May 21, 2013
Today we shadowed at Bergonzi Primary School. This has been my favorite day in the schools so far. I enjoyed seeing the children that I hope to teach one day (the preschools have been cool but repetitive and I don’t even want to teach preschool, so twice was more than enough for me…) in a school setting. When we came in, they were just finishing deciding a rubric for a paper as a class. That obviously gives the students some pride and purpose in their work. The students were working on what looked like a reading unit about some Greek mythology and Calipso. The teacher asked lots of questions about the reading and the comprehension to help the students make links and articulate their ideas. The students were called on to read – something that we are discouraged to do these days in the American classrooms. The children were held to a higher maturity level than I find that many American students are. The teacher did not “baby” the students at all. If they were misbehaving or got too loud during group work, she would clap her hands quickly or even rap on her desk and the students would get right back to work. Other ways I saw the teacher augment student responsibility was allowing a few students to take turns working at her desk. It placed emphasis on the importance of their work. The students were not afraid to participate in class discussion. Both right and wrong answers were talked about and were open for interpretation by the teacher and the class. This particular teacher preferred a project-based methodology. The students in her class do different projects throughout the year that help them to learn in a concrete way. The projects that the teacher showed us involved: first, creating a store to study different English words, a market economy, and math, among other skills and second, making up myths about the town’s historical symbols and making a book of their stories. What neat ideas! The projects are really intense and take the children at least two weeks of working everyday. I was so impressed at the work I saw. The students were so excited to show us everything they learned. It was obvious that this kind of learning solidifies ideas and concepts to the children. Also, I got to witness some really cool inclusion principles. Halfway through my observation, a boy came in with another teacher. Together, they sat at a desk in the back. The teacher assisted the student throughout the reading lesson. I saw her helping him spell, repeating what the teacher said in a different way, and things like that. This one-on-one instruction helped the student to be successful in a normal classroom. I really enjoyed shadowing at Bergonzi today. I made sure that I got the teacher’s contact information because she would be a great resource to have as I start teaching, especially if I want to implement some project based learning like this! Later on in the day, we went on a bike ride around Reggio. I love just wandering around, exploring everything. Biking is such a great way to get to know a city! I also mailed some post cards today! I hope they get home before I do! Oh, another thing. I had my first experience with a squatty potty today… Apparently they are supposed to be more sanitary because you don’t have to sit on a public toilet. I’m not buying it. The pee splashes. Ew.
May 22, 2013
Today we visited L’Arca, an infant toddler center. It was so impressive. The documentation struck me the most. All around the center were posters and drawings and charts and just tons of documentation for the parents, teachers, and even some things at lower levels for the students. I made tons of notes and scribbled all over my notebook. I was just so, so, so impressed. Much of what I read in the articles before the trip finally started to make sense based on this one preschool visit. Here are some bullets from my notebook:
- All of the preschool teachers at this particular center have a professional degree and participate in weekly professional development.
- The meals for the children are prepared using herbs grown in the center’s garden, are cooked and served in house based on guidelines from a nutritionist. I thought that was really impressive.
- The center has what they call an “Ambient Group” of parents and teachers that work to maintain the quality of the center.
- The documentation is always changed and updated based on what the children are learning
- The documentation helps teachers to observe how young children and babies can “talk” with materials (also a focus on the altierista)
- Materials are changed as often as possible to help children develop more. Part of the Reggio approach is to emphasize change to augment the child’s adaptation and growth
- Use natural and recycled materials everywhere. Materials are chosen specifically to help the children: for example, to amplify sounds that their bodies can make when moving
- Artsy mobiles made of natural and recycled materials help children to look up and catch light
- Even babies play with clay and their work is displayed to show that it was value
Unfortunately, the center would not let us take pictures but I wish I could have! I’m so worried I am going to forget some of the incredible things I saw. In my work with older grades, I think the documentation can be one of the aspects of the Reggio Approach that I try to emulate. Understanding the stages of children’s’ thoughts is crucial to help teacher’s to learn from the students and to figure out how to help the student when there is trouble learning.
Also, tonight we made an American breakfast for dinner! We made pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Our host mom said the pancakes were good, but heavy. I found that really interesting because I think the food that they eat is heavy! Anyways… cooking was interesting because the names for things are so different. My host family also didn’t have a measuring set. They just used regular cups and spoons for a cup and a spoon. Also, they don’t have the same kind of baking powder! They use one kind specifically for sweet things and have another kind they use for breads. Gio insisted we get the sweet one even though we tried to explain to him the pancake itself isn’t really sweet. Luckily, the pancakes turned out really good. We also found some really watery syrup at a supermarket. That was so funny to us! It was fun to explain to our host parents about some things about American culture!