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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Uncertainties in a New School

            Today I began the final of my two different placements at a Catholic, private school named Laura Sanvitale. I quickly learned that this school is radically different than Maria Luigia. I came to class prepared with a short presentation on different kinds of American foods, as the students are closing a unit on food vocabulary and the use of phrases such as “I like to eat” and “I do not like to eat.” Although I was aware the students are in elementary school, and therefore are significantly younger than the students I had instructed at Maria Luigia, I was not given any further information regarding the types of lesson I should be giving, or the students’ English speaking levels and capabilities. Therefore, I believed a fun presentation elaborating on unique aspects of American culture would be an interesting way to begin my time at Laura Santivale, as well as allow me to gain a sense of the students’ varying needs and personalities. My presentation not only presented different types of “staple” American foods, such as hamburgers, potato chips, and bagels, but also introduced the various locations where these foods are eaten, such as at state fairs, boardwalks, and barbecues. I included a plethora of images and simple definitions to go along with each new place and food, thus attempting to integrate a number of strategies I had learned in my teaching bilingual students course at Boston College in order to attain comprehension among the students. I further included questions throughout the presentation to pose to students including “What foods have you seen that you like?” and “What do you like to eat in Parma?” This way, I could ensure students did not simply listen to me speak English, but also had the opportunity to engage in discussion and practice what they were hearing, giving me the chance to address any confusion and correct mistakes. I was confident in my brief presentation, as well as excited to compare Maria Luigia and Laura Sanvitale.

            Upon entering the classroom, however, I became acutely aware of how unprepared I was, as well as how starkly different the expectations are for this teaching placement compared to my previous. Essentially, I was given free reign over a class of about eighteen eight to nine year old students, for an hour, a situation I was not anticipating. Additionally, the students’ English levels were drastically below the students I had become used to instructing, and they hence had an extremely difficult time following my instruction. I was often lost as to what to discuss with the students and how to properly engage them in the lesson material, attempting to turn to my head teacher for assistance who would reply simply with “just do what you want” and “yes just do what you think is good.” To make matters more problematic, this lead instructor I work with surprisingly does not speak a great deal of English herself. She was often giving me lengthy instructions in Italian, as well as asked me to dictate and edit the goals she set for me for my pre-practicum requirements, as she was unsure of how to articulate the majority of her ideas. My limited knowledge of Italian further complicated the situation, and I was left feeling dazed, lost, and overwhelmed. Although I am sure this will be an incredibly helpful experience in terms of strengthening my Italian communication skills, I am extremely doubtful and fearful of my abilities to deliver the same kind of worthwhile experience to my pupils. I was again given a very unclear, limited description of what I should prepare for next week’s lesson, although I believe the teacher I am working with empathized with my insecurities and worries by dividing the class into smaller groups for me to work with. In this sense, I believe Laura Sanvitale is a school that will either be beyond my capabilities to reach, or be a school that successfully pushes me to improve not only my Italian skills, but also additionally my ESL instruction.

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