We introduced you to Mary Ann McCoy, a TESOL graduate who invited other educators to spend the summer with her in Italy to teach. One of those educators — Sara McCorkendale — shares her experience here.
We had 33 students in the summer camp program, divided into three age groups: First and second grades, third-fifth grade, and sixth-eighth grade. During the camp, I worked with the students at three different levels using a theme of “Traveling through Time.”
I helped to implement curriculum, organize projects and group activities, and worked one-on-one with students to learn English. The second- and third-graders were involved in learning basic words and concepts, such as directions, in English. The middle-grade students worked to improve their knowledge of English through sentence construction.
The older students were working on improved reading comprehension and speaking mastery of English.
The school itself was amazing. The kids got to play before we started at 9 a.m. At 10:15, they got a 30-minute recess and snack (fresh fruit, crackers, yogurt). Then camp got out at noon and the kids who wanted it got a healthy lunch, which the school also provided for us. Every day there was a pasta dish, a meat, a vegetable, bread and water. The students were allowed as much time as they needed to finish their plates and could ask for seconds if they wanted.
Three of the boys — Ricardo, Ricardo, and Achille — would set up the trays for everyone every day. After lunch, the kids got to again play outside until their parents came to pick them up.
Overall, it reminded a lot of what school was like when I was in elementary in the 80s. The kids were allowed to be kids; playing, showing affection. They didn’t have to go everywhere in a line; and if they needed to go to the bathroom, they asked. There was also one little boy who was [disabled]. The kids took turns helping him walk when he needed it and always let him lead at his pace. It was beautiful to see that caring and consideration from children.
My favorite moments were whenever I connected with a child. When they had to write their superheroes on their Wanted Posters, one boy (Tommaso) asked if Katniss Everdeen was a super hero. I said, “Of course!” Then he and I talked about books. He asked to stay in touch with me.
Another good moment was when I was working with the middle group and was able to finish the music from “Star Wars with them.” That made me cool because I knew “Star Wars.”
In addition to teaching at the school during the mornings, Mary Ann also ran an intensive conversation class for her adult students. [It ranged] from 12 to 20 students. Every night, we had students at all levels come to improve their command of the English language and expand their knowledge of American culture. Conversations ranged from legends and folk tales to educational systems and government to music and popular culture.
Overall, the experience was good, and I learned a lot about myself as a teacher. For so long, I’ve been the sole person in charge of my classes that I’ve forgotten what it is like to collaborate and work with other teachers. The language barrier also made it challenging but the adult students, especially, helped me learn how to better work with and teach them. I had to learn to slow down and talk more with my teacher voice even though it was a conversation session. It was an amazing and rewarding experience.
As for Italy itself, the best part was seeing little known parts of Italy and having a native tour guide in the person of Mary Ann. She took us to lots of amazing off-the-popular-tourist path places. Through her and the students, I felt as if I got to know and understand the people and culture of Italy.
I think traveling abroad and learning to communicate with other cultures is one of the most valuable things we can encourage students to learn. I hope to be able to work in that area and make the world a smaller place through understanding.