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.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Italian Math--I Hate It

Today I am upset--because Casey is being demoralized, is in tears and I don't know what to do about it.

He is a pretty smart boy. Last year he scored 600 out of 600 on the California Math Test and at the highest giftedness level. I take that to mean that he has a pretty good grasp of mathematical concepts and processes and should do well academically. He came here with high self concept and confidence in his abilities.

Today he is feeling as if he is a failure, has little confidence, cries and lives in fear that his teacher will get mad and yell at him. The reason seems to be that there is extreme focus and emphasis on making numbers fit in the squares, the lines correctly formed and using the right colored ink for the appropriate digits. He spends inordinate amounts of time on each problem, erasing and redoing in order to have it "right." This slows him down and then the teacher becomes upset because he is slow and doesn't finish his work. At home with us, he can take 15 minutes to do one problem when he has 30 do to. At this point, he has forgotten his time tables, has trouble adding, and seldom understands a process. And he feels "dumb."

Left to his own devices and methods, he can do the work, do it well and do it relatively quickly. But, he won't do that. The answer is no longer as important to him as doing the minutia correctly. As a former educator, I understand the importance of process; math teachers should expect students to demonstrate an understanding of process. However, what this is about isn't process.

So--at this point we are stymied. Casey will not let us help him because he is afraid that we will tell him something that is wrong. He is petrified of not pleasing his teachers. I am worried that this particular experience will be a long time in being overcome as once self-concept is damaged it is difficult to repair. Fortunately, I know that he has a very caring teacher next year who is masterful with her students.

The irony is that Casey's teachers here are nice; they do care about him; they do write nice words on his work sometimes; they do tell him they do not want him to leave. They tell me how smart and quick he is. They are not mean or unloving. They are just teaching the way teaching is done here. The need for nurturing does not seem to be as recognized here as it is in the US.

Students who have had this approach since starting school, seem to handle it OK. But, Casey, who has always been sensitive to what he views as criticism, is faltering. It may even be that he perceives criticism when it isn't there.

I hurt when he does and for him. I wish I had an answer.

With this, it should be said, that when he is not overcome by this part of his life, he is fine, happy, content and full of vim and vigor. If you read his blog, KZ in Toscana, you know that. So--maybe this shall pass and once back in a system he understands, all will be well. The strangest part of all of this is that he is as likely to say he wants to stay here as say he wants to go home. I wonder what we have created?


KC said...

Poor little guy! Why do the teachers have to be so pignoli about something so superficial?

Jane said...

KC--funny your name is so much like Casey's blogger name--KZ. You might enjoy reading it. Thanks for your concern. It seems pignoli to me, too, but, I guess, it is the "right" way here. And--thanks for getting me in touch with your blog--I like it.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt Casey's self-esteem will bounce back once he gets back to California, especially if he's with a good teacher, faster than you'd think. Plus, now he'll be the Italy expert in the school which should make him feel good.

Dante is also struggling right now in school, only its with grammatical analysis of sentences (he's in 2nd). He has to write a sentence explaining what each word is, grammatically speaking, in detail. One sentence to analyze would be fine...but he had several and it took him a long time...then lots of math and a poem to memorize. It takes him about 90 minutes a night(with a tutor) to finish it. His best subject is memorization of poems... he always gets an "optimo".

Yes, I think it is more difficult for someone who has expereinced another kind of educational system to adapt to the Italian system. There's good and bad in it (the foundation they build sure seems strong, but doesn't leave any room for creativity, discovery, fun!!!)
Diane from expat

Jane said...

Diane, thanks for the commiseration! What Dante is being asked to do sounds like a lot for second grade. How long does he go to school each day? Casey is from 8:30 to 4:30 and so doesn't have that much hw each night. But--we have a tutor for him, too. I guess you guys are here permanently--right?