We are continuing our series all about all the wonderful places around the world to travel as a TEFL teacher. This week it's Italy.
Enviably located in Southern Europe, Italy is the dream destination for work and travel for many aspiring EFL teachers. Spanning nearly 1,200km from top to toe, from the European travel hubs of Milan and Turin the north to the Mediterranean jewels of the south, including the island of Sicily, Italy boasts many attractive options for living and working. The well-developed TEFL industry offers a wide range of jobs across the country.
While many are attracted to the food, lifestyle, culture and climate of a prospective life in Italy, it’s also worth noting that Italy provides excellent work opportunities for those interested in building a career in TEFL. So even though it may be the lure of ‘La Dolce Vita’ which initially draws you to look for your first teaching job in Italy, it’s also an excellent place to develop as a teacher. With a strong existing network of private language schools across the country, alongside a growing emphasis on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and a recent drive to offer high-quality language provision across all state schools, you won’t have to look far to find a conference or teacher network to boost your professional development and provide you with support in the classroom.
Teaching work in Italy generally runs from late September / early October through to May, with a break for the long summer holiday. With this in mind, you’ll need to be flexible about how you’re going to spend your summers, keeping in mind that the best paid summer work opportunities are often to be found in the UK. This also impacts important areas such as negotiating accommodation contracts and budgeting for summer flights, so plan ahead and remember that a year of teaching work in Italy is usually, in reality, 8-9 months.
When it comes to finding the perfect teaching opportunity for you in Italy, many of the jobs on offer are with private language schools, where you’ll be teaching younger learners (YL), teenagers and adults in both groups and 1-2-1 lessons. These roles are usually a mixture of teaching on-site in your language school, and off-site at local state schools, universities and in-company. There are also a growing number of state schools who are employing EFL teachers directly, though often to deliver a specified number of hours on specific courses (PONs). With this in mind, many teachers in Italy often go freelance over time, but this tends to happen after they’ve established themselves in a city and built up the language skills needed to negotiate their work in Italian!
It’s worth keeping in mind that international exams are extremely popular in Italy, so with all of these options you can expect to be teaching preparation courses for some of the big exams like the Cambridge Main Suite, IELTs and Trinity.
Top Tips from in-country experts
We asked our local experts their top tips for any EFL teachers considering a move to Italy:
Embrace the pace of life. Things move slower here, and don’t always work quite as you might expect, and there’s very little you can do about that. Something that might take you a couple of hours to sort out back home can take a lot longer here and it’s better to just embrace that than to get stressed out about it.
Remember that students here like to talk. Without wanting to stereotype, Italians are generally a pretty communicative bunch and they’ll be looking for lots of speaking in your lessons. The state school system tends to give them a very grammar focussed approach, and in general your students will generally have pretty good language awareness, so what they want from you is lots of opportunities to speak and use their language.
Watch out for the winters – especially in central and southern Italy. Up in the north, you’re probably expecting some cooler weather and the houses there are built for it. But winters can get chilly in other parts of the country too, and the further south you go it’s not always standard for houses to have any kind of heating, which can make a very reasonable 13 degrees feel pretty cold if you’re not prepared for it.
Get out and explore. Italy has so much to offer, from beautiful beaches to mountain villages, cosmopolitan cities to ancient history, so remember to make the most of having all those things on your doorstep. Once the school year gets going, it’s easy to fall into a routine of working and doing similar things every weekend, but try to take opportunities to get out and explore the area. With great domestic flights and lots of options for rail, bus and boat travel, as well as opportunities for car hire, there’s no excuse not to get out and see the Italy that drew you here in the first place.