Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

Mrs Sensible passed all her exams and qualified to be a teacher many years ago. Unfortunately so did many other people. Each year Mrs Sensible is given a ten month contract, working in one of the state schools. She is then laid off during the summer and we have to watch our pennies as she doesn’t qualify for holiday pay. We then pray that Mrs Sensible will be given another contract for the following year.

The Italian government has decided to change this nonsense and employ full time teachers for the 11,892 positions that are normally handed out on short term contracts. The problem is there are 172,248 eligible teachers who all want and need a job.  Snr Profumo, some geezer in the government decided that what Italy needed was a competition, and so the Concorso Insegnanti 2012/13 is running.

Teachers in Turin

Teachers in Turin waiting to enter the school for the 2012 School Contest

In December the first stage of the concorso (competition) took place. 50 multiple answer questions, were laid before the 172 thousand teachers. Only 33.6% passed, Mrs Sensible passed and was quiet annoyed with herself for only scoring 46.5 out of 50. She needed 35 to pass.

I have no idea how she managed to pass the first stage, since some of the questions were supposed to be based on logic but even Spock would have considered them illogical, and the maths questions… well let me give you an example.

ilogical Captain

Illogical Captain

5 trains leave different stations. Train A arrives before Train B, Train C was driving faster than train D. Train B arrived before train D. What did the driver of train C have for breakfast? Mrs Sensible knew the answer.

I like to think my lack of Italian played a small part in helping Mrs Sensible pass the exam. She is forced to use English if she wants any sensible answers from me, and so the English Questions that made up 25% of the marks was a piece of cake for the talented Bi Lingual Mrs Sensible.

Anyway at the beginning of this month she went to Torino to sit the written exam. I booked us in a nice hotel and went along for the ride. As I took a couple of photos a little lady whose name translates to Mrs Drinkwater asked me if I was a journalist. No no, my wife is a teacher I said, pointing at the mass of people who were trying to enter the building.

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

Mrs Sensible is in this crowd

“Come and have breakfast with me” she said. I often wonder if I have a note stapled to my back with the following printed on it STRANGE PEOPLE PLEASE APPLY HERE. On the way to breakfast Mrs Drinkwater acquired another friend who just happened to be standing near us. After breakfast and as we left the café I gave my excuses and said I needed to put some money in the car parking meter. Oh that’s ok we will come with you. Ahhuh… As the three of us approached my car Mrs Drinkwater, who by now had taken on the position of tour director, said There is a lovely church just past your car, would you like to see it?

Well I had 3 hours to kill, so stupidly I said yes. It was a lovely church and I wasn’t too put out as Mrs Drinkwater and our friend dropped to their knees to pray for their children who were at the moment trying to pass the concorso. I wandered off down the church to look at various paintings and sculptures. As I wandered back to the silently praying twosome, a priest entered the church and everybody stood up. Come on let’s go to the front, said Mrs Drinkwater. Aaahhhhh!!!

I know I shouldn't have taken this picture. But would you have believed me.

I know I shouldn’t have taken this picture. But would you have believed me?

We went to the front of the church, and I sat behind an old lady in a fur coat. The two priests took mass and communion, they said their Hail Marys and left the church. With Mrs Drinkwater in the lead we set off back to the school where Mrs Sensible was working hard.

Mrs Drinkwater stopped once or thrice to answer her mobile, she would have a loud conversation with someone called Giuseppe, and then set off walking again. We didn’t stop at the school, Mrs Drinkwater marched straight pass it, across the road to the University for physical education. Just before she entered the University she once more phoned Giuseppe. I naturally assumed that Giuseppe was waiting for us inside, we would be given cake and tea and take the load off our feet for a couple of mins. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We took a tour of the University trying various locked classroom doors, it was when she rattled the third door that I became a little suspicious that maybe Giuseppe wasn’t in the University and was more than likely sitting in Messina, Sicily, phoning his mum to make sure she wasn’t getting into any trouble.

We wandered down a long dark corridor, and I kept expecting to see a security guard who would shout at us and physically throw us out, or maybe something worse.  At the end of the corridor was a gymnasium. Girls in leotards were engaged in some pretty physical jumping up and down and waving their arms around. Mrs Drinkwater put her shopping bags on the floor and decided to join in. Now finding myself caught up in a catholic mass on a Friday morning is one thing, and I am no stranger to surprises and strange circumstances but this was becoming a little too surreal even for me.

Mrs Drinkwater

Mrs Drinkwater

The woman in charge of the aerobics class, pleasantly, if not a little sarcastically, asked if we would prefer to join her class rather than practising in the entrance. I made We need to go NOW signs with my hands and thought that if I started to leave the building Mrs Drinkwater and our friend would follow.

Safely waiting back outside the school for Mrs Sensible, the teachers started to emerge from the building. Some looked decidedly unhappy, one of them heard my dreadful Italian and she realised that I was English. She asked me to look at the answers she had given to the English questions. Now, I am not a teacher but the answers she had given were definitely incorrect. I shrugged. Mi dispiace, è sbagliato, I said as I shook my head. She looked stunned and wandered off. One or two others also asked me to mark their papers and I politely decline. I pointed at my wife and suggested they ask her. One girl bursting into tears was just too much for me.

There are two more exams to be sat before the 172 thousand teachers are weeded down to 11 thousand, I just hope and pray Mrs Sensible is not one of those that are weeded out.

27 thoughts on “Mrs Sensible is her name and teaching is her game.

  1. ‘Ma è l’Italia’? It’s too mad for words, but somehow you’ve managed it! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now. It’s fantastic and I’ll be buying the book (whenever it emerges!). Thanks for the crazy stories.


  2. It doesn’t sound like Mrs Sensible will be weeded out. She must be a survivor and a helf if she got into the exam room: looks like a rugby scrum! I think you should do a Mafia-style warning visit to the examiners and threaten them with an afternoon in Mrs Drinkwater’s company 🙂


    • I couldn’t enforce Mrs Drinkwater on anyone. It just goes to show that is doesn’t matter if they are 6th formers, skoolies or teachers. None of them know how to queue in the morning. They should have been given detention for blocking the pavement.


    • I hope Mrs Sensible gets a proper contract. It is important for both the teacher and the children that there is continuation in education,; and Mrs Sensible is a fab teacher.


  3. some things never change with these Concorsi!!! I hope at least that some things have changed, when I was living in Italy it was well known that even though thousands applied, there were always some “raccomandati” who got the jobs. Good luck to Mrs Sensible, fingers crossed she will get her position. Good teachers are a blessing.


    • Thanks for your support. The government has been shouting that everything will be open and honest… ha ha ha ha.

      The sheer logistics of checking the English essay will be a task in its self. Does Italy have enough English teachers who can really understand English well enough for this task?


    • Thank you, I could do a post on how teachers are recruited in Italy, but no one would believe me. Do you know the first time a head teacher meets his new teacher is the day she turns up for work!!! No interviews…


      • Good grief! I was just about to write how dreadful I think that is when I remembered my first teaching job after I qualified. Admittedly we were all interviewed by someone from the education department for our chosen area (a large, geographical area, not just a town) but then were just sent to a school that had a vacancy – take it, or leave it.


    • Thanks for the congrats. I will pass them on to Mrs Sensible
      After the first part of the competition which took place in December (the multiple answers) 172 thousand applicants had been reduced to around 58 thousand. (33.6% pass rate) The government has jobs for 11 thousand teachers.
      I looked at the written English exam question which the applicants were expected to complete; even the Italian newspapers are calling the English part of the exam ‘the bogey question’. I think another third will fail this part. You really needed to either have mother tongue English or be very very good at English to answer the questions.

      There are two more parts to the competition, an oral exam, again English is included and then finally a simulated lesson.


  4. Congratulations to Mrs Sensible on passing her first round of tests, I wish her all the best for the next round. It’s hard for teachers in Italy with the point-earning system. My Italian sister-in-law finally got a teaching contract in a school last year after earning enough points, and she’s 47.


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