Calderini Tuccimei Comprehensive School
Status: Middle School
Interviewee: Sara Tavilla, Teacher
“ Young people have a preference for the young teacher, not the teacher of a certain age. ”
“ Very little is put into practice because there is no training for teachers. ”
“ There is a difference between what is said and what happens in class and in school. ”
“ Precarious teachers, in my opinion, are the pillars of schools. ”
“ The school is still old, it needs to renew itself ”
Teacher Age Dynamics: navigating challenges in our school.
I started working at a very young age - I was just 25 years old. Nowadays, most of the teachers are over 60 or 50... there are also young graduates. But I have to say that young people have a preference for the young teacher, not the teacher of a certain age, because they are certainly more energetic and probably their teaching style is also more innovative.
Some colleagues simply do not want to approach the digital aspect: we are talking about things that are really very basic. There are colleagues in their 50s and 60s who are not interested in responding to students' preferences for the new frontiers of teaching because they feel that they have one foot out of school, heading for retirement. Perhaps they are tired, perhaps they have become lazy, perhaps they don't know what they are doing.
In recent training courses there has been a lot of talk about learning with new, innovative strategies. However, very little is put into practice, and in most cases, I think, this is because there is no training for teachers. In short, there is no preparation. New teaching strategies and methodologies are very often linked to the computer aspect, to the use of information technology, which is lacking among colleagues who are sometimes in their fifties or sixties. In my opinion, however, it is not only the training that is lacking, but also the willingness to make a commitment to growth, as if this were somehow a problem.
Main reasons that have led to the challenges we are facing.
Since I have been a precarious worker for the last few years, I have had the opportunity to teach in different schools and also to work in different neighbourhoods in Rome and in the province of Rome. And this is one of the things that immediately caught my attention: the difference between a young person and a colleague of a certain age is not a matter of superior skills or abilities; on the contrary, it is simply because younger teachers are more active and more agile with technology. In short, they are faster with applications.
There are no policy measures in place to help teachers who are not as quick on their feet.
But if I really had to make a general observation, let's say it's that I think the school is still old, it needs to renew itself.
Addressing and preventing teacher age issues: organisational measures in place in our school.
I have to say that in the school where I'm working this year, and where I had already worked three years ago, there is a willing headmistress, who is attentive to keeping her team up to date. It is a really active school, also in terms of the projects that are proposed to the children. The headmistress is a proponent of courses and ad hoc projects.
The PONs (National Operational Programmes of the Ministry of Education) are planned and executed every year. In short, in all schools, the PON is a resource for the school itself.
PONs are projects that are proposed to MIUR and, if approved and funded by the Ministry, are included in the school's activities for teachers and students. These projects take place in the afternoon and are often knowledge development projects rather than teacher welfare projects.
There is a mentorship period for new teachers: senior teachers have this responsibility, but it is difficult to do parallel work. I am lucky because I did a university course to become a support teacher and I was able to learn how to implement strategies to engage the class and work in groups.
I think all teachers should do this course because it gives you the tools to work with anyone.
Analysing the pros and cons: the teacher's awareness of organisational measures.
The headmaster is the one who proposes training courses, but there is a problem in promoting them: most of the time, I would say almost always, they are proposed to teachers who have a permanent contract with the school. However, precarious teachers, in my opinion, are the pillars of schools: the Italian school is based on precarious employment and courses are not provided for them.
The percentage of precarious teachers in Italian schools is high, at least 50%...
Positive effects of the measures introduced.
Sharing ideas, experiences, energies… but then again, this all depends on the person.
Monitoring and evaluation of the measures introduced.
If we want to talk about measures taken within our school, these are refresher courses, PONs projects, or other measures promoted by the school to help ageing teachers face their work more easily. I can think of questionnaires made to assess ongoing work or activities, let's say a kind of self-assessment questionnaire.
There is also the Invalsi Test for students, which falls into this category, which is done in second grade and eighth, whereas before it was also done in sixth grade.
It is used by the Ministry of Education to monitor students, but it also monitors the work of the teacher. There was a lot of controversy when the Invalsi tests were introduced. Many teachers did not see them as innovating, but as controlling.
Proposing further solutions: enhancing efforts to address the issue.
In my opinion, this is a task for the school system… The system runs the school and something is moving. But there is a difference between what is said and what happens in class and in school. In fact, we talk about alternative teaching, about updating digital skills, but we also have to look at the environment, the classrooms, and the tools available. It is not just a question of skills, it is also a question of tools and facilities which, to be frank, are sometimes not there or are damaged.
I am a support teacher. The support teacher is a mediator between the curriculum teacher and the class. Of course, he or she doesn't just work with the disabled pupils, but with the whole class. There are a lot of foreign and special needs students in the classrooms nowadays, which include children with different needs, with socio-cultural problems, economic problems, and so on. All classes should have this figure because the exchange between teachers is a great resource, in my opinion. This fixed presence of a teacher, for example a support teacher or a tutor, can sometimes make colleagues feel uncomfortable.
There are teachers who see me as a resource, as someone who can help them in the classroom or who has suggestions for projects. Whereas some see you as interfering, as someone who's going to control what you do or don't do.
Implementing specific age-related strategies: formal or informal activities introduced.
Nothing specific has been done. I think there are many reasons why. It is not only a question of will, knowledge and competence, but also a practical question, and especially an economic question. Sometimes, in my opinion, at least from what I hear, there is no money to do this, there is no money to do that.