My experience at Academia Linguistica Internacional (ALI) in Barletta, Italy, was not what I was promised.
I was contacted in December and asked to come urgently at the beginning of January. I was emailed a rather informal "contract" which outlined that I would be working 100 hours per month, and that "some" of the hours would come from working at state schools (public elementary and high schools). Before I arrived, I had a brief Skype conversation with my employer and exchanged some messages. I was told I would be teaching mostly teenagers and adults, at which time I also explained that I prefer not to teach children, as I do not have experience or additional qualifications for teaching young learners.
I also tried to look online for apartments in the town before I arrived, but was urged by my employer not to do so as she said she would "help" me find accommodations. I arrived in Barletta and was met by my employer and by her husband, who runs most of the day-to-day operations of the school. They took me to view two apartments and I liked one of them. My employer told me she would handle all transactions and interactions with the landlord, but at no point was it stated that the apartment was connected with the job. Rent for the one bedroom apartment was €350/month plus water and hydro expenses which were around €90/month. This amount was then subtracted from my paycheque each month. Unfortunately, the apartment was not heated, and I had the additional expense of paying for gas canisters, approximately €50/month.
My interactions with the students were generally positive (I had both one-on-one and group classes). However, from week to week, classes frequently changed teachers "for scheduling reasons" (so that every teacher worked exactly 100 hours per month so no one needed to receive overtime). This made it difficult to really have consistency with a class's learning. This problem was made worse by the fact that there were never any staff meetings. The "contract" we were sent by email clearly stated that "monthly meetings are held". Although we repeatedly asked our employer for these meetings, as we wanted to discuss some issues with scheduling and make sure we were on the same page for our teaching methods, we were told that she "didn't have time" and that if we had an issue we could come see her privately. These private conversations never resulted in any change.
The most frustrating part of the job was the scheduling. On an average day, I would work 4-9 hours, spread between 9am-9:30 pm with several short (30-90 minute) breaks that were not long enough to really do anything besides remain at the school. The schedule was different every week, and we usually were not given our schedule until Sunday night or Monday morning, which meant that we couldn't make any plans. This was made worse by the fact that we were often given new classes or schedule changes at 9:30 pm for the following day (for example, if I was originally told on Monday that I would have a break from 3-5 on Thursday, it was not unusual to be told Wednesday night that I had new classes filling up that time, or that classes had changed times/teachers with no reason given to us). Furthermore, the school has no cancellation policy in place which means that students frequently don't show up and don't give any warning that they won't show up. This resulted in several hours per week that I came in to teach a student, and was not paid for the time that I came in and waited.
It is important to note that ALI gets a great deal of its business from sending teachers to state schools in Barletta and neighbouring towns. The full scope of this was not explained clearly enough to teachers before arrival. Some teachers are sent to 4-6 state schools per week, where there are up to 35 unruly children in a class, and the pay is the same as teaching one student or a small group of students at ALI (€8.50 per hour). Furthermore, some schools are quite far away, requiring up to 75 minutes travel time each way by bus and/or train. While teachers are given bus or train fare, they are NOT compensated for the travel time, which means that, for example, 2 hours of teaching at a school in Canosa can take up to four hours of your time and pay you only €17. The state school teaching may suit some teachers who specialize in YL teaching, but it was not clearly explained to us before we arrived, and I felt that the compensation was wholly inadequate.
My experience at ALI was also characterized by poor, often hostile communication from my employer's husband. We were often confronted aggressively about trivial matters such as photocopying, lights, and internet usage. (Furthermore, his lack of knowledge of English presented great problems for other, non-Italian speaking teachers.) This, plus the other issues mentioned above, compelled me to quit after a few months at ALI.
Finally, although my employer insisted that the apartment tenancy was not connected to the job, my rent payments for subsequent months were subtracted from my monthly pay. When I quit it was mid-month, and although my full month's rent had already been taken from my pay, I was told by my employer I had to vacate the apartment within 24 hours. As I had not had any contact with the landlord and didn't know how to get in touch with him, I had no option but to leave. I was also not paid the correct amount when I left, and was only given my OFFICIAL contract to sign upon leaving (it was dated two months prior). My earnings over 2.5 months did not come close to covering the cost of a last-minute flight to Italy, let alone living expenses while there.