My son, wearing a black hoodie, black tracksuit trousers, black Nikes, and carrying a black bag (which may or may not contain books and something to write with), has just walked out of the front door to catch a bus to what will be the first full week of his final year of school.
It doesn’t feel like so many years ago that I walked an excited little person, hand in hand, down the street to the first day, of the first year, at our local elementary school.
Doesn’t time fly?
My wife left already, to open up our Italian language school, where she’s expecting new students to arrive. Which means questions to answer, payments to deal with, and text books to lend out. Monday mornings are always her busiest time.
Our younger daughter is slumped in an armchair opposite me, stabbing sleepily at icons on her smartphone, perhaps internally girding her loins for another long day of the endless memorisation that Italian medical schools require before oral exams.
Most of her exams take the archaic and terribly inefficient form of a bored and inevitably bad-tempered professor firing random trick questions at an intimidated, quaking youth. For thirty minutes, or longer. With the quaking youth’s classmates watching with bated breath, in dread of a final, caesar-style, thumbs down.
Her elder sister is already back in Scotland for the final year of her uni/college degree, excitedly making plans for her future! No oral exams there…
I’m basically hanging around.
There’s lots to do, of course, as always.
But this time of the year, the ‘back to school’ phase, is always a pain, as it means weeks and weeks of waiting to see if there’ll be classes for me to teach over the academic year, and importantly which classes, and when. Planning anything much is impossible.
For at least part of my day, for eight or nine months each year, I’m an English-as-a-Foreign-Language teacher here in Italy. Which means, in theory, classes of adults, groups of children from as young as three to as old as my now hulking son, individual students of any age at our school or at their home/ place of work, and so on. Whatever generates income, basically.
But the ‘quadrimester’ (four month period), or ‘trimester’ (three month period), or whatever it is these days (from now until we’re forced to close like in March 2020, or shift everything online as we did in November last year), doesn’t kick off for another three weeks.
And what with the pandemic and so on, it’s anyone’s guess how busy I’ll be teaching – quite often courses aren’t confirmed until the very last minute, if at all.
For now, I’m doing small conversation groups, sometimes just one or two people, finishing up an ‘intensive individual’ course with a pleasant young man of about my eldest’s age, and – joy of joys – starting regular sessions with an online student who doesn’t know what she wants to learn, other than that she wants to learn it.
And waiting to see what the next few weeks will bring.
What I’m NOT much doing is my own language-learning, by the way, which – as often happens – has been utterly messed up by the long summer months.
The heat, the shopping for, cooking, and washing up after two meals a day for five adults, online teachers who disappear, and so on.
Everything that could have messed up my routine did, except for holidays, given that we were unable to get away due to all the kids choosing to be HERE, as well as because of the difficulties and costs of travelling in a pandemic.
But there, Daniel! Everyone else is going back to school, or has already begun, so maybe the time has come to give yourself a shake and get back to the good language-learning habits?
I’d established a pattern of daily reading (to newspapers I’ve paid an annual subscription for, and so have to, in theory, use), several hours daily of listening to the radio in various languages (while exercising or doing chores), and weekly online conversation lessons – in Swedish, Turkish, Spanish and French – listed in the order I added them to the portfolio of things that kept me busy, and learning!
Today’s Monday, so that means a thirty minute chat in Swedish, which is the only element of my learning routine that has survived. In preparation, I’ll squeeze in some listening while preparing lunch, and some reading too, maybe, while digesting it.
And then, with the wind behind me and some ‘back to school’ inspiration, I plan to take the steps to set up lessons with the other teachers/conversation partners. Best to do it while things are still quiet, despite the uncertainty of what days/times I’ll have to teach myself from October on.
I’ve improved a lot since Covid started, and even if the lockdowns are (hopefully but also sadly) over, which means much less time at home, not restarting again after the summer ‘break’ would be shame.
Don’t you think?
P.S. 25% Off Ebook Easy Reader – final reminder!
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elvino alexandre alliot says
Buon giorno a tutti ed in modo particolare a Daniel! I hope ,you are 100%100 by now Daniel. I had a very similar stoke a few months ago when everything went dark and i could not say what i wanted/intendedto say as everything was coming out in a “alien” speech! Frightening but now ok albeit on blood thinning tablets and two/three passeggiate al giorno. A pain when the time for passeggiate is at a premium with a busy life . Tanti auguri , sempre in gamba ed “occhio alla penna”
Ciao Elvino Alexandre Alliot da Londra
Thanks for writing, Elvino. Yes, the loss of speech thing is alarming, isn’t it? Also I was paralized all down my right side, so slumped on the grown in our school’s reception area. But the medicines they have these days are great. Have the got you on Warfarin, or similar?