martedì 23 novembre 2010

skuola okkupata!

The students have taken over my school!

I received a message from my tutor, Giovanna, yesterday saying oggi i ragazzi sono in autogestione quindi non venire per il first, today the kids are self-teaching so don't come for class. Autogestione, like last year? I thought. Don't you guys plan these things ahead of time?

I came to school anyway because I needed to pick up and photocopy a few things. I left my bike at Cremona, noting the large number of bicycles out front and thinking, Weird, people saw a glimpse of blue sky and decided to ride to school? I went first to Zappa, the school next door, and so didn't notice anything else strange.

Returning back to Cremona via the basketball courts, I saw a lot of students in giro, heading towards the gym where I could hear whistles and yelling. Weird for them to have a game during school, I thought. I came in the back door and up the steps to find backpacks strewn all over the floor, the stairwell barricaded with desks, and a group of my students from last year milling around. "Grande Rachel! Sei venuta!" said a boy who had wanted me to friend him on Facebook. "Scuola occupata!"

The school is occupied! So no, not autogestione. More like coup d'etat. I went to the teachers' lounge and found all of my colleagues huddled in the overheated room, snarking about the fact that they were there and if the students wanted to have lessons they could. I found Giovanna, surprised that I had come, and she explained the situation a little bit more...

La Signora Chiara (the head custodian) had found many windows open afterschool on Saturday, but she and the other custodians closed them all. Still, apparently the kids arrived super early on Monday morning and, without open windows, convinced the doorman to give them the keys (still not clear on how this worked). They blockaded the school until 8 am, when all the professors showed up, but the vice-principal convinced them to let the professors in. So they entered, lessons were technically held, but no one came. So the profs all crowded into the teachers' lounge to look over their ledgers and grumble.

They are protesting la riforma and its subsequent budget cuts to school programs. Signs up around the school say that politics have become personal vendettas and power plays, and someone had scattered fliers making the students' case.

Giovanna said that the students and the vice principal had decided the occupation would last until Wednesday, but by that time, she said, most of the kids will probably be sleeping in rather than linking arms in front of the doors. She said she hoped they did something productive with their time off, occupations had become fashionable, they just weren't like they used to be. I kept hearing that from the teachers: it wasn't the same as it used to be back in 1968, that's when occupations meant something.

They asked me if these sorts of things happened in the U.S. Maybe in the 1960s, I replied, but nowadays I don't think we realize it's possible.

This morning I overslept my alarm by almost an hour, leapt out of bed, jumped into my clothes, and raced to the school. I was worried that with letting the professors in on Monday and negotiating an end to the occupation for Wednesday I would still be responsible for my 8 am lesson. I was relieved when I saw the huge group of students outside the school. A couple of my 2nd year students from last year were blocking the gate, but I said, "Good morning sunshines!" and passed through them. "Ciao Rachel," they replied, smiling, even as one girl said, "Ma non dobbiamo fare entrare nessuno!" We're not supposed to let anyone in!

Looking up to see the front doors completely blocked by desks and inside no one but students, I realized that maybe things had escalated. Another prof was trying to get past the first guards, so I returned to hear what they were saying. Basically, the girl explained, no teachers were allowed inside, but if we wanted to go around back we probably could get in if we really insisted. The other prof decided no, I decided yes, I was curious. So I locked up my bike and went around back, where I was greeted with more of my second years, including the ringleader, a girl with a partially shaved head named M.

They smiled at me and said "Ciao Rachel!" but M said, "Non puoi entrare." You can't go in. I wasn't going to insist but I asked them how occupations worked, this being my first. M explained in Italian that they had let professors in yesterday and they had held some assemblies but today no, today began the real occupation. They had slept there overnight, I heard one boy say that he had stood guard outside from 11 pm to 5 am. M continued that the principal and the vice principal were going to call the police but what could they do? "Siamo 500 cristiani qui dentro." There are 500 Christians inside. One boy said, "Io non sono cristiano." I'm not Christian! and she replied, "Vabbè, per dire." It's a figure of speech.

So I bid them good luck and turned on my heels, saying hi to the kids that were arriving. I unlocked my bike and went home.

My thoughts later on...I think this entry is long enough.

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