A three-metre sandwich: feeding teacher-student relationships - GSO

A three-metre sandwich: feeding teacher-student relationships

There are classes that enter your heart: you can’t forget them, even as time passes by, you wish you could stop it to enjoy the pleasure of their company once more.

During my 17 years of teaching, only once happened that I had the same class for the whole 5 years of high school: a class made of lively students, standard level for the subject I used to teach – Business Management. A nice class. Sometimes, the pupils were so absent-minded that their genuineness hit me unprepared, to the extent that I gave up on several attention and learning difficulties that I had to deal with.

For sure, this wasn’t an academically strong class, but deeply inspiring on the human-relationship level. Consequently, we used to spend part of our time discussing about everything: family, society, economics, Faith, poverty. Classes were inspiring on a human level, even though I’ve always had the idea that these conversations were partly made to take up time from study.

I’ve often wondered what the lost time was. Students get into school continuously exploring their attitudes, their skills and interests. They shine a light each time they find something related to their background. The higher the friction, the brighter the light.

This means that dedicate time to discover, value and develop students’ talent, is never a wasted time. Conversely, it’s an important moment for future career guidance.

Hence, if school subjects are occasions offered to students to help them discover their talents, there should be a time dedicated to their development and sharing.

In our school system, how much time is left to the student’s choices based on his/her talents? How are personalised paths – individualised teaching – favoured? How is it possible to build those spaces needed to deeply and authentically live school autonomy?

It was my 36th birthday. I was climbing the school stairs to teach my class when I was stopped by two of my students, avoiding me to enter the classroom. I made a few clumsy attempts to enter the room, rapidly blocked by the class guards, before I gave up and patiently waited, watching the principal’s slyly smile – it looked like she had purposely allowed that awkward situation.

That moment, I saw the classroom lights turned off and a glow suddenly appear, like a fire burning. I got immediately alarmed and asked whether they were burning down the classroom, or maybe, the Business Management books. I tried to enter the room again, but was stopped by the students once more: “Don’t worry teacher, you’ll be allowed to get in soon”.

Indeed, after a few seconds, I could enter the room, to see, leaning on the desks, a massive wood trencher with a three-metre sandwich on it. It was stuffed with anything you can possibly think of: ham, salami, cheese, bologna, speck, mozzarella, tomato, grilled vegetables and the sweet part filled with Nutella and jam.

They forced me to take a picture while biting into the sandwich! “But how did you manage to carry here such a long sandwich?”, I asked them. Marisa answered me that her trusted bakery provided both the trencher and the truck to carry the sandwich. This is how they managed to take it at school without cutting it into pieces. Then, all classmates worked together to stuff it.

The fire that I saw was made by 36 candles put on top of the sandwich and lit the moment right before I entered the room, for fear that they burned the Business Management books. Blessed guys!

But why did they do all this for me?

Luca answered me with an almost disarming genuineness: “You see, I can say that I spend more time with you that with my dad. We love you, and birthdays are celebrated together with the whole family”.

Then, while I was biting the sandwich with the whole size of my mouth, I managed to hide a tear running down in the dark of the room, lit only by the candles that I still had to blow out. I love you too guys. A blow, to cheer a new human relation.

Yes, the soul of the school: where is it?

I think it’s inside that sandwich with the 36 candles.

Get into a relationship means acknowledging that, in our own life paths, our souls are close one another. It means living inside a rich, deep and authentic human dimension. It means basing your job on an act of love.

Giving souls to school means getting away from the self-absorption of the old-style teacher, to reach the different logic of the educational environment that, though the figure of the teacher, expresses a passion for people, for their subject, for their job.

A teacher able to tell his students that he/she loves them is a teacher that bases the success of his/her educational intervention on human relationships.

Sometimes I think that success isn’t related to the provision of a service, but to the ability of igniting motivation inside the student.

To ignite the student for something truly stunning.

To ignite the student for something truly positive.

To ignite the student for something truly deep.

To educate to the stunning, positive and deep, to be able to do one’s very best in life.

School of skills? First, School of Talents.

This is how I summed up the founding principles and goals into the strategic plan of that five-year period starting in 2007.

How do we think we can motivate the students?

What could we find in the people that we meet?

What path will they be trained for, in the future?

What are they really interested in?

What talents could they develop?

What values would they want to base their life path onto?

All these questions look like good questions that qualify our duty as teachers.

A good question is only a starting point to find new strategies of change for our profession. But this is possible only if we try to see our job from a different perspective: if we see ourselves as teachers that want to ignite students’ passion.


Giordano Casonato

Head of GSO School