ERASMUS + | Teachers on the move!
This November I had the great opportunity to join some classes in St. Mary’s Redcliffe School in Bristol and to visit an outstanding building, a free school, guided by qualified and enthusiastic teachers and attended by clever and smart students, of various religious beliefs but open minded towards questions about sense of life and faith.
At first glance I was astonished to see the big building of the school and all the facilities around it!
But the best came when I entered through the main entrance and then up to the floors and from there I could see the swimming pool, the learning resource centre, the laboratories, the learning support space: everything there for the students. My school in Italy is not a little one, but it is really well organised and the idea of giving space to each subject should be taken into consideration. Indeed in my school in Italy, our Collegio Immacolata, there is a big courtyard which hosts our students not only during breaks but also in their free time in the afternoon and even on Saturdays or Sundays. It is an open space with an arcade, fields for playing football, volleyball or basketball, where you can meet teachers as well as students. It is a very important “informal” space because students know that there they can speak with teachers or with the headmistress, who is always there during breaks and who likes meeting them, talking to them about their dreams, their interests and projects but also about their worries. Moreover, at Collegio Immacolata , there are the students who choose their tutor and all our system is focused on the student, as a person. Our courtyard is not only a space for playing and having fun but it is a free space where you can be listened to and you can ask for advice, it is the space which offers mutual understanding, opportunities for growth and where real relationships are formed.
At St. Mary’s each floor is dedicated to a subject: the Math floor, the Art & Design floor etc. and they are called “houses” because each subject has its own house where students go and live the experience of learning it!
The corridors reflect the subject hosted on that floor and you can really sense the process of learning. I liked the order and organisation of classes and corridors very much, I believe that the place where you live is part of your personal growth. I hope I’ll manage to let my students understand that respect, order and organisation are, among other institutional issues, parts of our mission to help them become the good citizens of the future they deserve to be.
I observed teachers preparing their lessons with accurate attention and the way they taught. I appreciated the way they inspire their students and the various tools they use. I noticed the type of questions they ask their students and the examples they give to guide them in difficult tasks.
It has been very interesting to see and compare but also reflect on the various teaching methods. Certainly my colleagues and I will implement some of these new methods in our lessons after this experience.
English students do not have a lot of books to take to school: at school they work on the IWB or on the Net. Their school year is divided in small parts and they work on specific topics each term. The
school gives them all the useful stationery and all of them have the same exercise books: no differences, no comments! They do not ask to go to the toilets, breaks are longer and well- distributed. They are used to queuing and they observe this peculiar English habit also when waiting for their turn to speak!
Each morning they meet before the start of the lesson: I find some similarities to our Don Bosco’s system there. Our school follows his teachings and meeting with students and families are fundamental moments for creating a community made of students, teachers and parents: everyone committed to the same goal. Meetings are moments to share common interests as for us: having faith is essential, and every faith is respected.
I walked among students and I noticed they were happy to be there. At my school students feel good as well. They say they are happy and that they feel as if they were at home. We pay attention to happiness and we believe that it is a good sign if we focus our attention on the educational mission, as well as the informational one. If students get better results in their exams and they are always happy we can say that school is able to connect teaching of subjects with the real life knowledge. It is extremely satisfying to be able to say that students learn to get their best results with joy.
Al St Mary’s students have lessons and breaks and then lunch together in or out of the canteen: we are lucky, we have the canteen, too, and also our students can spend some time together out of their classrooms.
Some of my colleagues have also experimented the way some of the teachers interact with the students during lunch and do some activities with them. It has been very interesting to take part in the debate activity.
I liked the room for teachers very much: some space for studying and eating together, just like a common kitchen. I think that spending time together, and sharing food is a good opportunity to understand each other. So it can come natural to deal with the students’ problems as a team and to take care of each student.
I understand that teachers are continuously assessed in England and this requires substantial efforts, but I also believe this can be the validation of teachers’ efforts and consequently of the whole school: a great community that works for the same ideal. This is what I understood even in the Headmistress’ words: she is proud of her school and her teachers.
The school in England gives a great importance to sport and all students can be part of the school teams. I hope in Italy we could value sports and competences, that are part of the students’ lives more. Sport requires students to be in time for practice and practice regularly if they want to reach the objectives they can reach. I think that sport can teach a way of dealing with problems that goes beyond the various subjects. I want to underline that I do not like classes formed according to levels and as far as sport is concerned I think there should be classes where students can help each other and give value to different abilities.
I was very astonished to find some students outside their classrooms and staying in the detention room. Detention is prohibited by the Italian law and in general we try to solve problems avoiding exclusion or selection but on the contrary using inclusion. This means we take care and look for good relationship with our students as well as their families. We invest time in getting to know each other, in assessment our students’ strengths, in guiding and following them in their life projects and allowing them to become the best of themselves.
As Don Bosco says we believe any young person, any person, is able to do well and in anyone of us there is an approachable “point” to achieve good results. What we follow in our school is the Precautionary System, and precautionary is the contrary of restrictive.
Unfortunately the English school system does not give much space to foreign languages and I hope next time when I come back again, I can find also a house of languages where students go and learn the different languages of the world.
We are sure there is a language we have in common: the language of prayer. From now on we list on our prayer also St Mary Redcliffe School, all students who attend it, their families, the teachers and all the colleagues.
We thank you very much for the opportunity you gave us to visit your school and to take home some very valuable hints for our future activities.
If we manage to be good teachers, we will be better thanks to you and your school!
Sr Chiara Ciol