It is that time of year again, the local schools have decided they need an English teacher. The concept of organising courses and teachers during June, ready for the start of the academic year in September, doesn’t happen in Bella Italia. Instead the Italians use the modern British manufacturing method of JIT ( Just In Time) or if we translate this back into Italian, it becomes NVO (Not very Organised).
Seven years ago I somehow found myself teaching rudimentary English to a class of nursery age children… Colours, numbers, animals etc. The one hour on a Friday morning scarred me so much that I swore I would never again agree to teach children under five.
A typical lesson at a nursery school starts with the teacher saying, “Buon Giorno” and then she quickly beats a hasty retreat to the biscuit cupboard and leaves me with a dozen sticky kids.
Me holding a yellow pen: Yellow
Sticky Child 1: Giallo
Sticky Child: Lellow
Sticky Child 2: RED!!!
ME: Riccardo, please take your finger out of your nose.
In my experience, all naughty boys are called either Riccardo or Edoardo. Honest!
Sticky Child 2: Yellow
Me: Riccardo, please take your finger out of Maria’s nose.
Me holding a Purple pen and turning to sticky child number 3: What colour is it?
Sticky Child 3: PURPLE!
And that is the moment when I realise why I love teaching children. (excluding children aged between three and five and any child named Riccardo or Edoardo)
As I glow in my own self satisfaction, I glance at Riccardo and as my bubble bursts, I quickly beg him not to eat what is currently on the end of his sticky finger.
Riccardos and Edoardos out for a walk
Since 2014 I have been teaching in the same six junior schools. I will admit, it is the most enjoyable job I have ever had, with the exclusion of teaching nursery kids and ……Riccardos.
Following COVID I lost all my teaching as we went into a long lockdown, had I not managed to sell my house in the UK and used the proceeds to feed myself and clothe myself, I would have been in a pickle, and so after almost two years of
unemployment imposed holiday, I accepted four hours a week at a nursery, teaching sticky 3 to 5 year olds, I know, I never learn from my mistakes and thank God! two junior schools, with the possibility of another.
On Tuesday in a little hill top school, I had a group of three and four year olds singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, we were stood in a circle going through the actions and accompanied by a little three year old who would stop crying long enough to shout MAMA DIA.
Mama Dia was her abbreviation for, Mum, please come and pick me up, I hate English, I hate this stupid Englishman and I want to go home. In all honesty, it reminded me of my own school days, when I screamed the same things in between floods of tears.
Today is Wednesday, the hardest day of my week. It started with a class of twenty four 10 year olds. This was my second lesson with them and they now understand that we can have fun if they behave. Last week I gave them some homework that I said was not obligatory, they could do it, if they wanted. All but three children produced some work. I read out their work and made the necessary noises of approval.
During the two hours of nursery school (I have to admit it is the most tiring job possible and should be well paid) A little girl of four looked up at me and said in a tiny voice, “voglio un fazzoletto” as my little tired brain translated this into I want a tissue, she basically exploded, or at least the snot and bogies exploded from her nose. I still have no idea how her little nose could produce so much mess in such a small time.
If Covid is spread by nasal mucus, I am doomed to die, Green Pass and vaccination or not….. I think it was harder to clean up the table, me and four kids than the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Tomorrow is Thursday and I have a relatively easy day, A couple of private English lessons in the morning and a couple in the afternoon. Friday, I have the joy of teaching one of my favourite students, even if her dog has on one occasion sank its teeth into my bum. Something that is worth a blog post all on its own…
A final thought, children are our future and the only way to get inspirational teachers into the classroom is to pay them a decent salary. And that starts with nursery teachers…