Week 2 in Italy

Over my first two weeks of being in this placement, I got to talk to my cooperating teacher a little bit about what school is like here and the different duties that she has as a teacher. Because she teaches classes back to back, it is hard to find the time to really sit down and talk to her, but I have learned bits and pieces of what it is like for her as a teacher during the short conversations we’ve gotten to have over my first week and some corresponding through email. From what I’ve learned through my classes in the afternoon, and through what I’ve been observing, teachers have a lot of autonomy as far as what they choose to teach and how they choose to teach it. There are some national standards that set benchmarks for what students need to be able to do at the end of each grade, but they seem to be pretty broad and teacher are free to interpret them how they wish. My cooperating teacher simply said that she plans lesson objectives based on the topic and the time of the year. Right now I am teaching the 3rd year students about Japanese food, which we will then compare to American food and Italian food. The 2nd year students are also working on a project involving food and nutrition, so I am talking to them about the food pyramid/eating a balanced diet, and we are practicing how to give advice using “You should/you shouldn’t…” In addition to these special topics that teachers have chosen to include, they also follow a scripted curriculum for English. The other teacher that I am working with is focusing on present simple with the 1st year students she teaches, and I spend my time walking around assisting and engaging students in speaking practice. Most of what these workbooks focus on is grammar and vocabulary. In my opinion, this curriculum seems quite dry.
The teachers I work with seem to select teaching and learning strategies based on the students’ strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen both teachers utilize strategies like think-pair-share, grouping, and (very brief) one on one conversations (for speaking practice) with the students. My teacher seems to be very aware of each class and their different needs. Some are more easily engaged while others require more activities and/or games to help the lesson seem more fun for them. For the most part, I have observed a lot of lecture style teaching. The students sit in desks that are in rows and the teacher stands at the front of the classroom. With that being said, the teacher doesn’t just talk the whole time. The students actively participate in sharing answers and practicing pronunciation. Many times the teachers will have the students engage in conversation with the students around them.
When it comes to students with diverse needs, many students get outside support in addition to the accommodations their teachers make. For example, the special needs students get aids that follow and assist them. One student who is from South America gets special one on one tutoring for Italian. As far as accommodations inside the classroom go, my teacher has said that she generally simplifies a lot when they are first starting to learn a new topic and gradually give them more difficult tasks. She often utilizes pair work and peer tutoring and believes that it is useful for both those in need and the high performing students. I agree with this idea. In my past placement in Urbana, I would often pair higher performing students with lower performing students for subjects, especially like math, and found the results to be very good for both students.
Getting to compare these two different educational systems has been very interesting, and I find new similarities and differences between my experiences at home and my experiences here every day. Through my placement and my afternoon classes, I am excited to continue to compare the two systems and cultures throughout my time here.