“If I had the Minister of Education in front of me, I would let him know that the school needs teachers who …”

A few days ago he presented his book “Teaching without being hurt” at the Turin International Motor Show. And that left him to open the discussion, in front of a hundred teachers, they were his fifth graders. From the debate emerged interesting points of discussion for the school community but also for those involved in schools and training.

Professor Gaetano Cotena, psychotherapist, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Relational Skills at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Brescia and Professor of Human Sciences at the Liceu G. Galilei of Ostiglia, in the province of Mantua. Cotena has been involved in the relational and emotional training of teachers of all types and levels of school for many years. In recent days he has spoken at the Turin International Book Fair talk about panic attacks at school, their prevention and the need for the teacher, especially in this phase of growing emotional distress among young people, to represent a stable adult of reference for children and adolescents, a key presence for the management of anxiety and the internalization of a reassuring internal dialogue. Cotena presented his book “Teaching Without Being Hurt” (UTET, 2021), of which he is the author, during a lecture given by him and by Professor Federica Setti, Professor of Philosophy and Support Professor of the 5U class at Liceo Galilei, whose students participated as speakers. “The students in the 5U class spoke in an adult and authentic way – explains Professor Cotena – telling us about their experiences at school, first of children and then of teenagers, exposing, with clarity and awareness , the critiques and needs of the current school dimension. . In front of a hundred people in attendance, among many teachers, the 5U bravely shared some reflections that had already emerged in the classroom during the Humanities classes. “

I felt loved, valued, loved when a teacher said or did … It is still: “I felt devalued, I retired, I stopped studying a discipline when a teacher said or did …”; “If I had the Minister ofEducation Let him know that the school needs teachers who know and do …These are the elements of reflection on which the students of 5U set out their considerations, based on their experiences and their school experiences. Precisely the latter, for their authenticity and concretion, caught the attention of the whole room, which, on several occasions, with interventions and reflections, actively participated in the meeting.

P.Professor Cotena, how was this initiative born?

“I think the protagonists should talk about the school, and therefore especially the students. For this reason I have decided to involve all 5U students in the Liceu de Ciències Humanes Galileo of Ostiglia in this presentation of the book giving them the floor. Before speaking at the presentation, I asked them to pause and reflect on three aspects of the educational relationship with the teachers they met from childhood to high school. In this presentation I wanted to have with me, in addition to the students of the 5U class, also Professor Setti, support teacher and professor of philosophy who this year was a support teacher during the Humanities classes in this class. The teacher, then, lived with me and the classes moments of sharing and emotional intimacy with the students, an aspect necessary in my opinion for the school to be a place where she is educated in the management of emotions, self-control and with respect to self-control. respect, anything else that may become so not only a duty but also a desire. Together with Professor Setti, I prepared three questions that the students answered later. “

Why did you decide to involve your students in the presentation of your book in Turin?

“I chose to take the class to the Book Fair because it represents for me an example of a class in which it is possible to name one’s own emotions and in which the teacher and other students can be declared fears, anxieties , the anxieties, the worries of oneself. your own moments of sadness or emptiness. Naming emotion is the first step to being able to manage it, which is why for me you can’t talk about well-being at school without giving teachers psychological skills through which they can create a group culture. in a class in which each element of the group feels to express their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions without fear but with respect for otherness. Only in this environment is the encounter between diversity possible and only in this environment is it possible for the class to become a microcosm in which to live the coexistence between different individuals ”.

Why was the presence of the support teacher in this class, as a co-star, important at the presentation of the book?

“During these experiences of emotional intimacy in which students learned to use emotional vocabulary, the presence of Professor Setti was also crucial. I asked her to be able to talk to the class at the Turin Motor Show because she be an example during this’ School year of a teacher able to stay at the right distance and adapt to the needs of students by relating to the class when necessary and with the person when necessary. , teachers Cinzia Maietti and Santo Giuseppe Nicolosi also accompanied the class ”.

What means stay at the right distance for students?

“It means understanding the need for intervention or proximity of the student and, therefore, being able to avoid intrusive interventions that could divert the student from the educational action. Our interventions in the classroom have always taken into account the need to respond to the needs of students and not our need to replace the other.

Do you think the experience is replicable, in the abstract?

“What has happened this year in our class represents a possible experience in all classes as long as the teachers take charge and really take care of the relational aspect within the class, acquiring when necessary psychological skills to support it in the construction of a relational or welcoming climate. class climate. The 5U experience does not stop there because even if the students are about to graduate, they will be involved in an editorial project ”.

How did the discussion unfold?

“Professor Setti presented the experience she had with the class by linking it with some contents of my book, then five students from the class intervened and explained with courage and responsibility some of the experiences they lived during their school career. Some of these experiences have contributed to the good structuring of their identity. Other students in the class bravely and conscientiously recounted some positive and negative experiences of an educational relationship during their school career from childhood to high school. They also stressed, as humanities students, the need for a teacher selection and training system that assesses and trains teachers of all types and levels of school in emotional and relational skills. “

The first question was: I felt loved, valued, respected and nurtured my passion for a discipline when a teacher told me or did …What came up?

“It turns out that students felt listened to and recognized when the teacher recognized their efforts, when he listened to them or helped them to externalize their needs without judging them.”

The second question was: I felt devalued, I retired, I felt overwhelmed, I stopped studying that discipline when a teacher told me or did.

“The hallmark of the answers to this question is, in general, the weight of the devaluation of teachers towards students.”

What does it really mean to devalue a student?

“It doesn’t just mean offending a student. Devaluation is also hidden when we reduce the fear, anxiety or sadness of a student or any human being in general. “

If I had before me the minister of theEducation Let him know that the school needs teachers who know and do … This was the third request. For students but also for the whole school community …

“Children ask the education counselor for teachers trained in managing their own emotions and those of their students. Teachers who are able to make school a place where it is really possible to reconcile learning with emotional well-being. “

Doesn’t that happen?

“It simply came to our notice then. For example when the teacher enters the classroom and before asking students How are you? deals with providing content or projecting slides. This also happens when the teacher does not create a climate in the classroom in which students can express their disagreement with each other and with the teacher, because they are educated about it by offering themselves as a reference model, because respect to the other. , rather than saying it, the good teacher demonstrates this by showing the respected and valued student, whatever the student’s thinking, even where there is an intervention to correct, because we do not remember what others tell us. they have said in words but above. we all remember how they made us feel. ”

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