We publish here the interview granted to Andrea Cardinali, citizen of Loppiano, by “Maestra Filo”, a young teacher become influencer during the lockdown, who has offered her support in promoting our Made in Loppiano masks entitled: Mascot, Days and Smile.

Dear Maestra Filo, looking at your Facebook page we see that you have tens of thousands of people following you, many of whom are teachers. What is the secret that led you to become a teacher-influencer in just a few months? How did the idea for the page Maestra Filo come about? The Maestra Filo page was born in 2018, the year I first began teaching in Piacenza. It came from a desire to share with other teachers work done throughout the school year. I was so satisfied with the results that I felt the need to work with those who had more experience than I had, because I believe that collaboration and sharing are the basis of effective teaching. This is what I always teach my children: “Together everything is better; what do you say we try?” During the months of lock-down, I dedicated myself to distance learning, trying to create videos and engaging lessons that could somehow motivate my children and shorten the distance between us. Thinking of all those “non-native digital” teachers with very few technological skills who found themselves suddenly behind a screen, I decided to share the work I was doing for my class by making it available to everyone free of charge, both on Facebook and on YouTube. In a short time, I had requests from thousands of teachers. Even now, many still thank me for the help received, but the truth is another: we supported each other! Having shared our anxieties and uncertainties, even through a post, helped us to face in a positive way the strange period we were living in. And so even the topics that seemed more complex to explain behind a computer, turned out to be simple and fun both for us teachers and for the children. Now the purpose of the Page is to give my colleagues cues, ideas and materials for a real and meaningful didactic which favors implementation and at the same time dialogue and reflection on what we do. How many years have you been teaching in elementary school? What distinguishes your educational method and who were the educators/thinkers who inspired you? I’ve only been teaching for three years in elementary school; I still have a lot to learn! Each day I feel a strong responsibility, and this is the driving force behind my continuous training. I strongly believe in a didactic that is experiential and oriented toward a laboratory-style approach to work. Such an approach helps the child discover how the whole universe works and makes him feel responsible in his cosmic role. This didactic encourages the intrinsic motivation in a child, helping him or her in the process of formation, and to do this I cannot but be inspired by two giants of pedagogy: Maria Montessori and Don Lorenzo Milani. What do they have in common? Both have put the student at the center of educational activity, keeping foremost the student’s timing and potential. Both have used freedom as an educational means to form free and responsible citizens for the future. This is what we find today in the “National Guidelines” methodological principles: “…to value experience; to implement appropriate interventions with regard to diversity; to encourage exploration and discovery; to encourage collaborative learning; to promote awareness of one’s own way of learning; to carry out educational activities in the form of a laboratory.” This is what a real teacher does. He or she does not stand behind a lectern, but alongside the child. The teacher is like a true coach: he does not impose but proposes, does not dispose but predisposes, does not prevent but orients. In Italian classrooms, as in many other European countries, the cultural variety of students is increasing. What educational challenges does this “diversity” bring? What is Maestra Filo’s approach? In the “National Guidelines” we read: “Encountering the historical form of the Catholic religion plays a fundamental and constructive role for civil coexistence, enabling students to grasp important aspects of the cultural identity in which they are members and helping in the building of relationships and bonds between people of different cultures and religions.” So what then is the purpose of the school? The role of the school is to train people to be capable of dialogue and respect for differences, and to develop behaviors of mutual understanding, in a context of cultural and religious pluralism. For this reason, it becomes fundamental, in my opinion, to hold the hour of religion all together, without any division. How do we accustom children to dialogue, to respect cultural/religious diversity if we do not give them the opportunity to confront each other? Let’s get to know the similarities, the characteristics, the differences; let’s help children to build cultural maps capable of recomposing a unitary understanding of reality. The hour of religion is a valuable opportunity for interdisciplinary activities, because it helps children to consider differences as a resource. Thus understood, the school becomes a privileged place of learning, free, and pluralistic confrontation. Is there something that links your educational method with the Made in Loppiano “MASCOT Smiles” mask you are using? During my year of service in the province of Florence, I came to know the wonderful community of Loppiano. When I discovered this initiative I couldn’t not fully share in it! In the MASCOT project, everything was thought of: inclusion, environmental impact, teaching a new language, the timing sequence for little ones (Mascot Days), and endless suggestions for interdisciplinary activities for teachers! The mask covers the most important part of our face, and those who know me know that an essential element in my teaching is the smile, so I chose to wear Mascot Smiles in class and remind everyone that peace begins with a smile. Thank you, Maestra Filo! See you on your social media!

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