venerdì 27 novembre 2009

English as bread and butter...

On November 28th, I will have been in Milan, Italy, for two months. Two months is not the sort of anniversary that requires a fancy dinner or a ring, but it's exciting nonetheless. Because I didn't start writing this when I arrived, I have a bit of catching up to do. Here's the story so far...

Who I am:
I am about to turn 22 (beginning of boring birthdays!). I was born and raised in South Carolina, terrona americana. I attended Smith College, graduating with honors and an English major and International Relations minor. I spent a year abroad in Florence, Italy, where I discovered adventure and self-reliance. I am lost in love with books and languages (though only two languages: English and Italian. If I knew more, I would be in love with them too!). I write short stories and think of myself as a writer, though I'm lazy about it. I have a very vague idea of my future...

What am I doing in Milan:
I came here to teach at two schools, un liceo scientifico Cremona and un istituto tecnico Zappa, as a native speaking assistent. I will work at them until May. As an assistant, I am never alone in the classroom, but most of the time I plan lessons and lead class conversation. I teach in 11 different classes every week, 7 at Cremona and 4 at Zappa.
To feed myself, I've also taken up odd jobs. I stayed with a family during my first three weeks in Milan, and I still return to their house every week to tutor their four children--Chiara, 16, Cecilia, 14, Tancredi, 10, and Caterina, 7. Chiara dislikes (perhaps "dislike" is too weak a word) studying English, but her mother wants to her to take an English proficiency exam called the First Certificate. Cecilia is more enthusiastic, perhaps because usually we just chat, chiaccerare, instead of practicing tests. Tancredi groans and rolls his eyes when we work together, but he can't hide how bright he is. Caterina is adorable and a bit of a terror, who likes our time together but really just wants to draw on me with markers.
The mother of the family, Elena, also gave my resumè to Chiara's high school, un liceo classico called Parini. I didn't expect much to come of it, but they contacted me to teach a preparation course for the First. I teach this class every Wednesday. Parini is famous for being ritzy, and I can see the difference in the students when they whip out iPhones or talk about their long summer holidays bouncing around Europe. My roommates have teased me that I should find a husband there, preferably with two last names.
Lastly, the teachers at Zappa asked me to teach a conversation course just for them. Every Thursday we get together in a little classroom beside the elevators and chat (sort of) in English. They make up for their open-mouthed, blank stares with a genuine desire to learn, a desire that I don't find as often in my teenagers. I generally start from a topic (an article we are reading, how to describe our personalities) and teach them whatever comes to mind.

I am beginning to find my place here after two months. I have a better sense of the classroom, how to cajole quiet students and settle down rowdy ones. I am not afraid to joke with them or look like an idiot (though after misspelling "uninterrupted" on the board at Parini twice, I've been more paranoid about making mistakes). Even with the stress and confusion of the Italian school system, I enjoy teaching. Who knows, maybe this year will bring me some sense of purpose, or maybe it will make me ever more of a vagabond...

1 commento:

  1. Ciao, Rachel. I am delighted that you have started a log. Your reflections on your meaningful experiences will, I expect, prove valuable to others, as well as yourself. You might consider sharing this blog with your Italian teachers back at Smith, especially whoever is organizing next year's JYA.