09 November 2011

Young One's Italian Education Continues This Year

We met with Young One's primary teacher this week; she has five teachers, you know. We've never actually taken the opportunity to schedule conferences with the other teachers. I mean, really, the physical education teacher teaches every kid in the school...I don't think he wants to spend his time chatting it up with a couple of foreigners about their seven year old's athletic prowess. We figure no news is good news from him and both the religion and art teachers. The English teacher's fluency is a bit of a mystery, so it's just best that we keep away from her too, for now. I'm sure she's perfectly lovely even if my seven year old mocks her pronunciation (one, chew, tree). Ahem.

This conference was much like previous ones, taking place at the end of the day in small room with ceilings higher than its width and the oddly-tall walls adorned with both the Madonna and a sizable crucifix. I suppose if the news is bad, there is help instantly available...alas, things didn't go badly. With such little change in the educational environment, I didn't expect any surprises.

Young One attends the same school in the same classroom with the same teacher and the same classmates. This year they all tackle second grade together. Next year, it's third, and so-on until the final fifth year.

The maestra in her full habit sat across the desk from us and spoke informally of Young One's progress. She offered no collection of work, no tangible portfolio, no conduct chart, no list of grades ... just anecdotal accounts of strengths and weaknesses in general terms. She was in a good mood this time, but we learned nothing new.

Luckily, we aren't hungry for grades, for assessments. Each Friday notebooks and papers are brought home for us to review, but, honestly, I often can't make heads or tails of the actual assessments from the teacher. I can't distinguish between an "Ottimo!" and a "Brava!" or what makes some work worthy of a "10," while other work earns an "8.5." I don't quite understand the difference between "scheda" and "verifica" and "prova." I know the meaning of all of these words and numbers, and I've asked for clarification from Italian teacher friends. I still can't quite fully comprehend them in this context. I understand the errors that are marked, but I don't understand the complexity of the accomplishments as well in this foreign environment.

 It doesn't matter. What matters is that my kid likes school. She likes it a lot. Her teacher seems to understand her as she has pinpointed her weaknesses exactly, which aren't all directly related to academic achievement. She can read very well, but math is her greatest strength.  Could it be the universal language of numbers? She now knows the parts of a plant and leaf classification in two languages, though she professes she hates science. She respects her peers and is a trusted volunteer who sets the tables in the cafeteria before school each morning. She has friends (and I think a nemesis), and trades snacks during the break, while playing rounds of Mamma Casetta

A large sweet potato she brought in a few weeks ago is growing both roots and stems beyond measure, and this strange American vegetable is garnering positive attention in comparison to the paltry European potatoes whose roots apparently aren't as prolific. She sings songs about the multiplication tables, and she has three speaking parts in a play that the class is rehearsing. She's learning prayers, knows the history of the rosary and All Saint's Day, and considers her teacher her "third mother," after me and Mary, of course. Of course! Her newest obsession concerns natural disasters, like landslides, floods, and earthquakes, and ways to remain safe in their paths. Her teacher is from Genova, so this is not surprising.

She likes her teacher while simultaneously being afraid to disappoint her or "to make her yell." It's a delicate balance that's being achieved, for now. I think.

She wants to go to school. She is learning. She is behaving. She is healthy.
She is hungry to learn.
This is all I know, and all I need to know.

Brava, Ottimo, Scheda, Prova, 10 ... chi sa?



  1. My daughter goes to an American school with an American teacher and I still can't figure out why some work gets a check and other work gets a check plus and other work just gets a smile. It's all such a mystery, but I think you're right: the important thing right now is that they're eager to learn and they like school.

    Oh, but tell your Young One that last week they had an earthquake AND a tornado AND a flash-flood warning all in the same time in OK. You might have to make a pit stop there this summer!

  2. I always enjoy reading your humorous accounts of young M's (catholic) italian education!
    btw, my husband calls them all (scheda, prova, verifica etc) "exams", which adds to the confusion here.

  3. Emily,
    It can all be so confusing, can't it? This is why I try to keep perspective and focus on the fact that she likes school & be happy about that.
    Humor? Me? Really? I did it. I try so hard some days.

  4. i am soooooo with you on this one, dana. grade 1 and i am whipping out google translate to ensure i am explaining directions okay. while trying to figure out why some things have been marked at a 9 and everything else 10. but i hear my little guy talk with such love for his teachers and ... it makes it all worthwhile in the end. that and my ever growing envy of his language acquisition!