From tour guide to English teacher: Maria Elena’s TEFL story
My name is Maria Elena and I am a licenced tour guide and Trinity certified English Teacher.
Illustrating the artistic beauty of museums, churches and archaeological sites in Rome and its Province has been my job for over thirty years.
Being an English teacher was a long-cherished dream. I am an interpreter, too, In English and Russian. I speak French, Spanish and Czech. I love linguistics. I happened to teach English to friends and children of friends, but I felt that I wasn’t a teacher. Some years ago, a teacher trainer and good friend of mine suggested that I might attend one of his courses. I was too busy for 7/8 months a year and preferred to spend my free time traveling. The pandemic put a halt to tourism, to my revenues and to my traveling. Thus, I decided this was the right time to learn how to teach English and I enrolled into a Trinity CertTESOL course at TEFL in Italy.
Tour guides can become good teachers
If I think about it, there are a lot of similarities between being a tour guide and an English teacher. Sharing the beauty of Rome and its surroundings with tourists from all over the world requires a good rapport with your clients, equal attention to all of them, adapting the language (sometimes you talk to non-native speakers), maintain their level of participation, lingering over certain aspects of art history being careful not to offend anyone (we’re in a Catholic country, but they may belong to different cultures, have different credos). Last but not least, being able to quickly switch to a plan B when technical problems suddenly arise: the bus is late, a traffic jam, the church you’ve planned to visit is closed! Aren’t these skills that we also need when teaching?
The perks of being a teacher
Tourism offers many different positions. I was also a tour director and a tour operator manager. Speaking about my specific position, when I compare it to a teaching position, I’d say teaching is a lot less stressful and more comfortable, especially when I think that I have the opportunity to work indoor, both face to face or online. It’s good to have the certainty that a lesson starts and end at a given time, that I don’t have to stand in line or move very slowly among large crowds either under the hot summer sun or in the cold winter rain.
Two worlds easy to combine
At the moment, I have a couple of private students and cooperate with Roma Lingue but when tourism starts again, I definitely plan on combining both jobs.
In fact, unlike in the past when we used to give full-day tours, at present we’re mostly requested for half-day tours, and often in the morning. Most learners instead prefer afternoon after-work lessons. This, along with the affinity between the two jobs, makes an opening for both activities to be easily and successfully combined.
I would recommend lots of tour guides to improve their language skills, so as to enhance the quality of their communication with the clients. Besides, having a TEFL Certificate can create another opportunity in one’s own life!