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Trouble at work and home while my son is abroad
Francesco Pacifico
22 November 2023
published in Issue Four

The new teachers enter classroom 0.01 on the ground floor of the FOMA building, and are made to sit on the chairs where students normally sit, the kind with the retractable mini desks. I arrive when half a dozen people are already seated, another ten arrive while I am trying to get comfortable. Since the setting feels like class, anybody who walks in, instinctually heads for the rows of chairs. That’s when the admins — a man dressed smart casual, a younger woman in t-shirt and jeans — call us out. « Sorry. Sorry? » — they don’t sound sorry — « who are you? We need your name… ». We’re not professional teachers — we’re all professionals in our own field. We’ve passed whatever informal test the school might have had, on account of our reputation in the line of work we’ll teach here. When they ask my name, as I'm still standing, I feel a pang of unease — even guilt. The act of entering the classroom and finding a chair is instantly framed like some sort of mischief. After my turn, I start noticing the effect it has on the teachers coming in after me. They are all taken aback for a second, their bodies startled. Ah, right, sorry.

A huge logo of the school is projected on the white wall behind the two admins. To our right, a wall of windows — the ones that are ajar bring in the chilly, gray winter air. The admins start outlining the structure of the school on powerpoint slides. There’s a deliberateness to the whole presentation that’s rare in this sort of school in Rome. We’re silently asked to be loyal to it, even if we’re only scheduled to give one three-hour class per week for only one term, for €3000. They give us a list of rules and caveats on how to interact with students. We are told we can cancel class if we’re sick, but we should avoid cancelling any class for reasons of our other work. The assumption that we’ll try to cancel class for a deadline that might come up makes me feel as bad as the « sorry? » did. The other teachers nod as I nod, we’re calculating in our mind whether we’re really ever going to say no to another gig because we’re not allowed to skip classes. It’s only fair to the students, but some part of me thinks this stance from the school has nothing to do with the students’ best interests. In our line of work, an unpredictable schedule is the real measure of success. That’s what is being prodded by the admins, as if they are saying: we know that you’re the kind of person who wants to grab every new opportunity and we called you because we want you to teach that mindset to our students, but we also want you to feel sorry for even thinking of skipping class one morning next May in favor of doing a shoot in Milan or London. Don’t do it. Think of the students.

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