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Teaching English in Italy: A Job in a Public School

Teach English in Milan, Italy

Don’t bother going to Italy," said Robin, my ESL tutor at International House. "You'll never find a job. Why don't you try Kiev?"

Not one to be easily discouraged, I promptly headed for Milan, and within three days I had job offers from three language schools. I simply looked for language schools in the phone book and faxed them my resume. In fact, getting a job had never been easier.

Obtaining the necessary paperwork to get paid, however, was more complicated. I left the local questura (government office) with a stack of paperwork to fill out and no clear answers. After about as much effort as it took to fill out my income tax forms, I had what I needed to get paid—a 6-digit tax ID number.

An Italian friend patiently explained, "Rules are not meant to be followed, every Italian knows that. You must find a way around them. You Americans give up too quickly."

As a foreigner teaching English, I am a learner as much as I am a teacher. I understand what my students are dealing with in their fears and frustrations about learning a new language—because I am also dealing with this, but from the other end.

My students are business people and students, young and old, at varying levels of proficiency. Gilda is an oil tycoon's daughter with bodyguards; Francesca is the young, unhappy wife of a high-powered company director. I teach a Romanian student who is simultaneously learning Italian in order to make a better life for herself outside of economically shattered Romania. In the evening I teach a group of theater employees who bring their Mac laptops to class.

Work opportunities abound for English teachers in the big cities of Milan and Rome as well as smaller places in the south. Although not a necessity, for your own peace of mind you may want to invest in a short intensive course in teaching English. Completion of a training course is essential for prospective English teachers without a college degree.

Most schools won't hire Americans from outside Italy. You're better off going overprepared than to have to return to the States once you're hired and get your proper paperwork.

For practical information on working in Italy, see Living Abroad in Italy by John Moretti.

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