Teaching English in Spain – whether you’ve already submitted your application and have gone through your rounds of interviews, or it’s merely a thought that has become a potential consideration in the near future, I would like to share with you some insight into the experience as a former English teacher in Madrid, Spain. I do want to clarify, before you start to freak out over this list (or any other list) about x amount of things I wish I would have known before teaching English in Spain, I want you to know that none of this should seriously scare you or make you want to back down from potentially one of the best things you will ever do in your life. Seriously.
So if anything, please take these lists (mine included) as suggestions and insight, and consider yourself armed with knowledge on what your experience may entail abroad. As for this list I came up with, these are things that I learned along my year teaching English in Spain, however, knowing them ahead of time could have saved me a little bit of stress and certain disappointment lol, so without further ado, here are 5 things I wish I would have known before teaching English in Spain.
1. Lower your classroom expectations
Though it’s great that you are starting the year strong with the following…
- Contacting the teachers you are working with
- Writing your lesson plans for each class
- Imagining how you’re going to change your students lives and how much their english will improve
- And that new stationary you’re so ready to use!
I will tell you it won’t always go as planned. Teachers will take their sweet time in responding to you, some will be helpful and some won’t, not all of your lesson plans will be the most amazing or fun ones, even if you spent a long time
searching for them online creating them. Another thing, you won’t dramatically change the students lives. The best thing I could suggest is to not add that pressure to yourself. Don’t think that you are solely responsible for your students passing their Cambridge exams or to add more variety to their English vocabulary. You are an auxiliar or assistant, so you are not their only English teacher. Also, consider the fact that going in, it’s your first year so may be you are learning how to teach as well. In time, you will start to find out what will work best for you to teach and your students to learn best – you will also be used to your students and your students will know what to expect from you. Just give yourself that time to allow progress for yourself and everyone else. teaching English in Spain
2. Know your worth at your school
Though it’s important to be flexible with whatever may come your way teaching English in Spain, that does not mean that you should let others take advantage of you. In Spain (as I’m sure that it occurs in other countries with English teachers) you will hear stories of auxiliares who have been either overworked and under-appreciated. Don’t feel afraid or like you don’t have much of a voice to speak up if you don’t feel happy or comfortable. While you’re going through this experience to teach English, you are also there to have fun as well and to feel that your work is actually being appreciated by the students and the teachers. So be vigilant, and anything that you don’t like, please do something about it and also ask any and all questions you have!
3. Be mentally prepared to have side teaching gigs
If someone would have told me that as an English teacher in Spain, I would have needed to look for additional sources of income aka side teaching gigs to not only make ends meet comfortably, but to also travel – I would have probably said nah. Well let me tell you, yaaass! You will definitely be needing at least one other private class to cover those additional expenses. Remember that you’re living on an English teacher salary for a whole year – and that won’t be enough to comfortably cover the cost of living AND travel if that is your plan. Now, I am basing this off of my experience living and teaching in a suburb town near the city center of Madrid and with a host family. I had my major costs like food and shelter covered, but for other daily expenses and my cell phone bill, and not to mention travel to other places on the weekends and puente holidays- your girl needed at least 3 more classes to comfortably be able to do it all. So don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers at the school you’re teaching if they know of anyone who is looking for an English tutor – 7 times out of 10 it may be your co-workers looking for someone and they may even approach you since they already know you. Also, become part of the auxiliar page of your chosen city on Facebook – there are ALWAYS private classes up for grabs on there as well. Having private classes outside of your 9-5 teaching job (yes, 9-5 in Spain) will take a little bit of adjusting, but you’ll be able to make it work! 🙂
4. Make friends with the other teachers – trust me
Going into my year teaching English in Spain, I didn’t really know if I would be making friends at the school I was going to be working at. To be honest, as close minded as this was (mind you, this was before I even left home) I only thought I would be hanging out with my friend who was also teaching English that I knew from college, as well as a few friends I had made through the Madrid auxiliar Facebook group, and that would be it. Please don’t limit yourself! Make friends with your coworkers! These are the people that you will not only spend many many hours with throughout your year, but also the ones who will give you those restaurant recommendations, the ones who will help you when you’re not feeling well, the ones who will have your back at school, and give your insight on how schooling works in your country, and really, how everything works within the society you’re currently living in, and so much more. In my case, I ended up making some really amazing friendships and connections with teachers I worked with at my school. Towards the end of my year, some of them invited me on weekend trips to their little corner of Spain. Through those friends, I was able to go to Valencia, Granada, and Avila; cities in Spain that I got to explore with locals, as well as stay with. You never really know who you’re going to meet and befriend, so I would just recommend that you keep an open mind, and be genuine with people. Friendships can stem from coworker relationships, and before you know it, they can feel like family. So, don’t stay contained within just one group of friends, especially if they are other American auxiliars. Don’t deprive yourself of getting to know others more, as well as a different culture! It’s a beautiful thing 🙂
5. Try your best, but also don’t stress out
Teaching English in Spain means a lot of good things, but it can also mean receiving a lower pay and looking for other teaching opportunities outside your school. You will start to get busier between teaching at your school, teaching private lessons, commuting, and trying to have fun, it can get a bit overwhelming. However, as you start to get more social, always just keep in mind your job and your responsibility to set time aside to work on lesson plans and other teacher related work. Always try your best, don’t slack off even if you may see others doing it. I will admit, finding a balance is hard because it’s almost like being stuck in between two forms of work – your punctual, focused work style that we as Americans have been trained in mostly, and then there is the Spanish way, which is a lot more chill about getting things done. If you’re trying to work in the robust American way while your coworkers may seem a little more lenient on a few items, it can be a challenge but don’t stress out! In time, you’ll find that this challenge will lessen, and you will see that you will get better at knowing how to work with different people and work styles. It kind of goes hand in hand with the first suggestion when I say to give yourself that time to progress and learn, so just give yourself that time and wiggle room. The opportunity to be able to see how other societies work and how you will function within this shift will be worth it. Now it will be your opportunity to see how other parts of the world do things, and rather than stress about how you’re going to make it, think of what you can learn from them. So as one of my students always told me; don’t worry, be happy 🙂
Let me know if you thought these suggestions were helpful by leaving a comment below! I’d also really love it if you let me know if you have taught abroad, and if so where and what was your experience like? Do these suggestions sound familiar to you?
You guys, teaching abroad has left me with more to learn that what I feel I left my students with lol. I will never become tired of repeating that this experience was an incredible, eye-opening one. If you’re about to start teaching abroad soon, I hope these suggestions helped you out a little bit. If you haven’t considered teaching abroad, maybe this post gave you a little bit of insight to potentially learn more about it. Thank you guys for reading, and I’ll see you in the next post!