This is a very peculiar event that represents a borderline case of how distrust among people and, above all, relational troubles, may become more and more a source of conflict inside the school.
I face the case of a family and a high-school student that report a certain lack of attentions of the school towards the personal health problems of the girl, which they stated at the beginning of the school year. The meeting with me is set some months before the school ends.
The girl’s situation is of deep discomfort, especially when facing school tests, both oral and written. She is frequently absent: her eating disorder prevents her from regularly attend classes.
The class perceives this situation as a privilege toward the girl, and can’t really stand it. The student’s family is very present in the daughter’s life, maybe too much. The school must understand the reasons for her discomfort! Teachers have the obligation to consider the situation and help the girl on top of their possibilities.
Parents often go to meet the teachers, especially to talk about the best way to help her with tests. Frequently, they disagree with those teachers that, although understanding, ask for a higher degree of autonomy by the girl.
The class council can barely tolerate the situation because the family is really very intrusive and the school psychology service confirms that a possible reading of the situation is to be grasped in the excess of parents’ presence in the life of the daughter, in particular from the mother.
Throughout the school year the relational tensions between school and family have expanded as in a rubber band that pulls and shortens, until the worsening of the health situation – coinciding with the end of school – becomes so unbearable as to make the family take a decision as absurd as full of desperation: to hire a private investigator to shadow the teachers and check if their behavior was in accordance with the law.
This is because, if the class council should not be soft during the grading meeting, the teachers, through the head of the school, could be tamed with threats. The family, at this point, asks for a meeting with the school head, having collected the evidence, and now the dialogue begins.
The father: “My dear Mr Casonato, here are some serious facts that we bring against the school to dispute the possible outcome of the grading meeting, if the situation were not to be duly taken into account”.
“What is it about?” I ask with a certain degree of astonishment.
“It’s about the fact that your teachers aren’t able to understand our daughter’s difficulties. It has come to our attention that during class assignments there are some pupils who shamelessly copy”.
“I don’t think this is news for the school. However, I am listening. Go ahead”.
The father: “The fact is that Giovanna is doing her best, but her illness prevents her from always being present at school and then her companions consider her a privileged one because she has oral tests only when she can and not randomly. The companions who treat her badly are the same ones that shamelessly copy!”
“I would say this is not good, but I don’t understand. What are the facts that make you angry against teachers? I understand that this is a problem among students”, I calmly reply.
“I understand that you don’t get the point. This is about privileges made to some students that teachers deliberately help. And the reason is very simple: they are the same students who benefit from private tutoring at your teachers’ house. We have evidence for this”.
“Well… I would say the facts are serious. May I know what you mean by evidence?”
“My daughter filmed with her smartphone the students in the classroom, when they copy and when they ask for support from the teachers. Then, we asked a private detective to tail teachers to find out that some of them offer private tutoring to their students at home, and we believe there are the extremes to make the grading meeting invalid, because the professors do not have the moral and, consequently, legal requisites to face a year-end grading meeting in a legal way. So what are you going to do?”
A tough nut to crack for a head teacher of a private high school very often accused of promoting undeserving students for a fee!
More than once I had to energetically support – towards families, school managers of state schools, examination commissioners with prejudice against private schools – that the grading meetings and the results of the examinations had been carried out regularly, according to the law and without any form of ‘facilitation’.
I replied in a way that my old headmaster of the private accounting school often used: “Dear parents, I remind you that your children are here because you pay for knowledge and not for promotion”.
Over time, I noticed that, in addition to knowledge, the school would offer numerous services made up of many little attentions, starting from listening to personal problems, to the relationship with a priest available for discussion on ethical and spiritual issues, to good education that was taught in a natural way and shared by the whole teaching staff. Above all, I have always thought that public schools, be they state or private, should focus on the student, or even better, the person.
I supported this with deep conviction, seeking within myself, when facing complex problems such as that of the “detective” family, to have a single reason for the choices I would have made: what is good for the weak person right now? What is good for the student who gets help from parents through a private detective to find the reasons for a possible nullity of the grading meeting, so as to be able to influence the outcome of a school promotion?
I never had any doubts: there is an immediate advantage and there is a good that is forever. Often, they do not coincide. Good forever was my only decision-making light in all the years I spent as a director. Good must be done well and not everything can be done, Murialdo used to say to his educators. To do some good, one must be extraordinary in the ordinary. Encourage, exhort to do the good and you will find the good.
We need to look for the good – to be good – a good to be built and not pre-packaged ready to use. The good that I have known is the one of the good and respectful words of a teacher towards a student; it is the good of a silence that welcomes, rather than a speech that judges. It is the good of expectation that gives meaning to the truth, be it truth with a capital T, or simply the smallest truth of facts.
It is doing the good, not “some good”, which returns us the dignity of being people with a purpose in life. Living of good, living well, well-being versus well-having. It is the good that is done and not said. It is the good that guides choices because it leads them to become farsighted. How nice to think about the value of foresight! It seems an obsolete word.
Wiktionary on the Internet explains that farsightedness is a proper adjective of a person who acts “considering the future with respect to one’s own plans or deeds; showing anticipation”; it is typical of those whose medium and long-term future objectives are based on a careful forecasting capacity of analysis, observation and a prudent intuition.
How wonderful it would be to rediscover the value of the good that lasts over time with the farsightedness of the educator who knows how to choose today so as to give benefit to tomorrow, not just any tomorrow, but Tomorrow with a capital letter.
The Tomorrow that I dream for my children is made of increasingly complex and yet more and more authentic relationships.
In the tangle of the Internet, which today seems to take away our time and also our authenticity, I dream of a Tomorrow in which relationships among people continue to be based on good, on love to each other, on living well because this is the thing which makes us happier.
Is it possible to weave a new weft of authentic relationships among people, where the meaning of existence is not connection, but rather the deposit of good that remains after this connection?
Whoever received some good, will return good.
Like all things, this deposit of good that is in each of us, risks being consumed soon, ending immediately, running out. Can we imagine finding new connections of good in order to recharge ourselves? To me, it seems interesting to think that in everyday life we are constantly tormented by the search for energy. We often look for power outlets to recharge Notebooks, Netbooks, Smartphones, Tablets.
How nice it would be to constantly look for people to recharge the good and to regenerate the good. We would be transformed from mere consumers of good to “consumers-providers” of good. Yes, because unlike machines, with people the socket is two-way, the problem is that, often, we don’t know it and we keep asking good, without thinking about returning it. And, perhaps, it is precisely at this point that the school becomes important: the warehouse of good that lives by virtue of the exchange and not only by virtue of consumption. The school as a place of exchange of good,where there is no counter of good, because in this place, it is the enlightened people who ensure light for everyone. The more enlightened people, the more the environment is lit. And everyone benefits from the environment because it’s the place of recharging.
The sun heats the photovoltaic cells placed on the roof of the house and the house collects the energy that it needs, giving back to others that generated in excess.
Sun, home, energy. Family, school, good. This seems to me a good premise for the solution to our case. Obviously with parents I did not talk about photovoltaic cells and cell phones to be recharged in order not to be confused with the sales agent of a renewable energy company.
I started from the good for the student. And in front of the DVD containing the videos of the private detective and the student’s recordings, I asked myself whether to consider those proofs as “good” for the student. It is curious that the word “good” is also used to define something concrete, not abstract. So, the concrete good of the student, in this case, could have been to acquire the evidence that guaranteed his promotion against the school?
I imagined university scenarios, and therefore future scenarios, where professors were followed by private detectives unleashed by the family to obtain proof of their incompetence or ineligibility and I told myself that at this point the control effort would have been enormous for the family.
Thus, with foresight, I directed the interview on what’s good for the student. I tried to make the family understand that illegally acquired evidence could not be used against the school. I tried to convince them that the good for the student was not in the dispute with the school, but in the trusting collaboration with the school.
I have argued that the disputed facts were actually the result of misunderstandings born from the point of view of an uninformed observer not very attentive to the dynamics and recovery times regularly authorised by the school: therefore, not always what we see corresponds to reality. Because, quoting the Little Prince, “The essential is invisible to the eyes”.
The good is that essential which becomes invisible to the eyes of those who perform it, while it is clearly visible to the eyes of the recipient. A school that points to the good, that lives of good and that practices the good is the school of the essential. Recognising the good to reproduce it is certainly a good challenge for the school of Tomorrow.
Head of GSO School