By Laura Itzkowitz ’09
Why do so
many Smithies, with majors ranging from French and Italian
to anthropology and psychology, turn to teaching English
Laura Itzkowitz ’09 and her charge, Federica.
Read other Notes From
Abroad by Laura Itzkowitz:
In my case, and for many of
my classmates, teaching English has provided an opportunity
to live abroad and experience another culture. Many Smithies
return to the country where they studied abroad. Others,
such as me, decide to explore a new country.
When I graduated
in May 2009, I signed up for a TEFL training course in Rome
and have been teaching here ever since.
was never my career goal. It was a way to get to Rome and
immerse myself in the culture. I am not a conventional teacher
in a classroom. Rather, I teach businessmen in their offices
and children in their homes. This has provided me the unique experience of really
seeing how Italians live and getting to know my students on a personal level,
not to mention getting to know the city of Rome.
Teaching English to Italian
kids can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. I am amazed at the progress
of my student Federica, whom I have taught since January 2010. Since increasing
her lessons from one to two hours a week at her mother’s request, I have noticed
a profound change in which we can have a more natural conversation in English.
Early in our instruction, we
English teachers use fixed questions with standard answers: “What’s your name?” “My name is Federica.” After a while, we progress
to questions like, “What do you like to do in the summer?” After a year with
Federica, she answers at length: “I go to Sardinia with my family. I like to
go swimming in the sea and ride a bike in the park. I like summer because it’s
Equally rewarding is the friendly
bond I have forged with Federica and her family. A couple
of weeks ago they invited me to dinner. Some might think
it strange for a teacher to visit for dinner, but Federica
was thrilled. She and her mother used a nice tablecloth and
brought out their best dishes and silverware. It seemed the
whole family was excited. No longer just the English teacher,
I was an honored guest.
As I sat next to Federica, I
noticed I was speaking more English and less Italian with
her than with my other students. Thanks to my lessons, her
parents said, she will go to a special middle school and
high school where she can learn English at a more advanced
I encouraged them to bring Federica
to Boston during summer vacation, so she could practice speaking
English and learn more about American culture.
Then her parents
switched to Italian and regaled me with stories of their
honeymoon in the United States, when they drove along the
California coast and inland to the Grand Canyon and Death
Valley. They could hardly describe the sights to Federica,
as there is nothing remotely like them in Italy. Next they
hope to see the East Coast. They want to learn more about
the American way of life.
As someone always fascinated
by foreign cultures, it’s amazing to see
this Italian family so interested in my culture.
Having dinner with them, I feel
like more than just an English teacher. I feel like a part
of their family.