This was part of the reason that I came to Italy—teaching experience. Honestly, I wish I had enough money to make traveling my sole reason for coming here. But a reason why this program is so perfect is that it gives me the opportunity for a true international experience by placing me in an Italian middle school. All I knew before I came here is the name of the school. I had been in contact with the head English teacher, who gave me some information about what she wanted me to talk about with the students. I didn’t know if I would be teaching classes alone or acting as an aide. All I knew was that I shouldn’t worry about it too much.
After connecting my first week here with the information, I would say that I am not so much here to teach them English vocab and grammar as I am to teach them about American culture—which is fine. I have been to fifteen different classes this week, and I’ll say that 300 students is probably on the low side of the estimate of how many students I’ve seen.
When I first saw that I was assigned to a middle school, way back in November, I was more than a little apprehensive. Most adults will agree with me when I say that has to be one of the hardest ages to teach in America. American middle schoolers are infamous for their apathetic attitudes and raging hormones. Would I be talking to these kids while they all rolled their eyes and checked their phones for texts from their equally as bored friend who sat across the room?
I was so relieved to find that none of these classes are like that. I saw only one student who sat like a bored American middle schooler, but he was always paying attention, or so it seemed. Most of the kids are so excited to ask questions about America, forgetting their initial shyness at the thought of speaking English to an American. I know I would have been self-conscious. I really like these students so far.
There are four English teachers in this school. Each one of them is just as excited as the students to have me in class. They are all warm and welcoming in nature and not at all annoyed by my presence.
- I introduce myself, talking a little bit about my family, likes, home…etc.
(Only a few classes have the luxury of PowerPoint—which completely changes everything I had planned. I came here with 20 planned lessons, just in case. I only need something like 10 lessons because each week I teach the same lesson to fifteen different classes. All these lessons relied heavily on PowerPoint. So I’m kind of wondering how I’m going to do some of the most useful lessons.)
- Depending on who the teacher is, she makes each student in the class repeat what I have said back to the class.
(These kids have good memories.) Granted this takes some time, especially with students who have trouble pairing pronouns and “be” verbs, but I really like this concept for the simple fact that it forces the students to pay attention and reveals to the teacher just how much they understand/ comprehend what is going on. I’m quite impressed with the skill level of these students, some who are only 12 years old. I could barely formulate these sentences as a freshman. In Italy, students even start learning English vocabulary in Elementary school. I think that if the U.S. really wanted their students to learn another language, they would do the same. It seems to me that that is the only way one can truly learn another language. Three years of Spanish in high school didn’t cut it for me.
- The students introduce themselves to me, telling me their name, age, home, number of siblings, likes…etc.
This also takes some time, but it gives me a chance to know the student, for the minute he or she is talking, anyway, while giving the student an opportunity to work on subject/verb pairing and word pronunciation.
- The students ask me questions, ranging from “What’s you favorite color?” to “Have you met anyone famous?” to “What’s your phone number?”
The students are also fascinated by anything Apple. My computer was looked at with wide eyes. Many of the students want to move to the Silicone Valley and work for Apple. It’s been a fun first week.
I like the idea that I’m a supplement rather than the actual teacher. It gives me a chance to watch and see how teaching English can be done. The classes here have a tendency to get loud and seem out of hand, but for an experienced Italian teacher, it’s always under control. I don’t know if I would have known how to handle that.
Something interesting that I have seen both at school and at home is that adults will raise their voice at a kid for seemingly no reason. Now, I don’t speak Italian, so there may very well be a reason, but most of the time it’s none that I can see. However, the child never looks scared or hurt. It’s usually just shrugged off and followed by obedience. It’s interesting to me. Raising ones voice in America is supposed to inspire fear and compliance.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day in America, as well as in Italy. But there has been no focus on Valentine’s Day here. Like NONE. No commercials, no store displays, nothing. Didn’t even need the candy hearts and valentines that I brought. It again just shows me the ridiculousness of the “holiday” it has become in America. It seems like just another reason for companies to suck people’s wallets dry. But that’s none of my business.
Anyway, the focus here is on Carnevale which runs from Thursday night to Tuesday night. The students brought tons of sweets to school yesterday, and it took all of my strength to restrain myself to five pieces of sweet goodness.
Next week, I will be talking to the students about the American school system, a system which differs from the Italian one I have seen. It’s far too soon to say for sure, but maybe education is the field that I should run through. It’s only been the first week, but I like coming home in the afternoon and having the weekends off. If one has good students, teaching could be a fulfilling profession. In the six full days that I have been here, I have already come to love it. I get depressed just thinking about going back to the States and falling back into the way things were. And that makes me think about teaching abroad. Who knows what will happen? Change is difficult for me to digest. But sometimes a big change is all you really need to really start living.