A typical day of student teaching at Convitto Maria Luigia Parma runs from 8 am to 10:40 am on Thursdays. I attend three English classes, all of which are students in their third year of middle school, equivalent to American 8th grade. The first two classrooms belong to my CT and the third classroom belongs to another English teacher.
I am expected to present for the duration of the class time in every period. I am not expected to write a lesson objective or plan; rather, I am given a topic and asked to present about it. So far my topics have been: me and where I come from, Mount Rushmore, and Proms. Before I come, I make a presentation (usually a PowerPoint) at home. I’ve chosen PowerPoint because it is appropriate for teaching English; I want to provide the written word, a picture, and the spoken word to the classroom.
At first, these expectations were a challenge because I felt I was given little instruction or direction. By now, I appreciate this format because it is a wonderful learning experience. The vague instructions I receive allow me to be creative, organized, independent, and cognizant. I appreciate the trust my CT places in me. My role is to stand in the front of the classroom and initiate a conversation between the students and myself. Therefore, my experience teaching in Italy is less structured yet more interactive than my past student teaching experiences. I am constantly in conversation with the Italian students, asking many questions and doing my best to keep them engaged.
In the first two classrooms, I teach the topic my CT has given me. This format works well with my CT. Then, I move to the third classroom with the other teacher. Transitioning to this classroom has been the greatest challenge I have faced, perhaps because the teacher’s classroom management practices are very different from my CT’s. She yells a lot and the students constantly talk. There is a lack of respect between her and her students. Yet she expects me to teach the same topic that I am teaching in my CT’s classroom. We have no communication before class; I simply walk in and begin my lesson. I feel less connected with this classroom and this teacher because we do not communicate outside of class. Overall, my experience in this classroom is not as positive as my experience in my CT’s classrooms. Nevertheless, its great practice in classroom management. I’m still learning how to capture the attention and respect of this talkative class. I made an exciting step last week when the CT and I asked them to take notes.
This is what my Thursdays at Maria Luigia look like. I genuinely enjoy the experience so far; it is simultaneously fun and challenging to engage Italian middle school students in English conversation.