Hello everyone! Sorry that I’m joining the blog game a little late here, but I’m glad to be starting now. I did not actually start my teaching placement until the second week of March or so, so I have only been at this for a month! I also had some difficulties figuring out how to post to this forum, but alas, here we are and now I am ready to blog!
To give you a little background on who I am, my name is Kevin Holbrook and a Secondary Education and History major in the Lynch School. I am from Medfield, Massachusetts and I have lived there my whole life, graduating from Medfield High School in 2011. Currently, I am studying abroad in Parma, Italy, which has been one of the best experiences of my life! I had not intended originally doing an international practicum, but I still wanted to volunteer in a school setting. Upon learning more about this “blog soup,” I was intrigued to join and to hear all of your thoughts about your experiences abroad. I am looking forward to reading, commenting and having some good conversations.
My placement this semester is at the San Benedetto School, which is an elementary and middle private parochial school located in the heart of Parma’s historical district. I have been placed with two different teachers with students ages 11-12 and ages 12-13. My main goal is to serve as an English teacher and social studies teacher, although both of my teachers have granted me quite a generous amount of autonomy in the classroom.
While my first day was about a month ago, I will try and recount it here for all of you. As I entered the school, I parked my bike alongside a row of teacher’s bike racks. (Parma is one of the top places in the entire world for commuting by bike—go figure). As I entered the school, the school secretary greeted me in a lobby area. I introduced myself and explained my role and he asked me to wait for my CT to come and meet me. This all took place in Italian, and as a beginner (very beginner…) speaker, I was quite pleased with myself that I was able to conquer that first barrier…getting through the door.
As I met my CT, she was incredibly enthusiastic about having an American student working in her classroom. She had once before had a student from England for a semester, but she had never had a student from the States. Very quickly I was impressed with her demeanor, and she reminded me of many of the teachers I had during elementary school. When we entered the class, all of the students immediately stood up and greeted me with a loud and eager “Hello!” This is perhaps the best word they can say, and I am somewhat convinced it is the only word some students now, but nevertheless, I felt welcome as I entered. The standing up was something that reminded me of classrooms I have seen from various Asian countries, where I know teachers are highly respected. While I do not think merely standing up constitutes respect, I think it was a very visible gesture that is something I at least never saw as a student in America.
One of the strongest similarities between the American education and this particular school is the use of technology. I was quite impressed to see SmartBoards in every single classroom in the school. Granted, I do recognize this is just one school (a private one at that) in one city (one of the wealthiest in Italy) and that it cannot be seen as an example for all Italian schools. Nevertheless, I do find it interesting and encouraging that students abroad have access to these sorts of technologies in their schools and are utilizing them on a regular basis. I am a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom, and to be able to use the SmartBoard in my instruction over here is a huge plus.
While I do plan to talk about curriculum more in depth in further posts, I would like to briefly touch upon it in this introductory post. As far as my instruction goes, I have almost complete autonomy as to what I teach. I have taught lessons on my family to introduce vocabulary, the city of Boston, St. Patrick’s Day (which I did come prepared in a full green outfit), as well as popular culture in the United States. Because I have taught in several different classrooms to several different ages, it is amazing to me the difference in response I have received to my lesson.
In one of the classes where I gave a presentation about my family, I showed a map of Massachusetts in relation to the entire United States. The class responded with questions about what the other states were in a respectful and inquisitive nature. In another one of the classes, they screamed and yelled and asked about the Boston Celtics, after learning I am from Boston. And in my third class, they asked me (through my Italian teacher translating some of the advanced English dialogue) whether Massachusetts had the death penalty. What a difference! Considering I had taken a class last year solely about the death penalty and wrote a 35 page paper on it, I obviously had a lot to say on that subject—but only for that class! To me it was amazing how different the conversation ran from class to class. Obviously that is not the goal in my own classroom to have such variety, but I think in these cases of introductions, it was good to have the students engage with me in a manner that made them comfortable.
So, I think that’s enough for one post! If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me an email—I’d be glad to respond.