This year, as the pandemic hit and schools shut down, I had to re-invent myself as an online ESL teacher. Here’s a list of things I did to make my (and my students’) life easier.

1. Slow down

When I first moved to Spain to work as an English teacher, I could only say “el gatito bebe leche*(thanks, Duolingo). I will never forget the two sentences I learned during my very first lesson: “¿Que ha dicho?” and “No tengo ni p*ta idea**. Despite having recently completed my CELTA training, I couldn’t slow down enough for my students to understand me. Indeed, it took me a long time to master the perfect talking speed, and I occasionally still hear my students exchange those exact Spanish words.

This was in a physical classroom, in a pre-facemask society. Online teaching is…

Instagram @vabbett

I was thrown into the deep end of hybrid teaching in October 2020. One day the Spanish government cut down the number of students who could sit in my classroom, and the next it felt like I was teaching two classes at once. For the second time in a year, I had to learn how to teach from scratch, and on my own. I struggled, cried, and spent entire weekends in bed. But four months later, I can honestly say that hybrid teaching works just fine. …

At the beginning I didn’t think much of it. I’d been warned this was common in Spain. Companies advertised native teachers and I’d better follow up my CV with a phone call if I hoped to get a job interview. So I did.

“How can your English be so good?” my interviewer asked. “I studied journalism in the UK” I said. “Right,” she said. “But before?”

I’ll tell you what happened before: I was a regular Italian teenager who went to state school. I studied English and French with non-native teachers who made me fall in love with writers like…

Like many others, a couple of months ago I was thrown into the new world of smart working. In my case, it involved the infamous Zoom platform and a dozen of Spanish kids per hour. After diligently going through all phases of panic, migraine, rejection, stress-eating and acceptance, I have finally stopped for long enough to realize what good came out of this.

Classroom management

Every teacher knows the feeling of teaching the perfect class on the day a certain student wouldn’t show up. …

Dear friends,

Sorry I abandoned you. In fact, quite a lot of you are new to my feed and right now must be wondering who the hell I am.

Well, nice to meet you all. I’m an EFL teacher who’s just survived the most intense summer of her life.

Since I started writing this blog to share funny anecdotes about my English learning — and now teaching — experience, I have quite a bit to catch up on. But let’s start from the beginning…

#1. I became a qualified EFL teacher

I had been warned. The CELTA intensive course was going to be hard. Really hard. And…

Yes, I went to school. Yes, I studied English there. But did I learn how to communicate in English? Not really. School taught me who Shakespeare was and a number of irregular verbs. Which is useful, but unfortunately (or should I say fortunately?) not enough.

Films are a great way to complement school teaching, because they show us how people really communicate in English. And that’s our final goal, isn’t it? However, it’s worth considering a few strategies to make this learning activity truly effective. Here are my tips:

1. Pick an ‘easy’ film

…Which is easier said than done. What’s an easy film to…

Not sure whether you can write the magic word on your CV and live up to the expectations? Just watch out for these signs:

1. You don’t remember in what language you’ve read something

Once I read an interesting article and didn’t share it on Twitter (I know, crazy).
A few days later I found myself desperately searching for it online. I could remember the topic, but not the publication. I started googling bits, but nothing. Zero results. I had almost given up when suddenly it hit me. What if…?
I googled the same words in Italian, and magically, there it was

When you are fluent in two languages, your brain can switch from one to the other without really thinking*. …

We all remember the first time we set off to read a book in English. At 14, my choice fell on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. My logic behind it must have been a mixture of ‘Look, just a hundred pages’ and ‘This sounds kind of easy’.

But guess what? There wasn’t a single picture in the whole book.

Anyway, I was a big girl so I decided to fight disappointment and embrace the challenge. Armed with an English-Italian dictionary that weighed as much as me, I sat down at the kitchen table and started reading.


Most of you have kept a notebook with all the new words noted down in alphabetical order. Some have carried the famous five-word list* around with them, to revise during coffee breaks. The most resolute of you have even labelled every object in the house with the English word for it — and then stopped inviting friends over.

But despite all these ingenious strategies, the biggest struggle all of you face in learning English is retaining vocabulary. You know these words, but whenever you need them — puff! — they’ve disappeared to the pub with their phones off. Totally unreliable.

The first question I always ask my students is why. I invite them to sit in front of me and say: “Why do you want to learn English?”

What I really want to know is: “What is your motivation to embark on this long, tough and often embarrassing journey?”

The answers I get are usually quite sensible: ‘I want to find a better job’, ‘I hope to keep my job’, ‘I hate my bloody job and want to move abroad’ or ‘Someone I love has already done all of the above and I’d like to visit’.

It’s all very nice…


Journalist, photographer, illustrator and English teacher. One day I’ll be all that.

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