After now working in two private elementary schools in Florence, I have yet to cease to make comparisons to the schools I have been in previously. In my first class, with fifth graders, I thought there seemed too many children in the class…then I simply realized it was very small class. The 20+ students were all in there desks and it just about filled the room. It was even more apparent when I entered the second grade class. The 24 students’ desks fill the room. Thinking back to last semester in Brighton, where at my practicum in a private school, the second grade consisted of 26 students…broken into two classes. Then each class had the students’ desks, a quiet reading area with a comfy chair or beanbag, a big rug that all the students could easily fit on, and another table for a teacher to meet with a small group at. Working with a specialty English, we only stay with a class for about an hour, but I think about the classroom teachers and I do not know how they keep there six and seven year-olds in only their desks all day! It is all relative though, because I am sure this is not unusual to these teachers or students, it simply is how the classes are and they can let their energy out during breaks, for instance.
In addition to my elaborate mention about the class size, a major difference in both of these schools with comparison to American schools I have seen, is how relaxed it is. The best example of this was during break time one day. It is essentially our snack time in the morning. There was this pound-type cake in the front of the class and juice, and I watched as the seven and eight year olds came up and poured their juice and cut pieces of cake, no other teacher here to monitor this. Most students bring their own snack and hold it in their hand as they through balls around in the hall or classroom. This day in particular, two girls were playing with sort of plastic square that had fallen off of a board and were using it as a giant frame to pose in behind. All the kids are safe and have a lot of fun, and maybe this is only my experience, but comparing this to snack times in the US where students sit and eat a recommended “healthy” snack and chat in their desks, or maybe finish work from their “Unfinished” folders is very different.