Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

(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.

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
This entry was posted in Living Like a Maniac, Teaching Like a Maniac. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

  1. Sam says:

    I hear you – doctors get mad about this! Weather and temperature cannot give you illnesses. At most, standing outside in your pants in the cold might weaken your immune system enough to be more susceptible to illness.

    So 5 year olds like taking the cards? I think you should devise some kind of Texas Hold'em game that somehow teaches English…

  2. cha0tic says:

    You must've been told "You won't feel the benefit" if you don't take your coat off when you come inside. Surely it's the nearest to a British version of the Italian versions of unscientific medical theories.

  3. Katja says:

    Sam: that's a GENIUS idea! I bet the buggers'd be really good at it, though, and beat me hollow. There's no getting past a determined 5-year old, I've discovered.

    Cha0: that's less of an unscientific medical theory and more of an annoying granny statement. ;) Personally, I seem to run at quite a high core temperature, and I don't feel the cold as much as others. Probably to do with my healthy layer of padding. *ahem* I hate travelling on the tube in winter in London, though, because I always seriously overheat. No room to take your coat off, but you end up absolutely sweltering as a result.

  4. LindyLouMac says:

    I admire you teaching a class of 5 year olds, tremendous patience required.

    Ha, Ha, love your comments about colds and wrapping up warm etc. The Italians round here will still be wearing coats when I am already enjoying the warmer weather and leaving off a layer! Just might catch a chill, no summer clothes until June certainly amongst the older Italians.
    Mind you even in the Uk there is an old expression 'Nere cast a clout until May is out'

  5. Katja says:

    Oh yes, the 'ne'er cast a clout 'til the may be out' is well known round my way (Somerset). It confused me for years, thinking it meant the month, but actually it refers to the hawthorn (may) blossoms, so it does make quite a lot of sense: if it's warm enough for the may to flower, then it's warm enough to start shedding a few layers. :)

    Basically, I don't really have any problem with old wives' tales – a lot of them are firmly grounded in common sense. It's when they are being presented as scientific fact that they wind me up.

  6. Sarah says:

    I can live with the colpa d'aria/freddo hysteria from MIL. Just about.

    It's when the ped joins in that I find it too much to bear.

    I tell everybody bearing doom and gloom over Son of Thor's apparently half naked state (that child sheds clothes as soon as it is a bit warm like a Persian sheds fur all over a brand new sofa) that we have Viking genes which carries a natural 100% immunity to all forms of the colpa d'aria/freddo/got a bit sweaty/three second contact with slight draught or air conditioner twisted my neck disorder.

    So far it has worked a treat and by and large they believe me. It has convinced many in a way that a discussion about "viruses and how they spread" never did.

    LOL at your description of the class dynamic. That age group can be quite …. let's just say … "a challenge".

  7. Katja says:

    Viking genes – I must remember that one …

  8. Mikeachim says:

    That's fascinating. There was me presuming the English were the most weather-programmed people on the planet (take the average snippet of English smalltalk). How wrong I am.

    Regarding the tissues, you could rub their nose in it.
    Just a suggestion.

    (And yes, I *love* children. Wonderful creatures. The Industrial Revolution would never have happened without children. And so on).

  9. Regarding the tissues, you could rub their nose in it.

    Well, it works when training dogs …

  10. Mikeachim says:

    Not that a certified teacher is comparing her charges to stroppy mutts. Because, like, that would be *wrong*. ;)

    But yes, that's what I was thinking.

    Of course, there's all this legal stuff. I mean, you can't even give wayward schoolchildren a bloody good hiding with a bamboo walloper anymore, or shackle them up and put them in a chain-gang to build a new extension on your school.

    It's a sad sign of the times and won't end well, I say. They'll all be getting *ideas*. Fact.

  11. Katja says:

    Not that a certified teacher is comparing her charges to stroppy mutts.

    *Certified* possibly being the operative word. ;)

    Regarding children, I think it's shocking that you can't still sell them to undertakers when they ask for second helpings of gruel. 'Please Sir, I want some more' indeed. That Twist boy will come to no good, you mark my words.

  12. Chuck Pefley says:

    It sounds like you must have a class totally made of 5 year old Italian princes -:)

    Weather and wet equaling "cold" is a pretty universal misconception and supported by too many old wives' tales. Any logical persuasion is systematically ignored.

    Have fun! Sounds like babysitting to me … mi dispiace!

  13. Katja says:

    Babysitting is *exactly* what it is. It can be an awful lot of fun (yesterday they were entertaining themselves by running around the classroom full-pelt with the bin on their heads, which was *hilarious*), but can’t really be described as teaching!

  14. Elora says:

    My favorite one is when a kid even dares to run around the playground…Non correre che sudi! My jaw dropped on that one when I heard it the first time, I remember getting sweaty and dirty and all sorts of blasphemous things as a kid and lo and behold..I am still alive and was never hospitalized for bronchitis or whatever…incredible!

  15. lol..no wonder I am such a germaphobe. Must be the Italian in me. Hilarious writing but also a great look into the culture of Italy.

  16. Katja says:

    I know! It’s unbelievable. I never *ever* did my coat up, I ran around in the rain and I spent most of my childhood crawling around on the floor – and yet, somehow, I managed to stay hale and hearty the whole way through. I rarely even got colds, so I must have been doing something right.

    Happily (although don’t tell the nervous Italian parents this) the kids still spend most of their time crawling around on the floor and being – well – children. Their latest game is to take the bin bag out of the bin and then run around with the bin on their heads like daleks. I laugh just at the memory of it. “Gianmarco is IN THE BIN!” I’m not sure they took on board the lesson on prepositions of place, but it’s kept me laughing for *days*.

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