Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be, at least here in Italy. I recently read in a forum on My Space, that in Japan for example English Teachers are better paid, but what are the working conditions like? That is not the case here in Italy. At the moment I am only doing private lessons, not working for a school, and I am charging 15 Euro an hour, which would equal about $18 an hour. You may think, “That’s not bad at all, for working from home”. Hate to burst your bubble, but I bust my butt for that, there’s the time I spend planning the lessons, money spent on ink and paper for my printer/photocopier, putting advertisements on the internet offering private English lessons. Then private students are very unreliable, they tend to cancel their lesson at last minute, thus leaving an empty time slot that could have been filled by another student, and of course unpaid. That’s IF they call to cancel, there are many a people who don’t even have the respect to call or text message to say they’re unable to make it.
Then there are the private schools/companies that offer English classes. Here in Italy, many schools/companies are run by the British, and tend to hire or prefer a person with a British accent to other accents. Then they also ask for a TEFL or CELTA certificate, which proves you have taken a course to teach English. CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The British Council in Milan, Italy, charges 1,800 Euro, or about $2,160 for this course. Just for a certificate to say you can teach English, and it’s not even guaranteed you’ll be able to find a job. When you do find a job teaching English, don’t expect a lot of hour, at least not to be able to live off of, and be prepared to run your booty off, going from one company/school to the next. In the area I live in, near Milan, average teachers pay is about 12 Euro an hour, net.
Some companies/schools will compensate you for mileage if you have to drive to a company to teach a class, but that doesn’t happen too often, and if you are compensated, doesn’t amount to much. Especially considering here gas is so over taxed. Currently gas here is about $5.54 a GALLON.
Racism in hiring, does it happen here in Italy? You bet it does! If you’re from an English speaking country is always a plus. But if you’re anything other than Caucasian, you unfortunately will have a harder time finding a job teaching English, or anything else for that matter. English schools/companies tend to discriminate less as far as gender and marital status but does happen in other sectors/fields.
For more on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) here in Italy, here’s a good article by Sebastian Cresswell-Turner in The telegraph.
**July 17th 2008 Update – I’m STILL teaching English. Have been since 2003. Does it pay any better than it did over two years ago? No. I’m up to almost 20 hours a week and earn about the same pay as a full-time blue collar. You may think “Ok I could live like that, working part-time on full-time wages”. I bust my butt for those wages and that’s providing all my students show up. Check out my post from this year about teaching.
I mentioned in the original post that gas was $5.54 a gallon. As of today it is $9.11 a US gallon. That’s an increase of $3.57 in a little over two years. Partly because of the price of oil and also in part due to the decline of the United States Dollar. Welcome to 2008.