Throughout my time at Maria Luigia, I have observed many differences between Italian and American school system.
Some logistical differences I have learned about are the Italian school system including their testing system and activities. The students I teach are in the “Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado” section of Maria Luigia, meaning they are between the ages of 11 and 14. They attend at least 30 hours of schooling each week. Their school hours are between 8am and 1:30, and they also have school on Saturdays. The students at my school do not participate in after school activities or school clubs like most American students do. The formal classes such as “Maths,” English, Italian, History must follow the Ministry of Public Education’s instruction on lessons. There are no “study halls” or “free periods” like there are in many American schools. The students I teach seem to have less homework but more tests than I had in American school. They can have up to five tests or assessments each week. At the conclusion of each term, students receive report cards. At the end of their third year in the “Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado” students take a big test that encompasses Italian, Math, Foreign Language and Science. If students pass this test, they receive a “Licenza di Scuola Media” which certifies that they can continue onto high school.
The primary language at Maria Luigia is English. This has challenged me in so many ways, and has taught me a great amount of language learning and development. Throughout my lessons, I always remind myself to speak slowly so that my students can understand what I am saying and hopefully be more comfortable to participate and engage in my lesson. Living in Parma where not many people speak in English for the past few months, I have experienced the difficulty of learning a new language. This has helped remind me to put myself in my students’ “shoes” when planning a lesson and executing it. It has been helpful that Italians are more dependent on facial expressions and gestures for communicating than Americans are. My students sometimes presented in English to me about themselves and also about Italian culture and customs. Hearing them attempt to present fluidly in English opened my mind to the particularities of English and helped me notice weak areas where students struggled and needed support. I would try to adjust my lessons to include focuses on where students struggled. In English, there are so many irregular verbs. My students often struggled with the verb tenses of the verb to write. Often, my SP would have me simply read off the verb tenses from a verb list. Although I saw the benefit of students hearing the verbs, I felt frustrated that this exercise did not go beyond to check for student comprehension or clarification in a deeper way.
The general atmosphere of my school feels more relaxed than the American schools I have attended and those where I have completed my pre-practicums. Just walking from one class to my next with my SP, she will walk leisurely, stop and talk to numerous people in hallway. In my mid-semester conference with my SP, the topic of what makes a good teacher came up and it was interesting to hear her take (which really is a common opinion). She emphasized how a good teacher must be patient, be understanding, create a good relationship with her students and must overall love students. It was so nice to be able to have this conversation with her because I agree on all her points, and appreciate how she makes an effort to put what she believes into action.