Claire King’s Last Two Weeks: Final Experiences

Claire King’s Last Two Weeks: Final Experiences

Posted by: on December 3, 2015   |Comments (4)|Travel

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Hi everyone back in Providence! It is such an awesome opportunity to be able to write a little blog entry that may help some of you fellow EDU students make the decision to come explore Florence. It is a crazy feeling that two weeks from today, I will be on a plane traveling back to my real home. Just like it was hard saying goodbye to my home back in the United States, I feel like it is going to be just as hard to leave Florence. It’s the time that I have to start saying goodbye to a place that will always have a special part of my heart. Florence has become my home. When traveling home from weekends away in other countries or just walking home from classes throughout the week, I notice myself calling my apartment home. I have become so comfortable here in the past three months that it has similar feelings as when I am at my real home. Yes, you will miss your families, but I mean there’s nothing a good FaceTiming session with your loved ones can’t fix. Last week on Thanksgiving, I FaceTimed my whole family (all 47 of them) for about an hour, being passed down the line to talk to each of them. And when you do feel like you’re really missing your family, you will find that the women/men from the PC Elementary and Special Education Program become your family here.

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Florence symbol at Piazza Michelangelo.

With the thought of these next two weeks being my last in my Study Abroad experience, I am going to focus on not thinking about the future, but to live in the moment for these next two weeks. Friends and I have already started planning days around our class schedules for our last specific experiences in Florence. Planning our last Gusta Pizza, our last walk to Piazza Michelangelo, last De Neri Gelato, and even our last practicum experiences here in Florence. It will be hard to say goodbye, but I know I will always find my way back to this beautiful city. See you in two weeks America!

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Hi everyone back in Providence! It is such an awesome opportunity to be able to write a little blog entry that... MORE

Erin Bean’s Unique Opportunity: Teachers Teaching Teachers

Posted by: on November 19, 2015   |Comment (1)|Florence


On Monday, November 16th, Dr. Hauerwas extended an invitation to me and my friend Brooke, also studying in Florence through the PC ESE program, to attend an English teaching class at the University of Florence. Initially, I thought we would be sitting off to the side of the class observing the English teacher teach the Italian elementary education students. However, that was not what the  Italian professor had in mind.

Dr. Guerin asked us to discuss the different elements of our lesson plan structure to the class. Normally, that would not be a problem. However, this was a class of 300 Italian students whom I did not know if they would be able to understand us at all. Brooke and I stood in front of the class and went section by section through our lesson plan format, describing the main components as well as examples of information you would find in each section of the lessons we both brought along. The class seemed very interested in what we had to say.


The English teacher explained to Brooke and I that the structure of the Italian University has them learning the theories discussed in education for the first two years. It is not until the third year they begin their internship and start observing students in a school setting. That struck me as very interesting because from the start the program PC offers requires some amount of interaction with school-aged kids, whether in the classroom or in an after school program, starting freshman year. Because the group of students we were presenting to was a group of third year students, they had a lot of questions about lesson plans in general. It was really nice to be able to share and compare teacher education programs internationally.

Following our presentation, groups of Italian students came up to present their final project topics to the professor and class. The final project required the students to incorporate theories they had learned in class to a lesson. The lesson utilized a piece of literature and five concepts they were going to cover when teaching English to the first year group of students in an Italian primary school. The project asked for an overview of the curriculum for the year, month to month, week to week, and day to day if the group chose to split up the responsibilities required of the project in that manner. Since the Italian students have not been asked to write lesson plans at this time, it is more informal. They explained daily procedures as well as specific activities that they were planning to implement when teaching the youngest group English.


I’d be interested to read some of the final projects and see if the structure of the Italian teacher education program prepares them to complete this project with realistic assumptions and expectations of their students. Although the theory is necessary to learn, as you are becoming a teacher, the experience you gain from working with students directly is not something you can learn from a textbook. That’s my personal opinion. Overall being involved in this experience is truly a representation of the unique experience I have had studying abroad compared to being in the US.

On Monday, November 16th, Dr. Hauerwas extended an invitation to me and my friend Brooke, also studying in Florence through... MORE

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.

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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

Alyssa Quagliata: A Student’s Perspective Midway through the Florence Experience

Posted by: on October 22, 2015   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

It is October 20th and I am currently writing this blog post as I am studying for midterms because yes they do exist in Florence, and it is crazy to believe that the semester is already halfway done. As I started to reflect on my experience thus far, I could only think of why Elementary/Special Education majors SHOULD go abroad, and struggled to think of any reasons why a student would not benefit from this program.

Adjusting is easier than it seems. Florence is a beautiful city with millions of things to see, allowing for tons of distractions from any of those homesick feelings. And… who would turn down 3 ½ months of pizza, pasta, and bread?

On a serious note, this program has so much to offer. The education program has allowed for students to immerse themselves into a completely new culture in a way that I am sure many education students from other programs do not have the chance to experience. Teaching in an Italian elementary school provides insight into a new culture, far different from our own, allowing for the importance of cultural awareness and acceptance to be experienced first hand. It also allows working with English Language Learners to become a reality, rather than simply learning about this in a textbook and hoping we would get the chance to practice someday. If you asked me a year ago where I would be right now, I would never think that I would have taught a lesson today on the Interrogative, Affirmative, and Negative forms of the verb “to be”. But trust me, it is not as hard as it seems. The program provides for ample opportunities to have class discussions and for students to help each other along the way. In doing so, all of the education majors studying abroad this semester have grown closer and assisted each other in becoming better teachers.

Here are a few pictures from my experience!

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It is October 20th and I am currently writing this blog post as I am studying for midterms because yes... MORE

Orientation at a new practicum school -Florence style: Jenn Mega

Posted by: on October 6, 2015   |Comments (0)|Florence

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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!

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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.

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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!

Ciao! My name is Jenn Mega and I am spending the semester in Florence, Italy through the Providence College Elementary/Special... MORE