From January 26 to February 17, 2017, Saint Tikhon’s University students Eugenia Gromova and Michael Desyatov spent time getting teaching experience on an internship in Orsoline Sancarlo School, in Como, Italy. Ms. Gromova and Mr. Desyatov are studying for a Master’s degree in Pedagogy at Saint Tikhon’s with their specialization being in “Communication in Religious Pedagogical Culture”, under the aegis of [S. O.] Divnogortseva, Doctor of Pedagogy.
The Master’s degree in “Communication in Religious Pedagogical Culture” was begun in the Pedagogical Faculty two years ago. The main object of this degree course is to teach students how to collaborate and communicate with teaching professionals across cultures, and also to organize cultural and educational programs to acquaint and familiarize people from other countries with the world of Russian culture. These tasks were set before the students as they conducted their internship in Italy. Over the course of 3 ½ weeks, the Masters students attended lessons given by primary-school teachers, helped to organize the process of educating and raising children, gave lessons aimed at introducing the children to the geography and culture of Russia, including examples of Russian classical and folk music, folk dances, literature, and fine arts.
During their internship, the students communicated closely not only with the pupils but also the teachers at the school. They all studied the geography of Russia together, including the names and landmarks of the largest Russian cities, the county’s biodiversity, particular features of its climate, and traditional ways of life. The children were able to examine and physically touch pieces of Russian folk art: a matryoshka doll, precious stones from the Urals, a traditional zhostovo tea-tray, wood carvings painted in khokhloma style, and dresses in the style of the famous traditional textile manufacture at Pavlovsky Posad.
During the lessons on Russian literature, the Masters students introduced the pupils and teachers to Russian writers and storytellers such as Alexander Pushkin, Alexei Tolstoy, and Korney Chukovsky, and to the memorable protagonists of their works. The interest of the Italian schoolchildren was sparked especially by Russian folk tales and byliny (traditional Russian narrative/epic poems, often about mythological creatures, as well as bogatyrs or East Slavic knights-errant), including both their positive and negative characters. They not only listened to the fairy tales but also performed them on stage, and made entertaining games out of them in teams.
After becoming familiar with Russian culture, the pupils from the Italian school went on to create works of art: they coloured in matryoska dolls, created variegated designs and decorations on Russian Pavlovsky Posad-style dresses using the scratchboard method, and composed byliny of their own about the Russian folk-hero Ilya of Murom. And, of course, the students and teachers alike joined hands in learning and dancing the Russian folk dance called ‘Kalinka’.
A collective creative event was organized at the end of the student’s internship for all the pupils studying at the primary school. They undertook a journey into the Russian summer, overcoming various hurdles in the process (in the games ‘Hippodrome’ and ‘The deer has a big house…’), and even going to one of the oldest cities in Russia, Pskov (in the Russian folk game called ‘Golden Gates’). The wayfarers learnt how Russian peasants worked in their villages (though a staging of the fairytale ‘Repka’ or ‘The Turnip’), and relax by the river after their work (though the dance and game called ‘Rucheyok’ or ‘Small River’), enjoying the wide variety of Russian fruits and berries (as in the dance called ‘Kalinka’). The most interesting part came when the schoolteachers were challenged to show their ‘bogatyrs´ strength’ in a round of tug of war. The journey culminated when everyone climbed on board a ship with white sails, singing songs together. A lot of the games were carried out in Russian with simultaneous translations. The children had to memorize the words and gestures at once and afterwards tried to repeat them in full. The school’s teaching staff and pupils expressed their heartfelt thanks to the Saint Tikhon’s students for the interesting and informative lessons, and active and unforgettable holiday.
The internship yielded a lot of new and interesting things for the Saint Tikhon’s students, the pupils at the Italian school, and their teachers. Both the Master’s students and pupils learned a lot about the language. The children and schoolteachers alike were also able to get a sense of Russian culture, its traditions and special features, as well as learning how to communicate with Russians themselves.