After completing the CELTA in August 2012, I set about finding a teaching job in Rome, Italy. I love Europe and I’m a capital city kinda gal and couldn’t imagine being based anywhere else in Italy and this made my job hunt harder, as there’s more people available to teach English in the big cities. Be wary when searching for teaching jobs in western Europe, as they’re harder to crack for newbs without much experience and even harder for non-EU newbs with no teaching experience. As a minimum, you’ll need the CELTA and most prefer you to have one to two years teaching experience, but outside the capital you’ll have more options and schools will be more likely to take on teachers with no experience.
I’d received two interviews and started working for a TEFL agency in Rome, who could only offer me one month of half-time work-barely enough to cover rent. A lot of factors combined to make me leave Rome, but teaching itself wasn’t one of them. The class I taught was great, but the agency was terrible. As a newly qualified teacher, the CELTA stipulates that all qualifiers need additional training to develop as teachers; my school gave me a vague topic (hospitality) and no teaching materials. I’d had no prior experience (besides four weeks on the CELTA) and there wasn’t even so much as a textbook, syllabus or any advice given! So due to my inexperience and newness, it took me two hours to plan my two hour lessons. I was only working part-time, but with the amount of planning (and I didn’t even know if my lessons worked well or adhered to the syllabus), this turned into a full-time job on half-pay. La dolce vita indeed!
On top of this my flat was a two hour commute from work. I’d let an elderly relative ask around to find me a flat in Rome, but in hindsight this was a mistake and I should have researched the neighbourhoods myself. It had poor transport links and so was impossible to get anywhere outside of the very centre of Rome. My route to school involved one slow 45-minute tram and then 2 buses in the countryside, amounting to two hours. The schools I was assigned to also happened to be 2 hours away. To top things off, I was living with a few immigrants to Italy, so wasn’t getting as much chance to practice my Italian either.
Another strange thing about my school, was that they’d lied to me during the interview. It was a small lie and doesn’t seem like much, but I thought if they were dishonest about the start, what could come later? The woman who hired me, pretended that all the other teachers who worked there were native English speakers, but out of a group of 14, I was only one of two native English speakers. Generally, to ensure quality, schools try and recruit native speakers and non-native teachers may have a harder time finding jobs, even though their grasp of English is almost always better (grammatically). She also lied and said I would get a lot of help to begin with, when none was given at all.
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent this kind of thing happening, but you can ensure you’re informed enough to minimise the risk. I knew what the job market was like in Rome for newly-qualified teachers but was still determined to make it work. Now in September 2013, I’m moving back to Rome but with a British Council job as a Comenius Assistant; my role, responsibilities and hours are set and I’ll be trained and monitored from the beginning. For me, this is a fantastic starting point for a teaching English career and we’ll just have to see where this goes!