The Tutor Becomes the Student: What I Learned teaching English in Italy This Summer

Teaching in Italy 2017 (2)

Maestra, can I go to the toilet please?”

There is NOTHING more heart melting than having an itty bitty Italian child call you maestra (teacher). That’s it. That’s the most important thing I learned during my time teaching English in Italy this summer. Fin.

Fine, maybe it wasn’t the most important thing, but it was a pretty emotional moment for me, okay? *cue the tears*

My experience teaching this summer in Italy was just that: an emotional ride. Euphoria, frustration, pride, fear, attachment, empathy for all teachers and language students… you name it, I probably felt it. Having just graduated university — that still sounds weird to me — I was terrified, but ready to tackle my next chapter of life: teaching English in an Italian summer camp.

Carry on bag packed, and sneakers on my feet, I made my way to Rome for orientation where I met the most inspiring and supportive group of people I’ve ever worked with. There we were, a group of artistic, language and travel loving, native Anglophones all ranging in age and life experience. I really felt home among these like minded individuals. That being said, orientation week was a fruitful cultural exchange in itself between the Irish, the Americans, the Canadians, the Australians, the British, the New Zealanders…

During this orientation time, we studied and trained for our TEFL-TP (Teaching English as a Foreign Language through Theater and Play) certificate, and learned what to expect teaching ages 5 through 16 at camp. Here’s the 9am-5pm camp day breakdown:

  • Camp started with a morning circle choc full of English games and songs
  • Lessons were held for about 3 hours in the morning, focusing on playful worksheets, games, crafts, and final theater show preparations for the last day of camp, OR role play process dramas for the older students (pausa for a snack included)
  • LUNCH with delicious food prepared by host families or provided by the school *sigh* Oh, Italy…
  • Camp wide activities including scavenger hunts, group games, trash fashion shows, water games (my nightmare), arts and crafts, camp fairs, English movie time… the list goes on
  • Camp closed with another circle that included more “cool down” songs and activities, such as Yoga, and the camp favorite song, Pachamama

I was in camps across Italy. I started in Zagarolo (Lazio), a small hilltop town right outside of Rome. Then I moved to the heel of the boot, Laterza (Puglia), then back up to Rome. From Rome I went to Bologna, and from Bologna I finished my camp experiences in the beach town, Rimini.

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Lesson planning during Spritz O’Clock? Just little “Italy” things…

I have taught numerous Yoga classes, and I’ve helped my non-native English speaking friends and family with English practice lots of times, but nothing — not even orientation really — could have prepared me for the rewarding challenge that was having my own immersive English classrooms. I taught students in the 7-11 and 14-16 age group. I think the most challenging part was resisting to cave and just speak Italian to the campers. Overall the teaching experience was definitely a practice of patience, that started with frustration and was rewarded with utter joy and pride when I saw my students learn and succeed with English, and when I saw myself become a much better teacher. I learned so much about how to improvise, how to listen and communicate better, and most importantly, I learned so much about myself through teaching.

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We learned adjectives! How sweet is this game of Hangman?

Working with co-tutors, assistants, and directors from around the world also taught me a lot about myself and my culture. Moreover, this taught me how to be a much better mediator and interpreter of culture, which came in handy when tensions arose. It was definitely great practice for the my diplomatic self.

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My Pugliese family gave me the warmest welcome.

Living with different host families — nuns in a convent included — was a gorgeous experience. Being invited into someone’s home and culture, is such an honor. And watching the way another family interacts with each other really opens one’s eyes to how one interacts with their own family. Again, it’s really a mind and heart opening learning experience about the self and the world. I will say one negative thing about living with a host family: the attachment sucks! You’re adopted into a family that you fall in love with, and then you have to leave! At least I know I have homes to come back to in Italy.

At the end of my exhausting but fulfilling journey as a traveling English teacher in Italy, I just cannot help but feel so full of love and life. I’ve personally and professionally grown leaps and bounds, and I’ve met amazing people, created roots all around Italy and friends around the world. This experience has been priceless, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is open minded, nomadic, and curious to teach and learn.

Thank you, ACLE!

Next stop: being an English teaching assistant as a native speaker in a Milanese high school. Allons-y!

For more details and information on being an English camp tutor and how to apply, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to help!

Love & light,
Isabela 

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Sometimes being a tutor in a theatre camp requires you to get down and colorful… We’re a circus, can you tell?

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