Friday, October 20, 2017

Teaching Teenagers Again

It has been a long time since I have taught teenagers during the actual school day. When I do it here in Trieste, it is normally a one-shot thing and I come in and leave like a rock star. Teaching every day in a school where kids are required to go and you are their TEACHER, is a completely different beast. I had forgotten about how many of them  come in and sit down all slumped over like they just woke up 5 minutes ago, or, worse, they are still sleeping. It doesn't matter what hour you have them, by the way.

Some glare at you in a daze but suddenly become animated the moment you start teaching. The problem is that this burst of energy has nothing to do with you. It is to begin a cross-room dialogue with another zombie who has just awoken from the dead.

At these moments, here is what goes through my mind.

1. What am I doing here?
2. Why don't they know how cool I am?
3. Can't they understand how lucky they are to have me?
4. Why can't I be famous (and somewhere else)?
5. Who are their parents?
6. Are those locks on the windows to keep them from throwing stuff or me from pushing them out?

But you can't lose your top. You have to just sit and wait. Like a dog you are trying to train when you give the command. Don't repeat, don't get angry. Wait. No rewards until that hinder is on the pavement.

However, it is as if my NOT speaking is just PERMISSION for them to apply makeup, fill up the silence by talking to friends, or throw small objects at each other (small, plastic, round, are the characteristics of choice).

It makes you think about what makes a person successful. I realize it is not brains. There are plenty of them in this classroom. Lots of smart kids. But that is not enough.

Knowing where you are. So that is my mantra. When things get out of hand, I just ask them.

WHERE ARE WE?

and they are trained to answer.

WE ARE AT SCHOOL.

and then I continue.

WHAT ARE WE DOING?

They answer, because it is automatic at this point.

WE ARE LEARNING ENGLISH.

It is a double whammy. One, it gets them back on track (for a few minutes). Two. If nothing else, they will know one sentence in the present simple and one sentance in the present continuous, and that is pretty good.





Friday, September 29, 2017

There is a Color Plan for Trieste

If you live in the downtown area or in any other area of Trieste that has historical significance, your home or building will be protected by the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio del Friuli Venezia Giulia. In short, if you want to change anything with the outside of your building, you are going to have to go through some serious planning and red tape. 

I probably told you we are doing work on a new house. Well, one of the things we are doing is changing the windows and the doors. The old ones are made of wood, so if we want to change the windows, no problem, as long as the new ones are made of wood. If you want to change the material (like PVC or whatever they're using these days), they have to look like wood. We checked out that possibility thinking that new wooden windows would be a lot more expensive. It turns out they weren't that much more and had a much longer guarantee than the fake wood PVC ones. Great. Go for those.

But then we wanted to change the shudders. Still wood, mind you, but a different style. Turns out, what we have are "Scuri alla Triestina," which have horizontal slats that you can open and close or aim up or down. We want to change to what we now know is called "Scuri alla Veneta," or solid blocks of wood with vertical lines that simply open or close. Who knew that shudders would be so important that you would need to create a "progetto" with an architect and take it to the correct office (and pay the expensive tax stamp) in order to give your pad an upgrade!

I have to say, it did give me a little insight into why so many of the buildings I see around are a bit decrepit-- let's just say that after all of the paperwork, I realized it wasn't just "La Crisi." Leaving things crappy is a hell of a lot cheaper and less stressful than what it takes to make even (what I would consider) a small change (for the better).

But enough of my grumbling. What I really want to tell you about is that I visited the office in San Dorligo where the first step in the process happens (we are a different municipality than Trieste, but all the paperwork ends up in Trieste and then in the Region eventually). What surprised me was that there actually is a reason for all of this careful consideration. The idea is that things should stay the way they always were to preserve the characteristics of what makes Trieste (or San Giuseppe or any other part of town) Trieste. There is a reason that Shudders are called Triestine shudders. For one thing, they were invented in Trieste (for a good example, check out the Ferdinandeo building) according to the needs of Triestine homes and the quirky weather (the BORA) you find here. In fact, lots of cities in Trieste have their own kinds of shudders (Padova, Vincenza, etc).

Besides that, if you want to paint your house, you can go to any paint store and ask for the color pantone for Trieste and they actually have it.

So the big surprise in all of this is that THERE ACTUALLY IS A MASTER PLAN. Good to know.

How Much Money Will I Make in Trieste

This is a question I get a lot from people who are thinking about moving to Trieste. The answer is, in Triestine fashion: BOH! It's difficult to know. While I can't give exact numbers, I can give you some things to think about as you plan whether or not you want to come, and what your life will be like once you get here.

As with all things in Trieste, the process is slow and arduous. Spoiler Alert! You should come here with a financial safety net. If you are desperate for money, then I would suggest you go to a city with a more dynamic work market or take a little time to pay off your debts and simplify your life.

Other things to keep in mind.

1. There is no pre-existing job for you here. You have to create it.

2. If you don't speak Italian you will not go very far. This is a good reason to have a safety net-- it will give you time to learn the language enough to be able to work.

3. It will be nearly impossible for you to find a job BEFORE you actually come here. This is hard for anglo-saxons to get, but the human connection is important here. Your CV isn't enough.

4. If you are a woman,  you are the most difficult to employ unless you are in your early 20s (I have written a lot about this in the past. I will have to dig up the links).

5. If you are over 40, idem.

6. Pay attention to the kind of visa you are using to stay in Italy. That will also determine whether or not you can work legally.

7. Could you live on HALF the salary you currently make? Try it for a couple of months.

8. If your identity is deeply linked to your Career, you will probably be disappointed here.

I know this sounds depressing, but finding your niche here takes a while. Some people give up before finding it. If you are patient and can find lots of other reasons to be happy, then you will love it here.


What the Kids are Listening To These Days

I teach teenagers. This week I asked them what they were listening to and they played this catchy little ditty for me. It was fascinating to see the kids light up when they heard it (and ALL of them knew ALL of the words). They seemed excited that I wanted to hear it and were showing off for me (mouths with braces, chomping gum while they sing, cigarettes behind ears, backpacks zipping because it's the last hour and they are ready to race out but they want to hear the whole thing).

The comments on the youtube page say things like "7 million views? I think 1 million are mine" and "If my mom hears me playing this song one more time she is going to slam my face into the asdlkfjaopiejtroiahsg."

There are subtitles so you can practice singing. There are a few bad words and references to drugs, but nothing you can't handle...

Enjoy!



Friday, September 1, 2017

Aria Bona in Arrivo!

Yeah, it's raining in Trieste! Time to open those windows and secure the damn things so the outside window doesn't hit the inside window and break it and crash down onto the sidewalk and it's your fault!

Wind to follow. Whooopeeee!

Found the pants. The shoes: AWOL. Hope nobody notices (but we are in Italy so everyone will but they won't judge me because they will just group me up with the Germans and reason I just don't know any better).

So that's that. Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's Almost September and I can't find my Pants

Living in Italy means embracing August. August is not for working. It is for going to the beach, drinking wine, eating fried food at sagras and waiting in long lines to come and go on your big road trip to somewhere just a bit nicer than where you actually are.

Joy as an expat comes when you do as the Italians do and trade in your shoes for flip-flops (infra-ditto), pack a cold lunch and head to the beach from dawn til dusk.

But tomorrow is September 1st and I have to go do "real" work (definition of real work: go to an office where you can't wear shorts or flip-flops).

Here is the rub... I can't find my shoes OR my pants.

See, I am living out of a suitcase and when I packed it 1) I was sure we would be in the new house at the beginning of August and 2) it was hot and who wants to think about long pants or closed shoes when it's hot?

I think I can rustle something up. Let's just hope the temperature change that is in the forecast doesn't require SOCKS, because then I will seriously be in a pickle.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Can we PLEASE Unplug our Children?

I know I am not the only one who has noticed that our kids have become sassy, grumpy, and dissatisfied in general, and this has a positive correlation with the amount of time they spend watching t.v., playing with parents' phones, ipads, playstations, etc.

It's time we admit that screens are addictive and counter-productive to becoming the happy, social creatures we humans are meant to be. This is especially so for our kids. I can't tell you how many times this summer I witnessed kids sitting together at tables, in parks, at peoples' houses. They are playing on their devices but not talking to each other.

In fun situations, they are not having fun because they are not getting their technology fix. Instead, they are giving their parents the stink eye and pouting. They know exactly how to get our attention, too. Some scream until we get embarrassed and give in, others cry and have a fit, still others just fume and silently hate us.

And then we give in. Why is it so hard for us to stick to our instinct (which clearly states that the phone or ipad is getting in the way of normal behavior). Do we really fear our children's wrath so much? Is this how we think we are earning their love?

Yes, it's our fault, parents. We can't say no. It is easier to say yes. We want to talk to our friends, we can't bear the thought of our little sweeties getting bored, we think we have to keep them entertained at all times and at all costs. We feel guilty for a million other things, and we want our children to love us.

But this, my friends, is not how we communicate love. We have to stop equating giving kids everything they want with love and acceptance. We have to be a strong point of reference that protects our children from things we know are harmful. Our kids love us more when we create security and protect them. We are not the same. Just because we look at our phones all the time does not mean that our kids have the right to do the same. (We should also cut down, by the way).

It's back to school time and the teacher in me is coming out to give orders. It's time for me to give you permission to do what your kids will hate, but will give you inner peace sometime in the future because you know you are doing the right thing. What we need to do is create a NEW CULTURE in the house.

It's time to snuff out the bad habit of not allowing our kids to get bored (which leads to creativity and a simpler, healthier kind of playing and happiness).

If your kids have not gone back to school yet, you can already start. Get into the habit of being a mean mom or dad (and reap the benefits). Here is how.

Create some new rules.
1. No T.V. or electronic devices during the week.

At my house, we parents also don't watch t.v. during the week, which we think takes away valuable time from talking, reading, and doing other things together. The first week is hard. The second week is heavenly.

2. Teach kids what time means the tough way.

Saturdays became ALL ABOUT T.V. when we stopped watching during the week, so I added another rule. For every hour of t.v. (or tech) you have to complete a nature walk with your mother (I can use the exercise) before the weekend is through. When Sweetie watched 2.5 hours of t.v. we ended up doing a 9-mile walk the same day. You can bet her hunger for t.v. cooled after that!

3. Just say NO!

A kid not getting their way in the short term is painful for them and for you. It is counter-intuitive but when  you say no to harmful habits and behaviors and create positive routines as a result your children will love you MORE, not less!

Your kid may talk like an adult at times, but she is not. She is a kid. She does not get to make all of the decisions. She can make some of them. Also, kids automatically say no to what they are not familiar with. If you want to try a new experience that you know your child will love, make the decision in her best interest. Do not get her permission first!

4. Let them get bored.

When we were little, our parents sent us outside to play when we drove them nuts. Sometimes they locked  us out to make sure we stayed out there. We don't do that to kids nowadays, but the idea is clear. You as a parent are not responsible for making sure your kid is entertained at all times. If you keep the t.v. off and do something else (like make dinner or clean out your sock drawer), chances are your kid will do something amazingly adorable (like help you make dinner or clean out her sock drawer or make you a beautiful piece of art or write in her diary). The key is she has to get to the point of boredom.

My friend Monica loves to tell kids that in French (and in Italian) Being bored is a reflexive verb, as in "I bore myself" Je m'ennuie, Mi annoio. So, happily point out (when the complaining begins) that boring yourself is a choice that she has all the tools for fixing herself.

A quick reminder:

Doing the right thing takes courage. You will feel pressure not only from your children and other family members but you quickly see that other parents do not share your courage. This will make you feel terrible as you go out for dinner with another couple and their child who is happily playing on mom's phone while yours is looking at you with that pleading look of desperation. Yes, these moments are hard, but, if you stick to your guns, it will be your child who comes to you later to say.

"Wow, were those kids boring. They were on their phones the whole time!"

Good luck and STAY COURAGEOUS, parents! We are in this together.