When I first came to Florence, Italy, in October of last year, I couldn’t have imagined how much my life would change. I came for Florence’s TEFL certification program, arranged through LanguageCorps, even though I hadn’t planned on really teaching. It was never a profession that interested me, and if I’m being honest, I rather dislike children. Teaching 30 ragamuffins in a chaotic classroom where I didn’t speak the native language didn’t appeal to my sense of adventure, but I decided to do the program because I really wanted to live in Italy and travel throughout Europe, and I needed a way to make money. As my departure date got closer, I also decided that maybe this program wouldn’t be so bad as a way to try something new and out of my comfort zone. After all, I was already getting out of my zone by picking up and moving overseas, so why not look forward to the reason that was getting me there?
Well, the TEFL Certification program was tough. How could it not be, given I only had a month to learn everything I never knew about English grammar and pedagogy? Even with my English degree and stronger knowledge of grammar than most of my fellow American classmates, the class was a challenge. And after becoming TEFL Certified, I found I still had no desire to teach. I’d enjoyed the practice teaching sessions and the classrooms were no more than seven adults, but overall, I still felt pretty ambivalent to the idea. I decided I’d move to Rome where my friends were teaching, and do what people in their 20s do: hang out.
That didn’t last long. After a month or so of this, I realized hanging out takes money. Money I didn’t have anymore. I looked around for writing and journalism options, because those were my degrees in college and I felt more comfortable in that field, but I didn’t have much luck.
So, I decided to give teaching English in Italy the ol’ college try. And what a fun, rewarding ride it’s been! I feel incredibly lucky. I teach a range of ages from 9 to 18, and while at first I wasn’t too pleased (remember, I dislike children, and teenagers fall into that category for me), it’s turned out to be a great opportunity to get involved with something I’d never considered doing, and I now realize that teaching can be pretty awesome.
When my students tell me they had a fun lesson, there’s a level of satisfaction that I didn’t have when I was working in journalism. Granted, I also have my frustrating days, and days where I wonder what I was thinking getting myself involved in teaching. But who doesn’t have those? It only makes the good days that much better. And I still get to travel, which was the whole point of the trip in the first place. I go to a new place for a weekend each month, and while I wish I had more time, I’ve found a good balance of getting more acquainted with Rome, while still seeing Europe.
I’m now involved in a summer camp in Umbria, where I would be teaching English to children ages 6-12 for three weeks. I’m sure I will come away with a sense of accomplishment and happiness–probably happiness at being done with the camp but also happiness that I did it in the first place. Only time will tell!