What Goes Around Comes Around: The Story of How The English Schoolhouse Began...

Warning: This one's lengthy...

Sometimes you can’t swallow a pill because it’s not meant to be swallowed.

The following is a lesson in several old and true sayings:
What goes around comes around.
Birds of a feather flock together.
People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When one door closes, a bigger door opens.

Interestingly enough, it’s a large part of how The English Schoolhouse came to be.

Exactly two summers ago I found myself looking for a job.  Something lightweight.  Teaching is what I do, and what I’ve done for the last ten years.  It made the most sense to look for something part-time at a language school.  I found an ad on Wanted in Rome’s website, and applied.  Got the interview.  Nailed it.  Really got along with the owner.  She seemed to be passionate about education, like me, and was a rather pleasant person.  The Texan in me likes to friend anyone and everyone…the Roman resident in me now knows better.

She gushed over my credentials.  “You have a Masters AND a Doctorate in education,” she began, “you could write our manuals!”  Though the language school she owns had been open for several years at that point, she was still sorely lacking in basic materials for a well-established school—like parent and teacher manuals.  Everything she had, she’d stolen straight from other language schools.  “Yeah, I could definitely do that.”  She proceeded to offer me a position teaching with a quick promotion to Assistant Director, as well as teacher training opportunities.  I was thrilled, but before accepting I divulged, “There’s just one thing…I want to have another baby soon.”  I’d been warned by my husband, close friends, and even acquaintances NOT to tell a potential employer about family planning details under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  I disagreed--especially in this case.  I didn’t want the job if pregnancy would be an issue.  “Of course that’s no problem!” she lied when I told her, “You could bring the baby to work! I’ll get a substitute when it’s time for you to deliver!  You’d be the Assistant Director!”

Her family came over for dinner at our home.  When I showed her husband my nearly 300-page doctoral dissertation, he scoffed and said,  “Your job is to make us money…a lot of money.”  “Wow,” I said, marveling at his glibness…but then I thought to myself, “It makes sense.”  The owner had based her school motto off of a business model.  “I noticed that all big businesses have three words as their motto—like look at McDonald’s! I’m lovin’ it.  See!  Three words!  So that’s how I picked mine,” she said.  I’ve been a teacher since 2001…I have NEVER heard of any educator or principal basing the motto of a school or classroom off of McDonald’s or any other franchise.   That’s the thing with these language schools in Rome…they’re big business.  I would estimate that 99% of the owners have absolutely no background in education, and 95% have never taught a course in their lives. At the end of the evening, my husband closed the door gently behind them, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Bad people.  Never again.” 

You can guess how the rest of the story goes…
-I worked all summer on those manuals with no written contract, of course.
-When I told her I was pregnant the very next month, she took the job offer off of the table.  She still had not paid for the manuals.
-I spent FIVE months having to negotiate for payment while doing absurd “revisions”.
-I obtained a copyright for the original material I’d written, which she put in writing via email that she would not include. (ummmm…that’s illegal).  But these types of people feel like they are above the law.  They are adult bullies.  They need a time out…and a large slice of humble pie.

So here’s the silver lining:
When the owner of this school told me that she could no longer offer me the position she promised, I immediately called my friend Kissy and bawled- mostly because I felt like an idiot.  Everyone had told me not to mention even wanting a baby, and there I was in downtown Rome sobbing because I’d just lost a job due to being pregnant.

I got home, told my husband what happened, and then jumped on Wanted in Rome’s website again.  I found a small ad asking for a teacher for private lessons in the center.  I called the number and spoke to an American woman who was moving on to a new position and wanted to find a new teacher for her students.  During the conversation she shared that she was in the middle of a miscarriage.  My heart stopped.  Here I was calling her teary-eyed because I’d lost my job as a result of being pregnant, and there she was on the other end looking to fill a position and losing her child.  That moment was a life-defining one for me.  She graciously gave me her list of contacts.  I met this woman once, and never spoke to her again…God how I want her to know what a huge role she played in my life.

I began doing private lessons the following September, and slowly but surely gained an ever-growing list of students of all ages…some of the most genuine, fantastic individuals I’ve ever met.  It’s with their support as well as the support of family and close friends that I decided to open my own language school, The English Schoolhouse.  Our doors open for the first time tomorrow morning at 8:30 for Summer Camp.

When I look back on the story, I cannot deny that though her actions were completely repulsive and at times illegal, the owner of that language school was a huge blessing to me.   I often joke that when I run into her again (because that’s how the universe works—you ALWAYS run into people again), I will thank her.  I really do mean that.

I remember the first time I had a meeting to sign the “initial contract” with her school (I eventually refused because at the time I wasn’t fluent enough in Italian to understand it, and my mama always taught me you don’t sign things you don’t understand)—it was the first time I’d met her husband as well.  Shortly into the conversation her husband blurted out, “I don’t want to hear about you opening a language school of your own.”  “How strange…”I thought, but instead I asked him, “Why would you say that?”  “Well, you could do it easily.  You’ve got the talent and the education and the experience…you’ve got the looks (What the hell does that have to do with anything?) You’re young. You could do it easily.”

It’s so funny how easily people will put you in a box if you allow them.
It’s so interesting how easily people will make plans for you if you allow them.
It seems so easy to tell someone who seems like they’re beneath you what their place is.
Even as I open the school I oftentimes think-It’s so funny how people will attempt to hijack your dream and try to change it into something that works for them if you allow them.

It’s so liberating to say, “No. You can’t.”

To the owner of the language school and her uncouth husband (I know you’re reading this because you follow everything I do…I can see how many times you click on The English Schoolhouse’s LinkedIn profile, btw):
This is what resilience looks like.
This is not an underdog story.  I was always on top.  This is a story of grossly underestimating.  This is a story of when you try to take advantage and things don’t go according to plan. This is a wake-up call.  Your moral compass is broken.

And just in case our paths never meet again, I do want to say two things with deepest sincerity:
Shame on you
Thank you.

The American in me wanted to sue—part of me still does, actually.  I mean, why not?  I have several friends who have been in similar situations and have sued the language schools and won.  I contacted the Workers Rights Union and they said I definitely have a case.  But, unlike you guys, it’s not all about the money for me.  If we were in the states, Judge Judy would’ve had this sorted out in 4 minutes.  I kept the incriminating email exchanges, just in case.   The Roman resident in me is content for the moment having told MY side of the story, because only God knows what you all tell people, and having digitally vomited the pill you thought had my name on it.  You can swallow it…right before you fall asleep nightly with your guilty conscience.

I’ll be tweeting about this blog entry under varying hashtags beginning today and for weeks to come because, at the end of the day, it’s a good story with a happy ending.  Just for kicks, here are the first five:

Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
The English Schoolhouse

p.s. Dear Reader, please share…retweet…repost.  It’s a collective kick in the pants to bosses around the world who try to get over just because they think they can. 


  1. It still blows my mind that some people mistreat pregnant women instead of being supportive.

    Well, you'll see your dream flourish, while this woman is left with a husband who still puts money in front of kindness.

    You're the best :)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Fabiana! It's with the love and support of families like yours that my dream of having a school has become a reality! :0)

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience! Have had a somewhat similar experience and so this post has really resonated with me. I really do believe that people - even the crummy ones - come into your life for a reason. Clearly they were a stepping stone in your life, and step over them you did ... onward and upwards to bigger things! Congratulations! :)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and kind words! I read a quote recently that said something like life would be much easier if we could all just accept problems as potential blessings. It was much more eloquent. But I shared because I KNOW/KNEW I wasn't the only person this had happened to...and WHO do these people think they are?! They expect "us" to just smile, grin, and bear it. I won't. It just wouldn't stay in-I had to share it...and strangers and loved ones have been so supportive. So again, I thank you for your comment and I hope you stop by the blog again soon! :0)

  3. Wow, what an ordeal! But, to add another anecdote for you, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Congratulations on your pregnancy, on starting your own school, and on getting out from under those human leeches! Quite the experience, but you're most definitely now better off.

    1. Thank you for your comment! And you're certainly right about that additional anecdote. I'm stealing the term "human leeches" and I plan on incorporating it into my vocabulary regularly. :0)