A Teacher’s Diary – Episode #1

Teaching your own language to foreigners is, most of the time, one of the best experiences you can make. Not only can you approach different cultures and, consequently, new ways of relating to people, but you also end up having lots of fun in the process.
After 12 years in the field, I have now developed very useful skills on how to relate to students of different nationalities based on what I know they are usually more oriented to and what their expectations are.

When I train new teachers during their internships, they always end up telling me that teaching is very funny and enjoyable. Considering my personal style of teaching, they are right. 

Teaching is funny and enjoyable, most of the time.

Giving a seminar on Italian Gestures opened the doors to a whole new set of skills for me.

In fact, there are challenges and pitfalls you will encounter and, as far as I know, no teacher has ever become good at his job without facing them and, yes, sometimes, even getting hurt in the process.

First comes education

Having studied Psychology, many of the topics I have delved into referred to neurobiology, memory, attention, perception, social learning, group management and much more. 

So, when I first entered a classroom, even if I didn’t have a specific education aimed at teaching Italian to foreigners, I have immediately understood what tools I needed and how I had to use them. 

Though, later, I have discovered that, in order to make progress, a lifelong learning process becomes necessary. The study of Foreign Language Teaching is very important. Learning new techniques, new ways to teach structures and new words, all this is essential. It all starts with a good knowledge of Italian from your side, sure, and it becomes a very useful tool in your hands every time you enter the classroom. A good teacher is, first of all, a good and organized student.

In my opinion, if you want to succeed at teaching, the first step is becoming acquainted with some elements of Psychology and Foreign Language Teaching.

Be present for your students, communicate and reinforce your connection with them.

Though, if all the papers and all the education can give you the tools, once you enter the classroom and face your students, it’s up to you to “make it happen”.
A good teacher is first of all someone with good communicative skills. You could know everything about what to do in order to make your students proficient, but if you don’t add any human touch, if you don’t become relatable for them, if you don’t make any effort to be a living instrument of education, if you don’t offer them a safe space where they can feel free to make mistakes and laugh at themselves, you will still achieve your goal, sure, but you will still miss something.

Caring for the affective side of learning is a core skill that you must develop in order to become effective in your teaching.

A smiling student is, for me, a student who learns twice as fast!

No wonder, in fact, that the existence of what is called an affective filter has been discovered more than 30 years ago. It means you can do everything “by the book” but if you don’t take care of your students emotions, they will raise a wall so thick that none of your amazing teaching techniques will ever be able to penetrate it.

Still, as prepared as you will be, both with your education and with your psychological setting, challenges will come and the most important thing to know about it is that you cannot predict them. Whatever happens, there are a few tools you might use in order to win.

  1. Be open to change your teaching schedule based on the students pace and needs. You don’t need to rush things; always remember that a well-acquired skill  is better than ten skills whose function the student ignores. Aim for quality, not quantity.
  2. Be creative and brave enough to leave the path designed by the manual, sometimes. Manuals seem usually the best thing because they offer teachers all the lessons already prepared, audios, activities, grammar exercises. They come in handy if you have those 10 minutes left and don’t know what to do. Well, as perfect as they can be, they cannot take your place: it’s you who knows best what your students need and what activities they might like (or even dislike) more.
  3. Check yourself after each and every class. “Have I done everything I could?” is not the question intended, here. Not because it is useless, but because it is not specific. Focus on the proportion between grammar and conversation. Who has spoken more in class? How many new words have you given? Were they enough or maybe too much? How much effort have you done to make the students use those new words and structures in conversation? These are the smart questions that will help you improve.
  4. Look for chances to share opinions and techniques and suggestions. Whether it is those five minutes in front of the coffee machine or a whole lunch spent with your colleagues (especially the more experienced ones), always look for chances to share and learn something new. Maybe it is that activity you had never thought about or that suggestion that you never received: everything concurs to your own development and growth, whatever your teaching experience is.

Should you have any idea or any suggestion, or even recommendation, please feel free to share it here and to keep in touch with us! 

Caccia all’uovo!

Anche se il proverbio italiano dice “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi!” … vista la situazione, quest’anno passeremo necessariamente la Pasqua a casa in famiglia!! E dato che la Pasqua si avvicina, allora perché non organizzare una caccia al tesoro a tema con i vostri bambini?

E’ una versione di un gioco classico e molto semplice! Con poche cose e un po’ di fantasia potete organizzarla in casa vostra! E praticare, divertendovi, un po’ di lingua italiana…

Avete bisogno solo di:

-cartoncino bianco

-colori

-forbici

1) Insieme ai vostri bambini disegnate tante forme di uova sul cartoncino bianco. Poi decorate le uova. I temi per la decorazione possono essere tre: con i numeri da 1 a 10;

con i colori (rosa, rosso, blu, azzurro, verde, giallo, arancione, viola, bianco e nero);

con dieci diversi animali (a scelta tra ad esempio cane, gatto, gallina, mucca, elefante, rana, panda, maialino, coccinella, scimmia, pesce, pecora…).

Alla fine ritagliatele!

2) Mentre i vostri bambini non guardano, nascondete le uova in giro per tutta la casa…

3) Con i bambini stabilite delle indicazioni che potete usare. Ad esempio dei verbi all’imperativo (cerca!, trova!, va’! guarda! corri!) o delle indicazioni di spazio come:

sopra

    sotto  

                dentro        

davanti   

   dietro 

4) E adesso… pronti, attenti, via!! I bambini hanno 5 minuti di tempo per trovare l’uovo rosa!! e poi 5 minuti di tempo per trovare l’uovo verde! e così via fino a quando avranno trovato tutte e dieci le uova.

5) Alla fine del gioco ricordate sempre di consegnare un premio ai bambini!! è importante per loro avere  una gratificazione non per il risultato, ma per l’impegno! Basta qualcosa di semplice: un biscotto, una caramella, delle gomme da masticare, un lecca lecca o, per restare in tema, un ovetto di cioccolato!

Cari genitori, con questo piccolo gioco il Family Club vi augura buona Pasqua e se vi siete divertiti a giocare con noi, fatecelo sapere e magari mandateci qualche foto delle vostre uova!!

APERITIVO TIME

For every Italian the aperitivo is a very important tradition and a part of the everyday life. An aperitivo is normally an alcoholic drink with a light meal after a hard-working day, which Italians usually enjoy at the end of the day with some friends. While drinking it, a calm and relaxed atmosphere prevails and everyone communicates with each other and leaves work-problems behind them. In other words, it’s like a warmup for the dinner. In every town and country of the Italian peninsula you’ll find lots of bars and restaurants that offer the traditional aperitivo. The snacks that claim the aperitivo normally are salty and don’t replace the dinner. Typical snacks are for example, small pieces of pizza, meat balls, cheeses and a lot of other delicious finger-food. Initially it was a tradition that started in northern Italy, in the area of Milan. Time by time it spread out and now it’s all over Italy. Here in Florence, the aperitivo is also a very common thing and very loved by tourists. The special thing of the florentine aperitivo is that you can enjoy it while watching the sunrise all over the city, as there are a lot of rooftop bars that are specialized for the aperitivo. As the sun goes down thousands of colors spread awide and Florence looks like a kind of paradise. The only thing is that these rooftop bars are often fully booked and you need a reservation, especially on the weekends. So, if you want to experience such an unforgettable moment please make sure to have a reservation. If you are travelling to Italy one day, hopefully to Florence, don’t miss the chance to experience such a nice thing and don’t forget to stop a long and take pictures.

A day in Pisa

Processed with VSCO with x1 presetWhile thinking of Pisa everyone immediately thinks of the leaning tower. Last week, Scuola Toscana offered an activity to go on an adventure on saturday morning, namely to Pisa. We all took the train and drove to Pisa for approximately one hour. After that, Maria, a school’s professor took us to all the important and interesting places of Pisa. We saw different works of art and learned a lot about the history of Pisa. Maria gave us also different kind of tips for restaurants, bars and places to visit. We walked all together to the famous Piazza dei Miracoli where we all admired the worldwide well-known leaning tower of Pisa. Afterwards we all could choose whatever we wanted to do and got time for some shopping and to visit one or the other museum. It was a very funny and instructive adventure that we all won’t forget. Thanks to Scuola Toscana we got the possibility to see an other place, to visit it and to live it.

A night in a museum – Palazzo Vecchio

Everyday Scuola Toscana offers interesting and exciting activities led by a distinguished staff. On the 21st of May, Caterina, a school’s professor, brought some of us students to the fascinating and wonderful Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, which is the town hall of Florence. The tour started at 8 o’clock in the evening, and everyone waited excitedly in front of this huge palace. When standing in front of this building, I felt like being minuscule and the palace had a very powerful effect on me. We started in the famous and universally known room – Salone dei Cinquecento, the most imposing chamber of the palace. This room was featured by the sublime Giorgio Vasari on behalf of Grand Duke Cosimo I, who wanted it as seat of the Grand Council consisting of 500 members. Inside this chamber you can find hundreds of paintings and statues, among others also from Michelangelo. The rest of the palace served as residence for Duke Cosimo and his large family. The Palazzo Vecchio reveals a lot of secrets and mysteries when being there. It is a very amazing and wonderful palace, that for sure is worth a visit. These days, the palace serves as museum and as seat of the mayor of Florence. Visiting a museum by night is an unforgettable adventure and has even a bigger impact than by day. Once in your lifetime you must have experienced such a thing.

The Boboli Gardens

The Boboli Gardens is one of the worldwide most fascinating and beautiful park in the whole wide world. If you once are in Florence, the Boboli Gardens are a must and should be on everyone’s bucketlist. They are located immediately next to the Palazzo Pitti, which was the main seat of the de Medici family that governed the city of Florence for a long long time. The park is located on the south side of the river Arno, near the city center. You can combine the visit of the Boboli Gardens with the visit of Palazzo Pitti, so you can buy just one ticket for both attractions. While walking through the Boboli Gardens you can enjoy the tuscan sun and smell different kinds of citrus fruits and olive trees. The Boboli Gardens are decorated with hundreds of sculptures, small lakes and mediterrean plants. On the upper part of the Gardens you also have the possibility to visit the Museum of porcelain, which contains several outstanding examples of Italian porcelain objects. You will see landmarks as never before and feel like being in a sort of paradise. Tip: Bring something to do a picnic, lay on the grass, catch some sunrays and feel free.