Ciao! My name is Jenn Mega and I am spending the semester in Florence, Italy through the Providence College Elementary/Special Education department. I have been here in Italy since August 31st and it already has been such an amazing experience. For anyone (PC EDU or not) questioning whether they should go abroad or not… GO! It is an unforgettable experience that you will never ever regret doing. Florence is a great city that has so much history to explore, but also modern areas as well. It is home to many American students each semester and therefore is a great place to immerse yourself in Italian culture, but also make friends with other American students from different schools! It is easy to get wrapped up in the city center because there is always something new to see or do, but I also have really enjoyed wandering to the other side of the river (the Arno river is the main river that runs right through the heart of Florence) where many locals are. In addition, my practicum school is about a twenty-minute bus ride on the other side of the river. In this post, I will mostly share my practicum experiences because last week was our first week out at the schools!
For this semester, I was assigned to a 5th grade classroom. In Italy, they refer to grades as classes, so I was actually assigned to “fifth class”. On my first day, we rode to the school and were walked around the entire school by a supervisor. Then, I met my cooperating teacher who doesn’t speak fluent English, but spoke well enough to communicate with me. The day was supposed to be strictly observation, but she handed me a piece of chalk (yes, chalkboards and no fancy smartboards!) and had me jump into the English numbers lesson with her. It was frightening, but ended up going really well and being really fun. The students are so eager to learn because they view you as a celebrity because they are in awe that you’re from America. It makes them really want to try to practice their English which is really awesome and will be helpful once I start teaching my own lessons! The classrooms are very similar to American classrooms with posters on the wall and student work around the room. The biggest difference I have noticed is classroom management techniques – the Italian schools don’t have many. There are no classroom rules or procedures listed in my 5th grade room and the teachers do not seem to care that students chat while they are teaching a lesson. This will be something I have to work through as I teach the students because I am a big fan of classroom management (thanks Dr. Ryan!) and find it overwhelming when there is a lack of structure in the classroom. Overall, the student’s eagerness to practice their English so they can communicate with me will outweigh the relaxed classroom environment and I think this semester is going to be very memorable with these students.
I will reiterate once more that for anyone on the fence about going abroad… DO IT. Especially for you education majors reading this, teaching these students will be like nothing experienced in America and it will hopefully positively affect the way you feel about being a teacher (like it already has for me). Florence is an amazing city with so much to offer and coming here for one semester and getting to teach children will truly be something you never regret or forget about. I am so grateful to have such an awesome department to return to at PC that was able to provide me this experience – so take advantage of it!