Top tips for teaching English in Spain

Whether teaching English is your calling in life, or you just want an excuse to live the good life in Spain for a while, The Local's guide to teaching English will get you off on the right foot.

Top tips for teaching English in Spain
Do as much research as you can before moving to Spain to teach English. Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

Think reputable schools

"There are around 6,000 private language schools in Spain," says Aidan O'Toole, the vice president of the the National Federation of Private Language Schools in Spain, or FECEI.

"But only around 5 percent of these are registered with our association."

"Working for a FECEI school means you will be offered a real job with real paperwork," says O'Toole.

"The school will pay your social security contributions and there will be things like fire hydrants in all your classrooms," he adds.

Read about one man's experience of setting up an English school in the south of Spain.

"If, on the other hand, you work for a school where the paint hasn't even dried yet, you may find yourself up against a lack of resources, and a lack of support."

O'Toole says that Spain’s crisis has been something of a double-edged sword for language teachers.

"Parents don’t want to cut back on their children’s education and unemployed people want fill the ‘language gap’ on their CV, so there has been growth in student numbers," explains the industry expert.

"As a result, there are a lot more schools now because plenty of investors think it’s the only place in the economy worth sinking money into."

But if you don’t want your salary to arrive in a “brown paper” envelope at the end of each month, do your best to ensure this is a reputable school.

Of course there are plenty of great schools in Spain that belong to FECEI, but it certainly pays to try and establish the credentials of where you'll be working

"Some of the people running these new schools don’t know anything about teaching but will place very high demands on their teachers to be everything to everyone," says O'Toole. "And that can be very stressful."

Think qualifications

"The days when simply being a native speaker of English was enough to get you a TEFL job are long gone. Nowadays you almost always need to be trained and qualified," says O'Toole.

The industry expert says most good schools in Spain will now ask for teachers to be a native speaker of English, have a university degree and possess some kind of English teaching qualification. Ideally, they will also want you to have some experience and to speak some Spanish.

"But companies are starting to think outside the box," says O'Toole. "One thing I've noticed at the Spainwise jobs fair is that companies are more willing to be flexible when they see potential employees face to face."

“If employers meet someone in person who maybe doesn't have the right qualifications, but is the sort of person they are looking for, they are more likely to consider that person."  

"Teaching experience, the right academic qualifications and completing a successful selection process can all help you get your foot in the door at a school," says Anthony Adwadallah, founder and director of Kennedy Languages in Madrid and Barcelona.

"Having an official teaching qualification will increase your chances, though."

The most widely recognized qualifications are the University of Cambridge's Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) and the Trinity College London's Certificate in TESOL (CertTESOL).

On the other hand, if you are already a qualified primary or high school teacher in your home country, this is certainly going to boost your chances. 

Think workload

"Most Spanish contracts involve working 24 to 26 contact — or teaching — hours a week," says O'Toole.

"The actual contract will, however, be for 34 hours a week. The extra time will be given over to preparation, marking, exam marking, parent meetings and training. So if you sign on to 30 hours a week, you won’t have much of a life."

Grant says 25 hours is the maximum workload he would recommend for a new teacher. "Of course it depends a little bit on the planning requirements. Some schools have a very strict syllabus and teachers will only have to ‘follow the book’, which is easier."

"In those cases, you might be able to do more hours," adds Grant.

Think pay

Let’s face it: you’re unlikely to get rich teaching in Spain, but you don’t want to sell yourself short either.

"Most good schools in Spain will offer a monthly salary of around €1,200 to €1,350 a month before tax," says O'Toole.

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“That’s for about 25 contact hours per week.”

O'Toole points out, however, that Madrid and Barcelona are quite different. “The vast majority of people in those cities are working as freelancers and getting paid an hourly wage. Many of these people will be travelling around and giving in-company classes and perhaps working for two or three different schools.

Think online

Useful sites for finding a job in Spain include Madrid and Spainwise.

Madrid Teacher is the go-to site for jobs in the capital while and Spainwise carry ads for jobs all around the country., meanwhile, requires you to register first but also lets you 'automatically apply' for some jobs by sending off your pre-programmed resume up to date.

Think outside the box

"Some people who think about teaching in Spain end up in Madrid just because they've heard of the place," says O'Toole.

"But it can certainly pay to think outside the box."

Choosing to live in a small place can have its advantages says Grant. "If you want to learn Spanish, a small town might be a much better bet."

"Small schools can offer a lot more support," says Grant. "If you need resources, you can go straight to the source and cut out the middle man."

There's also the satisfaction that comes with getting off the beaten track and immersing yourself in Spanish culture. You might find a Spain you never knew existed.

Think about applying early

The academic year at most of Spain's private language schools runs from late September through to the end of June the following year. But don't get caught napping: May and June are the right time to start applying for jobs.

"There's also another rush in July or September for in-company classes," says Awadallah.

But if you want to boost your chances, start sending out those resumes now.

Think Spainwise 2014

One way to save time and effort in your job search is by going to an English teaching jobs fair where a host of potential employers will tell you straight away what they're looking for.

Spainwise is holding its sixth annual recruitment fair in Córdoba on May 17th 2014 with language schools, language associations, publishers  and other relevant groups from all over Spain and beyond taking part.

There are 49 stands at the shows so whether you are already teaching English in Spain, or are new to the industry, this is a great chance to get informed.

All the schools participating in the event are members of FECEI. 

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