After reading the newest review, and having forgotten to even post a review myself earlier, I thought I would chime in with my unique story with ALI Academia.
The teacher turnover has increased over the last three years. So much so that a group of students, upon hearing I too would be leaving (due to reasons listed below), asked me, 'Teacher, is it us? Is it our fault no teacher will stay?' No child should ever think the blame lies with them when it is very much with the management of the institution chasing away great teachers.
I have met many wonderful teachers in my time with Academia, but seen more leave than stay. I have heard horror stories including violent staff members in years past, a scathing reputation, and many weird things about teachers living together, that if you are offered shared accommodation (not paid for or included), then run a mile. Seriously.
Schedule / Timetable:
I would say the main problem is the cultural differences: Anyone from Britain, or the northern half of Europe, would be very used to a strict structure of classes, management, time keeping, etc. You will not find that here. I expected a fixed schedule, or at least one that would be updated and given to me as soon as it was available. You will get your schedule every Sunday night for the coming week (yes, as in tomorrow Monday you start the new working week, here's your schedule at 10pm). That is if you are lucky, sometimes you will not receive a schedule at all and have to guess based upon your week prior. The schedule is not emailed to you, simply sent via WhatsApp, so I hope you have good internet otherwise you are not getting any news.
BOK is right in saying that you are not given much in terms of breaks. It is s*a*e labour, plain and simple. Back to backs are one thing, how about the state school travel time which you are not paid for. An hour and a half in a car one way, you are there for maybe two hours, and then have to go back an hour and a half. That's two hours paid work, for five hours of your actual time.
This leads to my next concern that if you want anything changed or done, sending an e-mail will get zero response. Why? Because they are clever in a devious manner in which they will not put anything in writing. You want a contract? Good luck. You want a template, a lesson plan, anything, good luck. You simply cannot get them to respond in writing. It will always be met with, 'Let's meet in person and discuss this.' If you DO agree to meet and talk things through, you will find that they are always late to your meeting. Sometimes by a mere fifteen minutes, sometimes they will have you waiting for over an hour. This is all unpaid, fine, but should they not understand your time is precious? Nobody wants to hang around work all day, let's be fair. When you do find yourself finally face to face with the main woman who co-runs the place, she will say yes, yes, great idea, then you will never hear about it again. Your ideas mean nothing.
An example: A teachers' meeting was called and we were asked to come up with ideas. Coming up with a few, we were confident that these much needed changes were going to be changed and put into action. Months later, still nothing had been done.
Also, staff meetings are unpaid unless you specifically remind them to add it to your timesheet.
Your responsibilities / State Schools:
As a teacher, we are expected to do just that. Teach. One on ones, small to medium groups, and all ages. Nobody ever tells you about state schools until you're there in person, unable to do anything but agree since you've been backed into a corner. All the kids I ever taught were absolutely fantastic. Until you go to state schools. Here is where the monkeys live. At state schools you should (and let me just repeat that, SHOULD) have an Italian, state school teacher there.
Their job is to control the kids (there are a lot of them, 25+) and your job is to teach English. More often than not, half an hour in to the lesson, the teacher will leave. That's right. Leave. You are on your own. The best thing is that these teachers are the ones responsible for the safety of the kids, but with that teacher gone, they expect you to do their job while they go grab a coffee. That's not a joke. They get coffee.
NOTE: STATE SCHOOLS ARE NEVER MENTIONED ON THE JOB ADVERTIs*m*nT. YOU WILL NOT BE TOLD ABOUT IT UNTIL YOU ARE THERE. ASK IN THE SKYPE INTERVIEW (if you seriously still want to go ahead and see for yourself).
This is hilarious. You are told you will receive 950 euros net every month. It is hilarious because you are not guaranteed that income on a fixed date. This goes back to the cultural difference thing, perhaps, but us Brits / Northern Europeans are used to a fixed date for payday, usually the end of the month. ALI Academia's answer to Mr Bean heads up the accounts. Gianni will be in charge of paying you. Do you think an Italian bank account is set up for you? No. Cash in hand. Okay, but is it every end of the month? No. Sometimes Gianni will simply say, 'No done accounts', and you just have to say, okay. You get paid when they want to pay you, and as BOK said, sometimes that's not until two, three weeks into the next month. Keep a note of your hours worked, and your money paid to you.
It was brought to my attention by another teacher from outside the institution that state schools pay teachers between 20 - 30 euros an hour. You will not be paid this. You will still be paid your flat salary, which equates to about 9.50 an hour (950 net, over 100 hours a month). This means you're doing a job where you COULD be earning double, but aren't because to Academia, you are there to earn THEM money, not money for yourself. Also it is in your joke of a 'contract' that you cannot work for other schools whilst you're working for Academia. Okay, but if you work for yourself as freelance, then technically....
Arrival / Accommodation:
When you arrive to Bari airport (assuming that you do), you can arrange them to pick you up or you can try to navigate the trains and buses. I opted pickup but was then charged for it more than the train / bus option would have cost me. When I mentioned this to existing teachers, they said they got a lift for free. So as soon as you step off your plane, you've been swindled out of money.
My accommodation was temporary for a while until a new place could be found. The black mold infested, damp place was lacking gas and heating. Thankfully it wasn't too cold, but we were edging ever further towards winter, and I was worried I'd be stuck in there forever. A new place was found, but I won't go into that without bringing up more black mold memories.
Accommodation rent is always through the school unless you decide to find a private landlord (which, if you don't have any Italian language knowledge, is impossible). This is where it gets a bit funny. My place cost 300 euros, so deduct that from my pay and I'm netting 650 a month. A gas canister sets you back 20 / 30 euro every three months or so, if you use it daily, for tea (no, I didn't have a kettle), and cooking, etc. Electricity is an absolute disaster there, it's SO expensive, but water is about 20 euros a month too. Eating is cheap enough, so netting roughly 500 a month. It's not amazing, especially not for how over worked you'll be.
When you start somewhere new, you should have a clear hierarchy of who does what, who runs what. Here, there is no such thing. You have two bosses; Gianni and Angelica, a married couple. Gianni is the money man, Angelica is the manager. We also have a secretary. This is where it gets a bit odd. As a teacher, you cannot photocopy or print anything without the consent of either boss, and if you're met with a, 'Sure, go ahead!' then you can bet your measly pay package that that means you have to give the memory stick / email / book for the secretary to print / photocopy. You are a teacher and therefore you cannot be trusted, right? Right... Because wanting to print off anything useful for your classes is so untrustworthy, right?
Then there's one teacher who, as BOK said, is pretty much part of the furniture, because they never ever talk to you. This person has been with the company for years and I maybe heard them speak twice? Don't expect a warm welcome from everybody.
Once you've got your head around that, you then have the remainder of the staff who are all teachers like you. Some will be Italian, some English, American, all diverse and incredibly social. All of these people found the job like you did; online, with hopes of a great start. All of them disappointed in a matter of weeks.
The bosses will gossip about you. They will lie to your face, and the faces of your colleagues. If you even get on the wrong side of one of your two bosses, the other will back them up blindly, and refuse to speak to you properly. There is no professionalism here whatsoever. If you didn't reset the classroom even once, you're in the doghouse. You ask for changes? Oh boy. You will be shouted at, in front of your classes, some aged under 10, and they don't bat an eyelid. If you want to clear the air, you'll be met with a door to your face. You just have to grin and bear it.
I would strongly advise against taking this job. My personal experience was not great. I bonded well with the kids, even some of the parents of the children I taught, but I was treated poorly by ALI Academia's two bosses, and by receiving such poor pay for the insane amount of hours (if you got a schedule) you do a week. Towards Spring / Summer the hours just get higher and higher, and you're not told until you get that all important WhatsApp message of schedule.
TEFL and ESL, and teaching in general, is about constantly adapting, but also learning, not just the job role, but you as a person. The two who run this farce of a school cannot and will not adapt or change, even if they pretend to seem interested to do so.
You are treated like a s*a*e, and the students are referred to as 'clients' because 'they are the ones who pay'. I assume a 10 year old can't afford the class himself, but I won't get too petty.
You're seen as a robot, students are seen as customers, all are seen as numbers in the eyes of Academia.
Management. Lack of professionalism, shouting at you for no reason including in front of classes, undermining you at every turn, zero structure, lies, cons, and tax evasion. Having discussed their work ethics with an Italian lawyer, he said it is good I am leaving and that he is ashamed of being Italian.
Advice to Management
- Introduce structure, training programmes for new teachers, and a proper hierarchy where it is clear who does what.
- Hire that Director of Studies soon, rather than harp on about it when we are there.
- If you want changes, implement them when you say you will. Don't take our ideas and claim them as if they are your own.
- Stop gossiping about teachers behind their backs. We talk to each other too, and we as colleagues and peers are more likely to have each others' backs than bosses who lie and cause problems.