I'm having a crappy day', she let me off. Finally, a plus for today, but it kind of cancels itself out, because I shouldn't be smoking.
Why is it, that when a negative occurs, I reach for another negative?
That’s all I have to say about today. I’m tired and extremely pissed.

Zen and 20.
Shutup Michelle. What was I complaining about? I am lucky to have work, we’re in an economic crisis here!
I had simply forgotten how to gain respect from a class – because realistically, I haven’t had the experience since April 2009. That’s over a year of being away from a classroom. Of course there are rust spots.
This morning, I walked into the classroom determined, strong and calm... determined to make an improvement – in my classroom management skills, in my composure and my rapport with the students.
I achieved the above by reminding myself of the same fact twice, each with different perspectives.
1. They are only five years old – so they need affection, they need to feel safe and loved.
2. And – they are only five years old – yet they are still capable of being disobedient... 'furbo' in Italian; therefore they need clear, defined boundaries...
And then it comes full circle – they need strong boundaries in order to feel safe and loved.
When a teacher feels angry (and I feel that I can fairly generalise here) it’s because they are more so angry at themselves, rather than at the students.
Yesterday I felt angry at myself, angry for not being able to do my job properly, thus feeling almost hopeless. It’s those nagging questions: “Why can’t I manage them?”, “Why can’t I get them to listen to me?” and so on.
It takes time and bundles of patience, a level of patience parallel to the level of mind power and beyond required to break a pile of bricks with your head.
When this level of patience is achieved, it’s like achieving a kind of zen. You enter a special, protective dome where it seems that no amount disobedience or mischief can penetrate your fortress of calm. It’s awesome.
And so, today I am Michelle, Master of calm, the tranquil teacher, an achiever of improving rapport with my students. Because students sense your zen.
Today, all twelve students completed at least one or more Montessori activity. They achieved solitary work and also working collaboratively – fair and peaceful play.
At 10.20am, the classroom was then transformed back into a clean, orderly room and then a perfect circle of children seated on the floor formed, as if by some sort of magic or divine intervention.
I got the guitar out and every child sang in harmony and every child listened enthusiastically during the reading of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. They ate biscuits and listened while I played ‘Better Man,’ (Robbie Williams,) on the guitar, singing my own adaptation: “...I’m doin’, all I can, to be a better person...”
We changed into our ‘outside shoes’ and went to play. Three students needed to sit out for five minutes because of earlier mishaps, (hitting, interrupting and throwing water.) Two protested but remained nonetheless, one I had to cuddle as he cried, “Voglio giocare, voglio giocare!” (I want to play!) but I held him and we talked about how hitting is wrong and he said tomorrow, ‘domani’, he will not hit anyone. After lunch, he did hit another child, but so lightly a tap on the forearm that the other child simply furrowed their brow and walked away. Hence, a big improvement, since he did not even enter my classroom yesterday until after lunch – today I even got some smiles.
We ate lunch and the children started to call be my first name, instead of yesterday’s ‘teacher, maestra!’
I then explained that I had to leave early or I miss the last train home. I told them I was very happy – we had such a good day – and I am looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.
They applauded.

Tutto Posto.

P.S.: I paid back the girl at the bar 0.20 cents.

Train Ride.
Fields of poppies and lavender. Rice fields – stretches of water with tiny green stalks peeking out breathing air; acres of corn, peas – ploughed and sewn. Tractors. Tractor makeshift roads of two lines of trodden down grass, dirt and muddy tracks. Irrigation channels bordering, travelling up, down and across from lakes and rivers. Green. So much green. Red. Purple. Symmetry – lines of growing buds. The ground creeps forward under the buds, moving with the train, the oblique perspective. More poppies. Fields of. Lining the streets. Lavender. More green. Grass, green, lush between lines of trees – fir, willow, oak. Red. Green. Flowing water. Poppies. Streets. Street lights. Houses. Trees. More houses.
Giuseppe and Valentino, waving from the platform.

1 comment:

  1. Mish,

    I am so thrilled that you found the strength, determination and faith in yourself and your abilities to turn the negative into a positive. Now throw those smokes away girl, you have come too far to go back. xx