St. Donato Milanese (Italy) After the close of the 2019-2020 scholastic year that in Lombardy had lived the interruption of lessons with students present from 24 February 2020 to 8 June due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and Docents of Primary and 1st level Secondary School Mary Help of Christians of St. Donato Milanese (MI), of Sacred Family, Lombard Province ILO, recount and re-read the experience of Distance Didactics (DAD).
The School had to face a totally unprecedented situation, as Professor Paolo Gennari recalls. “No one expected to have to transform their own kitchen table into a 2.0 teaching post, nor have to incentivize so suddenly one’s digital competence in order to enter into the homes of the students”.
Based on a Three-Year Formation Offer Plan (PTOF) which already focused on empowering media education, FMA and Professors reorganized teaching week by week, to improve the formative offer.
Initially, in the illusion of a closure of a few days, the teachers limited themselves to assigning pupils tasks to be performed independently. The persistence of the situation then led to structuring a shorter but fixed schedule, to guarantee the students a more coherent weekly planning.
Each teacher held online conferences and offered videos or audio lessons, uploaded materials, prepared tests, planned questions or interdisciplinary projects that, beyond knowledge, could stimulate reflections and develop new skills.
Together with the preparation of the online lessons, constant disciplinary team work was carried out through discussion in weekly Teaching Colleges, in which to monitor the work of teachers or define further strategies in line with Ministerial Directives.
“The first step was to structure functional teaching, the second was to think about education because, as we always say, teaching and education must be parallel” says Prof. Alberto Repetto, Dean of Primary and Secondary School of Level 1.
The principles of Don Bosco’s Preventive System have proved themselves current and effective, so much so that they can be put into practice even remotely. The Goodnight was a daily moment awaited by students, families, and Professors: 15 minutes in the evening during which, in turn, Dean, Pupils, Sisters, Teachers, Parents proposed a reflection, shared a reading or presented a significant work. The Goodnight consolidated the sense of community that characterizes the Salesian School and makes one feel at home, as a mother pointed out: “We did not feel alone: in a time of loss, fear, uncertainty, you were there, you entered our home.”
In addition to this appointment, there were numerous initiatives proposed in live streaming to the followers connected on the social channels (Instagram and Facebook) and to the School’s Blog (www.ragazzinforma.com), which was updated daily. Appointments were not lacking, lived online, of the Educating Community: Stations of the Cross, the Procession of Mary Help of Christians, Gratitude Day celebration, Novena to Mary Help of Christians, and the Sports Trophy Main Parents/Children.
A team of technicians and teachers took care of the live broadcasts, combining live broadcasts with mounted contributions and involving families in activities, games, moments to film, send, and share on the social platforms. A virtual exchange network was created, which allowed students to be shown the ‘other side of the network’, which can be a reservoir of ‘nutritious’ content for the mind and heart.
From a cultural point of view, the online testimonies of a former magistrate, already scheduled as part of the legality education project, and a mathematics teacher, author of a book, were proposed.
The Music Teacher created a virtual Choir made up of pupils of three classes, who remotely sang the Abruzzo song “Mare Nostre“, and then proposed the experiment to the teachers who, on the notes of “Che sia Benedetta” by Fiorella Mannoia , greeted the students on the last day of school.
In the artistic field, the Prof. of Art and Image launched a creative contest entitled “There Is Always Hope”, open to all school levels, from childhood to 1st level secondary school, and also to parents. The papers were then exhibited in a virtual exhibit to visit online, thanks to a museum gallery simulator.
The editorial staff of the school monthly, RAGAZZinFORMA, continued its journalistic activity, publishing three special issues with investigations, reports, and interviews, which led to its recognition by the National Competition of the Order of Journalists “The Newspaper and Journalism in the schools” as one of the 25 best Italian school newspapers.
It was not easy for the teachers to lose the relationship with the presence of the young people, while recognizing it as a significant step in their path of growth: “We have missed the pupils. It was very difficult to adapt to seeing them grow behind a screen, because we are used to seeing them day by day. You can see that they have matured, that they have grown up”.
The Director of the Community of San Donato Milanese, Sister Virginia Villa, expresses her approval of the experience of DAD: “I have seen the positivity and openness of the teachers and I am sure that in the reorganization of the next school year this will be one of the strong points”.