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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Classroom Management in different grades

In my placement, I observe different classrooms from kindergarten to second grade. Since these are the youngest ones, they need a lot of attention, a lot of reminders, as well as a lot of consistency. They are curious so their attention span is incredibly short as well. It was really interesting to see how different teachers approach classroom behavior. What I noticed from all the teachers that I wish to implement in my own classroom is to use songs to either catch their attention or to help them finish tasks. For example, if the students are too noisy and the teacher needs the students to listen to what she has to say, she will start by singing a song and including dance moves that force the students to stop what they're doing and follow along. It is not only fun and catchy for everyone to listen to and follow, but it is an effective method of having the students focus on the teacher. Many teachers also have the students follow the clap routine until they all start following and be quiet. Sometimes, the teachers would yell as well and even the opposite is used when the teacher will just stop, look at the kids, waiting for them to be quiet, and slowly the whole class will stop talking. These are all very useful techniques that all the different teachers have used in the classroom. Understandably, each method is used on different grades and also different classrooms since every classroom has a different dynamic depending on the students and their personalities.

The size of the classrooms ranges from 20 to 28 children. However, the school is unique in that it has different periods where they separate children into classes of language ability. For example, there is a classroom where the students' mother tongues are english and that is only a classroom of 13 children. The classroom size is small because most of the students' mother tongues are obviously french. They are all in the same grade in each class as well. Although it would be easier if the school combined two small classrooms, I respect their decision to keep grades separate because it also provides a smaller teacher to student ratio, thus a more intimate relationship between student and teacher.

All the students are well behaved but as they are young children, they feed off of one's energy and if one student is daring, the rest of them will follow. When this happens, the teachers constantly are reminding the students about the rules and expectations of the students in the classroom and as a form of punishment, will ask the student to change their seat or to not participate in the activity that the rest of the classroom is doing. This is an effective method as well because all students want to participate in the fun activity and want to do so with their friends. When taking away these variables, the student believes he or she will be less excited about the event taking place and be more aware of their actions. With all these different classroom management techniques, I could really tell that the teachers all genuinely care about their students and although they are strict with the kids, they are also loving and helpful.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ecuadorian Culture reflected in my placement

At my practicum placement Ecuadorian culture and Indigenous culture are reflected in the school. Not only are holidays and ceremonies of the cultures celebrated at the school, but through the activities, lessons and classroom setup, culture is also represented.
On September 21st when I went to my practicum placement I was able to attend the assembly for one of four major indigenous celebrations in Ecuador. The students from different grades danced to traditional music and acted out historical scenes for the rest of the students and teachers at the school. It was heartwarming to see these students proud to be representing their culture in front of the school. On this day the students were also required to bring in home cooked traditional food such as “chochos,” “mote,” and “avas,” and these foods were served as a potluck during the students lunch period.
Additionally, when there are national holidays, my SP has the students in my class do activities that correspond to the holiday. For example, on the Day of the Ecuadorian Flag, the students had to all correctly color the Ecuadorian flag with yellow, red, and blue, colors which they had reviewed earlier that week. Also, for the "Dia del Escudo" (or the emblem of Ecuador) the teacher had the students also color the emblem and talk about what the different parts signify for the country. 
The Ecuadorian culture is also reflected in the school schedule and rituals. I am currently in a “1st grade class,” however these students are only 4 or 5 years old and do not know how to read or write yet. Many of the students’ parents work early in the morning, many with informal positions. For this reason they need their children in school system early and the school day for these students starts around 7AM and ends at noon. 
The children all sit at two long tables next to each other and I think this is a representation of the closeness and companionship that is a part of the culture. The classroom itself does not have a great abundance of materials, specifically very few technological devices besides a very small box television, however the teachers at my school make the most out of what they have. I think this is also relevant to the topic of culture because although in this society the public schools may have fewer resources, the teachers themselves are resourceful and willing to cooperate and assist one another in teaching such a large class of students.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Learning about & Sharing Culture in the Classroom in Italy

Being immersed in Italian culture has taught me a tremendous amount. The language, the culture, and more is completely different than what I am used to. But as time has progressed and I have adapted and continued being open to the culture, I have felt at home. Just last night while having dinner with my host family, I had a conversation about the Montessori style of schooling. My host mother was eager to share her insight as Maria Montessori, the pioneer of the Montessori style of schooling, came from Italy. Furthermore, being immersed in Italian culture at an Italian school has taught me more than I could imagine.
Italians greet each other very warmly with a kiss on each cheek. When I had my initial meeting with the Principal and my Supervising Practitioner at my school, the principal greeted me with a kiss on each each cheek in true Italian fashion. I knew that I was not at my pre-practicum school in West Roxbury anymore.
Despite the language barrier, my students are warm and welcoming. Whenever an adult walks into the classroom, even if he or she leaves the room for a minute to make a copy of a worksheet, the students stand up and greet the adult who is entering the room. Before class starts, I make an effort to talk to them in the area they arrive to school at and in the classroom before class starts to see how they are. They usually share with me what they did over the weekend or how their recent class field trip was. I have learned more about Futbol than I expected I would while student teaching. Week after week, my students have been quizzing me on the Futbol players and teams they have taught me about in conversation.
            One of my first lessons was about Earthquakes and Wildfires. I selected this topic in collaboration with my Supervising Practitioner as it is a personal topic that affects where I am from in California quite often. Through this lesson, I feel as though my students learned a lot about who I am because I was able to share a major part of my culture. Additionally, my students learned scientific concepts in English including the concept that tectonic plates colliding results in Earthquakes. I selected “unpredictable” as one of my focus words of the lesson as I spent a good amount of time emphasizing the unpredictability of earthquakes. The majority of my students were not aware of Earthquake drills or Earthquake preparedness. I was able to share with them tips on building an Earthquake kit, and many students expressed an interest in wanting to create an Earthquake kit for their own homes as Italy is at risk for earthquakes.

            Throughout my time at Maria Luigia School, I am constantly thinking about what it would be like to be an English Language Learner student in the USA: not fully understanding what my teacher or my peers were saying, let alone the content of the lessons. I am always trying to put myself in the shoes of my students who are learning a foreign language. I am familiar with their situation as I am learning Italian. My Italian skills are basic, and although I am progressively growing more confident in my speaking abilities, I cannot 100% rely on them to get through day-to-day situations. This has taught me to listen carefully, be concise in my communication and be persistent, all of which I believe are crucial qualities for a teacher to have. Sometimes we learn that what is important to those in another country is not much different from what is important to us. In my international practicum, I have learned to take in the culture that surrounded me and began to admire, respect, and practice the ways of a foreign country. I am eager to continue learning more about Italian culture and sharing more about American culture with my students at Maria Luigia.

My Typical Thursday at Maria Luigia School

I have only recently begun my international practicum because the first portion of my program was in Florence for the month of September. In October, the Parma portion of our program began. Each Thursday from 7:50am to 1:00pm, I am at my international practicum placement.
My international practicum placement is at Maria Luigia in Parma, Italy. Maria Luigia is an K-12 Italian school. It is Catholic, and there is an option to board at the school; however, most of the students are local Italian day students. I am an Elementary Education major at BC and my previous pre-practicum placement was in a second grade classroom. In Parma, my students are in the equivalent of American seventh and eighth grade. I have never worked with this age group in the classroom, so it should be interesting! In addition to working with an age group I have not worked with before, I am anxious about not speaking proficient Italian as my students are only beginners in the English language. Parma is a small city in Northern Italy where a majority of the population does not speak English. I am only taking Italian class for the first time this semester. I know it will be challenging to communicate entirely with my students. This means that I have had to work on my nonverbal communication, which I think is a good teaching skill to have.
My schedule consists of five different English Language classes with five different groups of students. Three of my classes are my Supervising Practitioner’s and the other two are two other teachers at the school. Classes begin at 8am and the teachers immediately commence the lesson for the day after taking attendance. I have been surprised by the amount of responsibility I am given in the classroom. Beginning my very first day at Maria Luigia School, I taught through the entirety of periods of the five classes.
Each week, my Supervising Practitioner and I discuss the week’s progress and decide on a topic for me to present about the following week. Thus far, I have taught lessons on me and where I come from (California), California History, Earthquakes and Wildfires, and food. I prepare a PowerPoint presentation so that I can include pictures, text, and engaging graphics to go alongside my English spoken presentation. At first, I felt perplexed as I did not have specific lesson objective outwardly assigned by my teacher. I am accustomed to the more communicative and specific Supervising Practitioners I have worked with in Boston. In Parma, my Supervising Practitioner’s main goal for me is to engage my students in conversation. Therefore, with the goal of students learning English, I have more freedom and challenge myself to be creative with my lessons and put more of a “personal touch” on my lessons. I appreciate this opportunity as I have felt that teachers in the US are under pressure to teach to the test; thus, creativity can be constrained by curriculum mandates. I am looking forward to planning my presentations and future lessons!