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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. 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.


So, after exactly one year to the day I left Japan, I received a job offer for Milan. What does this mean for the blog?

In the short term it means less gig reviews as I’ll need to find out when/where gigs are over there and it appears bands tour Italy less than Glasgow.

On the upside, it probably means more actual blogging about the Italian experience rather than just Youtube links. If Italy is anything like Japan it’ll mean I have more time to myself, which means more poetry as I get more muses to inspire me to write. It’ll also mean more political commentary about Britain – an irony not lost on me as it makes me appear to care more about the country when I’m away from it than actually in it – simply not the case, let me assure you. It will also mean that I’ll have time to update all my photos on here and take a helluva lot more holiday type snaps.

How do I feel about the move? Nervous as ever; less excited about it than Japan – probably because I’m no longer a virgin to the experience; happy that I have job; ecstatic that I’m getting more EFL experience, particularly since it’s branching out to do business experience; amped to be able to still work on some of my gaming plans while I live abroad rather than being totally cut off from everyone like I was in Japan.

How does it compare to unemployment? Surprisingly, I am feeling the same cocktail of emotions as I did when I had no job.

A song that captures my feelings at this moment? The title of this song just  as much as the contents:

The benefits of storytelling and anecdotes in teaching

Teachers as Entertainers Why should teachers need to entertain their students? Because storytelling is the access point for all learning.  As Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”  Language, history, science, even math problems all tell narratives.  If we can identify these stories for children by teaching in stories and enc … Read More

via Musings of a Middle School Arts Teacher

Roleplay games and gaming are to Teaching as what fish is to chips?


One of my kids told me yesterday that he hates China. One part of me wanted to tell him why not whilst the other just felt bad because I couldn’t.

Backstory the first: Our kids get a coin for going to class and once they get 5 coins they can trade them for a sticker or ten for an eraser shaped like a ball, a teddy bear, a motorbike or something cute like that. Said kid had 5 coins and wanted a sticker. After trading for a sticker he had a look in the sticker box and took Chinese flag shaped in a love heart – we have many stickers representing different countries as befits our promotion of international cultural exchange. I asked him if he liked China and he explained to me why he didn’t.

Backstory the second:

I wanted to show the kid something like this video but in Japanese and with Japanese examples rather than the American ones Carlin applies:

The saddest thing of all was that someone told him to hate China now and only now because of recent events, someone he respects and looks up to.

I guess though he’s partially right. I mean, if he said, “I hate America!” I’d have high-fived the scamp! After all no one likes a bully. Now with the increasing shift of power our attitudes are shifting to antipathy towards China. I guess he doesn’t like them for the same reason I don’t like the American government and I can understand that. I just wonder if he does…

That and it doesn’t help to see focused hatred in one so young – the kid’s 9 years old.

The origin of everday punctuation marks


Does your language shape how you think?

I got a text at 3.34am this morning from the boss saying, “Have a nice time at training,” which woke me up. I’m due at the train station at 6.50am for Tokyo meaning I’m up at 5.50am to get there. With 3 and a half hours sleep I wanted to answer, “Yes, I’m sure I might.” Would that be considered insulting by a japanese person?

Japanese people remind me of us Brits. We’re all so touchy and questionable. “What was that last comment supposed to mean?” Then we clam up, ponder about it more and get touchier. Which is exactly what’s happening to me now:

When I was at work today I got the ‘Sumimasen, taihen ne?’ which translates as something like, “Excuse me, it’s difficult isn’t it?” The boss was referring to the 2 days of training I’m about to do on my weekend off with no pay. The incentive to go is to learn the system we use at our school which involves learning a tonne of flashcards and how best to use them. This will be the third time I’ve attended such a training seminar and thankfully, it’ll be my last.

I’ve had no problems with the first two and was happy to go to them. Despite getting no sleep for the second one, whilst I was adjusting to a shift in work scheules, I had a good time. Getting out of Kofu’s often a treat and meeting new people’s always good. I even managed to get top marks in the class  after combining the scores of the first two seminars together. You’d think I’d be sad about it being the last time.

Having to attend this seminar’s righteously ticking me off. It’s not the format of the seminar itself that gets to me or the lack of pay. I don’t really care too much about the weekend of my time being consumed by work although I would really have liked to get things in order here before Helena arrives on Thursday (another trip to Tokyo – expensive isn’t it?).

I guess what bothers me most is the boss’ attitude to the whole affair. That Japanse phrase “Sumimasen, taihen ne?” means – in my experience – is a kind of sarcatsic jolt to say – ‘chin-up’, ‘do your best’ or ‘try harder’. At least that’s how I’ve seen it used by teachers at my old school I taught at previously and is a phrase often used to kids who aren’t doing their best. I’m guessing the appropriate, polite response is “Oh no! Not at all, nothing’s difficult. Everything’s very easy and harmonious! I love my job!”

Then there’s the early morning text message – what do I make of that? Did he stay up specifically just to send me his regards? Did his new born baby wake him up and remind him to mail me? Or perhaps he wanted to make sure I woke up on time? I never know what to make of these polite little gestures the Japanese make because I’m not Japanese and as much as I’ve tried to figure out what they mean, no one tells you or tries to help you out with an explanation. Asking would be a faux pas on my part, probably to be greeted with silence. If you question them on said faux pas they pretend not to know what you’re talking about.

This happened to me in my high school class on Friday when one girl’s English pronunciation was a mystery to me. Of course the other kids knew what she meant. When I questioned everyone for examples, the heads went down and they shared private chuckles at moron sensei who doesn’t his own tongue even when it’s spoken to him.

So what’s the correct response to this text then? My  head calculates that I should ignore it, my heart beats for honesty to tell him that he woke me up whilst the shy guest in Japan in me nags me to say thank you for the polite, albeit mis-timed message. 

“It’s difficult, isn’t it?”

It all leads back to that big question: December, do I stay or do I go? I won’t know that until after Thursday. Maybe not even after that. 4 days and approximately 6 hours to go until Tokyo. Again.

Captain’s Edit: Just as I finished  this my alarm went off and it’s 5.50am here. Tokyo here we go…

Looks like I’ve broken at least one of these already. Urk!  Found here


1. Respect yourself and your colleagues.

2. Respect students and parents.

3. Respect rules and regulations.

4. Respect opinion of others.

5. Accept advice and work on it.

6. Accept students for what they are.

7. Accept colleagues as equals.

8. Accept your responsibilities and carry them through.

9. Accept diversity in your students and learn from them.

10. Be prepared to improve yourself in your subject.

11. Be prepared to be a life long learner.

12. Be prepared to carry our your responsibility.

13. Be prepared to share and cooperate

14. Be prepared to inform and be informed.

15. Be prepared to give constructive feed back.

16. Be compassionate to your students and colleagues.

17. Be sincere with yourself and others.

18. Be sociable with the students and colleagues.

19. Be encouraging at all times.

20. Be courteous at all times.

21. Be generous with your praises.

22. Be imaginative with your students.

23. Be creative in all your work.

24. Be innovative in your classroom.

25. Know that you have responsibility towards student, parents, and school.

26. Know that you are accountable for all that you say and do.

27. Know that you are part of a team.

28. Know that you are special.

This article applies Performance and Mastery oriented types of learning through different computer games. Really interesting whether you’re a teacher or a gamer.

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