Working in Naples

This post deserves its own blog, but I will try to summarize my experience into one blog post. Working in Naples should be prefaced with this is not working in Italy, I believe and have heard from others that working in other parts of Italy is completely different. As many say, Naples isn’t Italy.

I began my working in Naples journey nearly five years in an English immersion nursery and elementary school on the outskirts of the city proper on an old NATO base. Coming from Switzerland, this was a shock I wasn’t ready for. In retrospect, the school was the best job I had here (I’ve had many). In the end, I left because the distance to drive each day was too far (over an hour). But back to my first experience working here. Before school started, the school held a “Get to the know your teacher open day”, the parents came with their kids and visited me and the classroom. I though I was prepared, I had spoken to the more experienced teachers about what I needed to do and I had nearly 5 years of teaching experience under my belt (in Switzerland). I had great relationships with the parents in Switzerland so I couldn’t imagine why this would be any different.

The first thing the parents did was pull me apart, tell me Neapolitan children aren’t well behaved and I had no idea what I was in for. Needless to say, I left the day in tears and in shock. What did I get myself into? The rest of the year passed though with only a few bumps, mainly caused by the parents, but the work itself wasn’t bad.

The next job came with a partial contract of being paid partially under the table at a language school, where I worked evenings. The owners were nice enough, always paid on time, but still things weren’t as they should be. Sick days were unacceptable and I went to work with a fevers and stomach bugs. I couldn’t take a day off to take my daughter to the pediatrician when she had chicken pox or take off the recommended two weeks I needed when I injured my ankle during the summer camp. I could have put up with it all though, but the evening hours were keeping me away from kids and it wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore.

The next job was an English teacher where Raffaello went to daycare. The school itself (daycare, preschool and elementary age) was nice enough and the other teachers were professional and did their job well, especially in the preschool and daycare aged classes. I worked lots of hours, more than I signed up for but was always paid for them. There were signs of the owners being unfair when they forced us teachers to attend 2-3 hour long meetings begining at 6pm, every two weeks, unpaid. There was also other signs through the work day, such as being called out on for doing something wrong by the owner in front of the children, being yelled at by the owner, etc. I left days many days in tears.

The worst of the trouble came when Covid hit and the owner began to stay our salaries would be cut and he would be paying us late, before we even knew the impact of Covid. One day after the schools closed from Covid, he already informed us employees that we would be paid late and paid less for the previous month (which everyone worked as normal). He only paid me for February in mid April, after I posted on social media that the school hadn’t been paying us teachers for February (many parents on social media). My best move professionally? Probably not, but I don’t care, they weren’t professional. The owner even called my husband and screamed at me to “control me” and that he “would come to my house and show me what he means”. They paid me after that, but ONLY if I removed the social media post. My contract with them officially ended in May, in Italy when you finish a work contract there is some money to be paid out, which usually ends up to equal a month’s salary. I never received that money, though I did receive a pay stub where it says it would be paid. That was May 2020, this is May 2022. It hasn’t come, even with an official letter from a lawyer saying it needed to paid.

The last job worth nothng in this story of bad jobs, was my most recent. I took the job reluctantly. I was supposed to be working in another language school for around 20 hours a week, but a friend of mine quit her job her teaching English and left me as the other English speak contact. This new job offer sounded better, it would be mornings only. At first I was promised the same salary I was supposed to make at the other school, but when I went to sign the contract, it was less than expected. I let it go, knowing that this is typical in Italy. The new job took me to three different preschools where I spent 1-3 hours a day “teaching” English.

Sounds easy right? I was given no materials and no budget to make materials. All materials ended up coming out of my pocket. None of the teachers in the other schools gave any interest in me, since I was just their new free hour. These preschools sell themselves to parents as “bilingual” education, which should mean the children are learning the same topics in Italian and English. This is impossible when nobody coordinates with you. These were essentially one hour of chaotic English lessons, since the children were left alone with a teacher they weren’t used to, nobody learned, I spent most of my time asking them to listen. I spent all of my “free” afternoon hours making materials and preparing for the next day’s lessons. I would spend around 1 hour with each age group each day, but I would be left alone with 20-25, 3-5 year old’s, trying to teach a foreign language. It was chaos. Then I was told it wasn’t enough or that my crafts I had done with children (not done by the teacher which seems to be the style here) weren’t good enough. This job affected my mental health more than any, I have never felt so much pressure and stress before. If the school was closed for whatever reason, often by the mayor (too many cases of covid or bad weather), I would be expected to “make up the hours” even if the school was closed for official state holidays. The problem was there were simply no other “hours” in the morning I had available to do “make-up” and the afternoons were off limits because the children were either sleeping or too tired for academics. The amount of hours I needed to make-up accumulated so much I have no idea how I was ever supposed to finish all of those hours. Sick days obviously, not allowed. The amount of children per classroom could not have been legal for one adult. The way the children were sometimes treated by the other “teachers” was shocking. I wasn’t the only teacher left with so many kids, it was often the same for the Italian teachers. Many of them worked extra days with out being paid as well.

Needless to say, I have no interest in finding another job for the moment, especially not in teaching. Working in Naples isn’t for people who like respect and equality. It’s unregulated chaos, stressful and a sign of how living here can be so difficult.

Bella Napoli? Not so much.

3 thoughts on “Working in Naples

  1. Hello. First up, sorry to hear of your experience there.

    If I may put my two cents, methinks it’s not just limited to Italians. I worked for a French ESL company for two years (which had an office in Manila), and noticed that they don’t usually treat employees properly. I think it’s some kind of elitism on the part of Western Europeans such as Italians and the French; they often look down on those who don’t speak the language.

    Lastly, I hope you find a job over there that respects you and treats you properly. 🙂


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