Specializing To Succeed As A Teacher In Rome — Tiffany Elizabeth

Bryn Bonino
6 min readOct 26, 2020

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After Tiffany wrote the below blog post, we followed up in this video interview. Our conversation dove deeper into how to find an English school that will be a good fit for your individual situation.

Intro:

Hi, I’m Tiffany! I’m a British-American teacher from Seattle, WA, USA who moved to Europe 2 years ago in search of a better work-life balance. After short stints in Lyon, Prague, and northern Italy, I landed in Rome, enraptured by the warmth of the Roman people and their dedication to enjoying the

Tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you get started teaching English in Rome?

After completing my Cambridge English Teaching Certification (CELTA) in Prague, I began working at a private school in a small town on Lago Maggiore, teaching all types of English to all sorts of learners. From this experience, I discovered my preference for adult learners and my passion for exam preparation.

I moved to Rome last summer, quickly landing a job at an adults-focused school that would allow me to develop my specializations in exam preparation and business English.

That sounds so nice that you were able to identify what you liked doing so soon after you started teaching. What do you do now? Do you still work for the same school you started at last summer?

Yes, I’m still employed by the same school — the constant rotation of students is a satisfying challenge that provides space to constantly improve and refine one’s teaching style. Additionally, there are no split shifts (i.e. you work one 5 or 6 hour block per day), teachers are paid even if the student cancels, and there is no unpaid preparation time. These are embarrassingly rare occurrences in Rome’s private language schools!

Thanks for the heads up about the split shifts. Can you give us any words of advice on how to avoid this?

At many schools, split shifts are the norm. When you are first starting out, they are very difficult to avoid so it becomes about how to make the downtime between lessons useful — plan lessons, get to know your colleagues, explore the city, sneak in some exercise or a rejuvenating phone call to friends or family back home.

At many schools, split shifts are the norm. When you are first starting out, they are very difficult to avoid so it becomes about how to make the downtime between lessons useful.

You have to figure out how to handle long breaks that make long work days (I’ve had some that stretch from 7am to 9.30pm with only 6 hours of teaching time) without getting burnt out.

As I made this life change in search of a better work-life balance, after my initial teaching position, I made finding a school that could provide me a schedule without split shifts my biggest priority.

I was lucky enough to find one, but it is all about identifying what your personal needs and desires are and being honest during the interview process in order to find a position that best meets what you’ve identified.

It’s all about identifying what your personal needs and desires are and being honest during the interview process in order to find a position that best meets what you’ve identified.

What is the biggest lesson from your experience working as a teacher in Rome?

Be discerning in your job search. In my experience, getting interviews and job offers is quite easy for English teachers in Rome as there is a huge demand. Be honest with yourself about what you need from your employer and how you want to develop as a teacher. Then, go into each interview with this self-knowledge. Remember, you are interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing you!

Be discerning in your job search.

That sounds exactly like something I would say and this touches upon the whole reason why the Teach English In Rome website was founded. You explained to me that you’ve become specialized in IELTS preparation. How does this help you professionally? Are there any other ways that you think your differentiation has helped you?

Coming from a very academic background, I find IELTS a fascinating exam. Additionally, my Erasmus year at Sciences Po in Paris was the highlight of my university time, thus I love helping students achieve their goal of participating in an Erasmus exchange (for which IELTS is often a prerequisite).

Finding this niche has allowed me to build a reputation of expertise at my place of employment, as well as opening the door to a successful private business. There are so many English teachers in Rome that choosing a specialization really helps in differentiating your services. In my experience, this doesn’t restrict you to your advertised specialization, but helps offer a sort of guarantee of expertise and quality.

Finding this niche has allowed me to build a reputation of expertise at my place of employment, as well as opening the door to a successful private business.

You make a really good point here. If someone wanted to specialize in the IELTS exam how would they go about doing that? Is it similar to the Cambridge examiner preparation? With all the teaching and exam prep experience you’re currently getting, where do you see this taking you in 3–5 years? both also chatted with me about how finding a niche has allowed them to specialize in their careers.

There are some courses out there to prepare teachers to specialize — namely through FutureLearn and IDP. In addition to these, I recommend the IELTS podcast with Ben Worthington and the Cambridge Guide to IELTS book.

That sounds really interesting! From what I’ve been able to tell, there will always be a need for English schools in Rome. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about your English teaching career?

Otherwise, taking some practice tests and getting as familiar as possible with the exam will allow you to impart valuable tips on strategy to your students.

I’m really passionate about adult learners and the development of tailored didactic materials. My next step is to pursue management, with the ultimate goal of complete self-employment. I am inspired by the business possibilities of truly listening and responding to learners’ feedback and of creating an atmosphere wherein the enjoyment and satisfaction of both students and teachers is valued. More, there is such high demand in Rome that there seems to exist near-infinite space for smaller businesses that meet the various niches of the market.

I am inspired by the business possibilities of truly listening and responding to learners’ feedback.

Not particularly. I am pretty satisfied with the steps I have taken so far. Perhaps, one thing I would have done differently would have been choosing places of employment that make professional development a priority and that provide opportunities for upward mobility.

Perhaps, one thing I would have done differently would have been choosing places of employment that make professional development a priority.

That’s a good point. That’s one reason why I advocate that English teachers contact schools and get to know what it’s like to work there before they accept a position.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?

I know you wanted me to talk about how I find private students, and I think my approach is quite similar to the other teachers you have spoken with. I was lucky in that my first private students came to me through word-of-mouth via network connections.

My first private students came to me through word-of-mouth via network connections.

As I became more specialized, I have done advertising on Facebook (mainly in groups) and hung fliers in parks in my area in Rome. I have found the students that contacted me from my fliers to be a much better match than those I have connected with through Facebook. But, word-of-mouth remains the best!

Thanks for sharing that info. It’s nice to know what works well in Rome.

Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?

Email: tiffany [ dot ] elizabeth [ dot ] b [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyelizabethb

Originally published at https://makealeap.co/ on October 26, 2020.

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Bryn Bonino

Educator, marketer, and photographer. Learn more at https://brynbonino.com