Scuola Toscana dietro le quinte: intervista a Valentina !

1. Perché hai deciso di fare l’insegnante? il caso o la volontà ?

Come succede spesso, il caso si è unito alla volontà! Ho iniziato a fare l’insegnante di italiano per stranieri come attività di volontariato e mi è piaciuto talmente tanto che ho deciso di provare a farlo come lavoro e così ho iniziato un percorso di studi per avere le conoscenze necessarie, e alla fine eccomi qua!

2. L’insegnante è un personaggio pubblico, quindi è geloso della propria vita privata. Ma puoi raccontarci qualcosa … di inatteso, di divertente, di interessante?

Promettiamo di non dirlo a nessuno…

Sono nata a Carrara, una piccola città sul mare, conosciuta per il suo bellissimo marmo bianco (quello del David!). Queste due cose, mare e marmo, sono dentro di me: il mare, perché con la sua apertura mi ha trasmesso la voglia di spostare sempre l’orizzonte e conoscere sempre cose nuove, il marmo perché sono tenace e testarda, o come si dice a Carrara “dura come il marmo!”. Corro al mare ogni volta che posso, in estate e in inverno!

Per il resto, guardo moltissime serie tv, sono gelosa della mia collezione di vinili e per rilassarmi ho un passatempo un po’ antico: mi piace ricamare!

3. L’insegnante è un personaggio sempre in vista: qual è il tuo outfit preferito?

Posso dire che in questo caso, decisamente non rientro nello stereotipo delle donne italiane, sempre eleganti e alla moda. Al contrario, non mi piace seguire le mode e preferisco portare vestiti comodi e semplici. Amo il colore nero ed esco raramente di casa senza i miei anfibi. Mi piacciono i gioielli, quindi metto sempre anelli, braccialetti e orecchini, che compro come souvenir di viaggio in ogni città che visito.

4. La domanda con l’imperfetto: come eri da piccola/o ?

Da bambina ero molto vivace, non stavo mai ferma e mi piaceva stare all’aria aperta: passavo le giornate insieme a mia sorella, i miei cugini e gli amici del quartiere fuori casa con la bicicletta e con i pattini. Anche da piccola amavo molto la musica: avevo una radio arancione con un microfono, cantavo e volevo l’attenzione di tutta la mia famiglia…poveri loro! Nei momenti più tranquilli, mi piaceva molto leggere: preferivo le storie di fantascienza.

5. La domanda col condizionale: cosa faresti con un milione di euro?

Semplice: comprerei una barca a vela e viaggerei per mare!

6.La domanda con il verbo piacere : cosa ti piace del tuo lavoro ? 

Mi piacciono molte cose del mio lavoro: prima di tutto è sempre diverso, non c’è mai un giorno uguale a un altro. Mi piace conoscere tante persone nuove e tante culture differenti. Mi piace pensare sempre a idee nuove, confrontarmi con i colleghi e usare la creatività, ancora di più quando lavoro con i bambini. Mi piace conoscere meglio gli studenti ogni giorno per capire cosa può essere più utile e allo stesso tempo divertente per loro e mi piace divertirmi insieme a loro. Mi piace insegnare perché imparo ogni giorno!

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! 

Step by step

When the students come in groups, they usually come for just one week, so we do not have time to present the city, the school, and the (infinite) the possibillities of fun and interest in Florence; therefore we prepare an information kit and hand it out on arrival.

Until now it was wrapped in a plastic folder (see pic) destined to be thrown away at the end of the course … but given that we always try a “green choice”, we have searched for a less environmentally damaging material, and found that for some cents more we can buy paper folder, with a pergalin window, which are more than suitable, and maybe even more elegant… you can judge !

It is nothing more than a small step, but it is nice to know that in 10 thousand years these folder discarded by the  Scuola Toscana students will not be still around…

Happy few in Pienza

 

A (very) special activity, for the students of the Corso Pluriennale, students who are at Scuola Toscana since many months and who have already been everywhere … almost.

 

And also an activity meant for the Tuscany addicted, who never grow tired of villages, cypress and altarpieces, a dreamlike midwinter trip to Pienza and Montepulciano, guided by the instructor Lorenzo

Last but not least, all these special activities are special also because we find always the time to enjoy the Tuscan food and wine.

Image

 

High season at ScuolaToscana

This is high season at Scuola Toscana, therefore there was not time to update this blog.

Sorry, we will back as soon as possible !

Meanwhile, as promised, here are the questions of the recent quiz we hold in Japan… try to answer if you like, next time the answers !

1.Millions of tourists come every year to Florence to see the statue of a naked guy. What’ s the statue’s name and who made it ?

2.Close to Scuola Toscana there is a narrow street named “via Torta”. “Torta” means crooked, and, as a matter of fact, this street makes a very strange curve. Why ?

3.Florence is well known in the world as a capital of Renaissance art, thank to huge investments of the family Medici.
Among these names, which one does not belong to any Medici ?
Alessandro
Marco
Cosimo
Giulia
Lorenzo
Anna Maria Luisa
Giovanni
Salvestro

4. One of the most importants dishes of the Florentine cuisine is the so-called “Ribollita”. Which is the main ingredient of the Ribollita ?

5.Which is the most Michelin-starred restaurant in Florence ?

6.Which is the name of the area close to Florence which gives the name to the most famous Florentine wine ?

7.Fiorentina is the name of the soccer team of Florence. When did this team win the Italian Serie A League ?
1968
1988
2008
never

8.Florence is also one of the capital of fashion. Which one of these fashion houses was not born in Florence ?
Cavalli
Gucci
Valentino

Have a try !

Scuola Toscana in Japan again!

Later than usual we were in Japan also this year; still a bit jet-lagged and after 2 hrs of Shinkansen from Tokyo, I was excited to present Scuola Toscana at the KCC Kobe Shimbun Bunka Center

Every year we try to find something new to present our courses: this year, thanks to Gerda and Gabriele brilliant idea, I presented a quiz about Florence; seven questions, ranging from very easy to almost impossible, and for every answer there was a small presentation of a “special course” at Scuola Toscana (art history course, fashion and design course, Florence discovery course, Internship course, wine and cooking course)

Given that two students finished on a tie, there was the suplementary final question (“guess: how old is the director ?”) to award the first prize (a bottle of Chianti…) The answer remained confidential, of course !

Last but not least, some further information about the school and Tuscan fingerfood for all the participants

… many thanks to Eri Nawate (Accademia della cultura italiana) who made it possible, and Minae Okada for the translation and organisation in Kobe !

Scuola Toscana : the movie

When a prospective student proposed us to shoot a movie about the school – for free, we did not give too much weight to the offer: many students are too nice and offer their professional abilities to us, and then they lose themselves in the beauties of Florence…

But when some months later Mrs Dawn Dubriel, from Los Angeles, CA., showed at the secretary of Scuola Toscana with a professional tripod – and an even more professional camera, we started to think that maybe there was something… after that, we heard that some of our students and teachers were interviewed – and then, we received a project for our interview as directors: we realised that it was for real – the next thing, we were in front of the camera talking about Scuola Toscana, Florence, the students, and so on.

Now, after the film has been edited, we can guarantee that the young Mrs Dubriel is a professional filmmaker – just have a look at the movie yourself !

Scuola Toscana : the movie

The only weak spot is us, the wooden directors, Mrs Dubriel tried hard but our performance did not improve too much, but do not worry: Scuola Toscana 2 is already in the works…

Scuola Toscana to the seaside !

ombrelloni
In spite of the odd weather (looks like we got a monsoon season in Florence…) we went to the Viareggio with our teacher Lavinia and had a sunny day !


Viareggio is a pleasant Mediterranean city one hour by train from Florence, with a nice promenade full of shops and beautiful, clean waters (note: clean does not mean transparent, sandy coast like in Viareggio means you can have cloudy waters; viceversa, sometimes transparent waters does not mean clean…)

Anyway, a good place also to take a bath, even if you are not a swimmer !

Thank you to Lavinia for the nice pics.

DALI Italian language exam evaluation, part two

We all agree that it is difficult to define the knowledge of a foreign language, very difficult to evaluate the oral knowledge of a speaker, and almost outrageous to claim to give a score for that.
The fact is, that there is a difference among someone who is barely able to present himself, someone who can have an everyday conversation in a restaurant and someone who can deliver a speech to an university audience.
And if you want to offer exams, you must have a transparent way to say it, to measure it, and given that the measurers are human beings, the way has to be the most independent and less biased possible.
The actual system of scoring in the DALI examination is already a good basis (see previous post), one way to make it better is to increase the grades of evaluation; where you have now four levels, can split them to arrive at six, like this:

OLD
statement formally correct or with some small grammatical mistakes (2 points)
statement mainly correct, with grammar mistakes which do not compromise the understanding (1.5 points)
statement mainly incorrect, and partially not understandable (1 point)
statement not understandable, or no statement. (0 point)

NEW
statement formally correct (2.5 points)
statement with some small grammatical mistakes (2 points)
statement mainly correct, with grammar mistakes which do not compromise the understanding (1.5 points)
statement mainly incorrect but generally understandable (1 point)
statement partially not understandable (0.5points)
statement not understandable, or no statement. (0 point)

This way, even if the experts continue to disagree as before, the wider score should “buffer” the differences and the final evaluation should result more homogeneous.
(end of part two of three)

Two worlds meet at ScuolaToscana

Tandem at Scuola Toscana: Japanese students of Italian language meet Italian students of Japanese language – it is a great opportunity to exchange conversation in the language they are studying.

Soon, we will do it also in Spanish !