Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Wild Animals

Lately, things seemed to be calming down as far as work is concerned. My three month teaching job over at the middle school is slowly coming to an end (it seems like anything that can last fourteen weeks yet continue from December to May would only be considered normal here in Italy). My private lessons are also slowing down, with some lessons getting cancelled here and there in what seems to be a sign of what will soon be the beginning of summer. My free time has been devoted to getting August's wedding planned and recovering from a month-long cold that doesn't seem to want to let go.

On Monday, however, that job that was slowing down sped up again, and I took over the lettrice position at the elementary school, which is attached to the middle school. The elementary school's lettrice left a few months ago, needing to return to England and not sure when she'd be able to make it back to Macerata. Since it's already so late in the school year, the folks at the elementary school spoke to the English school to find a new lettrice, and in a matter of about ten days, I was walking to school on a Monday morning in the rain, holding a plastic bag with elementary school books, a broken pink umbrella, and two stuffed animals in it. Yes, I was about to teach elementary school.

I think the closest I've really come to teaching Elementary school was that stint at the Civitanova beach two summers ago, playing "Duck, Duck, Goose," "Elbow Tag," and gobs of handkerchief games with a big group of nine and ten-year-olds who, by the end of the summer, were still waving and saying "Hello!" instead of "Goodbye." But of course I didn't include that information when I talked to the elementary school teacher about being the new lettrice, so they were happy to have me on board. I, instead, was half-terrified. Nine years olds? Eight year olds? Sitting at desks while I speak English with no translation? Where exactly would I start? Was "hello, my name is..." even in their vocabulary yet?

Monday went better than I thought it would, though, and by the end of the three classes (third, fourth, and fifth grade), I had not sent anyone home crying (my greatest fear, something that has already happened twice in the 6th grade class). I did get to show them the excitement of Antonello's puppet porcupine, So-Slow, and explain to them the difference between "Wild" and "Weeld" animals (Weeld animals only include crocodiles) while explaining that spiders and tigers are not normally considered pets. In the fifth grade class, we pretended to be ghosts and learned how to laugh in a deep "ha ha ha" tone and how to squeak like a mouse. And in the third grade class, as we listed different types of animals on the board, a smiling girl in the second row shouted out "a gnu!" Her classmates looked at her funny, but I just nodded and wrote the word under "hyena" in the wild animal category.

My favorite part of the day was toward the end, when the fourth grade students were introducing themselves. I asked them to say their names and then include " I come from Italy" or whatever their country of origin was. Italians, however, have a tendency to add an H before every English word that starts with a vowel--Antonello does it all the time, as my friend H-Erin knows well. So, while we went through the classroom saying our nationalities, many of the students kept telling me that they were from "Hitaly." After maybe the third mistaken nationality, I said, "Now I don't know if you realize the difference, but Hitaly and Italy are not the same thing. In fact, they are different countries entirely." I wrote Hitaly on the board and glanced up at the world map. "Hitaly is a country in Africa," I lied.

So, as students began to respond again, every time a student said they were from "Hitaly" and spoke "Hitalian," (which I explained was a language quite similar to German) the other students were quick to correct them. "You aren't really from Hitaly! That's in Africa, silly!"

I know, I know--this lie about the country of Hitaly will surely catch up with me, but watching their pronunciations turn from "Hitaly" to "Italy" added a little bit of spark to my day. Next time, of course, we will learn about the history of Hitaly, the country where everything starts with an H.



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