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Monday, April 2, 2012

Teaching English in Italy

I had been placed with another BC student in a private school with a specific English speaking initiative where the school has a partnership with another elementary school in Ireland. This program is designed to promote English-proficiency and even allows fifth graders to visit the partner school in Dublin. Upon entering the school and meeting my cooperating teacher, I have learned that European culture and especially these schools that I have been working in, place a large value on speaking, understanding, and writing English. This was a very interesting realization because I have found that the large majority of adults in Florence do speak English fairly well, even if they are modest about thier abilities. It was interesting to think about how my CT and I were starting to lay this foundation of the English language at such a young age. The English Language teacher who travels from classroom to classroom to instruct students on how to speak, read, and write in English. The teacher was very excited to have the other BC student and I and immediately assured us that we would be a “huge help.” I wasn’t so sure. I had barely learned any Italian myself since arriving in Italy and I had no idea how I could assist her. However, when we would go into the classrooms, the teacher would ask us to recite the vocabulary words that the students were learning so that they could benefit from hearing a native English speaker recite these words and aid in their pronunciation. Never before had I felt like I could be helpful without even trying. It was interesting to hear think about an advantage I had had without even knowing it.

The teacher also said that having us in the classroom helped make the students more enthusiastic within the English class. The teacher allowed the students to ask us any questions they would like to in order to practice speaking in full sentences and practice their pronunciation. Some of the younger students would ask us simple questions such as, “Do you like chocolate?” and I could tell that that it was difficult to ask these questions in the same way that I would be intimidated to ask that same question in Italian. My CT emphasized that she wanted the children to start feeling more comfortable speaking in English and modeling my pronunciation. For the first time I felt very connected to my students and I finally understood what the students were feeling as they were learning, mostly because I feel the same way when entering my Italian class twice a week. Also, as the kids kept asking me questions and we started to get to know each other, one of  the children asked me to say something to them in Italian.I started laughing and immediately felt a bit awkward; what should I say! I said a short few sentences to the kids, saying my name, my age, and telling that I am a student who is originally from Boston. All of the children listened intently. As soon as I finished, all of them began clapping and smiling, as if they were proud of me even though we had just met. It sounds dramatic but having all of these students smiling at me and understanding me was kind of a beautiful moment. It made me realize that this experience is such a give and take between Italian and English, between what we know and what we are learning. It is an amazing experience and I am happy that I am able to be a part of this opportunity! 

1 comment:

  1. Morgan,

    It is so great that you have been such a big help to the classroom! Even though you don't feel 100% comfortable in Italian, it is wonderful that you are finding other ways to help with English instruction. I work in a school in Ecuador in which almost 100% of the instruction is English. I am in a Kindergarten classroom, so most of the students are new to the English language and English language instruction. I have also read vocabulary words aloud to the students because the teacher feels that they will benefit from hearing them from a native speaker. As you said, I can really relate to these students as they work hard to master a second language. Being immersed in a Spanish speaking environment all day can be a bit exhausting. I have grown to feel much more competent, but it was a big challenge taking five courses in Spanish and living in a household where only Spanish is spoken. I think we can both use this experience to relate with our future English Language Learners. We now understand how nice it is when people are patient and clear with us, as well as enthusiastic about our strides in gaining language proficiency. I am so excited that you are creating enthusiasm around the English language in your classroom, making learning more meaningful!


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