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
Year Four of the PC elementary/special education study abroad program is off to a great start.
During orientation week, we’ve discovered the old underground city of Perugia and its more modern upper city, along with the wonderful chocolate for which Perugia is world famous. In Assisi we visited the crypt of St. Francis and saw his life portrayed in frescoes from the late 13th century.
In Firenza, we’ve learned how to buy fruit and vegetables at the local market, where you weigh and price things and print out the final price tag before getting into the check out line. We’ve discovered that the best gelatto is found at small gelattorias, a bit off the main pedestrian paths. Future posts will surely highlight our favorites. And, yes, we found our way to most of our first classes on time.
Looking forward to a special semester of teaching, learning and new challenges. Check back weekly as the PC education students share their experiences in the classroom and traveling around Italy and beyond.
By Faculty Member In-Residence: Mrs. Kathleen Hayes
Year Four of the PC elementary/special education study abroad program is off to a great start. During orientation week, we’ve... MORE
I cannot believe I have been living in Florence for 6 weeks now! That is just crazy and unbelievable. The time is flying by faster than I can even process everything that is going on! I know it’s only been a month and a half, but I can already honestly say that it has been the best month and a half of my life so far. Abroad is amazing and incredible and I am so lucky to be experiencing everything that I am. Going abroad is a popular thing to do at PC. We don’t even realize how special of an opportunity this is and how lucky we are. I am living in Italy and traveling throughout the country and to other European countries on the weekends. It is just insane in the best way possible. This is truly the experience of a lifetime. On top of everything, we are able to teach English to Italian students… how incredible is that!Last week we met our practicum classes and teachers. You might be thinking to yourself, how am I supposed to teach English to elementary school students when I don’t speak Italian? Don’t worry. We all were thinking the same thing. None of us are fluent in Italian; none of us can speak more than a few sentences. It is definitely an experience, but a great one. I was very nervous going to the school for the first time. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived there. Kathryn Abraham is my teaching partner and we both had so many questions before starting practicum. We had no idea what teachers here in Italy wore to school. We did not know how it was going to work out being in two separate classes throughout the week. How could we give the students instructions when we only speak English and they really only speak Italian?After going to the classroom, many of our fears were relieved. The classrooms here are very different than what we are used to. There are many similarities, but many differences, as well. The kids were so incredibly excited to have us. When we walked into the classroom, they were all chattering excitedly and smiling at us. They were constantly waving to try and get our attention as we talked to the teacher. They were shy at first when speaking in English to us, but as the class progressed, they became more open. They were fighting over who got to sit next to Kathryn and I. They begged us to read aloud to them from their book. Their eyes were constantly on us, taking in every word we said. When I mentioned that I was from New York, they lit up. Whenever we used Italian words or phrases, they beamed. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. They were all adorable and they didn’t want us to leave at the end of the two hours. Many of them rushed up to us and gave us hugs before we left. It was incredible.I know that teaching these students is going to be a challenge. We are in a fifth grade classroom and they definitely know a lot of English, but there is a lot that they will not be able to understand. In prepping for week one of actual teaching, we have translated a lot of phrases into Italian just in case they are unable to understand what we are asking them to do. The classroom teacher will also be an extremely helpful resource in offering advice to us with directions, as we are to her with English phrases and usage. PC has prepared us well for this challenge. It will be extremely rewarding and unlike anything we will ever have the opportunity to do. It has already made our abroad experience absolutely incredible. Ciao Providence College!– Kristen Nappy
I cannot believe I have been living in Florence for 6 weeks now! That is just crazy and unbelievable. The... MORE
As the semester comes to an end, we all have been inclined to step back and reflect on our experiences here in Florence. We came as a group of eleven Elementary Special Education students and a professor. Some of us had class together before, but none of us were close. We all welcomed our time together on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to share what we were learning about the teaching and global education practices. Weekly practicum experiences brought new insights for each of us: insight about teaching, insights about children, insights about ourselves. There were surely challenges: children’s stares with blank faces not sure what we said, the Florence train and bus drivers strike, little classroom board space to write on, last minute change in schedules at the school, and lack of clarity about what to teach. However, the challenges and differences from home are what made each of us stronger teachers. We provided each other support and feedback through lesson study, observation and our class partner who assisted us as we taught our class. Our cooperating teachers varied in style, but each welcomed us into their class, shared their love of teaching and taught us more about teaching English as a Foreign Language. The children’s engagement challenged each of us to figure out the best way to communicate with them and share our knowledge of English and American culture. Pictures, videos, gestures, real objects, simple written text, our beginning Italian, help from a cooperating teacher or a student whose parents came from an English speaking country often provided each of us the way to share ideas, new vocabulary, stories of our American holidays, family and home towns.
Here are a few of the lessons we learned:
Practicum taught me that you are learning almost as much as the students are. I would adjust the way I did something according to my last lesson, then teach another lesson, and find another aspect to tweak. There will always be something that you can change in a lesson to make it better. Lilli B
I have adopted the Italian “go with the flow” lifestyle and so has my teaching. I still go into the classroom prepared for my lesson, yet if something goes wrong, I do not freak out or have a small panic attack, I deal with what I have and perform the lesson in the best way possible. Ariana
The children were so excited to have us teaching in their classroom and were engaged in every lesson. All of the students would be so proud when they got answers correct and understood the lesson. This experience has taught me that the children were able to gain a sense of pride by practicing their work. Hayley F
This semester, I found that the wording of directions presents a fine line between achieving understanding and hindering the students from understanding. Emphasizing the key words in a sentence or set of directions has caused me to reflect and really think about what is worth saying to the students and what is worth or okay to omit. I have learned that less is always more, sticking to the relevant expectations and directions are the important factors. This will even help me to improve my oral practice in the classroom for non-ELLs or English as foreign language students. Lauren F
What it has taught me about children is that in general all students have some of the same wants and needs. Cross culturally students all want to recognized for their work, they are all interested in learning about something new as long as it is presented in a creative and engaging way, and finally all students strive to do well and can get frustrated if they feel that something is beyond their comprehension Kathryn G
By living in a foreign country as well as traveling throughout Europe I have also had the opportunity to see the unique aspects of various cultures and expand my worldview. In learning new things about people from all over the world it also inversely helped me understand more about myself. Michaela B
In many ways I have become more independent as I have learned about being in charge of shopping and cleaning within an apartment, paying my phone bill, and managing a credit card. I have also become more dependent though, I have had to be willing to let others translate and guide me to different locations. I think by learning this balance I will be more successful. Throughout life there will be times that I need to figure things out for myself and then there are times that I will need to be willing to ask for help. Marissa L
I learned so much about teaching English as a foreign language, in such a new and diverse classroom setting. This was my first practicum where I worked with third grade, and the students were enthusiastic and capable of interacting with me and challenging their English knowledge. I often found myself just standing in the classroom smiling. I was so happy while I was teaching this semester because of the kid’s enthusiasm, and their genuine inclination to help each other… Whether it was a student taking the initiative to help a student with special needs when the assistant was absent, their nerves when pronouncing new words, or their enthusiasm to sing, I found myself drawn to this class in a way where I was learning from them (hopefully) just as much as they were learning from me.
Before this experience I had not realized the complexity of the English language. I had taken for granted all of the small components of the language that are necessary tools in order to understand English. By being put in an Italian classroom and being challenged to teach students who did not speak the same language as me, I gained an appreciation for language that I did not previously have. I realized the importance of word choice and discovered how even the smallest words may mean the difference between comprehension and confusion. Kiley R
My practicum experience in Florence definitely taught me a lot about teaching ESL students, but it taught me a lot about children in general as well. … It was interesting to compare my Italian fourth graders to my mom’s American fourth graders during their video logs back and forth, and I ended up finding more similarities than differences in their behavior and interaction with each other. They shared similar interests in popular music, entertainment, and food, and both groups were equally excited to learn about each other. Justine H
Every week I was welcomed with hugs, kisses, and 26 students shouting “hellooo” in their Italian accents. Nothing made me want to teach them more than when they would catch a glimpse of me walking up the stairs and then run towards me. Not only did the students get excited to see me walking up the stairs, but I always looked forward to the next time I was going to see them. Planning my lessons for the students was not only a learning experience from a teaching standpoint, but it was also fun and enjoyable from a personal standpoint. Nicole O
As the semester comes to an end, we all have been inclined to step back and reflect on our experiences... MORE
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
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
PC students studying all over Europe come together to enjoy Octoberfest in Munich
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.
We are moving beyond the beginning of our experience to the heart of our time here in Florence. Highlights... MORE