Teaching English as a second language in a new country is a great way to explore a new culture, travel while earning money, and gain a new experience. Teaching in Spain was my second time teaching English as second language, and from the very beginning, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. But, I wouldn’t change any part of it for anything. In fact, I highly recommend the experience to anyone looking for a way to travel and explore another part of the world.
When I graduated from university, the societal pressure to get a corporate job was palpable. But, it just didn’t sit right with me. The next thing I knew, I was entering in my credit card information and buying a one-way ticket to Thailand (insert hyperlink–coming later). I caught the travel bug and didn’t feel I was ready to settle down in a desk job. Instead, I decided to explore a new culture by becoming a contributing member of their society — i.e. an English teacher. Spain it was.
(in photo above: leaving for Thailand, leaving for Spain)
Breakdown of the Program:
This particular program is run by the Spanish government, Spain is trying to become more proficient in students learning second/third languages and with English being one of the most spoken languages worldwide; there is a strong need for assistants. However, with this particular programs (and many alike) you will not be the sole teacher in the classroom, you will not be responsible for failing and grading students, creating lesson plans and teaching them the difference between subordinate and independent clause (yeah..I don’t know either). You will act as the assistant to a number of teachers and levels. You are their conversation assistant; someone you can help the students practice their speaking and pronunciation skills.
The Ministry of Education Program places you in cities all around Spain.
IN MADRID: you will work about 16 hours a week (in the classroom; you will most likely have long breaks) – typically four days a week; you can either ask for Monday or Friday off. €1000 a month.
ELSEWHERE: 12 hours a week, also four days a week. €700 a month
What are you doing? EVERY EXPERIENCE VARIES!
like I said above, being a cultural assistant does not mean that you are the sole teacher int he class you are generally placed with the actual Spanish/English teacher and you will act as their assistant, helping with speaking activities or pronunciation. Or teach them about the culture of where you come from. Some teachers may expect more from you, some may expect less. Some assistants are given other Classe besides English, such as Art or PE where they just want you to talk to the students in English.
Every situation, school, classroom will be a different experience.
For me: I taught high schoolers and was given more freedom to make my own lesson plans. With permission from the teachers I was given more control of what happened during my hour with the students. I would create my own lesson plans based on the level of English for that class and the topics there were interested in (or somewhat showed a slight care for — lets be real they are high schoolers they don’t really care about dinosaurs or climate change). I would coordinate with the students allowing them to tie in grammar experiences while introducing pronunciation and speaking games with each lesson plan. Yes…I worked WAY harder than I should have. But I can now name almost every dinosaur (almost — there are surprisingly a lot), tell you the story of the Viking Gods and explain the Electoral College to just about anyone — and I have the powerpoint to back them up; hola at me if you want them!)
Being able to move to a new world and contribute to society sounds lovely and everything, but not every day will be a walk in the park and might fall down the metro stairs (once or twice).
You only work Monday-Thursday or Tuesday to Friday which means you have three day weekend every weekend. And you’re in Europe. You can jump on a plane, fly an hour or two and end up in a completely different culture for less than €100 (check out my secrets — insert hyperlink).
You are also working school hours, which means you will have the afternoon to take up a new hobby, practice your Spanish skills or earn extra cash with private lessons.
The job itself isn’t rocket science (ehh, at times), for some its easy-peasy as 1,2,3,A,B,C literally and will involve you singing songs and coloring with elementary students. Other positions may require more work and planner. And if you’re crazy enough like me you’ll end up learning a lot more than you imagined when you are done. It mostly depends on you.
Not going to lie, travel was the main reason I chose to teach abroad. When you have a three day weekend every weekend AND living in Europe means you are surrounded by so many beautiful places and cultures only a short distance away. Take advantage of it.
Disorganized. Holy Espana. The program will give you a headache. The application process will make you want to quit mid-way. But don’t. The program is extremely disorganized but so many people before you have done this there are loads of people that will help you out. Me included!
On your own:
Unlike other teaching programs, this particular one doesn’t help you set up life once you arrive in Spain. There isn’t any member of the ministry that will guide you into finding an apartment or setting up a bank account. but, again there are loads of people that have been through this program, that are still doing this program that would gladly help.
Apply early: Start the visa process before you get your assignment. Get the papers together, get your photos done, copies made, have everything ready to be shipped out as soon as you receive your carta.
Practica tu español: you’ll be thankful when searching for apartments, opening a bank account, asking how to weigh the bananas at the grocery story, buy a book, download an app (Duolingo..free and good), start listening to Spanish music, Netflix in Spanish (subtitle it, if need be). Just start thinking in Spanish.
Save money: Don’t be a doofus and come over with nothing in your bank account. You will need to be able to place a first, last and security deposit on your piso. Your first paycheck (potentially your second paycheck) will be late and you will need some cushion space to buy cushions and soap and food and cañas. Depending on how frugal you are; I would recommend coming with at least 5K to live comfortably until your paychecks arrive.
School equipment: It would actually be pretty wise to bring some school supplies with you, games, workbooks. Workbooks are great for copying worksheets and games out of. Banana-grams is a popular game with private lessons and you can get super creative with a bunch of letters written on titles. Charades, any sort of guessing games. If you know the grade you are teaching, you can try and get workbooks associated with that grade (or one lower) to help conquer up some fun ideas.