Squola - Center for Contemporary Italian Studies

Learning From Children: Barsanti Public School

Fatima Yacoob is from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and spent her Fall 2014 semester at FUA where, in addition to management, merchandising, and retail courses, she was also involved in community service through her Italian language course. Fatima comes from a previous background in community volunteering through experiences at a community center and a nursing home. Here she shares her involvement in the Barsanti public school in the Isolotto neighborhood in Florence, where she collaborated with English language instructors Silvia Saccardi and Silvia Macherelli.

Before this experience, I never thought studying abroad in Florence would give me the opportunity to teach at an Italian public school. I was a bit nervous at first because I did not have any direct experience in interacting with grade school students. The first day I walked through the gates of Barsanti, I remember observing the environment, from the wheeling backpacks to the parents driving past and dropping their children off. As I got closer to the main entrance, I began to hear children laughing which reminded me of my own grade school days. I was still in a state of nostalgia when I entered the classroom and saw all of the students standing up to greet me with excited and welcoming faces. 

My time at Barsanti was amounted to a total of six visits which involved getting up at very early on Monday mornings to arrive in Isolotto but it was worth every minute. During my time there, I taught Italian children about US popular culture, history, and climate (the area where I’m from, Wisconsin, was not one of the best examples!).

This experience of working with children who were from a different cultural background than my own, who also spoke a different language, has given me many professional skills. Communication skills, for example – I learned how to better communicate with children and submerge myself in a new host language. In addition, spending time with the students has caused me to place a higher value on my own family, cultural foods, and the close relationships in my life.

All in all, the experience was a great way to immerse myself in the Italian language and culture to an extent that went beyond living in the center of Florence.  


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