The most precious words


Children talk to us

Last year I had the chance to teach to the first and second class of the Primary School of the Art Institute in Grammichele.

I decided to alternate the usual teaching methods with some conversations. My goal was that of testing the closest possible approach to the theorized and put into practice Maieutic Method from my friend and teacher Danilo Dolci. He was inspired by the ironic Socrates’ dialogue and he rendered it more complex when it comes to an inescapable communicative reciprocity.

If it is true that wisdom starts with astonishment, I believe myself to be a little bit more wise because, thanks to the increasing wonder for the continuous discoveries and revelations, I learnt to listen more carefully and without prejudices to the children’s words as well as appreciate their sketches and creative drawing. The more are the children free and far from the influences and the confection of softened and bridled models, the more expressive – even expressionistic – and creative are their sketches and drawing.

Too often their thoughts and works seem banal and absent-minded because absent minded and obscured by their trade’s tiring habits are the look, the intelligence and the sensitivity of those people that don’t know or even don’t want to look and listen to them.

I tried to get, by getting rid of the pedagogical theoretical and doctrinal armour, the pure and brutal, innocent and wild, fresh, poetic and merciless look that only a child can still keep alive in a world that grinds and confuses everything, in a time that consumes and corrodes everything, in a society that inoculating, thinks to be able to teach and educate.

The following words were born from the transcript of some notes taken in classes from each of us during the conversations; the most precious words of my teaching year.

Sebastiano Pennisi

Is the world a metaphor?

After reading a piece from “Il postino” of A: Skarmeta.

Sebastiano: In what way the meeting between the postman and the poet is carried out?

Giuseppe: Mario brings the post to the poet. He gives Neruda a letter from Sweden and stands still because he wants to take a peek of the poet’s letters.

Roberta: The poet is happy because he’s waiting for an important letter

Claudia: As soon as he spots it, he opens it

Sonia: He’s anxious!

Roberta: The postman wants to get the poet’s attention, he asks him some questions and stays there waiting. Neruda opens the door to go home instead.

Luana: The poet gives him some money to go away and chase him away, but he is curious and wants to know why Mario doesn’t go away and stands still, unmoving.

Roberta: At some point Mario gets Neruda’s attention telling metaphors from his verses.

Claudia (seeing me thoughtful): The metaphor is a shorten comparison.

Sebastiano: What does it mean? Let’s do some examples.

Luana: If Roberta says she thinks she is like Claudia, intelligent, “clever”, this is a comparison. He compares herself to Claudia but she’s not Claudia.

Claudia: The metaphor can be similar to a comparison between a person and an animal or a thing, such as “Davide (one of the shirkers and lazy students) is as slow as a snail

Sebastiano: Is this a comparison or a metaphor? Didn’t you said that the metaphor is a shorten comparison?

Sonia: “The sky is crying” is the metaphor Neruda uses to get Mario to understand it.

Caterina: The sky is sad.

Luana: The sky is compared to a person

Giuseppe: It seems to us that the sky is crying when it rains!

But why are you asking us these things if you know them?

Caterina: …

Luana: The postman gets curious and curious…

Sonia: … and asks more and more questions

Luana: He looks at the clouds, studies the clouds

Sebastiano: Is this a metaphor? What does “to study the clouds” mean?

Roberta: To explore, like when somebody goes somewhere…

Caterina: Visit some place, such as when the man landed on the moon, he discovered it, he took a flag and put it on the moon as a signal.

Rossella: The poet looks at what the postman is doing, answers his questions, helps him, explains him the metaphors. He has changed because he stays. He goes away only when he is sure the postman went away.

Luana: He sees him till the post where him bicycle is fastened.

Caterina: Mario feels more comfortable with the words on the sea from the poet.

Roberta: He is fashinated by the way he speaks because it makes him dream.

Claudia: He isn’t reading a book but he is talking to a person face to face.

Luana: Words went here and there… With all that rhythm he got seasick.

Roberta: He feels more comfortable when the poet makes him understand we are all poets.

Claudia: Even the postman is able to create a metaphor: “I was a ship floating on his words”

Sebastiano: But are you able to create a metaphor?

The bell is ringing. Here is your homework!

Which ones are the most precious words?

After the lecture Roberta and Luana argue with each other because they both want Sonia’s book, a friend that had gone home because she didn’t feel very well.

Sebastiano: What happens in the story? Where is it set?

Giuseppe: It is set in the library which is a meaningful place, it’s not banal because the books are there and lots of books are important. The children who was fixing the books, when the evening came and there were no buses to come back home, stayed in the library and got asleep there. The child sees during his sleep…

Roberta: … in the dream!

Giuseppe: In the dream! (and he does a gesture of disappointment because of the zealous clarification of his friend) …the books moving… the most important books are those of history to me because they talk about Charlemagne and the discovery of America.

Roberta: …all the books participate. All of them play their role. The books want to make sure which are the most used words.

Luana: No…

Roberta: The most precious words! The dictionary says that, to understand which ones are the most precious words, they should play a game, count them with the computer…

Luana: …in this way they could understand which ones are the most and the less used words.

Caterina: For the newspaper the most important words are those that gives us the news everyday.

Roberta: For the ancient book the most important words are the ancient words…

Luana: That aren’t in use anymore.

Roberta: That are not common, rare.

Giuseppe: For the philosophy book the most precious words are those that help discover something, because the philosophers write down their thoughts. You need to think to do something in a better way. This is me.

Luana: To repeat a lecture I need to concentrate. Otherwise, I don’t know what I’m saying myself.

Giuseppe: You need to think to choose something as well.

Luana: Philosophers’ words guide us on our way. I think that if I go north and I lose myself, I look at the sky, an the stars in the night show me the way.

Roberta: Poetic words are in the first…

Giuseppe: (sees his friend in difficulty, puzzled): Roberta is thinking. She wants to say well, more exactly, fairer.

Roberta: (wild): Rhyme has a magic effect.

Luana: The poetry book compares the words to all the stars sparkling at night, they get yellow in the dark.

Giuseppe: My mobile sparkling is so precious then?

Sebastiano: What if everything sparkling was precious?

Giuseppe: Yes.

Luana: No, what sparkles isn’t always precious… it can be cleaned…

Roberta: Stars are sparkling even in the dark.

Luana: Words are sparkling more when there is a rhyme.

Caterina: (inside a corset that is limiting and petrifying her, but exultant all the same): When there is joy!

Sebastiano: (trying to stop the silly noise to Caterina’s reaction): When there is silence, also!

Giuseppe: (even more enthusiastic): The history book says the words tells ancient things as they actually went, simply.

Sebastiano: And which ones are the most precious words for you?

Luana: Those that are used more, the simple one as well as the difficult ones.

Caterina: The difficult ones!

Luana: The simple ones are the most difficult sometimes.

Roberta: I wanted to say what Luana said.

Sebastiano: Have you made piece? Roberta, now you can give Luana the book!

Roberta: Well.. but…

Luana: It’s ok, don’t worry, she can keep it, I’ll leave it to her.

And they smile. Unfortunately the bell is ringing.