For the past few weeks I have been in Firenze as part of my sabbatical. I have split my time between the University of Florence where I am a Visiting International Scholar and the Florence schools observing and interviewing the Italian teachers involved in the PC Diversity in Education program.
Erin B. and Brooke M. presenting with the University of Florence teacher education students
English Language Teaching Workshop
Dr. Hauerwas, Providence College and Dr. Guerin, University of Florence
With this blog I want to share some of the cross-cultural observations I have made as I collaborated with University of Florence faculty, teacher education and Ph.D. students, as well as Italian teachers in the practicum schools. The comments are in no particular order.
- Teacher education for primary teachers is relatively new in Italy and at the University of Florence. 20 years ago teachers only needed a high school degree to teach primary school.
- The University of Florence’s primary teacher education program includes theoretical coursework and internship. The coursework is aligned to a national teacher education curriculum. Preservice teachers do not get as many opportunities to practice teaching in primary classrooms. There are no teacher licensure exams.
- Some Providence College and University of Florence teacher education students were able to meet and discuss differences in teacher training and primary school. Topics included: teacher schedules, process of getting a job, differences in pedagogy used in the classroom, inclusion and special education, approaches to teaching English, use of books in the classroom, exams as part of college course-work, parents, teaching profession and respect for teachers.
- The Italian cooperating teachers and primary students are eager to have American teachers in their classrooms each week. The PC students are greeted warmly with smiles, giggles and a few hugs from the children! The teachers want to help the PC students use their knowledge of the English language and American culture, geography and history to teach the primary students.
- Everyone works together to communicate effectively – using gestures, pictures, translation of key words/phrases, and songs to support the students and teachers use of English in the classroom.
- We all wished we were proficient in English and Italian! And were concerned that we are not. Yet we all continue to learn from each other about culture and education.
- Some classrooms have smartboards and regular access to the Internet. Classrooms generally have only one small chalkboard [4′ x 6′]. The students have many workbooks and elaborate pencil cases with markers and pencils.
- This fall each of the schools are in the city of Florence. PC students take busses or trains to their schools. Travel times vary from 15 to 30 minutes. Tickets will be occasionally checked — there is a fine you must pay if you do not have a ticket or it isn’t validated.
Lauren, Samantha, and Alyssa waiting for the 23 Bus to go to practicum
- Some of the Italian cooperating teachers have been with the Diversity in Education program for three years; others are new this year. They see the benefits of having an American teacher intern for their students. The students are motivated to use their English to communicate and learn about their teacher. The PC students provide a native English model; the students are often the first American English speaker they have interacted with.
- Migrant students and changing demographics of the schools were topics that the University of Florence doctoral students wanted to discuss as I shared my research on the impact of international practicums on preservice teacher development. They wondered if what we have learned in America about diversity could help the Italian educators better meet the needs of new immigrant students.
- The role of culture in teaching as well teacher identity were topics that challenged the faculty and doctoral students as we considered global education practices and their universality. During this visit I heard more Italian educators discussing both their Italian identity as well as their European identity.
- It is important to connect practice with theory. Using evidence, data from experience, to lead to greater understanding of theory and effective practices. As John Dewey said in Experience and Education:
“The scientific method is the only authentic means at our command for getting at the significance of our everyday experiences of the world in which we live…scientific method provides a working pattern of the way in which and conditions under which experiences are used to lead ever onward and outward.”
or said more simply “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
- The Diversity in Education program is providing the Providence College education students with everyday experiences in the world which enable them to connect theories about teaching language with effective culturally relevant practices.
The door to Fairfield University, Florence on Corso dei Tintori 7.
Mariella heading into her school for practicum teaching English as a Foreign Language.
The students have 45 minutes for a hot lunch; served family-style in the primary schools in Italy.
Pope Francis visits Florence on November 10th. Many students were able to attend mass at the Stadium. We all got glimpses of the Pope Mobile as he travelled around Florence.
Professor Hauerwas and Professor Hayes at Fattoria di Maiano for the olive harvest.
The Nuovo Olio 2015
The David, November 14, 2015.
Firenze sharing one of its symbols of strength with the people of Paris.
Sunset on the Arno as I walked home from the University….the end of another day in Firenze!