As I have reached the middle of my semester, I am beginning to recognize the distinct similarities of the classrooms in Italy versus America. The attention given within classrooms at Scuola Primaria San Gaspare in Florence is comparable to that of a private school in America. The classroom sizes are small, composed of about twenty students, and teachers are given aids and ample resources. Every teacher can speak fluent English and Italian in order to properly teach both languages to the students. The school is small enough that the teachers know most of the students across the grade levels, so discipline is made much easier throughout the school setting. The general expectations of students is to be polite, to listen to authority figures, to behave accordingly, to complete homework and classwork efficiently, and to arrive to school on time. Reflecting on my previous schooling, it is extremely similar to the manner in which I was taught to behave. Aside from attending Catholic school my entire life, such expectations were followed in all facets of my life, including my home setting. It was expected that I complete my homework before watching television, be polite and respectful to my elders, and do my chores around the house. From what I understand, the home environment of many of these children is similar to my own in which discipline is engrained in their daily routine. Based on meeting parents in the morning when they are dropping their children off and the fact these families pay tuition for San Gaspare, I can make a vague assumption that the students are expected to behave in a certain way in the home setting that is synonymous to the school’s general guidelines.
In Ms. Falagiani’s classroom, these general expectations are intertwined with her own guidelines and expectations for her third grade students. When students arrive late, she tells them to remind their parents to be on time to school. When a child acts up in class, she reprimands them in Italian. However, she also encourages a nurturing classroom environment. Each morning, she greets every child with “Hello, how are you?” in English, and expects that they respond in English as well. She alters lessons for the children who need extra support in class, and asks me questions about the American lifestyle and English language during lessons to translate to the students to give them a better understanding of the language. The classroom climate could be described as nurturing and welcoming, as well as well-disciplined and stern.
The differences between the classroom climate and management styles can be seen in a comparison to my experience in a private, Catholic school at home. During my fall semester of sophomore year, I performed my pre practicum at St. Columbkille Partnership School, a private, Catholic elementary school in Brighton. The general expectations of the school were relatively the same: to behave respectfully, to be polite, to pay attention in class, and to arrive on time. Both schools incorporate the standards of the Catholic religion in their classrooms; for example, both Ms. Falagiani and Ms. Mooney, my previous cooperating teacher, begin class with a prayer. Also, familial participation and collaboration is highly revered in both schools. However, the classroom management was conducted much differently. In recent years, American classrooms have been promoting the usage of positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Positive reinforcement is the act of encouraging positive behavior and rewarding children who behave in such a manner, rather than focusing energy on those that behave negatively. Although behavior is managed and discipline is enforced in Ms. Falagiani’s classroom, I have not found the use of positive reinforcement yet. Those who are constantly being reprimanded and scolded outshine the students who typically behave in class. Another interesting component that I have taken away from both experiences at St. Columbkille and San Gaspare is to not be so rigid or strict in the classroom because children are meant to play and be lively. I have learned that children pay better attention to their work after they have been given time to play and goof around, and both Ms. Falagiani and Ms. Mooney allow such time in their respective classrooms. Looking towards my next practicum in Boston, I will try to incorporate both positive reinforcement and a more flexible schedule into my personal teaching style.