Travelling, Turin, Italy

Surviving summer camp, Turin, Italy: Instalment 3

With the first day over, culminating in a delightful Italian feast with (in my humble opinion) the best host family ever to apply for the position, it felt like I had climbed a mountain and now had just the gorgeous view and easy descent to enjoy. Not entirely accurate…

Trauma number one: I don’t know if you’ve ever felt ‘uncool’, but school, no matter how old, how successful, how confident you are, is the one place that can remind you that, all those skills, those great qualities you have developed as a person, they mean nothing if you are fundamentally and unavoidably ‘lame’. It all started with an innocent suggestion. That class LOVE musical statues! I was struggling for something to do at registration but this was perfect. We could just have a boogie and a laugh, it would fly by! So when I cheerily announced to the class that we’d be playing musical statues, I was not expecting groans, or chairs slid wearily and heavily across the ground by children younger than some of the items in my wardrobe, suddenly weighed down by the cruel instructions of an evil dictator. Dance, monkeys, dance. But what could I do? I had committed and I couldn’t lose face. So on the music went, and on I danced like an overcharged robot, cracking out jazz hands, body-popping and even pretending to fall over at each pause while ten seven to nine-year-olds shuffled dejectedly from foot to foot. I had never felt so lame. Under-tens were officially cooler than me. When I told everyone in the staff room (and when they’d stopped laughing to breathe) they told me where I’d gone wrong. It was the music. A song about the alphabet was a poor choice on my part…

Trauma 2: this one wasn’t mine to suffer and isn’t mine to tell, but it most definitely deserves a place on the trauma list. This was the moment when a sunny sojourn during prep time turned into incarceration in a glass box. You know, the usual… A fellow teacher attempted an outdoor stroll but when she naturally assumed that doors were surely the best way to go about this, she found herself caught between two sets of locked fire exits. She called each of her colleagues in turn but, of course, we were all teaching and (how professional of us) none us picked up our phones. Her next move was to call England, our Norwich-based company, which engendered the rather unhelpful, but fair, response: ‘And what would you like us to do from here…?’ So as any sane, trapped individual would do, she panicked and started banging on the glass, yelling for help (in English and Italian for good measure). And luckily, the second set of doors were transparent, and our crazy but nonetheless well-timed Wolf found the damsel in distress and set her free (out of the frying pan, into the fire…) She was released, but she would never forget.

Trauma 3: The Ball had been my hero once, taking my lesson for me, but now it was the wildest, most vicious of villains. The kids had sadly been quick to learn that vital, age-old English phrase: ‘A ball hit me in the face’. They soon discovered where to find ice-packs in large and quick supply. And so plan Ball Police was initiated, which involved squirreling the balls away into a bin bag which we hid in the staff room and rationing out a strictly limited supply at break times. This replaced our previous circling, diving, ball-guarding techniques (which had often been followed by the old chase-the-child-who-was-more-agile-than-us-and-get-the-ball-back routine). A small dose of sanity returned to the school and fewer faces were at risk.

Final trauma: oh dear God the little ones. When I say little, I mean children that have barely mastered the Italian language, let alone English. I don’t need to tell you that six-year-olds have a lot of energy. But oh dear God. Give them a 9.00-16.30 day in the blistering heat and watch them scream, jump, rip and throw themselves through every minute of it. Have you ever stood in the middle of a large gym, trying to hold the attention of eleven six-year-olds who don’t speak English and whose names you don’t even know? After fifteen minutes of utter chaos (chasing them hadn’t worked, Stuck in the Mud had dissolved into random running around and my whistle may as well have been a pen lid) I simply sat down in the middle of the floor. At first they didn’t notice. Then I yelled out DUCK DUCK SHEEP! Thank God, they had already been taught the game (goose replaced by a less complicated animal that had actually been on the curriculum). They were so excited, they ran straight at me (my life flashed before my eyes) and sat down in a circle. Finally, something to keep their attention until home-time – and boy did I nearly collapse with relief when that bell started ringing.

I won’t lie to you. Teaching is exhausting. But I was alive. And I found, to my surprise, against all odds (the screaming, the running around, the absolute chaos) – I was loving it. I realised for the first time (and definitely not the last) that I was going to miss these kids when it was over.


2 thoughts on “Surviving summer camp, Turin, Italy: Instalment 3

  1. disidealist says:

    I hope you understand, EF, that I feel a deep sense of failure every time one of my ex-students becomes a teacher. Even a teacher in a lovely place like Turin.

    I like your blog. It made me chuckle. Although I was appalled that you have family members who vote Tory. 😦


    • laughinglife says:

      Never, teaching is a respectable profession! And no need anyway, it was only three weeks (I don’t know how you guys have the energy all year round :S)
      I like yours too Jc, always thought your rants should be made immortal one way or another! And don’t worry she didn’t vote Tory in the end (I like to think I had something to do with that… not that it makes any difference in Bromley)


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