ERASMUS + | A good learning opportunity

During the Erasmus Plus project, I had the privilege of visiting St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in Bristol, a Church of England voluntary aided institution founded back in 1571.  Ranked as outstanding by Ofsted inspectors, this secondary school is home to over 1500 students from the ages of 11 to 18.

One of the fundamental aspects of the school is how it “views policies through the lens of Christian values” and indeed St. Mary’s welcomes all denominations and even gathers under one roof at least once a year at the nearby St. Mary Redcliffe Church.  What a wonderful message this conveys; students from all walks of life who attend a communal mass even though some do not actively participate. Brilliant! And coming from an Italian Salesian school, I was also impressed by the tutor groups which meet on a weekly basis to worship and discuss various Christian values much like we do at our own school.

Throughout the course of our visit, we were accompanied by the friendly and may I say witty chaplain of St. Mary’s, who gave us a guided tour while illustrating various aspects of the school. I was struck by the rigor of the school’s security and its organization -visitors and teachers need special passes to access various classrooms and facilities and the school itself has five houses, each located on a different floor. I also learned that each house is mixed with students of different ages which are usually based on friendship groups as well as family members, so that brothers and sisters can stay together. The school has a broad curriculum from which to chose  and the division of the school hours are ingenious for they allow both the teachers and the student’s some breathing room.

I was able to visit a year seven maths lesson in which I introduced myself and explained the purpose of our  visit. I found the students to be very ingratiating and curious to know what Italian schools were like. They asked a lot of questions and answered a lot of mine. It was interesting to watch them interacting in the classroom in peer groups while they actively participated in math games, maintaining an acceptable noise level and never getting out of hand. Despite the numerous class size, the teacher had a firm grasp on the class and catered to the individual student’s needs.

I also had the opportunity to visit a year eight French class and view the students in action. The lesson was active and fast paced with the teacher switching to different activities every ten to fifteen minutes or so. The classroom was equipped with an overhead projector and its walls were covered with posters of every kind; I felt immersed  in the language and

I realized that this was the type of environment that I would want in my classroom back home.  I secretly “stole” some teaching techniques that I promised myself that I would implement: such as having each student speak while being handed an invisible microphone, post-its which suggested the noise level of the activity (silent to loud etc.) as well as how the teacher would call on students or have students call other classmates based on their register number.

In closing, I can safely say that the headteacher, Mrs. Elisabeth Gilpin, runs a tight ship. She and her courteous staff made us feel at home and went out of their way to show us around their lovely school. I appreciated the school’s attention to attitude, effort and behavior.  I found that the teachers were well prepared and that the students were polite and very well behaved.  A big thank-you to all for making my visit a memorable one!

Job shadowing, that is, on the job teacher training in two separate English schools, certainly highlighted the similarities and differences between our education system with respect to the English one.  And this, naturally, is cause for reflection.  Italian schools undoubtedly have a rich literary tradition, they boast pedagogical achievements that the whole world envies, and it is for this reason that we should not lose sight of them. Nevertheless, exchanging ideas with people of different cultures and pasts, allows us to forsake clichés and/or provincialisms and to appreciate what is different while strengthening our sense of belonging to our country and to its traditions.


Teacher Mary Milan

Sr Marta Checchin

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