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eTwinning in Codogno, the small isolated town in the north of Italy where teachers keep spirits up

Luisa Lenta, a primary teacher with 25 years of experience, talks about how eTwinning is keeping her pupils and their families busy and motivated in the town of Codogno.

Before mid-February 2020 no one could indicate on a map of Italy where Codogno is. No one had ever heard the name of it and no wonder: the province of Lodi is in Lombardy the administrative region with the highest density of population in Italy. Codogno is just one of the many small villages that form a strongly interconnected network, and where all the inhabitants know each other.

This anonymity did not last for long. On Friday 21 February 2020, just before the Carnival holidays, Codogno's daily life was shaken by the arrival of what we all know today as Covid-19. Suddenly and very unwillingly, Codogno became the epicentre of the outbreak inheriting a notoriety that made it famous, not only in Italy, but also in Europe and beyond.

eTwinning would like to do to Codogno justice, and make it known for another reason: the remarkable way that its teachers responded to the critical situation – schools were immediately closed and the town entirely locked-down, and how with their actions and perseverance they guaranteed not only the continuation of teaching and learning of their students but also the betterment of their well-being.

During these times, teachers managed to lift up the spirit of their pupils and their families with practical and recreational activities. This managed to keep their minds and hands engaged and therefore helped them face the situation with courage and positivity.

Luisa Lenta, a primary teacher with 25 years of experience, describes below her experience.

“If you don’t have something positive to think about or to do, it is difficult to wait because you don’t know when it will end.”

IC Codogno is a large Comprehensive School that promotes 21st century skills for children and teachers. I am the coordinator of the Innovative ‘Teaching’ area of my school (Erasmus, eTwinning and Coding) and we are proud to be a UNICEF School and an eTwinning School.

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Every day, I get up at about 8.00, have breakfast with my husband and then start working to prepare the online lessons and materials, in the form of a video for my class. I attend two to three webinars a day, answer to a lot of emails, messages and videocalls with friends and colleagues that are worried about the situation here and in Europe. In my school, we were not prepared at the beginning. Eventually we managed to use the available technology and teach online. We are trying to do our best with what we have to involve parents and children in the learning process: messages and videos on WhatsApp, Google Meets, and emails. I would like to share some practical tips that I found very useful and helped me a lot at the beginning:

  • Reach a representative of the class as intermediary via WhatsApp and let them get in touch with the rest of the parents to share all the updates;
  • Keep the electronic register constantly updated to show everyday lessons and activities and share it via WhatsApp (we had to take into account that not all the families had a Computer, that’s why we tried to use the mobile as much as possible);
  • Create a Google Drive and ask parents to take a picture at the end of the day to share the activities and the homework with the rest of the class. Practical example: I organized the Maths DAY party online, each one had to prepare a number/maths mask/dress and a cake or biscuits according to the theme. Then we met online and shared and talked about what we had prepared.

We do miss face to face interactions, and at the end of the day we feel very tired and drained however we believe in the importance of staying at home to reduce any chance of contagion and further spread. Since the beginning of the lock down my eTwinning friends from Italy and from Europe started asking me about the situation, sending us messages, drawings from their kids and videos and I decided to set up a project to connect the ones who were THE RED ZONE: Isolated but Connected! The project aims to involve the classes of Italian (and non-Italian) schools to create an online space in which children can freely share feelings, activities, drawings, crafts, songs, games, letters, experiences and thoughts related to this particular moment.

“We are not alone, even if we are isolated. Through eTwinning we will travel all over the Europe and we will be able to connect with a lot of new friends.”

This is very important for everyone (teachers, children and families) because it keeps us busy with a lot of “positive activities”. Families are playing an essential role in helping the teachers. We are very lucky because parents understand that the school has changed, and they are supporting us. I also ask pupils to teach their parents on how we are working and therefore now the whole family is involved in the teaching/learning process.

“For me eTwinning is like climbing mountains, the mountain teaches you how to be resilient and eTwinning is helping teachers in this sense. A lot of resilience is what we need now and the passion as well. If you don’t believe in the things you are doing you can never reach the top of the mountain!”

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During this “necessary” isolation to preserve the health of everyone, we struggle to understand the current situation. But like Luisa, we must not resign. This emergency is giving us great lessons that we should safeguard and put in practice. Everything that we were accustomed to, in relation to family, schools, social life and work relationships, and are now distorted, will be re-established and reconstructed, with respect, care, and tolerance.

Luisa gave to her pupils the task to plant some seeds and to register their growth. This will help her students remain positive and keep things in perspective.

Kids in Codogno will transform the fear that today marks their days, into energy to make their world better. What about your pupils?