By Emolyn Liden
With job opportunities, decent pay, and a fun atmosphere, Madrid is hard to top for an ESL teacher.
For ESL teachers in Europe, Madrid is an appealing city to base yourself for a year or more and there’s no denying it’s an exciting place to live. Add to this: fantastic weather, friendly locals (known as Madridleños), abundant cultural events, world-class art, and unparalleled nightlife.
But take a moment to think. Take a real moment. The first thing to consider is if Madrid is right for you.
Knowing it is possible
The minute you start speaking about your interest to teach English abroad those hearing you will pipe up, “Oh my friend’s daughter just went to Peru to teach English” or “I know someone who is teaching English in Japan and loves it. She just decided to extend her stay.” The fact is teaching English as a second language is the way to make a living abroad. Once you have chosen your location, like Madrid, you have made the most important decision. Location is key because in essence you can teach virtually anywhere. You may only stay there for a year, a glimpse of time in regard to a lifetime, but this place is going to be your home, a base from which you can travel.
Is a certification necessary?
Language academies will expect teachers to have a TEFL degree or at least a certification. You may have decided to live abroad for the experience and to travel, but academies want to see that you are serious about teaching. They won’t be fooled. Many academies will hire with a few years experience in lieu of a certificate. Keep in mind, organizations may choose someone with a certification first.
EBC International is one of the many programs in Madrid where you can receive proper certification. Like most programs, the EBC course lasts four weeks. Upon completion you will receive a dual certification in TEFL and TESOL, and as an alum will have access to EBC’s lifetime, world-wide career support service. This means that EBC will send your resume to academies and be your primary reference. If later you decide to move to another city, they will provide you with the same service, and get you connected to academies. The dual TEFL and TESOL allows you to teach anywhere worldwide. If you stop teaching and begin again in five years, EBC will connect you with academies wherever you choose.
Another credited program is the Canterbury English TEFL Course which claims to be the most affordable option whereby you work for Canterbury after ending the program as a way to cover some of the cost of the course. They advertise that you are guaranteed a job with Canterbury which is enticing in today’s job market. This arrangement is both liked and disliked by those who have completed the program. Some feel it is a way to begin teaching immediately while paying less to become certified. Others feel it restricts the openness and flexibility of their schedule since the main teaching hours are devoted to the service of the agreement. However, this agreement can be viewed as a trial run for a class. Once the hours have been completed you may be able to keep the class which could lead to other opportunities.
None the less, completing a certification program is a guaranteed way to get experience organizing lesson plans and teaching and is recommended for any one who has no experience teaching.
The interviewing process
Once you acquire a certification, the job hunt begins. EBC and other programs will send out your resume and language schools are quick to call. For this reason it is important to have a cell phone to schedule appointments. Academies rarely schedule through email and you want to avoid just dropping by. English teachers are in high demand and what you may find is that academies are eager to hire. Prepare yourself by doing a number of things prior to the interview.
Think about your rate of pay. Depending on the interviewer, pay may be negotiable. Consider how far you will travel to teach a course. Weigh options of working block-hours as opposed to scattered hours with breaks in between. Do you want to work freelance or sign a contract? The two most important items to bring with you to an interview are: a calendar and a city map. The worst scenario as a new teacher is agreeing to teach a class in the north and another in the south with not enough time allowed for travel in between. You do not want to discover the hard way, by running from the metro to the office door, skidding into the classroom with sweat dripping down your face to greet your new students, that thirty minutes is an unrealistic amount of time to cross the city. Not a good first impression.
If you have numerous academies that call to schedule interviews accept as many as you can fit in. You may feel like you are running around but you will learn so much when able to compare work situations. Observe the atmosphere of the office and imagine yourself working among the rooms, making copies, and preparing lesson plans. Does the academy offer teaching resources? Do they provide a book or curriculum? Pay attention to the mood while the interview ensues. Have them describe a typical class at their academy. Are they large or small? Are the students young business professionals? Children? People learning English out of pure interest? All of these things will influence your work and differ from place to place. It may be the style of the academy to approach you like a bookie, listing class size, location, level, etc. and you may never see your co-workers while other schools create a peaceful work atmosphere where the teachers get to know each other through meetings, outings, and holiday events planned by the academy. Think about what situation works best for you.
Once you agree to teach with an academy
Once you agree on a class with a language school, be sure to get the proper information to get you started: size, level, and location. Some hire to teach in their facility and provide block hours. As a new teacher, you may not have that luxury. It is very likely you will be traveling to a company or household. Companies offer classes before work or during the lunch hour. Get the address and contact information of your students. Look up the address and if you are at all nervous about finding it, make a trip to the location beforehand to see where you will teach. Some larger companies may require you to have an identification tag and code to enter the building or have you sign in with the receptionist. Keep a time sheet and your own records so you can always double check your time.
The ESL decision
When you decide to become an ESL teacher in Madrid you have two options. Do you want to work for a language academy or teach privately? Working with an academy is the perfect way to learn how you handle the ESL life, manage your schedule, and how to organize your teaching agenda to better fit your life.
After some time you may decide you would rather teach privately. There are a number of ways to advertise your services. You can put up fliers around town, post on websites, or sometimes get the word out by simply telling people what you do. Going to one of the many language exchange nights around the city at pubs and bars is a great way to meet foreigners who may hire you to become their official teacher. Judge these situations carefully. Perhaps the person is acting more optimistic after they’ve had a beer or two. First, make sure the prospective student is serious about wanting to learn English. Private students are also more likely to cancel if life gets hectic. If you are working solely for yourself, you do not receive any benefits an academy may offer. Consider this when deciphering your rate. Establish early how you would handle canceling a class or rescheduling. Some teachers make a twenty-four-hour cancellation requirement. If the student cancels less than twenty-four hours in advance they must reschedule or pay you for the lost class. This policy goes both ways. If you as the teacher cancel you must hold up your side of the agreement.
ESL calendar in Madrid
Many Madridleños take time off during the summer. Whether they are staying in Madrid or traveling, life slows down during July, August, and the beginning of September. During these months you can find work at day camps in and around Madrid. Organizations based in Madrid will hire and place teachers in camps throughout Spain. Generally, these camps last two weeks with the chance for a teacher to work two to four sessions.
Children go back to school in late September and locals return to a regular work schedule. In October, life settles back to the normal pace. Companies and families are usually ready to begin English classes again.
Plan on steady work from January to June and October to the end of December. This provides the ESL teacher ample time to travel during the summer. However, be aware that the numerous holidays and long summer break add up and may put stress on your finances.
Wages and living expenses
Most full-time English teachers make between 15 to 25 Euros per hour for private lessons or 1,000 and 1,500 Euros per month with a full-time contract at an academy. Rate depends on how much experience you have, if you work in the heart of the city as opposed to traveling an hour to the outskirts, and if the class is through an academy or a private one-to-one. An average contract at an academy might be 1100 Euros per month for 25 teaching hours per week.
Expect to pay anywhere from 300-500 Euros for a room in a shared flat.
The economic crises
The economic crises of 2008 has had its obvious effect on English teachers. A country-wide increase in unemployment and lower wages means less money for non-essential English lessons. So consequently, the job market has been more competitive since then.
Do I need a work permit?
Most language schools will require you to have work permit. Some schools are willing to do the paperwork for you to get the documents in order. That process usually starts in June, and you must be in your home country. Once the academy or school decides to sponsor you they will fill out their portion of the paperwork which you must present with your portion in your home country. Even without a work permit, it’s still worth arriving to Madrid in early September for the best pick jobs. You might find some academies willing to hire you with plans to help you obtain a work permit in the future.
If you’ve only got a week and still want to check out the English-speaking scene, volunteer at Pueblo Ingles or Vaughan Town. These are unique opportunities to spend a week in the Spanish countryside speaking English with Spaniards. But beware: you might be conversing up to 14 hours per day! Don’t worry; its lots of fun and your room and board is taken care of in exchange for your volunteering.
Resources on the web
Madrid Teacher is the city’s definitive website for the English teacher. Check it out to start the job hunt: read in-depth about Madrid’s countless English Academies and browse job listings.
Once you’ve arrived in Madrid check out the free English monthly, InMadrid. It has more job listings and other helpful social insights.
Emolyn Liden spent 2008 teaching English in Madrid. She has lived abroad in England, Denmark, and Spain. While not traveling she enjoys writing and knitting for emolynknits.blogspot.com.