The effects of the Pandemic on the school soon reach the Calasanzio Institute in Genoa: the Liguria Region, in fact, as early as 24 February, has ordered the suspension of educational activities and educational services for children as a measure of prevention and containment of the epidemiological emergency from Covid 19.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the school, amid amazement and disbelief, was faced with an unpredictable and unimaginable situation.
The first days of March we understood the seriousness of the situation and the immediate need to intervene and to think about how and by what means to ensure our pupils a continuity with regard both to the educational relationship established between pupils and teachers and of course to the learning cycle. We can certainly say that it was not an easy thing, especially when we consider that our Institute needed to provide not only a large kindergarten, but also a primary, a middle high school and high schools.
To this end, we have set the whole community in motion. they were very intense days, characterized by continuous meetings with parents, teachers and even computer experts, contacted to evaluate which platform to choose for remote service, a platform that could best adapt to our needs, offering a simple and concrete response and accessible to everyone.
In each class, we asked parents to identify at least two people among them who, for simplicity, we named “FACILITATORS”, who were able to offer their computer expertise to the service of all.
The response was surprising and unexpected; parents promptly offered their help, creating a system of mutual collaboration, sharing ideas, opinions and even tools, there was for example those who, owning two, made available a printer rather than a computer that perhaps lay unused in the cellar.
This mutual collaboration – I must confess – has extended our hearts because we have seen the concern and participation of all.
We understood from the outset that an immediate reaction could have ensured a sense of continuity for our pupils. Our presence on the ground had to be absolutely and unquestionably guaranteed and this could only be done through distance learning, a necessary and indispensable stage. Also because we were well aware that if we had not made the conversion to this new system quickly, on the one hand, we would have demotivated the children and on the other, we would have disappointed the parents, who would have therefore certainly challenged us the payment of the tuition in the face of an unreceived service.
The choice of the Zoom platform was motivated both by the fact that it seemed easy to use, and therefore suitable for our needs, and by the fact that it was free: it is certainly superfluous to point out that in the choices the economic profile for those with few resources seems definitely fundamental and decisive.
Having gained the certainty that all the pupils were in a position to connect to the platform, of course with a special attention to disabled pupils, as early as 10 March we started to operate through remote learning KEEPING THE SAME SCHOOL TIME TABLE, but with connections that included, and even today provide, a maximum duration of forty consecutive minutes for both middle school and high school.
For the averages the zoom platform has been implemented with the tools of the electronic register and e-mail, through which the exchange with the teachers of the tasks and the elaborates, while in high school, in addition to the tools described we have also continued to use the platform EDMODO, long employed by our teachers even before the pandemic.
As far as elementary school is concerned, we have established lesson times and we have set them up because of the specific needs of each class, trying to understand and contemplate the difficulties of parents and the lack of autonomy of the little ones.
The lowest common denominator, shared in a convincing way by all teachers, the basic rule of every choice and every action that we have put in place in recent months (and which we continue to maintain) was “CONSTANT PRESENCE COSTANTE ALL DAYS AND SHARE”. These are concepts in our opinion fundamental for the purpose of a common action, because it was immediately clear that only a shared action could put us back in the game, allowing us to start again. But, above all, it was the right choice to support and keep the boys engaged and keep for them a form of NATURAL CONTINUITY with the work started in September, also in order to avoid disorientation, demotivations or even trauma.
Childhood moved as well as it could and, I must say, whatsApp rescued us and was very helpful. In each class, of course together with the parents, we have formed groups with teachers and so every day new educational experiences are offered to the pupils, where jobs, songs and small fantasies help to stimulate children making them feel like a group again. Since April, then – and it was certainly not easy – we were able to activate a weekly link for children via zoom platform in order to be able to see each other in person to share moments and situations in real time. The participation, we must say, was numerous and boisterous, every child wanted to “update” the teacher: who showed teeth, who opened drawers, who shouted “hello teacher, this is my dog!”, in short fragments of their real life.
Distance learning has certainly not been an easy task; for example, we had to re-modulate training objectives based on changing needs, review defined designs and intercept disruptions by offering a new training proposal, set up and created ad hoc, a training proposal that interpreted new needs and priorities in the face of a general emergency situation. All this was possible thanks to the timeliness, everyday life (interventions developed systematically in the normal time of the morning) and transparency, preferring participation, the quality of interaction and the production of specific teaching materials.
We tried to get the kids to talk about them to create empathetic communication, in the knowledge that the Covid for all of us represents above all an emotional and relational emergency. We set out to encourage in children behaviors of responsibility and participation, to stimulate the sense of belonging to an educating community, therefore something broader than the family. Teachers have put themselves in the game to create a NEW DIDACTIC that points to the relationship in which disciplines are an instrument, the sharp and intelligent gaze to understand reality.
For pupils with disabilities or with specific needs we have tried to make concrete the principle of personalization of learning by carrying out calibrated educational interventions on the type of need, adapting the materials, with individual explanations and above all trying to involve parents in the project.
And there have been many COURSES OF EVENING RECOVERY in various disciplines for students in need via the Zoom platform and for parents we have kept the talks with the teachers with the sole burden of booking by electronic register or by email. In short, between class councils, meetings between teachers, training, interactive lessons, among other things … without bending…, we spent the days ALL CONNECTED.
The Covid 19 brought with it death and despair, changed the way we live and feel, but it certainly failed to stop the Calasanctian schools, the schools of those who believe in the value of school.
School leader: Laura Castella.
Principal Calasanzio Institute: Fr. Mario Saviola.
P.S. The Pandemic has certainly changed the way of doing school by inserting new tools, which certainly do not replace the value of presence, but which, if well used, can represent a window of collaboration and mutual help for the entire Order. It is an important and unique opportunity to build twinnings between schools, to put at the service the many skills of parents and collaborators, for cultural exchanges.