Comparing Educational Practices – Weeks 3, 4, and 5

Hi everyone! I just finished the middle three weeks of my project, and half of that time was spent in Italian schools and half in American schools.  I wasn’t too excited to come back to the U.S. (Italy is so much fun!!) but I do have to say that I have gotten so much more out of volunteering in American schools for 1 week than I did out of 4 weeks in Italian schools.  In Italy, I was only allowed to help with English classes, which really limited my project.  Plus, there was a slight language barrier, because my Italian isn’t perfect.  I’m still glad I did part of my project in Italy because it was great to experience education in another country and meet so many new people!

I don’t want to make too many comparisons between Italy and the U.S. yet, because I have only been back in the U.S. for one week, but so far the schools seem very similar.  The major differences are what I expected from my research – Italian children learn a wider variety of subjects, such as English and Geography, but American schools are more organized and have stricter state standards.  One unexpected difference that I observed was that creativity is not encouraged in Italian schools.  The kids are literally scared to color outside the lines even in kindergarten.  This seemed very strange to me for the first week because throughout my own educational experience creativity was definitely valued.  Instead, the emphasis was on knowing the information well and being able to do their work quickly.  “Forza, forza,” which essentially means quickly or hurry, was something I heard every day while volunteering.

For my first week back in the U.S., I went to my former 1st grade teacher’s elementary school.  She is now an assistant principal in Fairfax County.  I am so thankful for her help because she took me all around her school and really explained how things are run at that school.  She explained that Fairfax County uses the Positive Behavior Approach for classroom management, and I got to see it in action.  All of the teachers discipline their students in the same way, and there is a sense of consistency even throughout different grades in terms of the classroom routine.  For example, every class, kindergarten through sixth grade, starts with a similar morning meeting.  The teachers adjust the level of difficulty of the morning meeting according to the grade.

During the last two weeks of my project, I want to research the Positive Behavior Approach and other classroom management models.  I will also be volunteering in a first grade classroom in another elementary school in Fairfax County.  I am excited to really be able to compare all of the schools at the end of my project!



  1. mvbenjamin says:

    I also did my project on educational practices, but at American summer camp, so the similarities and difference I see you talking about here are really compelling. The note about being afraid to color outside the lines struck a chord. I feel like coloring outside the lines is a logical progression from American practices and influences of the past. In my research on Transcendental theories of education, the emphasis on independent thinking is heralded as the be all and end all of positive educational experiences. It seems to me that these Transcendentalist thinkers, a distinctly American school, have influenced education even today. It compliments the concept of independence that shapes American ideas about success. Thanks for the post! It really made me think about the many different ways children are being educated in this country, but also the influences that remain relatively consistent.