Alessandro D’Venia: “We prepare children to be tempted, not to embrace life”

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Archive image of Italian author Alessandro D'Venia.
Archive image of Italian author Alessandro D’Venia.Marta of Avenia
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Alessandro D’Avenia, Palermo, 1977. Doctor of classical letters, high school teacher, screenwriter and successful writer. His novels have been translated into 24 languages ​​and have sold over two million copies in Italy alone. In Gift! (Encounter) talks about love, friendship and school.

Omero Romeo, the protagonist of his new novel, is blinded by a rare disease, but decides to return as a teacher. He uses smell, audio and touch to get to know his students. Is the use of these senses lacking in school? What is special about these senses for teachers and students?
Blindness forces you to surrender to life. We are obsessed with control, this is the paradigm of modernity: if I have power, I exist, and to have power, I must have control over myself, over another, over nature. Vision is the feeling that is the best exercise control, in fact, jealousy, which dominates social networks, literally does not want to be seen. The blind taught me that if you don’t see you can’t control, you can’t have power, and you can only receive reality, others, and even your own body as a gift. can.
and touch?
In Italy we say “has tact” to indicate a kind person, open to others. And today we have lost the sense of touch and therefore touch: we only touch the two-dimensional screen and never really touch the flesh of the world: faces, plants, flower petals… only when we see things. We learn to care by touching them.. and the blind know this: they put a hand on someone’s face to make contact and listen carefully to their voice. Imagine if each of us had a student every day, with our eyes closed and their hands on their faces, and then listening to their voices tell a piece of their story. This is how true relationship is formed, what twentieth-century physics taught us that we participate in reality to the extent that we open ourselves to it: reality is the phenomenon of the relationship, not the force. We have to go from power as a noun to power as a verb: to be able.
Omero is in charge of what the students branded as “desperate affairs”. When a student gets that label, is it their fault or do their teachers also have any responsibility?
Anyone who has studied scientifically how scholastic relationships work knows that there is the Pygmalin effect, the legendary sculptor of myth who idolizes a woman and falls in love with her, and makes her so fondly. Let’s see the gods bring him to life. The Pigmalin Effect shows that when a teacher believes that his student will do well, even if he does not have any special qualities in the subject, he will do well. If you think of being wrong, even if you have good qualities, be wrong. Something creative happens in the human eye, because that’s how relationships work: How I see you depends a lot on who you will become. The human gaze is poetic and prophetic, in the sense that it “creates” and “reveals” the other who it will be. Pedro Salinas, a poet I love, puts it perfectly the voice that owes you: “Sorry if I suffer in my way of loving you, but I want to get the best out of you” and then “I see the new creature you were”. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s the simple truth.
hero of Gift!Instead of taking on roles as usual in school, he asks his students to name them and talk about themselves. What does that little gesture change?
It considers the acceptance of the other as the unique and the bearer of something singular. Each of us is necessary in the world because he is unique (no one has the same footprint as the other), and that means we are here to leave a unique footprint. Speaking a person’s name and hearing their story is one of the easiest ways to bring out that uniqueness. What does a couple do when they find out they are expecting a child? Choose a name, and then mom starts talking to the baby. What do two people who fall in love do? They give each other nicknames, almost as if they need to be renamed as if they had just been born, and then tell each other their personal stories. A man’s secret lies in being well told in his name and in hearing his story every day. When we stop saying someone’s name correctly, we stop listening to them. And so we stopped loving him.

Knowledge serves to heal, not to dominate reality

School is probably cold today? How could it be warmer, more humane?
Focusing on relationships and business, not just control and training. We prepare children to be tempted, not to be themselves and to embrace life, with all our rigor, starting with the only thing that gives them the strength to face life: their own selves. Courage to complete the business of Does a teacher know how unique a student is? What do you focus on in the program and the exam?
Omero manages to bring to light a small group of young students who were in the dark. what’s your recipe?
Of any good teacher: Take care of relationships and teach your discipline well, as an opportunity to get to know yourself and the world. We have a cold idea of ​​knowledge, which serves to dominate reality, while knowledge serves to heal.
What’s wrong with the school, what’s wrong with him? Why do you often have difficulty motivating students?
Because at the heart of the school is not each one’s life, their profession, their unique and unheard voice, but the training of what society expects of them. One is not a matter of possibility, but of expectations. We have to go from the assembly line school, which makes the child a suitable product for the society, to the workshop school, which makes the child an artist of life, someone who has learned the fundamentals of the art of living, that creates It is in itself a unique and unchanging way, which is why it is a gift to all and is not a cog in Tantra.
Parents, are we too to blame for the school’s decline?
Blame is pointless. What do we ask the school? Does the son succeed (shakti) or become himself (business)? We return to the essence of the educational relationship, which is to make the student independent and not the object of my desires.
Which school do you dream of?
It is written in this book.
Omero believes in revolution. Could there be a revolution in the school?
Of course, and many are already doing so. And if we don’t, rebellious kids are, in fact, already doing it against a school that doesn’t know how to care for them, because it cares about benefits, not relationships.
what is the main lesson of Gift!,
Which everyone has to say to themselves: I’m blind for life if I try to control it. Life is given only as a relationship, not in the form of power. We come from a relationship. Happiness is not something that is achieved, but a good relationship with oneself, with others, with the world at the moment. Happiness comes from the ancient root meaning fertility, Latin said of a tree that was “happy” because it produced fruit. Happy means being fruitful and fruitful doesn’t mean being successful – that is, forcing others to admire me, being able to – but giving others what I am and what I know how to do.
Does Omero Romeo exist in real life or is he his creation?
The book is inspired by a teacher who went blind due to a disease like Omero. And he didn’t stop teaching, on the contrary, he was better at doing it: he conquered the relationship by losing control. And when a relationship is based on trust, existence flourishes. Only in this way the teaching is not a “bleeding of existence”, but a constant exaltation of existence.
During the confinement, classes had to be done, by force, online. How was that experience for you? Can computers replace personal relationships
We had to invent new things and that’s always good, but we invented them only if the relationship with the boys was alive before the imprisonment, and thus the computer becomes a tool in the service of the relationship. If the relationship was not authentic before, the computer was useless. I say with provocation that the school was not closed, but was already closed in all the places where relationships do not work. What I consider unacceptable is that it was thought that class hours could be transferred to a screen, as if the school was intended to simply transmit data to the brain. If we have thought it is because we have a very poor idea of ​​school, because we have a very poor idea of ​​man: a brain without a body.

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