Some thoughts from Dr. Hauerwas in Firenze

Some thoughts from Dr. Hauerwas in Firenze

Posted by: on November 17, 2015   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

November, 2015

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.

LauraOlive KathyOlive

Professor Hauerwas and Professor Hayes at Fattoria di Maiano for the olive harvest.

olives         oliveoil 

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!

November, 2015 For the past few weeks I have been in Firenze as part of my sabbatical.   I have... MORE

PC-Fairfield Diversity in Education Program Overview

Posted by: on October 2, 2015   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized


The PC-Fairfield Diversity in Education program begins its fourth year this fall.   All professors and staff involved in the program are excited to have another cohort of students coming to learn about different education practices and build their skills as culturally and linguistically responsive educators.

Additionally, this week information sessions for the Fall of ’16 cohort were held.  If you were unable to attend on Wednesday, see Dr. Skawinski, Elementary Special Education chair or Allie Agahti, Assistant Dean of International Studies as soon as possible.  Sophomores must submit intent to study abroad forms to the education office before fall registration.

The objective of this post is to outline the details of the education component of the study abroad experience.  Each of the components of the program continues to evolve as we build on the experience of previous cohorts.

Diversity in Education Course (2 credits)

The Diversity in Education seminar provides a framework for guided intercultural reflection. Through readings, course discussions, video logs and written journals, students investigate issues of culture, language and education with an Italian educator.

Language and Literacy Course (3 credits)

This course is designed to provide knowledge and skills needed to teach literacy (reading and writing) and social studies in grades 3-6.  Since the practicum experience will be taking place in English as a foreign language classes in Italian elementary schools this course has an emphasis on second language acquisition and its role in literacy development. This course builds on the knowledge gained in teaching literacy in K-2 classrooms (EDU 231) and knowledge of language development (EDU 125).  This course replaces EDU 331 in the ESE course sequence at PC.

EFL and Literacy Teaching Practicum (1 credit)

Field Experience aligned with both the Language and Literacy and the Diversity in Education courses.

  • 40 hour practicum (4 hours for 10 weeks)
    • 1 hour teaching EFL class
    • 1 hour assisting partner teach EFL class
    • 2 hours observing & assisting cooperating teacher

You will be formally observed two times.  The Providence College faculty member will hold regular office hours to support your lesson development and provide feedback on your lessons. Fairfield Florence staff will provide guidance on travel and reimburse bus/train transportation to the school.

Education Field Trips

In partnership with University of Florence Education department, students and faculty involved with the PC Fairfield education program will have several opportunities to collaborate on lesson studies and visit unique Tuscan schools.

Final Thoughts

It is important to note that the experiences in Florence, while aligned with the PC Elementary Special Education program in Providence, are not the same.  Building global competence and culturally and linguistically responsive teaching takes time, multiple intercultural opportunities and guided reflection.  The schools and educational practices in Tuscany reflect Italian culture and perspective; some is the same, but others are unique.  The course work and hours in the field provide students with the time to experience these differences and reflect on what best practices means globally.   Through each of these different learning opportunities we strive to build global competence.   Global competence includes not only building knowledge of other cultures, but also the skills involved in understanding multiple perspectives, intercultural communication and taking action to support both the local and global communities.

An outside of the classroom glimpse of Professor Hayes’ weekend in Florence. 

Capture 1

Capture 2Capture 3


  The PC-Fairfield Diversity in Education program begins its fourth year this fall.   All professors and staff involved in the... MORE

A Student’s First Italian Experiences: Lauren Wyse

Posted by: on September 23, 2015   |Comment (1)|Travel


Capture 6

Hey everyone! My name is Lauren Wyse and I am studying abroad in Florence, and loving every second of it! I have been in Italy since August 11th, so a little over a month, and I’m finally feeling pretty adjusted. I came 3 weeks before the program started, and spent two of those weeks vacationing in different spots of Italy with my family, and the last week I spent exploring Florence with a friend from home who is also studying here. I really feel that this helped my transition a lot.  I also liked the fact that I had a week here to get my bearings before my program began and all the students came, because I knew that once that happened things would be really hectic… but lucky for the PC education students, they had me as their own personal tour guide!

I’ve had so much fun since I came here! I have taken lots of weekend trips already to places such as Perugia, Assisi, Cinque Terre (all in Italy), the French Riviera, and Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! There are a lot of tour companies here that are geared towards college students studying abroad and most of their trips are all inclusive which is really nice because it takes the pressure off of you having to plan activities, hostels, and transportation.  That way you get to explore Europe… because why wouldn’t you when everything is so close?!

Capture 5Capture 14

As for school, I love all of my classes! I am especially excited to start practicum next week and meet my Italian students! I can’t wait to experience it all and be able to see how the school system here differs from what we are used to in America. Luckily I have awesome teachers here that I know are here to help me with the transition.

Capture 7Capture 8

Some advice that I have to all PC students is that if you have the chance to study abroad through this program, TAKE IT! I can already tell how much I appreciate this opportunity.  I know the experience I gain here will help me in many ways after I graduate and begin to search for teaching jobs. Additionally I will have firsthand experience in teaching an entire class of English Language Learners, which we all know is rapidly increasing in our American schools. It may sound corny, but studying abroad is such a unique experience that really allows you to find yourself in ways that you cannot while being in the comfort zone of American culture. I am so happy with my decision to study in Florence through the PC Education Program!


Capture 12  Capture 11

  Hey everyone! My name is Lauren Wyse and I am studying abroad in Florence, and loving every second of... MORE

Field Trip to the Barbiana school, founded by Don Milani

Posted by: on November 9, 2013   |Comments (0)|Florence

Barbiana School

This week the students studying education in Florence had the opportunity to visit the original Don Milani school in Barbiana, Italy. Don Milani, a young priest, established a school for the peasant boys in the small agricultural town of Barbiana in 1956. During the first years there were six boys who attended the school. We met one of these six boys, Michele Gesualdi, who shared with us his recollections of Don Milani and his education experiences.

After an hour bus ride through the countryside northwest of Florence, we arrived at the base of the hill on which the Don Milani school was situated.

IMG_5400 IMG_1446

Two and a half kilometers later we arrived at the Bariana school and chapel. We were greeted warmly by Michele and showed into the school building. For the next hour or so, he shared his passion for Don Milani and his schooling experience at the the Barbiana school.


Michele with all of us in front of the school and chapel


One of a number of pictures along the trail explaining the school’s philosophy.


Some of the original maps drawn by the students.
Note the picture of the original six students; the dark haired boy on the right was the former student we met.




Three tenets of the school:

1) Be aware of the students’ lives and motivate the students

If I stay at school I can smell clean, not like the cows. To quote Michele (translated by Dr. Tarchi) “School is better than cow shit should be written on every school.”

2) Mothers love their children and know that school will benefit them.

3) Need to be progressive and prepare students for the future.


Sharing the original “book” the boys created on animals


All of us in the tool shop



Michele also made reference to the constructivism and cooperative learning as two features of educational philosophy that are similar to what Don Miliani and his students developed and explained in their 1967 paper Letter to a Teacher. Working with his pupils, Milani produced Letter to a Teacher (Lettera a una professoressa), denouncing the inequalities of a class-based educational system that advantaged the children of the rich over those of the poor.


Tuscan Ravioli

After a special two hours at the Barbiana school, we traveled a short distance to Trattoria Giorgione. This small family trattoria is known to the best raviolis ever made.

IMG_54981What fun to be able to watch them make our ravioli 🙂



Sage and ricotta ravioli



Barbiana School This week the students studying education in Florence had the opportunity to visit the original Don Milani school... MORE

Fall in Florence

Posted by: on October 12, 2013   |Comments (0)|Travel



We are moving beyond the beginning of our experience to the heart of our time here in Florence. Highlights from this week include:  practicum, Octoberfest, Dr. Hauerwas’ Intercultural Horizon’s conference, discussing Bud, not Buddy in literature circles and candy apples.



Entering a new school for the first time can be overwhelming, but the PC ESE abroad students, did this and more this week.  Each pair took the city bus or commuter rail to their practicum school in Florence to meet their cooperating English teacher and their upper primary age pupils.   They were welcomed into the many classes they will be working with for the next ten weeks.  What follows are some reflection excerpts from their first day; excited and engaged students learning about themselves and another culture in the intercultural context of elementary schools.

My first experience at the Italian school was amazing! Lauren and I are teaching at Santa Maria All’Antella in Antella, which is a small suburb located right outside Florence. The school is very small parochial school with one class per grade, except two for fifth grade. I will be teaching a fifth grade class which will be exciting because I have only taught first and second grades. My first impressions of teaching English as a foreign language is definitely that it will be harder than I expected. Although the students know more English than I thought they would it will be difficult to slow my pace down and make sure to use words and phrases they are familiar with. HF

I was nervous and excited today with “First Day of School Butterflies”, but as soon as I got into the classroom, I literally could not stop smiling. I love the enthusiasm of the class. Their smiles were so endearing, and made me feel like they were so excited just at our presence, giving me some confidence in place of nerves! KA

Entering the Italian primary school for the first time, I was not sure what to expect. I was extremely nervous that the students would not understand anything I was saying and I would struggle to translate into Italian. My worries were put at ease when we were introduced to the English teacher who began by apologizing that her English was not better. I realized that the language barrier was a struggle for all parties involved and therefore we could work around it together. I felt even more assured upon entering the classroom and being greeted by a chorus of both Buon Giorno and Hello. Although it may sound corny the combination of Italian and English together seemed like a positive and symbolic way to begin this experience.  MB

The classroom that I will be teaching in this semester is a fourth grade classroom that consists of 26 students, 14 girls and 12 boys.  Teaching English as a foreign language in an Italian primary school seems like it is going to be a little challenging at first.  The students in the fourth grade class seem to know a decent amount of English, as much as it would take so that they could understand what I am saying and comprehend it.  Also, they know enough to answer some questions.  So, yes, this will be challenging because they do not know a lot of English, but it will be completely doable.  AF

Throughout my time in the classroom I realized how exciting it is to be a part of this new challenge.  Although I am expecting it to be difficult at points I am excited to embark on this knowing I have the support of the cooperating teacher and the students in this new endeavor.  I hope to emerge with a better understanding of teaching to students who are ELL or EFL and to understand more about teaching students from other cultures.  I hope the students can emerge with a better understand of the English language and culture  ML

Pontassieve Train StationClassroom

My initial feeling about this practicum is that it will confirm my idea that I want to teach in Europe after college. I think that this experience will be really positive, and I will learn a lot; about teaching and about myself too. While I am excited for this semester of teaching I am also anticipating a lot of frustration because of the language barrier and other unknown factors. I hope that by anticipating frustration and struggles I will be able deal with any obstacles as they come at me and not get overwhelmed. I think that this semester I will have more unanticipated surprises than I am used to from previous practicum classes.   KR

Butterflies, gestures, smiles and looks of confusion marked the first day, but each and every PC student could not be more excited to go back to teach the Florentine children.

Travels:  OctoberFest and Siena


Dr. Hauerwas exploring Siena after the Intercultural Horizons Conference


PC students studying all over Europe come together to enjoy Octoberfest in Munich

image[2]   image





In class this week we discussed reading comprehension instruction.  We jigsawed six articles that addressed the pros and cons of literature circles and how to implement book discussion groups in the elementary classrooms. We used what we learned from the articles to hold our own discussions about Bud, Not Buddy, a well-written children’s coming of age story set in Michigan during the Great Depression.  Reflecting on our own book discussion experience a spirit debate ensued regarding use of roles, on-line opportunities, assessment and opportunities for differentiated instruction to meet specific student’s needs.





And then came the Candy Apples!   Thank you Mr. Hauerwas for making us a taste of New England in the Fall.


Justine and Kiley dig right in


You can’t have my apple


Kathryn and her apple

  We are moving beyond the beginning of our experience to the heart of our time here in Florence. Highlights... MORE