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's Play Area
Casey and His Friends Gabriela, Kiara and Little Brother, Leo
Gabriela is "in love" with Casey
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!