Teaching Abroad: An Interview with Madi Errichetti
Student teaching frightens just about every education student—but can you imagine teaching in a foreign country, completely alone, in a brand new culture? For Madison Errichetti, this image will be a reality come Fall 2017.
Madison Errichetti just completed her junior year here at Cairn and is venturing into her last semester. As a Secondary Mathematics Major, Madi must complete an entire semester of student teaching; for Madi, teaching abroad seemed to be a rather unique way to liven up her last semester.
Teaching overseas is an avenue several Cairn students have strolled down. Whether teaching in a classroom in Germany, India, or Italy, Cairn students have left their fair share of international fingerprints. Madi was yet another Cairn student who decided to dip her fingertips into the paint of international student-teaching: “I love traveling, so I knew it was possible. So I decided I might as well apply, and once the ball got rolling, everything kind of just fell into place.”
For the first half of the fall semester, Madi will be teaching locally in Lower Moreland High School. From October 23rd to December 8th, however, Madi will be teaching in Como, Italy, a beautiful Italian location complete with the Italian sights, sounds, and food.
When asked how Madi selected Italy as her teaching location, she had this to say, rather nonchalantly: “I wasn’t feeling led anywhere specific. When I was asked, I requested Europe. I thought Italy would be cool, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if that wasn’t the selected location for me.”
But for Madi, Como, Italy was, in fact, her destination.
Student-teaching involves a heavy load of concentration, patience, interaction with curriculum, communication with a mentor teacher, and intentionality with students, all activities that require a well-rounded and driven individual. With all of this to say, Madi confessed that she has some of her own concerns facing these challenges in a foreign country: “First, I’m not gonna have anyone I know around me to ask questions…and I can’t come back to Cairn to sit in my professor’s offices and ask a lot of questions. I’m also nervous because I’ll probably have a diverse classroom with a lot of students from a lot of diverse cultures. I hope I will be able to respectfully interact with students from all of those different cultures.”
Apart from the adjustment Madi has to make in the classroom, living in Italy will introduce some of its own cultural challenges as well: “I am slightly nervous that it will be slightly difficult to adjust to the culture, especially since I will be there for an extended period of time. When I received training, what they taught us was to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible and to pick it up as quickly as possible.”
Teaching in a new country, complete with its unique and specific cultural qualities, will present obstacles for Madi. One hope for assimilating to the Italian lifestyle is the prospect of living with an Italian family: “The hope is that I will be living with an Italian family, so I hope to learn a lot from them. And when I’m not teaching or preparing lessons, I will go and explore Italy.” Living with an Italian family is one way to experience the culture, but exploring the city itself is where Madi hopes to especially grow.
Madi focused on the curriculum the school uses when asked about her goals for teaching abroad. She largely expects to learn a lot from the specific kind of content used in Italy: “They teach the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and I’m interested to see how that works because its popularity is on the rise. It’s focused on an inquiry-based learning system, so I’m looking forward to teaching that kind of curriculum, and seeing what works and doesn’t work.”
Madi hopes to interact with the curriculum, as well as build and cultivate relationships with the students while she is in Italy. She plans on determining which grade she prefers teaching while working with her students: “One of my goals is to determine which ages I prefer to teach, and to approach all of the grade levels, specifically middle schoolers who are harder to manage, with a positive attitude.”
Although Madi is facing a semester away from her family, friends, and safety within the Cairn walls, she admitted that she hopes to grow spiritually, and wants her faith to grow exponentially. Loneliness is sometimes a channel that directs our attention and focuses toward God, and for Madi, she hopes that while she acclimates as a student-teacher in Italy, she will use her independence to truly rely on God: “I don’t think I’ve ever gone anywhere completely by myself before, so moving overseas for seven weeks is going to be very new, and I’m assuming very difficult for me. So I’m expecting to grow in my dependence on the Lord, and I’m expecting to feel very lonely at times, and disconnected from my friends and family at home.”
For Madi, teaching abroad is more than just student-teaching; her semester will present a brand new and exhilarating experience, one that will sharpen her teaching skills, nurture her independence, and strengthen her faith.