Saturday, 23 January 2010

How To Protect Yourself From The Milanesi

Come Difendersi Dai Milanesi was the name of a book that struck me in the bookshop. Although it was clearly a joke, I'm still wondering if I should buy it, but so far the Milanesi have seemed rather normal. Perhaps I'll find out soon how and why one needs to protect oneself from the people here.

I moved to Milan only two weeks ago. I had been teaching in a small school in the mountains. The people were lovely, the scenery was stunning, the cheeses were great, but still I felt in need of a social life and decided to risk it in the big city by moving in with A. I spent a week of sending out CVs to a multitude of langauge schools with a snappy introductory email. By Friday I had a job. 10 hours a week, teaching young learners to start Monday.

I had another interview (using the word loosely - "you don't seem like you want the job just for drinking money") for teaching in Milanese State schools with teenagers, but I was overcome by a strange desire to cry during the interview. My interviewer was so world weary and negative. On reflection the pay and hours were good, but when your gut says no, your gut says no. People, especially TEFL teachers that I have met so far here seem to be very negative about the city and I've heard the adjective "cruel" used more than once. Language schools won't pay you for months... They'll make you travel hours and hours all over the place...

Friday's interview was a little more productive and unexpectedly formal. I was adressed as Miss B and subjected to a sincere grilling with regards to my experience. The secretary continues to address me as Miss B even now, which makes me smile. Italian working methods are a little different from the British.

So for sure this week has been a rollercoaster. A new city with a new transport system, new students and new schools. The students are mainly 6/7 year olds doing after school lessons, but I also have a lady who I go to give private lessons. Was a bit confused to find a maid answering the door, but I can see that I am in Milan now and that things are a bit different here compared to the simple life in Veneto.

I finished my lessons with FCE preparation students on such a high on Tuesday, came back shattered on Wednesday and in the depths of despair on Thursday. Friday was make or break.

Adjusting to teaching small children after young (and not-so-young) adults has perhaps been the hardest challenge. After varied reactions to my lessons it culminated in disaster on Thursday. That day my boss did not accompany me and give her introduction and discorso sul comportimento. I was left asking the children to show me where the classroom was. Then I made the mistake of starting with a game. They were really cute and I wanted to be nice. The consequence? My authority was eroded quicker than a pair of cheap pumps from Primark. With no rules or punishments I tried to resurrect the situation by shouting at them (in English, none of the necessary Italian), but they quickly asessed that I had no real idea of my limits. Mayhem. Running, shouting, singing rude songs. 90 minutes have never lasted so long.

Fortunately no tears were shed in the classroom, well none of mine anyway, but I don't think I have ever felt so low about my ability to teach. "How did it go?" asked my new colleague, "Last year we wanted to cry after every lesson at this school," she said, "In the end I bought a whistle."

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