SCHOOL / “Learning to see is not enough, students need to know what to see”

The school year ends with many beautiful snapshots left behind, nailed in memory. A lesson done outdoors, without the damn masks, in the shadow of a guy, while there is a heat wave all around. The last two hours of the year spent watching together Truman Show and then to quarrel, without even being aware that the bell has rung. The greeting from your children, which makes you understand that something has happened, even if you are not always there to ask for feedback. We could go on. Maybe with the big party of an equal school: everyone, parents, teachers, children, in a kind of village party that makes you feel like you are in a big family … School is over, but not “it’s over!” is, not with a liberating cry like that of one fleeing a prison. And thinking about starting over in a few months is not a threatening cloud on the horizon.

But some snapshots are sad, too. Like the eyes of a girl who has an eating disorder and who, when she talks to you, looks out into space because she spins around in circles. His eyes see nothing. And the short text by Pirandello comes to mind, The glasses: “One day I was wearing a pair of green glasses; the world / I saw green and homosexual, / and I lived with joy.// I come down to a fair like that / with an abstract and sad air. / – ‘Verdi? – he says to me./ You will waste your sight.// Come on, take mine instead: / you will see the truth! ‘ – / I took them. I believed him./ And I saw everything black.// In a little while / I came across a world like this, / I threw away my glasses, and then / I did not see anything at all “.

Eyes that see but see nothing are a really painful sight. Especially if you met those eyes when they saw green. And now instead … Like Frodo, Tolkien’s little hobbit, we teachers have the enormous privilege of bringing the evil of others upon us, and we must necessarily deal with it. We are called to be reference points, teachers and guides today more than ever. We are exposed to the gaze of others, for the eyes hunger for meaning and hope in the young people we meet. Do we want to be what we are supposed to be? Or, even more crudely question, will we not at least manage to be the cause of evil?

These days, there is a phrase that some moms looking for inspiration for a nice gift to give to teachers found online. This is the phrase of a certain Alexandra K. Trenfor, who is a complete stranger, a virtual character that you know nothing about, even though she really does exist. But the mother mentioned above did not hesitate to go and check: the sentence seemed to her beautiful, and she copied and pasted it. It goes like this: “The best teachers are the ones who will show you where to look but will not tell you what to see”. There is a certain truth, for the “best” teacher is the one who represents the young person an invitation to look. There is a lie because “what to see” is important, it is basic and must be shown and seen and recognized. Otherwise, you risk becoming like Pirandello’s “scam story” that destroys the eyes of others.

In the hell of everyday life, Calvino wrote, it is important to be able to recognize who and what is not hell, and make it last and give it space. Dante’s eyes needed to meet someone in the “great desert” of the dark forest, to see, trust and follow. So they also needed someone to keep an eye on them. The true teacher not only indicates where to look and what to look at, but he is the one who knows how to look the disciple in the eye. Dante’s entire journey is nothing more than learning to look for the instructions of those who see better than him. But the above sentence burdens the young man with an overwhelming weight that demands of him a spontaneity and an autonomy that easily becomes conjecture and then spills out into despair. The “best teacher” never leaves the disciple entrusted to him alone, he does not withdraw when it is time to show the way. Because that’s not the real problem where see, but only what a one see. And I will add, how watch.

The phantom Trenfors’ little sentence, which sounds good and is also printed on gadgets, is therefore a lie, just like the author’s identity. It does not respond to the real need for the eyes I talked about before, the eyes that no longer see anything and that need to see something. So let’s forget about it and move on to something else.

For a lamp lighter e.g. That of Little prince of Saint-Exupéry, the modest and somewhat pathetic individual who softens the heart of the protagonist of the story. What remains true to the task given to him, even though every day becomes more tiring because the world has begun to spin too fast, has become like a crazy peak, a millstone that grinds everything and everyone into a swirling and unnatural rhythm. Facing this insane speed, there is the delivery that is always the same. The delivery, which is an extraordinary responsibility: “When he lights his lamppost, it’s a bit like giving birth to another star or a flower”.

Lighting a star or a flower … is like lighting a dead person. It’s like smiling at Dante by shaking his hand before he makes him face the fatigue and pain of the journey; it’s like carrying it on your back when the path is steep and can not stand any more; how to carry it along natural burella to “see the stars again”; how to invite him, by stimulating his free attachment, to go up to Heaven, where he will finally be able to see Beatrice. Because Virgil, Dante’s guide, knows what the one who has been entrusted to him must see and never leaves him alone. In more than sixty songs he supports in a constant, stubborn and tireless way what he at some point calls “son”, until he, having reached the certainty that he can continue alone, urges him to behave as a free man. Is there a “better teacher” than this?

The world is getting bad and too fast. The gaze is lost, the eyes no longer see anything. But when they see it, then it is possible to be reborn, to rediscover desire and hope! And we are not talking here only about the eyes of those who are entrusted to us: it is ourselves we must see! It is we who need snapshots that linger in the memory. Virgil humbly becomes a disciple of Beatrice’s beautiful and painful eyes. Without having met that gaze, his presence would have been ineffective. Basically useless. Those who truly support are also supported. He who knows how to give strength and hope is because whether he realizes it or not, he has received these gifts. The one who learns to see is because he has been looked at.

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