Are you dreaming of teaching English in Italy? Would you love to know what it’s really like to work as a TEFL teacher in Italy from someone who’s teaching there right now? You’re in the perfect place. Italy-based TEFL teacher Shelby went live on i-to-i’s Facebook page to talk about living and working as a TEFL teacher in Italy and answer all your questions from where to find jobs to what to wear to teach. Watch the full webinar or read on for edited extracts.
I was born and raised in Tennessee, in the United States. I got my bachelor’s degree in business administration and my master’s in education in Chicago. I moved to Italy to work with college students and then changed my career path into TEFL teaching.
I got my TEFL certificate from i-to-i in October 2020. Right now, I am in Rome, Italy. I teach English both online and in-person at a school. My students are as young as five years old and my oldest student is in their sixties.
I fully believe you should try to separate work and life. Wherever you end up being a TEFL teacher you want to be able to enjoy yourself. Thankfully, that is very easy to do in Italy.
LIVING IN ITALY
Do you enjoy living in Italy?
I love living in Italy. Things are slower. The culture is different. They speak a different language. You are outside of your comfort zone and you have to adapt. Some things are the same but a lot of things are very different from what you would expect.
Moving to any city or country for longer than a week is not a vacation. It becomes your life. I live in Rome but I do not walk to the Colosseum every day. I have to pay bills and take out my trash and live a very normal life.
I have not seen my family for a long time because the pandemic happened right after I moved here but I have made such a good home in Italy. I am not homesick. I have never dreamt of going back because I was sad and missing my family. Italy has everything I need.
What is your typical day as a TEFL teacher in Italy?
I wake up around 8 am to 9 am. I make an Italian breakfast – I have expresso with some sugar and a pastry or fruit. The Italians often eat what I would consider dessert for breakfast but that is good to wake you up.
I do some online classes in the morning at my house. I try to set aside at least 30 minutes for lunch. I think that is very important because you need to cook, breathe, reset, do things you couldn’t do in the morning. I then go to the in-person school and teach my lessons there for about four hours. If I need to do any administrative tasks, I will do them at the school before I stop working.
In the evening I eat dinner with friends or cook at home. Sometimes at night, I prepare for the next day but I don’t do too much because I don’t want to spend all day working. I can do some preparation in the morning if I wake up early enough.
Is Italy expensive to live in?
No! Italy’s cheaper than living in America in my experience, especially in Rome. Rent is pretty low. Food is cheap. You can get organic food at a normal market. I would say the most expensive thing is gas to heat your house.
Internet is typically around 10 to 20 Euros a month. I pay seven euros a month for my cell phone and have 50GB of data. I paid $70 in the United States and had 3GB of data.
I take public transit which is easy and very inexpensive. I pay one Euro for the subway to work. I also have an electric scooter so I am able to get around whenever I need to.
Do I need to speak Italian to TEFL in Italy?
I speak Italian and I think it is beneficial to know the language. There are a lot of people who only speak Italian and there is limited understanding of English unless people work in tourism. If I was applying for a job anywhere, I would look up how to say hello and thank you, so that I look approachable and like I care about living in another country.
You don’t need to be fluent in Italian to TEFL though. Part of TEFL is teaching only in English. I work with teachers who do not speak Italian (they would not know how to order anything in Italian) and their students are marvellous.
Did your school help you to open an Italian bank account?
No, I opened my Italian bank account all on my own. You can open an Italian bank account very easily and for free and then you have the Italian IBAN which is your routing number.
You will normally need an Italian account as your school will probably pay you in Euros.
Is the weather always warm in Italy?
No! It can actually be quite chilly. There are parts of Italy that are covered in snow and mountains. I think there is a fun fact that Rome is on the same latitude as New York and Tennessee is further south than Sicily. Italy is in the Mediterranean though so the weather depends on the season.
FINDING A TEFL JOB IN ITALY
How can I find a TEFL job in Italy?
A lot of TEFL jobs in Italy are posted in Facebook groups such as English Teachers in Italy and English Teachers in Italy Association. You can individually message the person who is looking to fill positions, which is a great way for you to interact with the school and put a face with the name.
If you are in Italy, I advise you to physically go to the schools and leave copies of your résumé and certificate with them. You can also email schools individually or you can call them. Make sure they know you exist.
There are large franchises in Italy for English schools too. There is Wall Street English, My English School, and British School Group. If you go to their websites, you can normally submit your information and any school in the franchise can contact you. I submitted my information to a franchise and I received interview requests from the same school in different parts of the country.
Another great option is LinkedIn. It has a lot of jobs for English teachers in Italy. You can apply through LinkedIn and you also can see who posted the job and contact the recruiter direct.
What types of TEFL jobs are available in Italy?
There are many types of TEFL jobs in Italy. You can be an English teacher. You can be a director or an associate director of an English school. You can teach English online, you can teach in person, you can teach private lessons. A lot of students need to learn English to take a Cambridge test because they want to go to a college outside of the country. If you don’t have teaching experience, you can find individual clients or you can start with online companies.
You can also teach business English in Italy. I know a school in Rome where they teach business English to private businesses and the power corporations and the police.
A lot of teachers went back to their own countries when the pandemic started and now the schools need English teachers. I see a lot of jobs posted every day.
Can I get a TEFL job without a degree?
You do not always need a degree to teach English in Italy but if you’ve got a degree, it’s an added bonus.
Even if you see a job that says you need a degree, you should still apply if you think you are qualified in other areas. You might not have a degree but if you live in the city already, if you have the right to work in that city if you have a TEFL certificate – there are many possibilities that would make the company consider you.
Can I get a TEFL job in Italy if I’m not a native English speaker?
There are a lot of people who like native speakers but I work with amazing teachers who are not native English speakers and they are in high up positions, so I know it is possible to find a job if you’re not a native English speaker.
If you’re qualified and a great English teacher, I would encourage you to talk to the people who run the school, so they have an opportunity to hear your voice. It is all about being a good teacher and marketing yourself. Even if you are not a native speaker, you can absolutely chase your dreams.
Which TEFL course would you recommend?
I would recommend i-to-i’s Level 5 course because it accomplishes everything. The i-to-i certificate is golden and everywhere I have worked in Italy has accepted it.
In Italy, a lot of people will say that schools won’t hire you unless you have a CELTA. That is not true. People will hire you with the i-to-i TEFL. I am an example of that. I have had interviews at schools that required a CELTA but my TEFL certificate still qualified.
Is there an age limit for TEFL?
You need to be the legal working age for the country but otherwise, I don’t think there’s an age limit. I know teachers who are over 50 and also young teachers.
I think it depends on the school and their students. A business English centre might want someone who is older because they can relate to the older business learners better but I honestly believe anyone can adapt and be personable. That has been my experience, so shoot for the stars!
MOVING TO ITALY
How do I get a work visa for Italy?
If you have a passport from a European Union country, then you have the right to work here. If you don’t, your school needs to sponsor your visa job. They would request a ‘Nulla Osta’ and submit paperwork to the Italian government saying they have offered you a job. If it is approved, you will pick up your visa at the Consulate or Embassy in your home country. The visa allows you to come to Italy and file for your ‘permesso di soggiorno’ which is a residence card that allows you to stay and work.
British people are now considered like everyone else in the world who are not part of the European Union unless you were already here before Brexit. British people and Americans have to apply for jobs in the same way now.
How much money should I save before I move to Italy?
How much money you need, depends on where you are moving from. Are you flying from a country that is near Italy or far away? Are you moving with seven suitcases or two? My job paid for my visa but you might need to pay for yours.
I estimate you need around 500 Euros to rent a room in Rome while you look for an apartment to. I found somewhere that was all-inclusive which made my life much easier.
What type of contract will I get?
Normally, you will be given a contract for a fixed amount of time at first (‘determinato’) so they can see what you are like. My first contract was for 10 months because I was new.
I know a lot of teachers who are now on permanent contracts (‘indeterminato’). They only teach for 10 months a year but they are paid for 12.
Can I TEFL in Italy during the Covid pandemic?
You can’t come here for tourism right now but Italy has always allowed people who have the right to work here to come in.
Italians also have the perspective that if you are sick you don’t come to work. I have never had a cold here but if you are sick you go to a doctor and they give you a certificate to give to your job that exempts you from going to work that day.
TEACHING ENGLISH IN ITALY
How many hours do you teach each week?
I teach every day except Sunday because I am preparing for a fun summer when I will not be teaching so much. You can find jobs that are only for weekdays and some that are only on weekends. A normal class lasts an hour but I teach some classes that are two hours. It depends on the level and if they are meeting once a week or multiple times.
Altogether, with my online lessons, my in-person lessons and my administration, I work around 40+ hours a week. I teach around 15 hours a week in class. My hours are pretty good. I get to teach some at home and then I get to teach at the school as well. I normally do my lesson plans and administrative work after my lessons, so I am finished when I leave.
How many students do you teach in each class?
My online classes have one student. One of my in-person classes has three students, one has 12, one has four – it really depends on the level, how many people are registered with that school and what classes you are given. I teach young learners, middle-age learners, teens and adults of all ages.
What is your school like?
I work in a nice school with classroom technology and air conditioning. We have lots of resources, paper books and online books. The students are taken care of.
When I started, I was a new teacher. I watched other teachers teach first, and then I taught with them. I then taught by myself while they watched me and gave feedback. The school supported me through that whole process. I love working at my school. I hope I can stay for a long time. I enjoy my job. I am happy.
What do you wear to teach?
I wear business casual. I have also wear a lanyard around my neck when I’m teaching in-person classes at my school and, right now, we wear masks to teach.
What coursebooks do you use?
I use Oxford books. I use Pearson books. I use books that I have found on my own. I use private companies that make specialist children books. The good thing is that the school provides them. If you work at an in-person school, they are going to have the books.
I have physical books and I have the online versions, which is great for leaving my books at school and grading at home.
How do you plan your lessons?
Lesson planning is not a huge part of what I do but it is important because you need to be prepared for your lessons. I actually make my lesson plans on the document from my i-to-i TEFL course. It is very useful. I can easily see who I am teaching, how much time I need to spend and how I can break it up. I always add extra activities because some things are faster than you expect and some things are slower.
We work through activity books and class books so I don’t need to create everything. I know what we need to have finished by the end of the whole year or the whole semester and what unit we’re talking about today. It is much easier to make that lesson plan very fast.
I do have a lot of marking for my in-person classes but you can create continuous assessments for your students that don’t require laborious work at your end, like quizzes or multiple choice. The most laborious part for me is when the students write assignments.
Do TEFL teachers work all year round in Italy?
Italians love their summer vacation, which typically starts in July and goes through to the end of August. Normally, teachers start teaching jobs in September and work through to June, when you have exams, and then are on vacation in July and August.
Some people do have jobs throughout those two months but most Italians go on vacation, especially in August. A lot of restaurants and stores actually close. It is a huge holiday. Whether you’ll be paid during that vacation depends on your contract. I save so I am ready to pay for those two months because I know that they are coming.
How much can I earn as a TEFL teacher in Italy?
The minimum you should earn is around 800 Euros part-time and 1,200 a month for a full-time job but salaries typically are higher. Schools in Italy normally pay a monthly salary and take care of your pension and taxes. Italy has national health coverage so it is not attached to your job like it would be in America.
I am paid a salary that equates to a certain number of hours. If I get to the end of my year’s contract and I have worked more hours, then my school will pay for the extra time that I worked. If I work less hours, I have been paid anyway because it was part of my contract and the school did not provide me with the hours.
Which country will I need to pay taxes in?
You pay taxes in the country you are tax resident in. For example, I pay taxes in Italy because I am a tax resident in Italy. The United States and Italy have a tax treaty so I only pay Italian taxes.
You can get your tax code online before you arrive in Italy or you can get it when you are here. It is free to get and you can have it within an hour.
Do you teach British or American English?
I am an American and I teach British English. I also teach American English because I think it is important to have a diversified ability to speak.
Italians are used to people speaking with a British accent because the countries are close to each other. I think people are intrigued by American culture and want to learn about that. One of the number one questions I am asked is about the NBA, the basketball teams. They love that.
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