So, what’s it like teaching Italians, you wonder? Well, that all depends on where you end up in the country and at what kind of school you end up teaching at.
Italian kids can be pretty unruly, especially for us Brits. Their idea of discipline is very different. Now, I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but you need to know how to handle them. Of course, there are good and bad students in every school.
Having lived in Spain, where the Mediterranean lifestyle leads to later meal and bed times, I wasn’t too shocked when I arrived in Italy. I often see small children out with their parents late at night, even eating ice cream when, for me, they should have been tucked up in bed hours ago. Many of my young students go to bed at 10 and get up at 7; the teenagers are even worse. School life is tough. When you get to middle school (age 10), you have to go 6 days a week. This is because teachers don’t want to have to work afternoons, even though they get 2 days off a week. I feel that the school system here very much favours the teachers rather than the students. Then there are all the extra curricular activities they have to do. It’s no wonder that many end up going to bed at midnight or one o’clock and then getting up at seven.
I’ve been quite lucky in the sense that the majority of my students are pretty good. Yes, there are the regulars who don’t do their homework, and the preteen boys tend to be the most boisterous. But all in all, they’re not a bad bunch. I’ve heard some horror stories from other teachers, including my sister who once had an actual fight break out in her class.
One of the biggest difficulties I have found is that many of my classes are young learners. Most TESL courses focus on adult learners. After my experience in the Canary Islands, which I will recount at a later date, I wanted to teach adults. That is why my teaching is very much trial and error. Yes, we have a curriculum and books to follow but sometimes the activities will flop for no particular reason. I hope to highlight some of the activities that work well as well as some that didn’t.