Comparing Educational Practices – Weeks 1 and 2

Hi everyone!

I just finished the first two weeks of my Monroe project.  My original plan changed a little because it was difficult to find a school in Italy that would let me volunteer full time, so I have instead been helping with English classes in three different elementary schools – Aurelio Saffi, Colleverde, and Sclavo elementary schools, all located in Siena, Italy.  I am volunteering with 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade classes.  I was  disappointed that I couldn’t observe all subjects because this obviously limits the extent of my comparison, but I had figured there would be some obstacles to volunteering in another country.  I’m still learning a lot about the teachers’ style of teaching, classroom management, the content of what the students are learning (at least in terms of a foreign language), and just the structure of Italian schools.

It varies in every class, but in general the teachers have been letting me volunteer like I would in the U.S. – just going around the classroom and helping whichever students need extra help.  They always have me correct their homework, and then some teachers let me help them lead the activity for the day.  The teachers are really great at utilizing me for pronunciation and listening activities in English because even though they all know English well enough to teach it, they want their students to get used to hearing a native speaker.  They teach British English, so some of the students had trouble understanding me at first, but they are improving.  This experience has been a great exchange – the Italian teachers are happy to have a native speaker help with English class, and I get to learn about their school system and teaching in general.  I was actually just accepted to the School of Education last week so now I’m even more excited that I am able to do this project and learn from experienced teachers.

For this upcoming week, I will continue to volunteer in the elementary schools like I have been doing the last two weeks.  Then, for the fourth week, I have an interview scheduled with one of the teachers and I will be doing research here in Siena.  I’m going to try to find any written curriculum for Siena, test scores for my elementary schools, and any legislation for the Italian educational system.  The Ministry of Education has a website where they list all of their announcements and general information, but of course it is all in Italian, so much of my time will be spent translating those.  I fly home on June 1st to do the rest of my project in the United States.




  1. mnbaker says:

    Seems like a fascinating project. In your abstract, you mentioned the autonomy of Italian schools. How autonomous are they in terms of funding or specialization at the younger levels. For instance, given two elementary schools with drastically different levels of “English language advancement”, can the difference be attributed to a.) Funding, b.) Lowered priority for English, or c.) Something else. While I am no fan of standardized testing as a solution, I also believe that the focus of reform should be deeper social reform, as testing alone is not a deciding factor for success of schools or students. In VA alone, is there a correlation between wealth (or proximity to wealth) and school success (the definition of which is a firm ground with which to begin).
    Final question: In your paper, you should address the American mentality/paranoia about schools/education. Aside from economic crisis, is Italy worried about its education system too?