Samantha Bos – Final Thoughts on an Awesome InternshipRome Internships, Spring 2012
This past Friday was my last day of my internship and now that I have finished I am looking back at all that I have learned and all my experiences and I must say that choosing to do an internship is one of the best decisions I made while here in Rome. My internship was in an Italian high school and I worked primarily with the English teacher to help the students practice their English. For people who do not have a strong Italian background, this internship option is great because you speak almost exclusively in English. I know of teachers at other schools who tell their intern on the first day to pretend that they don’t know any Italian so the students will be forced to use English if they want to communicate. And trust me, the students want to communicate very badly. I promise you, especially on the first and last day of class, you will feel like a superstar when you tell a classroom full of teenage Italians that you are from America. Once I told my students that I was from Texas, every single one of my classes (I worked with 4 throughout the year) would ask me about the cowboys at that point. The students are really interested in American culture and they have seen a lot of American movies and television programs and really want to know if what they see on the television is what it is like in real life.
I was very lucky in my placement because my teacher always tried to use me as much as she could to get the students talking in English. The students that I worked with, in all four classes, did not have strong English skills and so days when I was there were devoted mostly to talking and trying to develop more of their vocabulary. I know for a lot of interns, the teachers will continue to teach their typical English literature class (similar I believe to American literature classes) and the interns were called on to help explain grammar or some literary point in the novel. For me, I was there to get the students talking. You could tell that even the students who typically were not the most motivated students would make an effort in English because they wanted to tell me something or ask me something and my Italian is not good enough for us to use solely Italian. Oftentimes our conversations would be a mesh of Italian and English, both sides trying to use what they knew so that we could communicate.
I feel that I should mention for all people thinking about doing an internship (do it!) and especially those who want to go into the schools that you will experience a bit of culture shock in the beginning. Of course just being in Italy you will experience culture shock, but when you throw yourself into a purely Italian establishment, expect to find some surprises and some major differences between the American and Italian ways of doing things. For example, I was warned going into an Italian school that the students tend to be more rowdy and the teachers less prepared than their American counterparts. Perhaps because I went to a school that centered on pedagogy and consisted primarily of girls, I did not encounter as many rowdy teenagers as other interns but I did see that Italian teachers are much more relaxed and flexible in their lesson plans. Oftentimes my teacher would come in and say, I think today we should talk to the students about such and such. Unlike many American teachers, the Italian teachers are not worried about teaching to some standardized test (although the graduating seniors do have a major end of year exam they stress out about) and are therefore more willing to let the needs of the class dictate the lesson for the day instead of what needs to be covered for the end of year exam.
My post-graduate plans involve becoming a high school teacher and this internship really helped me understand exactly what I would be getting into after I graduate. I experienced for the first time the frustrations of a boring Friday afternoon class from the point of view from the teacher and I saw how she managed a group of 20-some students who clearly wanted to be doing other things. Also in all Italian schools, there is a policy of total inclusion and so all of the special needs students (including two students who were autistic and one who had mild MR) participated with the rest of the class. This brought special challenges as my teacher and I tried to balance the needs of the special needs child with the needs of the rest of the classroom. There were definitely some challenging days working in this internship, but it is an experience that I would not trade for anything. Like I said at the beginning, choosing to do an internship has been one of the best decisions I have made and is a great opportunity that IES offers that I think everyone should take advantage of. Even if teaching is not exactly what you want to do, there are a million other options including working in businesses, in museums, for theaters or restaurants and a million other places. If you have the time, I would highly recommend at least checking out what is out there. Trust me, you won’t regret it. I certainly didn’t.
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