Ciao for Now - Tatty Scott gives the final installment of her CELTA diary

It is mid-August and the Italian holiday of Ferragosto and Italy is on hold while every man, woman and child eats their own body weight on the hour, every hour.

In Milano, here at our rain-spattered apartment, the feasting included bresaola, a thinly-sliced air-dried beef which is apparently preferred to prosciutto and parma ham here in the fashionista capital as it has less fat. It’s served with rocket, parmesan, olive oil and lemon juice. Yummy. This was followed by Cotoletta alla Milanese, a dish very similar to wienerschnitzel, but which we made with pork.

Le cotolette were nearly a disaster after someone, ahem, forgot to buy eggs at the supermercato yesterday.  To try and remedy my forgetfulness I’d thought about leaving some milk out overnight in case it curdled and went yoghurty enough to bind the breadcrumbs. But fortunately a brainwave struck. While walking The Spaniel I passed a small pizzeria and in my few words of Italian, asked if I could buy an egg. And hey presto, pronto, prego – the breadcrumbs got stuck this evening, traditional-stylee.

And so, it’s over. Not just the king-sized dins, but the Cactus jamboree. Since we last spoke I have finished the CELTA and have been teaching. Yes, me, the person who couldn’t say her name in a room of strangers without getting butterflies just a few months ago.

There was a sort of breakthrough moment during week 4 of the CELTA. I had to deliver an unexpected, spontaneous, 20-minute class to our group of lovely/understanding/long-suffering pre-intermediate adults… and as I walked into the room something sort of clicked. I knew how to give instructions so that things worked. I knew how to move them around so they shared information seamlessly. When I spoke there was clarity of thought, not blind panic. All the pain and torment of the CELTA was starting to pay off. I don’t remember when my fear of public speaking first arrived, but I felt that a big part of it left that afternoon.

That was back in June. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to experience teaching children in summer camps and business English to adults here in Italy. I’d expected to get the most from teaching younger children aged 7 – 9, but it’s been the teenagers that have been the most rewarding.

Work has now finished for the summer and my CV is out at schools and colleges across the land. I cross everything that when the school management staff finish their August breaks, a smattering of calls and emails heads my way. I’ve found that TEFL job-hunting pages are abundant on the web. One really useful tip is to check out any schools you’re interested in via the search engines to see if they are blacklisted anywhere. There are schools who don’t pay or pay late or don’t pay you the hourly rate they offer you at the interview. Bleeping bleepers. For me, I continue the search and wait for September and lesson plan.

In fact in the last few weeks I’ve been a student again myself, studying Italian here in Milan, thanks to Cactus. It has been fascinating to observe a teacher with so many more years experience than me delivering language lessons, especially to a class of students that didn’t share a common language – we were from Turkey, Japan, China, Russia… I was the only English-speaker there. I found myself taking as many notes on how she did things as I did on conjugating essere and drilling the articles (they have 10! 10!!? At least 10 that I’ve encountered so far…)

This summer I’ve learned 1,000 things. One of them that has returned time and again is that to be a good CELTA teacher you need to have a working knowledge of your student’s mother tongue –not so you can function as a walking dictionary, but so you can understand and anticipate where your students might come unstuck. It is another thing on my long-list of Things I Need To Do To Become a Good Teacher.

Well, I’m off to let the belt out another few inches, take the ice cream out the freezer and put the coffee on.

Thank you Cactus 1,000 times over. The experience in Italy this summer has changed my life and there’s no way I could have done it without you.

To anyone thinking about jacking in the day job and setting of on a TEFL adventure to teach somewhere out there in the big wide world, it’s has some tough moments but it’s marvellous! Hope to see you out there!!

In bocca al lupo, one and all. Signing off,

Tatty Scott

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