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Opportunities to choose: Comenius!

We are learning all our lives long, no matter if one is a teacher or a student! And so… a different country - with a different culture, different people and a different style of living - can be part of learning.. Il racconto di un'assistnte Comenius che dalla Lituania è venuta in Italia per insegnare filosofia in inglese in un Liceo di Poggio Mirteto, vicino a Roma

by Inga Zuzeviciute, Comenius assistant from Lithuania

Learning is finding out what you already know
Doing is demonstrating that you know it
Teaching is reminding others that they know it
as well as you do
We are all learners, doers, and teachers

Richard David Bach

Opportunities to choose: Comenius!
We are learning all our lives long, no matter if one is a teacher or a student! And so… a different country - with a different culture, different people and a different style of living - can be part of learning: discovering yourself, accepting completely new things and maturing your personality. My international experience started in Malta, when I was having teaching practice there. This was a first step which had an influence on choosing Comenius Assistant programme. The latter was a great opportunity to live and work in a charming country and get experience in an activity I like. I couldn’t miss this chance. For me, Italy was an easy option, because I had visited it before and it was an opportunity to get to know it better, living there and not just staying as a tourist. And I was completely right coming here. I was going to teach Philosophy and Lithuanian language in Liceo Scientifico “G.da Catino” of Poggio Mirteto (RI).

Finding myself comfortable
I came in the end of September and was going to start having lessons in October. Of course, I held a contact with my coordinator before arrival, because it was important to get ready for practice and life in a new environment. My coordinator, Anita Francini, a teacher of philosophy and history, provided me with all kinds of information: about school life, teaching materials, local people, traditions, prices, nature in the area etc. It is very important to get in touch with a coordinator and feel secure about my stay during the assistance period. She really did her best to make me feel like at home when I came and I was very lucky having Anita as my colleague. She is a very charismatic person. I found myself in very close connection with her. So discussing about teaching, life in general, leisure time was always were productive, interesting and fun.

liceoscientifico.jpgColourful life in Liceo Scientifico “G. Da Catino”
I knew - more or less - what I had to do and how I was going to work. This made me feel sure. I knew my students age (15-18 years) so I could easy plan the lessons. Somehow, it is easier to deal with older pupils, because the majority of them is already “in their own direction”, they can easyly choose the things they like, they want, they need. I had four classes: 3AS, 3CS, 4AS, 5AS. Each class was unique in itself and smart. Students with their own goals and interests made me feel more creative.

First of all, I made a presentation of myself, my home country, Lithuania, and my culture, including a test-game about Lithuania, showing local money, flag and other features, architecture with power point, some movies, etc. Students also had a nice surprise for me: a welcome party with appetizers and cute presents. I felt welcome J This was my first day at school.

Later I began to teach philosophy, which I found very interesting with my students. It was something new for them… Philosophy taught by a foreigner seemed much more interesting. Only the language barrier in the beginning represented a difficulty. Philosophy is a peculiar subject with peculiar terminology. But I did my best to make it easier. I kept looking for synonyms to substitute one or another word. Few months later I joined Universita per Stranieri for Italian language courses which helped me to express myself in Italian and be understood. Besides, Anita, my coordinator, speaks fluent English, so if we needed any help, we always were able to turn to her for linguistic consultancies J

diploma.jpgMe and my students were collaborating in languages. They were teaching me and improving my skills in Italian, and I was helping them in English and of course in Lithuanian. Lithuanian language was a lot of fun for my lovely younger friends. It was completely different from Spanish, Latin or Italian. They were very keen and only few lessons later started calling me, greeting me in Lithuanian “Labas Inga” which means “Ciao Inga”. This made me smile and feel homey. In the end of the year I gave diplomas to verify their basic knowledge of new Lithuanian language and for their toil J I believe it is a great encouragement for them to seek new things.

School life was very lively. Other teachers (I like to call them colleagues) were very friendly and attentive. I like to say, this is how Italians are. In general, all Italians I met were very kind and hospitable. Somehow I felt like at home there. I am a very talkative and brisk person, so when my family and friends asked me: “How did you find yourself there?”, I kept saying “I am too fast for Lithuanians, strange, but I feel more free here”. J

I returned home to Lithuania for Christmas. So I wanted to create a special atmosphere at school before leaving. I made my own cards with greetings for each of my students. I like painting, so it was a pleasure. Every time I saw them smiling, I had a feeling I was doing things right. This was what kept me going. I still miss them.

New place, new friends, new sensation
Going by yourself to a place you don’t know is always a challenge... far away from home and friends. For me it never was a problem. I love traveling and staying on my own makes me feel independent. Finding new friends in Poggio Mirteto was not easy, because first, I didn’t speak Italian, and couldn’t find people my age. Colleagues at school were more or less 10 years older than me, with families. I was in good relationship with them, but still needed somebody about my age. School was taking about half of the day, so I had enough time after. But while by myself, I was not bored either. I found many activities to do: painting, doing sports, sightseeing, reading, shopping. Rome was only 40min away from were I lived, so I also visited museums, famous places and enjoyed the nice Italian weather. Everything was completely new, so having the right attitude you can never get bored at such place. Of course, there are some moments when you feel lonely, depressed. This is natural. But it comes and goes. Just let it go.

I found very helpful participating in Comenius meeting for incoming assistants organised by the Italian NA in Florence where I met other assistants with the same problems, living style and interests as mine. I also recommend fellow assistants to attend language courses, because this really helps you to speak native language, thus to become part of society and of course meet students from all over the world. Basically, this is how I met new friends in Italy and later found my stay in Italy more and more fun. I was also lucky, because my family and friends kept visiting me. I had a full social life: school, students, friends, leisure time activities.

While working and living in Poggio Mirteto, I was traveling as well. Me and my new friends visited many places in Italy. We were going together or visiting each other.

Since I am interested in arts, fell in love with Florence, Rome. Visited exhibitions in Milano, museum in Venice then Vesuvio, Naples, Senigallia. I had a small Easter vacation in Ischia island. Also went to Southern Italy, Bari and Monopoli where I was visiting my Lithuanian colleague, teaching English language there. We had a great opportunity to have an English lesson together for his students, who were 11-13 years old. I was able to compare teaching style and school system with mine in Poggio Mirteto. I like to joke that I have double teaching experience: in Monopoli with younger and in Poggio Mirteto with my older students.

My advice for future assistants is to be in touch with other assistants-teachers like you and to cooperate together, share your ideas, experience and just spend time.
This was a great and universal experience. I am very grateful for Anita Francini also the community of Liceo Scientifico “G. Da Catino” and my colleagues I worked with, Poggio Mirteto inhabitants.

Saying goodbye wasn’t that hard because smiling faces were showing me a sign “we loved you here”. I love and miss them too. Especially my students. Whom I want to dedicate this article. I came there only because of you! Make me and others be proud of your future my younger friends!!