Finding Work Teaching English in Italy
The Nuts and Bolts of It All
Language schools start in September or October and finish up in May or June, and so contracts are typically nine to 10 months. There are also summer camps in June and July, but August is when the entire nation, sensing some inner call like baby sea turtles, makes a mad dash for the sea.
From February or March on is a good time to start looking for jobs as schools have a better idea of who is returning to teach. But there are also many jobs that open up very close to the beginning of the school year, sometimes mere days before the first day. There are also emergency openings throughout the year.
I did all my searching on the Web, and in the sidebar I have listed some good links to job lists and other resources. Many sites will list your CV for free and, speaking from experience, it is worthwhile to put yourself out there. A school that logs in and sees a decent candidate already in the database might not bother to post an ad.
Regarding experience, it is my opinion that anyone with experience can find some kind of TEFL work even without a recognized certificate, but these jobs probably will not be with schools with credible reputations. CELTA certificates are typically asked for, though don't let that deter you if you have TEFL. In fact, I have a background in teaching high school English in the U.S. and no documentation, but it hasn't stopped me yet.
If you are considering teaching in Italy and you don't have the TEFL certificate, British Institutes might be a two-birds-with-one-stone solution. They sometimes offer a program that consists of two months of distance learning
(buying a few books and completing readings and assignments) and then two weeks of intensive training in Italy. Upon successful completion of the course, you are guaranteed a teaching job in one of their Italian schools for at least nine months
starting in October.
Where you want to live can affect your search. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to find something. Don't rule out southern Italy. I have heard horrific statements from northerners about the people south of Rome. Indeed, the South is a different world in many respects, but it also has some advantages. Living costs are much lower while teaching salaries are not reduced proportionately. When I worked in Calabria I found my salary only a couple of hundred euros less than Web-posted positions in Milan. Rent in Calabria can be as low as $180 for a room and averages perhaps $250, whereas in the North apartments are often at least double that. Don't always balk at what appears to be a low salary. I wrinkled my nose at one ad that offered 750 euros net per month. But they also offered a furnished apartment, making this deal as sweet as 1,000 or more without the headache of apartment hunting.
When you find a school that wants to hire you, you are still just halfway there. Don't be rude, but be—shall we say—gently persistent in getting the necessary documentation.
If a school seems interested but the work permit is unlikely, ask them if they are willing to set you up for one year in a sort of student capacity. You are going there to study methodology of teaching English to Italians (and get paid anyway). Italians have a billion rules and regulations but have learned to dance about them with the grace of Fred Astaire.
Warning: Read your contract carefully! The school I worked for gave me mine in Italian. Careful discussion of the details can avoid misunderstandings later on.
Survival Tips: If you do find something and the pay is not exactly excessive, you can still find ways to get by. Private lessons can garner anything from 15 to 30 euros per hour. Offer cheaper rates to university students if they come in pairs or groups. Italy has a reputation for being expensive, but for the person struggling to survive there are ways to take the edge off. Go where the real Italians go. Look for the open markets for your fresh produce. There are frequent train offers for long-range travel; there are bus passes for frequent users, local wine casks pour off a liter into an unlabeled bottle for less than the supermarket.
For more information on working in Italy, including the different kinds of contracts, read Emma Bird's article on working in Italy.
Editor's note: Please note that EU restrictions over the past few years, including the Schengen Agreement, make acquiring working papers more difficult than a few years ago for non-EU residents.
Job Search Resources
ESLJobFeed (Europe): Jobs in Europe, including Italy.
ESL USA; www.eslusa.org.
ESL Job Find; www.esljobfind.com.
TESOL net; www.tesol.net.
www.tefl.net (not be confused with its dot-com look alike).
ESL Teachers Abroad; www.eslteachersboard.com.
Dave's ESL Cafe; www.daveseslcafe.com.
ELT Web; www.eltweb.com.
British Institute of Florence; www.britishinstitute.it.
The British Council; www.britishcouncil.org.
Also look at the contacts for job listings. Some of the schools are working through Italian agents. If the particular school listed is not interested, you might want to contact the agent regarding other schools he or she works with.
Some smaller schools might not be fishing from the major employment web sites. Try googling them: www.google.it and use key words, "scuola inglese italia." If you have your heart set on a particular place, include it.
Try the phone book! Go to the Italian Yellow Pages, www.paginegialle.it), and click on the language dropdown for pages in English. Type "English School" in the subject area and a specific city or region, if you like. Listings often contain more than just addresses and phone numbers; many list email and web page as well. This is not, however, a comprehensive listing. There are many more that are not listed for whatever reason—only the Italians may know.
KEVIN REVOLINSKI is a sometimes teacher, sometimes writer who has taught English in Turkey, Panama, Italy, and Guatemala. He has recently published The Yogurt Man Cometh: Tales of an American Teacher in Turkey, a book
about his first overseas teaching experience available at www.nettleberry.com.