(image by mcfarlandmo on Flickr)
I teach a class of 5-year olds. Well, I say teach: it’s glorified babysitting. They tear around the room causing havoc while I hold up flashcards, which they sometimes deign to acknowledge. When they do so, their favourite game is to try to ‘win’ cards from me by saying the right word. This could be a great teaching tool, except that they haven’t totally grasped the concept of actually saying the word correctly to win the card, and instead just take it as an opportunity to snatch the cards from me. When I then take the card back, there is inevitably a tantrum and a sulk, and at least one child will say a Bad Word to another one. I tell you: teaching the 5-year olds would be great for my language skills if I wanted a career as a docker. Before Christmas, there were a few weeks when they kept singing Postman Pat in Italian. “Brilliant!” thought I, and sang along in English in the vain hope that they might take note (no such luck). I couldn’t work out, however, why they found it so hilarious and kept dissolving into giggles at the end of each verse. So I listened a bit more closely and realised that the words ‘kaka’ and ‘pipi’ were cropping up with alarming regularity. Ah. I see …
When I first started teaching this group, we’d sit on mats on the floor. I’m 5’11”, which is probably a good 4″ taller than most of their fathers, let alone their mothers, so I reasoned that I’d be less threatening to them down on their level. However, as they’re destructive little monsters, they spent the lessons dismantling the mats and throwing them at each other. I therefore dispensed with comfort (as well as not worrying so much about being threatening – clearly not much fazes them!) and we sat on the floor (when they weren’t roaring around the room climbing on the tables, that is …) This was fine up until a few weeks ago, when I was told that I wasn’t allowed to do this any more. The reason? They might have got wet outside before the lesson, and sitting on the floor would therefore give them a cold.
The illogicality is astounding, but typically Italian. The English may be obsessed with the weather, but the Italian attitude to it knocks ours into a cocked hat; specifically, the weather and the effect it has on one’s health. EVERYTHING, it seems, can cause a violent upset to one’s wellbeing. At the moment, it’s the change of seasons that’s doing it. Everyone talks grumpily of the arrival of spring. Me, I can’t wait, but apparently it’s a dreadful thing for the delicate Italian constitution. It’s the switch from cold to warm to cold to warm again, so I am told. Sniffles abound. None of them seem to have made the link between the number of paper tissues that they use and then chuck on the floor. Viruses, anyone? It’s one of the viler parts of my job, clearing up my classroom after a lesson, as there will be at least one (and usually far more) discarded snotrag just dropped carelessly under a table somewhere. It’s hardly surprising that they all get ill if this is their attitude. There’s no reasoning with them, though. Otherwise rational and intelligent people will present, as scientific fact, the advice that coats should be firmly buttoned up to the neck before daring to even *think* of venturing outside. Cold, fresh air causes all *manner* of illnesses, don’t you know? Really, if you think about it, it’s amazing I’ve lived as long as I have.