Wednesday 14 April 2010

Teaching in an Italian state school

I am working at a local state school as part of a government scheme (PON) teaching English to 23 x 11 year old students... It is certainly an...let's say it's an experience.

I have no experience of state schools in any country. In Australia I went to a private primary and secondary school - we had uniforms, rules....even nuns teaching us! School was quite strict; we got into trouble if we wore socks and not stockings in winter, if we got caught without our blazer on outside of the school then we would get in trouble, no more then one small pair of earrings, no coloured

My first experience of public schools is therefore here in Italy, and what a place to start! 11 year old students are hard - they are not children so you cannot sing songs and read fairy tales. They are in that phase where boys are just starting to (sort of) like girls. They yell and shriek, run riot in the classroom, don't listen to a word the teacher says, make marks on the desks with their scissors, draw on each others faces with pen, throw anything and everything, insult one another - you name it, they do it (think of a tamer version of 'To Sir With Love.')

I remember walking into the classroom on the first day, having no idea what to expect. Ok, the classroom was ugly - but being a state school I sort of expected that as there is not so much money for pretty pictures on the wall. None of the students noticed me as I walked in...they were too busy screeching like banshees at the top of their lungs. I greeted the teacher and she started screaming for the children to sit down and shut up - I mean really screaming.

I was shocked - you don't scream at children...our teachers never screamed at us. But then again when they asked us to sit down we - well we sat down... Finally the students were sort of silent and my lesson with them began...


LindyLouMac said...

Oh my goodness Leanne, it sounds like you have your work cut out for you before you win these children over. Which I am sure you will succeed at. Good Luck.

TEFL Ninja said...

Do you have access to the playground or the gym ?

If so, buy as many ping pong balls as you can afford, write English irregular verbs on them, throw them all over playground, divide students into teams and stand at the front yelling

a) the verb in Italian


b)a sentence in English using said verb.

Once all balls are collected and the row over who cheated, hid balls, wrote own words on balls are finished with, take knackered kids back to classroom for a cooling down activity. Preferably to do with irregular verbs.

Tell them they can play game again on the last lesson only if they co-operate with the rest of the course (if a short course, if a long course say about halfway through and then again at the end)

If you can't get ping pong balls beg borrow or steak as much old clothing as you can and play similar game where team has to dress one unfortunate member of the squad as fast as possible in the items of clothing that you yell form your nice shady corner of the playground.

Do not do this in the classroom, the other teachers will hate you forever.

The kids however, will love you and you might get a modicum of co-operation out of them if you dangle a repeat performance at them when they step out of line.

They may even learn something.

Just don't bank on it LOL.

Laura said...

Ciao Leanne! Wow... sounds just like my boat trip from Amalfi to Salerno with a school group yesterday. I actually yelled at them in Italian, and it's rather uncharacteristic for me to yell at anyone. :-) Good luck and keep sharing your stories!!

Anonymous said...

May the force be with you Leanne. I did a short teaching project in a private school in Italy (run by nuns), where the most challenging was the fifth elementary year, but I also got the most out of it. They did cooperate, I think because their class teacher wouldn't stand for any nonsense. Yes she did have to raise her voice to get attention. Just seems the way it is here in Italy. Classroom management is a big issue, that I believe could be handled better.

Rosa said...

Sarah... ha ha ha but sounds like fun.
You actually had them sitting. That's a good start :P

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Lindylou,
I sure do have my work cut out for me. Thankfull the project is half way finished!

Hi Sarah,
What great ideas! I have no access to a playground or anything similar...but I think I could do it in the classroom. The clothes game shall be there for Monday - my next lesson! I'll let you know how it goes!

Hi Kelsbels,
I was not a teacher in Australia. Have only ever taught in Italy so also have nothing to compare it to.

Hi Laura,
I know how you feel! I hate yelling at students (they are only 11 years old after all) but the scream comes out of your mouth without realising!

Hi Cathy,
I don't think the words 'Classroom Management' exist in the Italian language ;)

Hi Scintilla,
Sarah does have some good ideas! And you're right - guess i have to look on the bright side that they were sitting (not all of them, but most of them!!!)

Carolina said...

Wow!You did a great job of describing a real nightmare of a class/school! I wasn't in the state schools when I was there- instead I found work at a private high school in Cosenza. Older kids, but still lots of attitude and chaos! The one trick I found to get them engaged was to promise them we'd translate lyrics of their favorite American/English songs if they finished a lesson...worked like a charm- those kids really loved music! And in the end, they actually learned more about English that way than from the text! :) In boca al lupo!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Ciao Carolina,
Ahhh...a private school - what a nice thought! I'll give the song translation a go when I am back (in Rogliano) next week!

HeatherV said...

I really enjoyed reading this, I teach in both private and state schools here in VT. The private one isn't too bad, instead of yelling the teachers use a little brass bell to quiet them down. I have only taught 11 year olds in private schools, they are a bit unruly since sitting and being quiet is often difficult but no sourness with the little ones. Now High school is a whole different story. Try keeping 25 fifteen year olds interested and paying attention (even if for only 45 minutes)is a real chore especially when their own teacher has no ability to do so. Can't wait for that one to be over with! ;D