Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy store around here. I get to meet new people, speak a new language-sometimes!-and learn fun, interesting things about a new country.
But some of these things are just. plain. odd … for my American born-and-raised-mentality, that is-especially when it comes to the school system.
Here are three of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between Italian schools in Calabria and our schools in America.
1. Mr. and Miss Smock
See those cute, happy faces smiling at you up there? Now … see what they are wearing? Elementary school kids in Calabria-and in many places throughout Italy, I’m told-wear smocks to school every day. The Globetrotter Parent had a great discussion on the subject a couple of years ago and there are a lot of interesting opinions over there.
2. Saturday School
Once reserved in the US for the bad kids on the block, Saturday school is a way of life for Calabrian kids. Their typical school week is Monday-Saturday, from 8:00ish to 1:00ish, with a quick snack break in the day. Some progressive schools in Catanzaro were discussing eliminating Saturday school and extending weekday classes until 3:00 … until the teachers threw a fit about it and demanded to be let off by 1:30.
3. Homework Hostage
While the above two examples I only know from second-hand experience, I learned “homework hostage” the hard way. On Tuesday I went to my regularly scheduled Italian class and sat through three hours of intense Italian verb conjugation exercises. At some point, one of the other Americans made a comment about taking it home to review it.
“Oh no,” the teacher began. “You can’t take it home with you. That is mine.”
“What?” The American asked … her temper simmering. “What do you need it for?”
“It is mine. I need proof that we did work in class.”
So, after several rounds of “she said-she said,” the teacher’s boyfriend/husband/friend/bodyguard (mah!) jumps in. In true Italian fashion, every is talking at once and voices-and emotions-are raised.
Finally, I had a chance to speak.
“Paola,” I said as calmly as possible. “I understand you need proof, can’t you just make us a copy?”
“But why?” I asked.
“Because it is useless.”
“It is not useless for me,” I told her. “Italian verbs are hard.”
“Look,” she said, addressing the class. “You are in Italy and that is how it works here. You take homework home with you, you leave classwork in the class.”
Well, the scene played out for another half hour or so and ended with one student storming from the class, being blocked by the boyfriend/husband/friend/bodyguard and the principal coming in to check on the situation.
The next day I asked my retired professor/principal father-in-law if it was true Italian kids can’t take classwork home.
“Yea … sometimes,” he said, laughing. “Teachers are afraid if they take it home, people can see their mistakes.”
Well, the whole idea that it is more important to be right than to help a child learn blows my mind. So I prodded for more information.
“For example” my husband told me. “If I did a math problem at school and the teacher corrected it, I wouldn’t be allowed to bring it home. If I was sure my math problem was correct, I’d have to make an appointment with the principal and he’d get someone else to review it.”
So … what do you think about these differences? If you have children going to school in Italy, what other differences have you noticed?