Teaching English in Spain

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Firstly, I must admit something. I never wanted to teach. If anything, it was probably the last thing I ever saw myself doing, probably placed somewhere along the lines of "coal miner" or "fireman" on my list of likely careers. I have infamously little patience and praise from me is fleeting and generally reserved for food, or for a well executed tongue twister. But somehow, I've ended up here in Madrid teaching Year 7s about everything from modal verbs to parasitic hook worms. And, strangest of all, I don't think I'm hating it.

It hasn't always been such plain sailing, admittedly. When I first arrived, it was winter. Now, I don't like winter much. I especially don't like getting up at 6:45 3 days a week in winter and coming home at 8:30 every night and never seeing the sunlight. This is problem number one when it comes to being a teacher, particularly if you rely on home based tutoring to supplement your income; your timetable is often varied and filled with annoying gaps of wasted hours. School in Spain starts at half 8 and finishes around half 2/3pm for Secondary or half 4 for Primary, including a two hour lunch which you may be required to stick around for.If your school is OK with it, you're free to come and go as you please as long as you are in for your timetabled hours but if, like me, you commute over an hour and 15 mins to get to work that isn't much help. I've adapted to this strange time table now, filling the gaps in my timetable with preparing lessons for my private classes which start at around 5pm, spending the money I'm about to make in H&M and writing blog posts. If it takes you a while to adapt at first, try to make the most of your timetable by adjusting classes and dropping private classes which make you miserable for whatever reason; long commutes, bratty kids or late hours aren't worth the money, no matter how good it is, if it's making you dread your day. And remember, long days are rewarded with Fridays off, the most beautiful part of my job.

If you get a job in a school through the British Council, or even if you go directly through the Ministry of Education, you are guaranteed either this Monday or Friday off every week. I advise you look at your schools calendar for the sneakiest day if you're given the option. They have a lot of Fridays off in Spain anyway so sometimes what seems like the dud option pays off in the long run.This day off allows to you to spend all your hard earned money from the week in one glorious blow out weekend.If you want to travel around Europe, or to really get to know Spain inside out, this is the perfect job for you.This year I've visited San Sebastian, Granada, Nerja, Salamanca 3 times, Berlin and done various short trips to cities surrounding Madrid. I have trips planned to Denia and Valencia coming up in the next few weeks. For a serious travel junkie like me, this has been a very restrained year; if I didn't need to save money for future projects I could have done much much more. This, to me, is the main selling point of teaching English.

Another thing that sweetens the bitter pill of a child repeatedly sticking a pencil in your ear whilst singing the answers to your questions in a high pitched whine is the money. Speaking just for Madrid, teaching English is no longer the impoverished career choice that it once was. The British Council will pay you 1000€ a month for 16 hours working in a school, enough to live comfortably on in a city where basic living costs are around 500-600€/month, and you can easily earn another 500€/month on top of that if you work hard in the evenings tutoring Monday-Thursday. Tutoring pay ranges from around 15€-20€/hour and work is relatively abundant. Basically you can earn as much as you like...I like going on lots of trips and eating out lots so I don't have to wash up so I work 8 hours after school to pay for it, but if you don't then you don't have to. By the end of the year, I'll have earned enough money to have made the most of my year in Madrid, taken lots of trips, paid off my overdraft and saved money for when I move to Berlin. Not too shabby!

If you're considering it, I would say do it. The job is often mind numbingly boring but it can also be very rewarding. And I never thought I would say that. Even though I still want to be a coal miner more than I want to be a teacher, this year hasn't been a waste of time in the slightest. I've learnt what I don't want to do and had time to think about what I really want from life. My Spanish has improved, I'm more independent than ever and I know that if I can handle a class full of 13 year old Spanish children chopping up flower heads and rubbing pollen in each others' eyes, then I can probably handle a lot of other things as well.



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