How Teaching in Spain Changed My Life
Claire Mapletoft made a life changing decision to move from the UK to Spain to pursue a different experience teaching English. She has written an article sharing her experiences on why she decided to make a career change and work abroad. She provides some useful advice for people thinking about taking becoming English teachers in Spain...
Why Did I Choose Spain
Without putting too fine a point on it, moving to Spain was the bravest and the stupidest thing I have ever done. I went with no knowledge of the language, of where I was living, or what the location was like. All I had was a idealistic notion that this was the break I was looking for. I completed my TEFL course after my degree and after spending a year bouncing between being unemployed and freelance tutoring, I began applying for teaching jobs abroad. I had some experience working as TESOL teacher at a language school in the south of England, which was a double-edged sword. It was largely rewarding, but equally erred on the side of soul-destroying stressful.
How I Got a Job
My current job in Spain was the first that interviewed me after finding it online, and the first to offer me a position. Compared to other jobs I had applied for the money was low. However, it was located in a beautiful city (at least according to Google Maps) and it would offer me a broad range of experience. From adults to children, business English to conversational skills, it ticked all the boxes.
Leaving the UK
I halfheartedly attempted to learn Spanish before I moved, but actually moving remained a dream until I was standing in the departure lounge waiting for my flight. I would not recommend anyone to do what I did. I did not have a contract, a National Identity number, a tangible apartment or even a concrete start date. However, this paled into comparison to the paralysing fear and incomprehendible excitement I felt.
I left Britain, not knowing how income tax I would be expected to pay (a rude awakening on my first paycheque, largely). Whilst it sounds very romantic and impulsive to just up and leave, it is not to be taken lightly. Nor is the actual job when you get there. There is a stereotype of TEFL teaching. Mostly, that the teachers are gap year students, unemployed graduates or careless wanderers who want to travel the world whilst 'doing good'. I was certainly one of these. Which one I will leave to your imagination.
Role & What to Expect
In Spain the hours teaching vary. I started off working five hours, but in that short time, I earned my Euros. Running around after 8 energetic five-year olds and then getting it together in order to have an adult conversation with a class of grumpy intermediates is no mean feat. Now, I work ten hours a day. Without a break. My day swings from disinterested business students, to children who often have no idea what you are talking about, to engaging adults who simply cannot stop talking.
My Top Advice to Any Potential Spain TEFL Teachers
My advice before leaving to pursue any TEFL career in Spain is:
- Do your homework
- Research the location
- Research the school
- Research the working conditions in your chosen destination
- If you don't know the language book a course to learn Spanish in Spain
- I got a job before departing but you could take a TEFL course in Spain - most schools help with emploment after
Most importantly, do plenty of research and be sure it is really what you want. There is no shame in moving to work in Spain and hating it. It is not for everyone. However, there is a shame in letting people down. So, make sure and make double sure. I was not, but luckily, it worked out for me. This is not always typical. Do your homework and make sure you have every eventuality covered. Allow the first six weeks to be your adjustment period. Don't over analyse, over think or over worry. Allow yourself to miss home. Say yes to everything and just enjoy the whole experience of teaching English in Spain.
What Are You Waiting For
If you are thinking about teaching English in Europe choose Spain. Would I change any of my experience? No. Not for the world. The look on someone's face when they smile and tell you they enjoyed the lesson is priceless. It might not seem like much but trust me, when you have had to deal with temper tantrums and sheer confusion, it can mean everything. Is it easy? No. It is called a job for a reason. You work and it is often hard. Whilst this is my own experience, I am aware many jobs are much more easy-going. If you find one, please be aware that this will give you a great opportunity to travel but not much else. If you want to build your CV, develop your skills and chip away at that illustrious 'finding out who you are' model, then apply for the positions that have a job description longer than one sentence.
By Claire Mapletoft