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A First Time English Teacher in Italy

The Italian Flag

The Italian flag flying high in Rome.

Welcome to Ally – a former ICAL student – writing this guest post. Ally began her  TEFL life after a career in banking; here she talks about her first experience teaching English which happened in a small town in northern Italy.

Living in Italy had been my dream for years, but I never wanted to go down the usual trodden paths – Tuscany, Umbria, Rome, Naples. Instead I really wanted to experience the Italian lifestyle far from the madding (and maddening!) crowd, and in less glamorous areas. So after finishing my TEFL Certificate course I jumped at the opportunity given to me by a small English school in Gorizia, North East Italy.

Now I bet you have never heard of this town, nor do you know it is in a region called Friuli – Venezia Giulia (it’s a bit of a mouthful, I know). Gorizia is on the border with Slovenia and Italy so you get all the cross-cultural influence as an added bonus. Actually I just learned that its name comes from the Slovene word Gorica  “little hill”.

As a first time teacher in my mid-thirties I was a bit apprehensive as I was packing my bags to leave for this “little hill”. I did not know what to expect but I felt fairly confident in my freshly acquired knowledge of sound teaching techniques and good classroom practices. So armed with that, and a few words of Italian, I landed at Trieste airport. There the school secretary was waiting for me with a bottle of Tocai – then a completely unknown wine to me but one that I soon learned to appreciate for its aromatic dryness. What a nice and unexpected touch, I thought. I couldn’t have had a better welcome. Later in my small flat when I opened the bottle to chill after all the travelling my appreciation grew even further!

But it was my work at the language school that really made my time a very pleasant one. I had researched teaching English in Italy on all sorts of TEFL blogs and forums and found mixed reviews. So now I want to give my version to encourage those teachers who like me want to challenge themselves, putting themselves in a new environment, dealing with strangers, learning a new language (I even started a course in Slovenian while I was there!) and embracing a new culture.

During my two years in Gorizia I taught 4 hrs a day, 5 days a week and after a stab at teaching young learners I was assigned all the business English classes, mainly on account of my prior experience as a business manager.

My students were very focused and motivated so I needed to work extra hard to prepare interesting and engaging lessons for them. The books available were run of the mill and so much of the teaching was down to me and my creativity. But thanks to my TEFL training I had a good idea of how to put together an effective course. My DoS gave me cart blanche and seemed to be happy with the results. The students attended my classes regularly and I had a zero dropout rate. I was quite chuffed about it considering that these were busy adults whose course was paid for by their employer as part of their standard training policy, and they had no real obligation to attend. The only negative was that the extra time I spent preparing each lesson was not paid for.

As for life outside work, I got to know a few ex-pats with whom I enjoyed the Italian ritual of getting together for an aperitivo before dinner. This is not your standard “glass of wine with a few peanuts” affair but a full blown buffet offered free of charge in every bar to accompany the customer’s choice of drink. Very often after these aperitivos nobody felt like dinner given how much we ate at the bar!

I also joined a local group of outdoor enthusiasts with whom I went on mountain hikes, and that did wonders for my Italian, not to mention my waistline!

Useful Links

Teaching English in Italy – basic facts on teaching in Italy

Weekend TEFL courses in Florence, Italy

My name is Ally and I’m British. I now live and work as a TEFL teacher at an Adult Education Centre in Wiltshire, UK. I switched careers in my mid-thirties and moved from business banking to English teaching. I have no regrets and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a meaningful change in their life. Just make sure you get the right training before embarking on your teaching career. I trained with ICAL TEFL but there are plenty of TEFL courses out there to choose from .. just make sure you get the basics right!

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