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English Summer Camp – Charles scrive da Washington D.C.

Charles Ci ha scritto questa toccante lettera in cui ripercorre le giornate trascorse nella nostra scuola.

It’s impossible to remember teaching at the Don Bosco school without
starting with our frenzied arrival at the train station. We were four
American teachers arriving in Paderno for the first time with eight
suitcases bursting at the seams with books and arts and crafts for the
next two weeks of English camp. When the doors opened we were under
the false impression that we had three more stations to go.
Fortunately Elizabeth is an expert at listening in to conversations
around her (I think it’s something she learned from living in New York
City) and she overheard the two elderly ladies sitting behind us
remark that this station was Paderno. So with seconds to spare we
scrambled to throw our 80 pound suitcases onto the platform and
spilled out after them. Aware of that our frazzled state might not
make for a good first impression on the teachers and principal of Don
Bosco waiting for us on the other side of the tracks we quickly dusted
ourselves off, straightened out the fallen suitcases and by the time
the train between us and our Italian hosts pulled away we look
perfectly collected! In a few days, though, we were all laughing
together about our unorthodox arrival.

It was what made this laughter, this together-ness (insieme!),
possible over those two weeks that most strikes me as I recall last
summer. Christiana, Ina, Elena, and principal Gianna gave us a warm
welcome from the beginning, certainly. I’m still filled with gratitude
thinking about how Elena and her family generously invited me into
their home and shared their meals with me. On the trips to and from
the Don Bosco Elena improved my clumsy attempts at speaking Italian
and I introduced her to some new English phrases and idioms. Her
brother was also a very patient teacher and we had some very enjoyable
and lively arguments about Dante- he in English and I in Italian! But
what really seemed to bring us together, the Italian and American
teachers, was a love for the students, a desire for their good. I
remember seeing the eagerness in Christiana’s eyes as she watched the
students in action, learning and speaking English. Or the delight in
Elena’s eyes when we talked about a particular student who needed
extra attention in order to succeed (the way he acted reminded her of
her brother at the same age). She was always ready to attend to the
students’ needs to help them get the most out of the lesson I was
teaching on that day. And we could always rely on Ina to ask how she
could help, making sure we rested during lunch, so we did not tire out
before the day finished.

I remember the first day of teaching it hit me again (it seems like
this happens every time I begin a new class) that teaching is hard,
really hard, and that you have to be willing to give everything you’ve
got to be a good teacher and still know that it’s not going to be
enough because, and this is essential, you can’t do it on your own.
During the training we received in the alps of Novazza there was time
for the teachers to gather in the groups they were going to be
teaching- in my case with Elizabeth, Clare, and Brianne, none of whom
I had known before the training. Brianne stopped us before we began
discussing and told us that before we began she wanted us to know that
we were going to be the face of Christ for her in these next two weeks
and so she wanted to begin by praying that we keep this awareness
before us. This was abrupt. It wasn’t that I disagreed with what she
said, but she made it such a definitive fact right then and there,
something I had to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to, and a choice to be attentive
to Christ’s presence or not. What this looked like at Paderno was the
way every day we made time to meet for lunch (thanks to Ina and
Christiana’s urging) and talked about what happened in the morning,
what was challenging, great, and so on. Sometimes, not often, there
were a few students with that may have disrupted the class. The other
teachers were always there to remind me of something we spent time
reflecting on in Don Giussani’s The Risk of Education- namely that the
personhood, the humanity of the child and all the desires and
questions that that entails, must be the beginning of education,
before any kind of technique. And second, that a “problem” is the
beginning of a question, a desire. And so Elizabeth might ask what
this child wants, or Clare might ask Ina to tell her more about the
child’s background, and Brianne might ask what we can do to help him
end the day knowing that he is loved and not alienated. In this way
“problem” students were given the space to grow that they needed and
very quickly became leaders in their classroom. In all these ways, the
way my fellow teachers looked at the children, I found myself
educated, as an educator and a person, to see that before all problems
there is a person, and the Person of Christ.

It’s really impossible to do justice in words to the wonderful
experience of those two weeks in Paderno and the great beauty I found
there in teaching with, relying on, and especially, for a little
while, sharing life with my fellow teachers, American and Italian.
After the play finished on the last day and farewells were exchanged
(several times) I was moved to see the depth of friendship we had
discovered among each other. We knew we had come to a really special
school when Gianna, the principal, told us at one point that what she
looks for in her teachers is whether they can love those children
every day. This kind of foundation showed its strength both in the
great success the children enjoyed at English Camp but also in the
generous and loving hospitality we American teachers received.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Grazie di cuore!
Charles Atkinson

A breve pubblicheremo anche la traduzione.