Michelle: I’m Irish and have been living in Rome for 25 years. I had spent many summers in Italy as a child and had no doubt that this is where I wanted to live. I was on a plane the day after my final university exam! I did DELTA here in Italy and an MA in Tesol and Applied Linguistics online with the University of Leicester. (*DELTA stands for Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.)
Nicole: I’m originally from Chicago and have been living in Rome since 1986. I first came for a semester abroad but ended up finishing my BA here and never left. Michelle and I followed the same professional development pathway so ditto on the above! There are lots of dittos about the two of us!
I bet you both have a lot of stories from your experiences teaching English in Rome. Can you tell us a bit about your backstories? How did you first get started?
Michelle: I came to Rome to set up a branch of a business English school when I saw an ad for a teaching position at Loyola University Rome’s English language school, where I met Nicole. We taught together there for over 20 years.
Nicole: I started teaching in 1989 when I managed the English language program in an American university in Rome with some colleagues. One of them is Globally Speaking co-founder, Michelle.
That’s impressive that you’ve worked together for over 20 years. I can imagine that during this time, you’ve learned each other’s working styles well. And that you’ve also grown together. What’s that been like?
Michelle: It’s been great. When we opened the school we had a completely different idea of what it was going to be like and without each others’ support, I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been.
Nicole: Yes, I think our roles have evolved considerably over the years. Although we often take care of different aspects of the school, we share everything and we’ve grown a lot professionally speaking, in ways we hadn’t expected. It’s a lot of work and it wouldn’t have been any fun at all alone!
We share everything and we’ve grown a lot professionally speaking, in ways we hadn’t expected.
I can’t imagine how much work it is to found a school completely from the ground up. How did Globally Speaking come to be founded?
Michelle: In 2013, the English language school at Loyola was closed for fiscal reasons. At the time, we were teaching the second generation of students there, so we decided to open a language school in the same area.
Nicole: We were pleased to see that many of our students followed us, but we opened with a new mission and vision, teaching other languages and opening up to a far wider audience of students and colleagues.
Can you share a bit about Globally Speaking’s vision? What is your lighthouse for where you plan on going with the school?
Michelle: Our mission is to support our students in reaching their personal, academic and professional goals in Italy and abroad.
Nicole: Our vision is to continue to build and consolidate our relationship with staff and clientele despite the constant flux with new modes of teaching and learning. We will continue to respond to changing needs with quality services, in diverse learning environments.
You both still teach in addition to running Globally Speaking. This is not common among English schools in Rome. How does this set you apart?
Michelle: We still both really enjoy being in the classroom. Although we had to reduce the number of teaching hours to be able to manage the school effectively, being in the classroom is still an important part of our identity and helps us to relate to our teachers.
Being in the classroom is still an important part of our identity and helps us to relate to our teachers.
Nicole: Yes, we feel like we know our students and our teachers, as we teach with them in many diverse contexts. We don’t come from a business background, so the running of our school is very much learner- and teacher-centred. We also deal with the real issues that students have and that teachers encounter in working for us. They know that we really do understand and can, hopefully, respond to their needs.
That’s a good point that you know your business extremely well, because you can empathize both with the teachers who you employ and can know the students better than you would otherwise. Globally Speaking has a few certifications such as being an AISLI school, a Cambridge Authorised Exam Center, and an IELTS preparation center. What does this all mean? (*AISLI stands for Italian Association of Language Schools. IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System.)
Michelle: In fact, when teachers are looking for a position in a new school, teacher training centres usually suggest they apply to a school that belongs to quality associations like AISLI because this is in itself a guarantee of a professional, serious organization.
Teacher training centres usually suggest they apply to a school that belongs to quality associations like AISLI.
Nicole: In a nutshell, I’d say quality. AISLI means regular didactic and administrative inspections. Cambridge is an external certifying body and a highly reputable academic organization, so that means regular checkpoints on teaching and learning. IELTS means our students can receive support to study or work abroad and achieve their goals, which is at the heart of our mission. So all this also sets us apart from the hundreds of language schools in Rome.
It seems like with these distinctions you are ensuring a stronger connection between education and a profession. This is a connection I’ve found lacking in my own career in education. And, well, also in my own experience as a student. What are your favorite things about running Globally Speaking?
Michelle: Although we have been growing quickly over the years, we still have managed to maintain a personable approach with our students and teachers. Seeing our first group of students who had started with us at Loyola at 8 years old, collecting their Cambridge Proficiency certificates at Globally Speaking 10 years later was a wonderful moment for us.
Nicole: There is an incredible amount of work involved, but when students and teachers recognize that our school is different from others, or when they say that Globally Speaking feels like a family environment, that really makes me smile and pays back all the long hours. We really do care about the people here, students, teachers and staff.
When they say that Globally Speaking feels like a family environment, that really makes me smile.
This really warms my heart to learn this. In my own experience, the longest I was ever someone’s teacher was three years. But I can imagine how personally fulfilling it is to guide a child’s development over the course of 10 years. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about your English teaching careers? Why?
Michelle: Had we known before how much we would be taking on, getting some of our qualifications earlier would have made our lives easier later on. Although, we were busy with young children then so it probably all worked out best like this.
Nicole: I might have started professional development sooner, but I am satisfied with the professional experiences I have had. Teaching in diverse contexts is formative, even without formal instruction for development. That’s how I learned about learning until I was able to dedicate some time to teaching qualifications.
Teaching in diverse contexts is formative, even without formal instruction for development.
That’s a good point to make. But it does sound like everything has really worked out for both of you.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourselves?
Michelle: Yes, becoming a teacher training centre with CELTA has been very interesting. We were one of the first centres to run CELTA completely online. We are always happy to collaborate on new projects like the Cambridge English pilot project for delivering exams at home, the updated Council of Europe CEFR descriptor scales and many others. (*CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English To Speakers of Other Languages.)
We were one of the first centres to run CELTA completely online.
Nicole: Having just completed a CELTA course, I think that teacher training is really something which sets us apart. This gives us insight into criteria for quality teaching and the desire to keep supporting our teachers in providing excellent language learning opportunities.
Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: segreteria [ at ] globallyspeaking [ dot ] it