One morning a young man wakes up and realizes he will not be a basketball champion. He spent endless hours in the gym, training with the team, doing personal exercises and shooting sessions, and afternoons training with gym weights. Yet, what is missing is a little bit of talent, a couple of inches in height, or more luck. However, this awareness does not lead to despair because everything was worth it. Basketball was his school of life, he met friends and had experiences that shaped his person. Therefore, he decides to say thank you to basketball becoming a coach. It’s a long path: summer trainings, training schedules, seasons as assistant coach. The Italian Basketball Federation (FIP), describes the path as follows, “To become a National Coach (the highest level), you must follow a process that last several years facing a considerable effort of time and expenses with the possibility of being deemed unsuitable in some evaluation step.” The young man reads all of this, rolls up his sleeves and begins.
The same morning another young man wakes up and realizes that he wants to become teacher. The fault of this decision was of his high school Literature and Philosophy teachers and his English teacher who inculcated in his mind the beauty of this work. A job that does not lead to glory, does not allow lead to a great career, but, romantically, it pursues the civil mission of training the tomorrow citizens. Thus, this young man can have any possible degree then he just needs to take four psycho-pedagogical exams to be qualified for teaching. Since that moment (in some cases even before he has passed the four exams), he can be called as alternate, support teacher; in other words, he is allowed to be a “stan-in” in an educational system that leaves much to be desired.
These two young men are, in reality, the same person. A couple of years ago, I realized that, in Italy, the profession of basketball coach, which I absolutely believe being important for millions of young people who grow up loving sports, is taken seriously. On the other hand, being a teacher, a person who accompanies young citizens on their introductory journey to society, provides a limited type of training. This means that teachers’ tools to handle in-class problematic situations are shouting words, such as “go out” and “I’ll send you to the Dean,” and writing notes on students’ booklet. Moreover, Professors, who often are underpaid, have to teach in classrooms and schools that literally fall apart. The chronic lack of funds does not allow suitable training for teachers, nor adequate spaces to teach and learn. This is not teachers’ fault the, and it is neither students’ fault; it is the fault of a system that decided that this was the right way of educating new generations.
This situation created a staggering gap in educational opportunity. The system, which lacks in tools and strategies up to date, is rigid and inflexible. Students are “tailor-made” for the system or have the fortune of having a family with a good amount of time and economic resources; otherwise, they are left aside, ignored and regurgitated by the system; eventually, they are, very often, abandoned by society. This abandonment is often experienced by teachers too, whose work is not only underpaid, but also undervalued and, very often, involves difficulties far from being easily manageable.
I met Empieza por Educar, the Spanish version of what Teach for Italy is going to be.it was possible due to a colleague I met during a master I was attending to in Barcelona. The proposal is as simple as it is revolutionary; a professor must obtain a training at least equal to the one offered to a basketball coach because we have the moral duty of being able to offer to every boy and girl the opportunity of experiencing the educational system. Living it means that young people can make lifestyle choices that make them happy. The French philosopher Rancière wrote that education must have conviction as the starting point of equality of intelligence. We are all born with the same intelligence, but, unfortunately, it is suppressed, “dazed” by the educational system. Our movement believes that all this must end. Young people have the right of cultivating their intelligence with teachers’ support.
Having said that, I spend my days in a Professional Training Center in Madrid with young men who already felt of being rejected by society. Every day is extremely demanding, and, despite the continuous training I do, the challenges remain really difficult because humans are complex and less rational than what is said (especially during the teens years). There is not a magical formula, but, at least, I feel prepared, almost as a basketball coach, to face the challenge because these young men can change their world, and we have the duty of helping them.