My personal experience of teaching English in Barcelona
Teaching English as a foreign Language sounds like the ultimate job, and it’s definitely promoted that way, but could it be too good to be true?
Alas young SuiteLifer, do not fear, for SuiteLife is here to give you a first hand, insiders perspective. I’ve been teaching English in Barcelona since 2009 and SuiteLife’s Operations Director, Ranald has been teaching English in Barcelona for many many more years. We’ve discussed a few points which we believe you need to know about teaching English as a foreign language, before you take the great big giant step and do your TEFL course! (By the way, TEFL for those of you who don’t know, stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language).
First of all, I would like to say that Teaching English in Barcelona has given me some of the happiest memories I have. Almost everybody I have met in Barcelona is linked in some way to TEFL teaching. For those who like socialising and and meeting new people from different backgrounds, this could indeed be your ideal job.
I was 25 and living in my home town, Swansea – South Wales, when I realised something huge was missing from my life. Growing up with a family passionate about travelling and seeing the world, I decided at a young age that at some point in my life, I would live abroad. However, life goes on, you follow the more “traditionally” trodden path and some how, the “dream” of living abroad becomes nothing more than that, just “a dream”. I remember I was renting a house with my friends, I had a car, and even that seemed like enough to tie me down. But something changed, the lease on our house came to an end, and coincidently I sold my car around the same time.
I was free, I was single, I had cash in the bank and I started thinking, “Is NOW the perfect time to move abroad, is there ever going to be a better time than this?” I looked into jobs in Spain, originally I wanted to move to Italy but I had studied a little Spanish so it made sense. In flashing lights where ever I looked was “TEFL teaching course in Barcelona“, but I never planned on being a teacher, was I being ridiculous? I wrote an email to the TEFL training school and they called me back the next week for a phone interview. All of a sudden I had been offered a place on the TEFL course in Barcelona and it seemed possible, it was easy. All I had to do was book a flight to Barcelona and the school would find me accommodation for the duration of the course (one month). A month later, I was sitting in a classroom with 9 other TEFL trainees, living in Barcelona, living the dream. OK, so I never planned on being a teacher, but I like people, and I like talking so I thought I would give it a go. To me, teaching English was a way for me to live in Barcelona, and that was my ultimate goal.
The TEFL course I did in Barcelona was intense and at times, frustrating but over all I really enjoyed it. I felt I was learning again and after a few years out of University, it was refreshing and exciting. As they tell you before hand, you really are thrown in the deep end and you teach your first English lesson during the first week. Nerve racking, but excellent and invaluable experience. Best teach your first English lesson while you have the “excuse” of being a trainee.
Obviously, as an English teacher you have to know your grammar and the course will drill it in to you until you know it inside out, whether you like it or not. Personally, I hated the grammar, and preferred the more communicative techniques they show you to teach English in a less “clerical” manner. Part of this was a lesson entirely in Czech and another entirely in Spanish, the idea being that you can see how it feels to learn a language without any use of your mother tongue. Remember, TEFL teaching means you teach English using only English, which is a beautiful concept as it means you can work anywhere in the world even if the only language you know is English. Are you sold yet?
So, you’ve been living in Barcelona for a whole month, you are now a qualified TEFL teacher, what next?
A lot of the TEFL training schools offer “career guidance” and to be fair, it helps a great deal. They tell you who you need to speak to and what they will expect of you. My course even had somebody who told us exactly what to put on your CV. However, a job is by no means going to just fall into your lap. An important point I would like to mention is that, at times during your TEFL course, it can feel as if you and your new friends are the only native English speakers in Barcelona.
This is not true however as there are hundreds of English native speakers completing a TEFL course in Barcelona every month. There are definitely more teachers than there are English teaching jobs in Barcelona so you really do have to work hard to secure a job. Any relevant experience will set you in good stead, I included on my CV that I had taught kids guitar. Although not a great deal of experience, it was a little more than other people who had ZERO experience.
Another problem here is that, because the jobs are offered by schools, they tend to recruit during the beginning of the first term. If you complete your TEFL course in October for example, a great deal of the jobs will have already been snapped up. The TEFL training schools make out that there are jobs available all year round and the certainly are, but by far the best time to secure a position will be August, September and October. The next best time will be after Christmas as many TEFL teachers head home to see their family, never to return.
I’m sure you want to know about money, I certainly did. TEFL teaching is comfortably paid, and a full timecontract of around 20 hours per week will provide you enough money to pay your bills, enjoy your free time and save enough for trips. But you aren’t going to make a fortune. Language schools in Barcelona pay around €15 per hour which is nice, and private classes can pay slightly more. I have a good friend (Marian from my TEFL course) who set up her own English school. She teaches English to almost everybody in her town just outside of Barcelona and works a solid 50 hour week. If you want to make money with TEFL teaching, this is surely the way to do it.
During my first year teaching English in Barcelona, I worked only 14 hours at a school but had 5 hours per week of private classes. I enjoyed the variety and freedom of private classes and the security of my contract at the school. I would totally recommend this approach.
Well, the quality of teachers lifestyle is well known and TEFL teachers in Barcelona enjoy the same benefits. Half term, Christmas, Easter, bank holidays all included, as well as the many many Barcelona holidays which seem to pop up when you least expect it. It really is all about quality of life. The main point to remember however, is that you are living in Barcelona so you don’t have far to go to enjoy the Beaches in Barcelona!
NB Although the main holidays are paid, your contract is typically terminated at the end of the academic year. This means that during the summer months, July, August and maybe even September, you will be without a money. There are summer courses in many English schools but not all.
So, TEFL teaching in Barcelona has been an incredible journey for me personally. Some of the people I have met have been teaching English all over the world, and it truly is a passport to see the world. What could be a better way to emerge yourself in the local culture, than spending all your time talking to the locals, and getting paid for it. The money is good, the lifestyle is even better and the people all share a common ideology, an enthusiasm for learning, culture and living life to the fullest.
I did my TEFL course with http://www.teflbarcelona.net/ at BCN languages. If you do your course here, tell them Ben Holbrook sent you and maybe you will get a discount! 😉
yours, Ben Holbrook