It would seem that there is a dearth of English teachers in elementary schools in Italy, since schools are required by law to teach their children English, but most of them do not hire separate English teachers for the job. However, not every school teacher actually knows English, with the result that many elementary school children do not learn much more than their colors and numbers before they go to middle school, where they are expected to know enough English to read literature.
So, a man named Mike in Siena has created a volunteer program for American students to teach English to elementary kids weekly. I've been wanting something to fill my time more during the week, and I always want to meet more Italians and improve my Italian, so I readily agreed to sign up, and was paired up with my friend Ari to teach a classroom of 4th graders.
On Wednesday, Ari and I excitedly trudged over to meet up with Christina, our Resident Director, who was going to take us to the school so that we didn't get lost our first time. We have to take a bus, since Acquacalda, the neighborhood the school is in, is outside Siena's walls. Well, we ended up getting off the bus a stop early, so we wandered around a bit before Christina asked a construction man how to find the school.
But look at the pretty view we found!
Stop being pretty, Tuscany!
A picture of Ari taking a picture. SO META!
However, the shenanigans didn't really begin until after we were inside the school. We wandered around a labyrinth of brightly colored stairs and hallways for 5 minutes before finally finding the correct classroom, when Christina went inside to tell the teacher that we were there.
Ari and I stood awkwardly in the hallway as we heard Christina discover that the teacher had no idea that we were coming... no idea that we were volunteering in her classroom at all, in fact! Whoops. However, she was very amenable to the idea of volunteers, and she invited us into the classroom so that we could introduce ourselves to the kids.
Now, I hadn't been nervous about teaching at all until I stood in front of a bunch of (adorable) Italian children and realized that I knew almost no Italian. Crap. That's scary. But the kids were pretty star-struck by us, and were amazed that they got to talk to actual Americans. They actually knew a surprising amount of English (hooray!), and they asked us questions like, "How old are you?", "Do you have a dog?", "What is your favorite sport?" (I was nice and did not tell them of my disdain for sports, instead answering that I liked soccer, and got a big BRAVA! from the boys), and, the ever-present question from 8 year old girls, "Do you have a boyfriend?" (they are always oh so disappointed when I don't).
We go back next week for our actual first lesson, and the teacher gave us a theme of animals to work with, since they'll be working on action verbs and animals then. I'm very excited - I plan to play lots of games and sing Old MacDonald. Ari wants to teach them some Kanye...
p.s. Proof that I'm a fantastic American and watched the Superbowl at midnight!