This week I received some very difficult news. One of my very young students, A person that I adore and admire has been diagnosed with a serious, potentially fatal, illness.
This is a beautiful talented young woman with an exceptional and unique soul. Italian twenty somethings, tend to be very conventional people, they follow a very similar path of school, job, marriage, family, from which very few of them stray from and fewer still question and search for their own way. Among my students, are many of these few, (learning English is an important step, for spreading your wings) and the large majority of them are… women.
It’s easy to reach high when you grow up in a supportive house with a family of either means or a higher education background, and thankfully I see more and more of these youngsters over the past few years. This is not the case with this particular student. She comes from a very traditional family from the deep countryside of the Veneto hills. Imagine an ‘outback’ in the form of secluded towns in the middle of nowhere, where inter-family marriages is not uncommon, not so much for lack of choice (although that used to be the case, since until the 50’s, the only access to some towns, was by steep winding dirt roads) but for a deeply suspicious and mistrustful nature, cultivated over centuries of seclusion. Not a word of Italian is spoken in these parts, but A heavy local dialect. Kids (up until 30 years ago) of all age groups, were taught together, in one class, usually by the local priest and physical punishment were both common and encouraged.
My student didn’t have the right background, the means nor the support, yet she’s pushed herself forward, reading, traveling and broadening her horizons by sheer force of will.
Her charm and eagerness to learn, all engulfed by pink or blue (very seasonal) hair color theatrics, light up my class and liven up my life in general.
When I started creating this lesson, with this horrible news in mind, I stumbled onto the fascinating distinction between ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’, which I have so far, ignorantly assumed to be synonyms. The lesson took off from there.
I named this week’s lesson ‘courage is contagious’, because I discovered that even just by reading about wonderful acts of courage, and constructing them as a lesson, I had an uplifting experience that will certainly help and sustain me for a long while.
Have a wonderful week, be happy, be safe, read a book!