Teaching: on the front line

March 28, 2003

What is your experience of teaching? Pat Leon asks teachers how they manage.

Name: Donata Puntil

Age: 32

Job: Lecturer in Italian language, literature and cinema; coordinator of the Italian team at King's College London. I also collaborate in teacher training at the Italian Cultural Institute in London.

Salary: Junior lecturer scale.

Qualifications: BA in modern languages (German and English), MA in comparative literature and translation studies, postgraduate diplomas in teaching Italian and linguistics.

Experience: I started in a Trieste secondary school teaching English and German but turned to teaching Italian by chance when I came to London with a scholarship for my masters. I did it for fun and to earn some good money, but I loved it. I find it fascinating being able to teach my own language and to spread my culture around the world and at the same time to make students have fun by enjoying what they are doing.

Hours spent on teaching: About 20 hours a week teaching language and culture-based courses. Twice a year I also teach a teachers' training course, usually during academic holidays. I also organise and teach workshops.

Hours on research: I spend a lot of time on research for my PhD and my teaching activities. I like trying to create new material and activities and therefore have to read a lot and to spend a lot of time in front of my computer assembling ideas.

I also collaborate with the University of Venice, in Italy, where I teach part time and therefore I constantly have to research and write for my job. I am also collaborating on a book.

Hours on red tape: Besides the usual exams, marking and syllabus updating, as coordinator I liaise with my team and other language coordinators. I also have to deal with about 100 students who rely on me as their point of reference.

Teaching bugbear: Dealing with stereotypes of Italians abroad: as soon as you tell someone you are an Italian teacher, they start listing common words - spaghetti, pizza and so on. It is very difficult not to be rude. I also hate answering people who ask: "What do you do besides teaching?" as though it were an easy job. I never stop working, I am constantly looking for new ideas. This is probably due more to my personality than to my job.

How would you solve it? Stereotypes? Just a nice condescending smile.

Never-ending work? No solution.

Teaching pleasure: Working with people and teaching topics I love; promoting my culture and language; sharing feelings, emotions and ideas with students; creating new activities; developing ideas, working with ideas; being surrounded by colleagues who (generally) are more concerned about the quality of their job rather than the profit they are going to make out of it. Being the manager of my own job.

Outside interests: I am a cinema freak and a restless reader. I adore going to exhibitions, exploring art and photography. But I'm also a sports addict - skiing (I am an instructor), cycling, climbing, sailing, mountain trekking, tennis. I do not play an instrument but love music. Being Italian, I adore cooking and food. I have a diploma in reflexology and I used to practise it when I was living in Italy. Thanks to this "passion for feet", I am also an uncontrolled shoe lover.

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