As you know I’ve started a new job. Some regular readers will know the job title and the basics of what I do but I thought I would drop the specifics of what work here is like. I won’t name my company as I don’t feel it’s necessary but who knows, if they treat me badly I might feel the need to shame them! I am writing this post to be give you an idea of what work is like out here for me and my motivations in becoming an ex-patriot again.

In my quest to further my career as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teacher, also known as an English as a Second Language (ESOL) Teacher, I have decided to move into the Business English sector of the Market. There are plenty of subdivisions in the EFL market including teaching kids, teaching for educational purposes, teaching classes of multiple nationalities and so on. However, I wanted to add a notch to my belt and tick the Business English sector off on my CV. It also ties into the business background I have with my marketing degree and business work experience from jobs past and supports my generic experience of teaching EFL in Japan where I taught different groups for different reasons.

So why Italy? As some of you know, my original application was to work in Germany for the company that I work with now. I have a background in the German language and have always wanted to live there. Although I was turned down for 2 positions in Germany, the company helpfully asked me if I would consider Italy, which as it so happens was relevant as I took a year-long language speaking course in Italian and so it was another European country that I would consider. Although I’ve forgotten all of my Italian bar the pronunciation, I jumped at the chance and thankfully landed the post; third time lucky.

I was getting pretty desperate too. It had been 3 months since I had been out of work, where before I was working in a call centre as a temporary agent and before that I was 6 months out of work after coming back from Japan. However, what this means is that my current salaried pay as a teacher is comparable to that of a call centre worker in the UK but with the obvious experiential benefits of working in another country and developing my CV.

My work is a very well organised though. The company has a full syllabus and offers courses for people with zero English all the way up to an advanced level with specialist courses on different business practices like how to conduct a meeting or a telephone call in English. This means that for everyone except the near native level speakers, which I have a couple of, I have a lesson plan ready to be printed off that I simply need to prepare the materials for and read up on to carry out. I wouldn’t be able to deliver a good level of service if I had the same number of contact hours without a syllabus – as I’ve experienced in the past. The fact that the syllabus is pretty damn good too is a massive bonus as there’s nothing worse than going into a lesson, having glossed over the plan and realising that there is no way in hell that your students are going to understand it.

Facilities are great too. The school itself has a speedy photocopier (essential!) and quite a few computers meaning you can always get online access when absolutely necessary. They have a big catalogue of learning materials from different publishers and online access to a lot of resources that normally you would pay through the teeth for via a monthly subscription as an individual teacher. OnestopEnglish.com is a good example of this.

The vast majority of the staff have been really friendly too. The folks who do a lot of the heavy lifting like the administrative and managerial level staff have been fantastic, from helping locate an apartment when I was seriously stressing about it to just being very nice and friendly and checking up on my welfare. Of course, in every workplace there’s the odd bad apple, which I’m putting down to the Milanese lifestyle I described in the post prior to this one but because of how we work, I don’t need to encounter them often and can gloss over them when I do.

As for the teaching itself, I often work outside of the school in-company at different locations around Milan. Some days I work at a company all day, others I’m juggling different transport routes to get to different companies and others I spend mostly at the school itself. I spend at least an hour and a half travelling each day to and from work if not more getting to other in-company locations. Naturally I get travel expenses.

So in all, my average week  is pretty heavy. I work an average of 26 or so contact hours of teaching time though my contract says that I can work up to 30. Lessons last about 1 hour 30 minutes on average but can be less or more depending on what the client has booked. I generally teach about 4-5 lessons a day, totalling at least 6 contact hours a day, which is about equal to most school teachers. I generally plan all my lessons for a week and spend about 3 hours doing so after my final class on a Friday. In total I work and travel a 55-60 hour week.

My clients vary from top business executives in command of 200+ people to IT and administration staff. Our clients are generally very, very well known brands in Italy, if not recognisable in the world including banks, supermarkets, engineering firms, oil companies and so on. My lowest level students have a basic grasp of English while my highest is a tri-lingual super hero who is pretty close to native English speech. This can often mean they refer to terms in English that I have next to no expertise on. It can also mean I get to see the real lives of people who often put on business faces to maintain a professional mindset, which is enlightening because you soon realise that these people, however powerful or hard-working, are still people at the end of the day and have very real emotions and concerns.

Despite the lack of a high salary and the long slog at work, I am in the privileged position of teaching some of Milan’s top talent. This adds to the pressure and when things get hairy, they get hairy, however I am in a job I want and am motivated to do and have a lot of support to do that. I have a lot of worries about money, not knowing the language, not having much time and the constant possibility of screwing up in a big way but due to the good conditions I can handle it. My main point of excitement about this job is that it is going to make me step up my teaching game in a big way.

Although I can’t see my family and friends every day I have hope for the future that I can improve my lot with this job so that perhaps one day soon I can give myself some leeway to take better-paid jobs in my first choice locations as well as learn a bit more about myself in environments outside of my experience.

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