God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Casey the Italiano Ragazzo

Well--not really. Becoming what you aren't is difficult, even at 8. Sometimes I think that we have asked too much of Casey--spending eight hours a day in a classroom when not understanding the language expects a lot of a child--even a very bright one. The amazing thing is that he does not seem to be discouraged at this point. Although tonight he did talk about how hard it is to not understand anything that is being said--and some tears did fall. It was as if things have been building up and needed release. I only hope that what I have been told by many people who have traveled this road before is true--that by Christmas things will begin to fall in place. I fervently pray for this!

Actually, last night I had a taste of his day and, I must admit, came away with a new appreciation of his experience--which is probably why I hurt for him tonight. The equivalent of the Back-to-School-Night tradition in the states was held and so for almost 2 hours I sat at his desk and listened as his two teachers talked non-stop--and I had no idea what they were talking about. While listening, I tried to make some sense out of the sheets of paper hanging high on the walls with math examples, language lessons, etc. And I wondered how Casey copes with any of it. Not only is the language strange but math is done entirely differently than the ways he has learned--so even in a subject in which he excels, he struggles. I look at the work he brings home and just turn it over to Ken as I can't figure it out.

I do know that we will have an increased appreciation for schools in the United States when we return--how well they are equipped, the training our teachers have and the opportunities that children have for diversity in instruction. Casey's classroom has one small black chalkboard--not a room with large clear white boards for colorful markers. There is no equipment in the room--televisions, vcr or dvd players, tape recorders, math manipulatives, etc. etc. etc. There are no computers in the room and only 8 working ones in the "computer lab" which the children go to once a week. There is no classroom library, no activity centers, no........

Teachers here have not had the training that is deemed so important in the US--training that takes advantage of what we know about how children learn. Such as--we know that to be as effective as possible, it is important to change teaching focus and activity every 20 minutes or so. In Casey's class, at least according to him, they can spend up to 2 hours on a single subject. I am pretty sure the whole time is spent sitting in a desk, listening and practicing rather than participatory, hands-on learning designed to address varied learning styles.

Now--I do want to clearly say that teachers do care and that the instruction is purposeful and ultimately effective as Italian children do learn and grow and are successful. It is just that the joy and fun in learning is missing and that the process makes learning harder than it needs to be. As an educator, I did a significant amount of teacher training and spent many hours observing classrooms and so I itch to offer some of the same training here. I could tell last night that both teachers have a heart for what they do and truly like the children--they just need to be given opportunities to develop and grow their gifts and skills. They need the tools of classroom mangement techniques and they need to learn the advantage of having a partnership with parents in the educational process.

Update: I wrote all of the above last night and need to tell you that this morning Casey jumped out of bed when the alarm rang, was dressed in 2 minutes, had his bed made in 4 minutes and was sitting at the breakfast table while I was still just climbing out of bed. With smiles and laughter, he was ready for another school day. I truly do believe that in spite of the difficulties, God is doing what prayers have asked--keeping Casey positive and helping with the challenges he faces. He talks with God and has a little devotional each day before school--this is important to him and he doesn't want to leave the house without this being done. His faith is inspiring to me.

But--school is not all that fills Casey's hours--which turn into very long days. Twice a week he takes karate at the local sportivo. He had a hard time choosing between soccer and karate as he has done both back in the states. He tried both here and ended up choosing the karate which I think was a good choice for him. He has three incredibly outstanding instructors. One has been a 4 times world champion and Olympian; another has been the national champion and the third has some championship background but I'm not sure what. Casey loves the moves and seems to do quite well. He should have moved up the belt level quite far by the time we leave.


These classes are from 6-7 two nights a week--Tuesday and Friday. Plus now he is starting tutoring in Italian and help with homework two hours a week--Saturday mornings and Wednesday after school. This is all on top of his 8:30 to 4:30 school day (with time for a gelato on the way home.) Next week, he is going to a friend's house after school and having another friend come here on Saturday. So--his life is quite full.

Casey and His Friend Tommaso
Casey's Play Area


Casey and His Friends Gabriela, Kiara and Little Brother, Leo
Gabriela is "in love" with Casey


When doing none of the above, he may go to the cinema on Saturday, spend time riding his razor scooter around the property--Uncle Jeff sent it to him last week and he was so excited to get it--,


play with Camilla or go on excursions with us-- not usually his most favorite things to do, I might add. Although tomorrow evening we are going to a goat farm to see the animals come in from pasture--which he will enjoy. This is a cashmere producing farm so I may well buy a warm scarf or two--which means I, too, will enjoy the adventure.

This is a small glimpse into Casey's life here in the Chianti--more will come as the year continues to unfold. I understand that there is a classroom somewhere following Casey's adventures and so I hope they have enjoyed this little snapshot of his life. Soon he will start his own blog called KZ in Toscana--but, my hunch is that he won't have the time to update it often. For as you see, his days are quite full!

6 comments:

Chiocciola said...

Jane,

What a neat and interesting update on Casey and school life - enjoyable reading. I am sure he already understands so much more than at the beginning. Your observations on teaching styles etc. are also very interesting; having gone to school/university in three different countries, plus taught for one year, I find the topic fascinating - if I were in Italy I would stop by for a good discussion!

Jane said...

Melinda, I have chosen not to publish your comments as they were much too long, and, as an educator, I disagreed with much that you said--while agreeing with some. It is much easier to have ideas in a vacuum when your child is not involved. If you wish to continue a discussion, that is fine but do so through my e-mail address.

kloeamongtheturks said...

Hi,
I've been reading your blog for a few months now, as we are in a similar situation as you. We just moved to Turkey for a year with two boys, age 5 and 8 (and we're from SD too!) My 8 year old is also in full immersion Turkish school, although it is private, and is facing the same issues as Casey. My son cried alot the first few weeks, but is adjusting now. We have also sat through long parent meetings and not understood much. Thanks for sharing and if you ever come to Turkey, look us up!

kloeamongtheturks said...

Hi,
I've been reading your blog for a few months now, as we are in a similar situation as you. We just moved to Turkey for a year with two boys, age 5 and 8 (and we're from SD too!) My 8 year old is also in full immersion Turkish school, although it is private, and is facing the same issues as Casey. My son cried alot the first few weeks, but is adjusting now. We have also sat through long parent meetings and not understood much. Thanks for sharing and if you ever come to Turkey, look us up!

Jane said...

Kloeamongtheturks
Thanks for sharing your experience. Where in Turkey are you? We loved our travel in Turkey and very much hope to return some day. If you care to, I would enjoy an e-mail correspondence. My address is in my profile.

daniela said...

Hello,
My brother (37) just remarked only today, something like this "Mum and Dad had no idea that taking us to Italy (me 8, him 9) would create the foundations for the people that we always wanted to become. I'm 36, and in my travells the young adults (my peers) who'd travelled as children, to far away places for long periods, were the best 'adjusted' growing grown-ups that I knew. The kind of adjustment that your grandson is experiencing is so healthy because he will get to see results fast. He may panic here and there, but his rewards will fly at him, and he'll create them himself. My brother and I have always been extremely resourceful and we attribute it to lots of OS travel as kiddies.

Your boy is a lucky fellow!

DMB