While I haven’t done much recently, teaching English in Spain is something I’ll go out on a limb for and say I know a fair bit about. Five years is – relatively speaking – quite a long English teaching career. Most teachers are young and recently graduated from Uni, but rarely stick at the job for longer than a couple of years.
In my case, I stuck with it more for the love of Spain than for the love of teaching, but that’s not to say I didn’t like the job. In fact, I’d often look forward to most classes, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some that made me want to scream or throw a chair out the window from time to time.
If you’re considering teaching English in Spain there are naturally a few things you should know to help get the ball rolling and prepare you for a world of fun, games and occasional dismay…
1) You’ll need a qualification to get the best paid jobs
While it’s possible to find work as an unqualified English teacher in Spain – such is the current demand – the best (and highest paying) schools tend only to take on teachers who have completed CELTA or TESOL courses, since these are undoubtedly the most complete TEFL courses available and have become a prerequisite in most cases. They are pricey, costing anywhere between £1,000 and £1,200 (depending on where you choose to do it), and either last 4 weeks (intensive) or 6 months (part-time).
For more information on getting qualified in Spain, check out my post on everything you need to know about teaching English in Granada.
2) Finding work is easy
With the ever-increasing demand for exam preparation courses among young Spaniards, English academies are popping up left, right and centre in Spain – some of them offering a high standard of teaching, others not so much – but finding work is very rarely a problem for newbie English teachers. The most effective way to secure a job teaching English in Spain is to home in on every academy when you get to Spain. However, it won’t do you any harm to begin by seeking academies out in the city (or cities) you’d like to live in online and sending a CV and cover letter by email. Once you arrive in Spain, visit each academy in person armed with yet more CVs and try your best to meet with the DOS (director of studies) who is usually responsible for hiring new teachers.
That being said, I found my first teaching job in Spain through tefl.com, a great service which I strongly recommend.
3) Nerves don’t last long
Once you’ve landed your first job, it’s time to start thinking about actually teaching. Teaching as in standing in front of a dozen people who are expecting to learn something worthwhile from you – you the expert – within the next 90 minutes. At first this is a daunting experience, one you’ll probably already have been through during your CELTA or TESOL course. But once you get to know your students and establish a rapport, the nerves and any apparent sense of overwhelming responsibility quickly vanish. You’ll soon come to realise that your students are keen to help you help them, especially adults and higher-level teens. Kids take a bit more getting used to and hell of a lot more patience. However…
4) Spanish kids are (generally) adorable and bring out the kid in you!
I’ll never forget the first 5 minutes of my first class teaching 8 year-olds. I stood nervously at the front of the room with a lesson plan that in theory would work, but in reality meant nothing. It was terrifying. They whispered, giggled and then one kid made a fart noise with his hand armpit which finally broke the ice.
Since that moment I have (mostly) enjoyed every minute of teaching kids English. They are, for the most part, totally adorable and keen to learn – not at all like the little shits you can recall from your own school days. There is the occasional bad egg that scuppers your lesson plan or corrupts the others, but you learn how to control these guys pretty quickly. The best way to prevent making an enemy of an 8 year-old, I find, is to behave like a kid yourself (while still maintaining a hidden degree of teacher awareness and responsibility). If you make them laugh, they like you. If they like you, they listen to you. Simple!
5) The better you become at teaching English, the better you become at learning Spanish.
You don’t necessarily have to have a decent grasp of your own language’s grammar rules but it does help rather a lot. As a newbie English teacher, you’ll often find that you have to research and properly learn English grammar rules yourself before you attempt to teach them. But the more you do this, the better you can relate to learning Spanish grammar. Being able to compare and contrast with English helps Spanish stick; not just grammar, but certain vocabulary and pronunciation patterns too. You students will also benefit in the same way. There is a mutual interest which creates a more positive and effective learning environment.
Check out my post on learning Spanish s best you can before moving to Spain for more tips!
6) B1 and B2: Bane of your life
In the last few years, exam prep classes have become the real money-spinners in just about any English academy in Spain. The pressure young Spanish students find themselves under is so immense that sitting official, Cambridge CEF (Common European Framework) English exams has become a necessary step in order to graduate from University (although not in all cases) or find a job.
As a result, most academies have had to cater to the demand, so don’t be surprised if you are given either a B1 (pre-intermediate level English) or B2 (intermediate level Engish) exam prep class at the beginning of the year. These classes are usually a drag, since there is only one goal: pass the exam. It’s less about fun and games and more about completing as much of the textbook as possible before the exam date. However, if and when your students pass the exam, you get a real sense of pride and achievement unlike in regular classes, and that makes it all worth the effort. Kind of.
7) Private Classes are Worth Doing on The Side
The average monthly wage for teaching English in Spain is around €1,000/month. This may seem low – it is – but it’s enough to get by on, go/eat out a couple of nights a week and have yourself the occasional holiday. If you want to actually save money though, you’ll need another regular income. The easiest way to secure this is by teaching English privately on the side.
Sites like tusclasesparticulares.com are great resources for bringing teachers and students together. What you charge per hour depends on what the student expects from you. Conversation classes don’t require much preparation whereas exam preparation classes do. As a general rule, don’t work for less than €15/hour. Certified teachers are worth more than or at the very least equal to that amount, and to work for less would be undercutting other teachers – bad for the industry!
I hope you found these tips useful. They are just several taken from my forthcoming eBook, ’50 Things You Should Know About Teaching English in Spain’, which I hope to publish this summer!