CELTA and teaching English in Spain

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  • lucyblue0706
    Participant
    7 June, 2010 at 21:25
    • Total posts: 3

    Hi everyone,

    I have recently made the decision to embark on a CELTA course. This is something that I have been considering for quite sometime and made the decision on CELTA after alot of research into qualification requirements for teaching positions.

    My intention (and hope!) is to start teaching in Spain. I am aware that Spain is one of the most popular destinations for EFL teaching in Europe so finding this first job is inevitably going to be hard work but i’m hoping that by putting alot of time and effort into researching this it’s possible!

    I would really appreciate some honest, specific advice on a number of questions I have from anyone that has experience of teaching in Spain or of seeking EFL work in Europe with a CELTA.

    A little bit of background info on me that may help understanding where some of my questions are coming from and be useful in answering my questions – I am 25, English (a native speaker), have a BA Hons in Design and did an online TEFL course a couple of years ago however never received a certificate. Through a voluntary English teaching position in India that I took a year or so ago I found I really loved teaching, ended up teaching alot longer than planned and found myself wanting to learn more……ironically.

    I am well aware that salaries for EFL teacher’s are by no means particularly good and fully expect to be on the minimum for the first couple of years of teaching (atleast), which from what I have read, I understand to be around the €1000-€1200 per month mark in Spain (dependant on location, institute, type of teaching etc.). However I don’t consider teaching as a job to simply fund the desire to travel, and hope to develop some sort of career out of it, perhaps later doing a PGCE in the UK.

    So, questions:

    1) Is my hope of making a career in teaching English, with CELTA as a foundation even vaguely realistic or is it just something that people do for short periods of time? From what I have read, alot of people seem to have plans to move into tourism/business/hospitality after a few years which I most definately do not.

    2) Can I expect some sort of career progression and consequently improved salary after a year or two’s experience?

    3) What sort of quality of life can be afforded in Spain on an EFL teacher’s salary? For guidance, I would like to live somewhere relatively comfortable and central -I don’t want to be living on the outskirts of town in a tower block with leaky pipes, cracked windows and miles to travel on the metro everyday! I enjoy going away for the occassional weekend and would want to make the most of the opportunity to do so when in Spain, and explore more of Europe (i’m no 5* girl though so camping, cheap flights/train tickets are all I mean). In relation to this, would I have time to do this in my first year as a teacher or are weekends and days off eaten up by lesson planning etc? In general, is there time and money for a social life?

    4) Is there anywhere in particular you would recommend for a newly qualified EFL teacher with a small amount of teaching experience to head to? I understand there is more chance of finding a teaching position in Madrid or Barcelona, but how about for quality of life balanced with living costs? I am also very keen to learn Spanish and experience the Spanish way of life. I am very keen on Andalucia but are jobs hard to find?

    5) I have made the decision to go for this a little too late in the year to be ready in time for the Sept/Oct start to the academic year. I am intending on doing a CELTA course in Cambridge (this is where I live so makes sense) in October.The next point at which I could hope to find work is January I understand – to find work at this time of year are there any particular places to try, or methods of application that work best?

    6) Would I be at a far greater advantage doing the course in Spain, say at the IH in Barcelona, knowing that Spain is where I really hope to teach? My dilemma here, is which puts me in a better position; the cash I can save by doing the course in the UK where I can put away the money I would spend on rent in Spain or being in Spain in the right place at the right time to find a job?

    7) In the longterm is there potential, should you be willing to work hard enough, to earn enough to save and eventually, say, own your own property (heaven forbid)?! I have no grand ideas, but in somewhere nice to live, and in the future so not neccessarily in Spain. Hmmm, there’s always the student loan to pay off as well of course.

    8) When all is said and done how does the experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language in Spain live up to the expectation and dream? Putting the romance of the idea aside, I hope to enjoy the experience of living in a European city, in a job that I consider valuable in which I am prepared to work hard. I want to be able to visit other parts of the country throughout the year and head home (to the UK) for the weekend if I need to for some reason without desperately worrying about the cost of the flight. I don’t want to be working all the hours of the day and night just to be able to scrimp and save enough to exist in a foreigh city without the opportunity to explore it and thinking that I would be better off back in the UK!

    I apologise for the slightly desperate tone of the last question but I have read a number of comments now on various forum’s that focus on the pitiful wages that limit your chances of really enjoying the EFL teaching experience.

    I hope the very lengthy nature of this post doesn’t leave anyone doubting my ability to just get on and deal with things, something which i’m sure is pretty important in any teaching role……..there are just many questions floating around my head at the moment that have been raised as a result of reading a few too many forum’s I think!

    I look forward to any general experiences and advice anyone can offer.

    Thanks in advance everyone :)

    Keith
    Moderator
    8 June, 2010 at 11:46
    • Total posts: 279

    Reply To: CELTA and teaching English in Spain – advice please!

    Welcome to the forum and the world of TEFL!

    Before I answer your specific questions, a few points on your other remarks…

    [quote]Spain is one of the most popular destinations for EFL teaching in Europe so finding this first job is inevitably going to be hard work but i’m hoping that by putting alot of time and effort into researching this it’s possible![/quote]
    Yes and yes

    [quote]…I understand to be around the €1000-€1200 per month mark in Spain (dependant on location, institute, type of teaching etc.)[/quote]
    Sometimes a little less…

    Okay, here are my answers to your questions based on two years experience in Barcelona (and many more years in other countries too)…

    [quote]1) Is my hope of making a career in teaching English, with CELTA as a foundation even vaguely realistic or is it just something that people do for short periods of time? From what I have read, alot of people seem to have plans to move into tourism/business/hospitality after a few years which I most definately do not.
    [/quote]
    A lot of people teach for a few years, then move on to something else, either for better pay or because they’ve "done" the travelling thing. A minority continue and make some sort of career out of teaching English, either by career progression (for example by becoming a Director of Studies – more on that later) or because they find a country they love and do not want to leave, for one reason or another.

    [quote]2) Can I expect some sort of career progression and consequently improved salary after a year or two’s experience?[/quote]
    Career progression in general – yes. Systems differ from school to school, but many (by no means all) have some kind of "senior teacher" positions, where you may be responsible for mentoring new teachers, some aspect of administration, or perhaps be in charge of the business English or young learner courses, something like that.

    After that there are Director of Studies (DoS) positions, where you would be in charge of running the whole academic side of the school. These positions usually require a higher level qualification such as the [url=http://www.cambridgeesol.org/exams/teaching-awards/delta.html]DELTA[/url”> and several years experience.

    Beyond that, you can look at getting into teacher training (running CELTA courses, for example), or school administration.

    It’s worth pointing out that there is wide variation between schools. If you’re working, for example, for a British Council school, you’ll likely find many DELTA qualified teachers and thus competition for senior teacher or DoS positions extremely high. At the other extreme, in some schools almost all teachers will be newly qualified and DoS positions may be available after a couple of years experience and with "just" a CELTA (I’ve seen this in a couple of schools). In yet other schools, career progression may be impossible, as the DoS position is filled by someone who has been there 20 years, and there is no heirarchy amongst teachers. And so on…

    So, the opportunities are there for career progression. It’s a combination of hard work, being being in the right place at the right time, and recognising when you’re working for a school where your career will stagnate.

    In terms of salary, the news is not so good in my experience. it’s not like teaching in the UK school system, where each year of experience gains you a salary hike. On the contrary, in many (probably the majority) of schools, if two teachers are recruited at the same time, one is newly qualified, and the other has 10 years experience and a DELTA, the starting salary for both will be the same, or perhaps only slightly different. Within a school, you may see a salary increase for renewing your contract a second year, but, in my experience at least, this is related more to loyalty than to experience.

    When you start to get up to senior teacher and DoS positions, there is a difference in salary, though often only a small one.

    [quote]) What sort of quality of life can be afforded in Spain on an EFL teacher’s salary? For guidance, I would like to live somewhere relatively comfortable and central -I don’t want to be living on the outskirts of town in a tower block with leaky pipes, cracked windows and miles to travel on the metro everyday! I enjoy going away for the occassional weekend and would want to make the most of the opportunity to do so when in Spain, and explore more of Europe (i’m no 5* girl though so camping, cheap flights/train tickets are all I mean). In relation to this, would I have time to do this in my first year as a teacher or are weekends and days off eaten up by lesson planning etc? In general, is there time and money for a social life?[/quote]

    In Barcelona, I lived in a nice, clean, 30m2 apartment with a 20m2 terrace, in a nice area close to the centre (about a 20 minute walk to the school), and paid about 700 euros a month. My salary was about 1000 euros a month. I was living with my girlfriend so that made it affordable – just. Had I been alone I would have been obliged to find shared accommodation. Between the two of us (she was on a similar salary) we had enough for a modest social life, occasional trips away, trips back to the UK a couple of times a year, etc, but no more than that. We weren’t able to save any money and in fact ended up with slightly more debt than when we arrived. In all honesty, one of the reasons we left was because we weren’t making enough to be able to enjoy Barcelona and Spain to the full. In my experience you have to make compromises – less comfortable accommodation for more nights out, or vice versa, for example.

    Bear in mind I’m just speaking about Barcelona – I don’t know how it compares with other cities in Spain in terms of cost of living.

    The time spent preparing lessons, etc, is definitely more when you’re starting out, and you’ll gradually build up a bank of resources, materials and ideas that you can turn to, as well as experience generally, which cuts down on preparation time. You’ll likely be teaching between 20 and 25 contact hours a week, so there should still be plenty of time on weekdays to prepare, without having to use your weekends for that.

    [quote]4) Is there anywhere in particular you would recommend for a newly qualified EFL teacher with a small amount of teaching experience to head to? I understand there is more chance of finding a teaching position in Madrid or Barcelona, but how about for quality of life balanced with living costs? I am also very keen to learn Spanish and experience the Spanish way of life. I am very keen on Andalucia but are jobs hard to find?[/quote]

    Barcelona and Madrid are the places where you’ll find the most work. I’m not sure about Andalucia.

    [quote]5) I have made the decision to go for this a little too late in the year to be ready in time for the Sept/Oct start to the academic year. I am intending on doing a CELTA course in Cambridge (this is where I live so makes sense) in October.The next point at which I could hope to find work is January I understand – to find work at this time of year are there any particular places to try, or methods of application that work best?[/quote]

    Being in the city where you want to work is probably the best way of finding work – a lot of schools don’t advertise online, but rely instead on teachers already there to walk in with their CV and be available for face to face interviews. The problem there, of course, is financing your stay while you’re looking for work. Another option is recruitment agencies (try a Google search for "TEFL recruitment agencies") which would allow you to apply from the UK.

    In all honesty, finding work in January, especially with little experience, will be difficult. By no means impossible, but difficult, compared to the main recruiting period of August/September.

    [quote]6) Would I be at a far greater advantage doing the course in Spain, say at the IH in Barcelona, knowing that Spain is where I really hope to teach? My dilemma here, is which puts me in a better position; the cash I can save by doing the course in the UK where I can put away the money I would spend on rent in Spain or being in Spain in the right place at the right time to find a job?[/quote]

    That is the dilemma. The CELTA qualification itself doesn’t change, so it won’t make any difference where you do it in terms of what you learn. the advantage of taking it in Spain is the possibility of job finding assistance from the centre where you take the course. but like you say, you have to balance that against the money you’ll spend. It’s swings and roundabouts.

    [quote]7) In the longterm is there potential, should you be willing to work hard enough, to earn enough to save and eventually, say, own your own property (heaven forbid)?! I have no grand ideas, but in somewhere nice to live, and in the future so not neccessarily in Spain. Hmmm, there’s always the student loan to pay off as well of course.[/quote]

    This depends on some of the things discussed above – if you remain as a teacher on 1000 euros a month, living in a relatively expensive city like Barcelona, saving enough for a deposit for some property would take a long time. If your career progresses and salary increases a little, and you are willing to work outside western Europe, it becomes more feasible – salaries in some countries in Asia, or north Africa, for example, can be as much as those in western Europe (or more!), but with a significantly lower cost of living. With many years experience and a qualification such as a DELTA, some jobs in the Middle East become attainable with a very significant tax-free salary.

    [quote]8) When all is said and done how does the experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language in Spain live up to the expectation and dream?[/quote]

    The experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language generally, for me, easily lives up to the expectation and dream – it’s been fantastic, and I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I’ve had for anything. But, if I break that experience down into individual experiences, per country and city, Barcelona comes at the bottom of the list.

    Remember that’s just my experience – I met a number of teachers in Barcelona who absolutely loved it, found ways to compromise in terms of living costs, and had no desire to leave!

    I hope that helps…

    Keith

    lucyblue0706
    Participant
    10 June, 2010 at 18:18
    • Total posts: 3

    Reply To: CELTA and teaching English in Spain – advice please!

    Thanks for your reply and battling your way through all my questions, your advice is really helpful…….

    Regarding finding work in mid-European winter (or not, as seems more likely!) are there other parts of the world that you would recommend that recruit this time of year, Oct/Nov onwards really? It seems I might be better off considering other destinations and then coming back to the Spain plan in Sept/Oct 2011.

    I would be interested to read more about your teaching experiences in various parts of the world and how they compare – is there a section on the website dedicated to this or do you have a blog?

    Could you point me in the right direction for finding out more about the teaching and schooling structure in Spain and Europe more widely? I am interested to find out about teaching at a PGCE equivalent level (should one day I gain such a qualification), what the schooling structure is, what sort of salary/benefits etc. teachers in ordinary schools receive (non EFL) and what the likelihood is of a foreign teacher taking on a post (eventually, when able to speak the language, plenty of relevant experience…). I know that the economic situation does not spell out anything good for teachers in Spain at the mo so maybe a very unlikely, ill-advised plan.

    One final question that I meant to ask – I mentioned that my degree is in Design (Textiles specifically, this is the field in which I am considering converting my teaching to eventually). Does this ‘count’ as such as a suitable degree for EFL teaching, as it’s not strictly an academic subject?

    Thanks ever so.

    radiococonut
    Participant
    11 June, 2010 at 16:19
    • Total posts: 2

    Reply To: CELTA and teaching English in Spain – advice please!

    Hi Lucy Blue Spain is the easiest place where you can teach in Europe, best places are Madrid & Barcelona forget Andalucia most schools are a rip off & if you loose or leave your job difficult to find a new job as there are not many schools in the south. In Madrid there are a lot of job offers & you can easly end up teaching in 2 or 3 schools at the time i have to turn down many offers otherwise will end up teaching more than 30 hrs p/w this leaves not much time to prepare lessons about the salary you can make around Euro 1.500 net p/m working 20 hrs a wk many schools will pay the hrs you need to prepare your lesson Example if i teach 15 hrs p/w they pay me 21.3 hrs p/w with paid social security paid vacations 14 salaries per year (not bad for spanish standards).
    About the accomodation you will have to look for yourself one studio will cost you around Euro 400 to 600 p/m.
    Madrid is much better than barcelona people are more polite & friendly

    Keith
    Moderator
    16 June, 2010 at 10:02
    • Total posts: 279

    Reply To: CELTA and teaching English in Spain – advice please!

    Hi – sorry for the delay in replying again.

    Regarding working in other countries – a lot of schools in countries like China and Indonesia recruit year round and can be good places to start teaching (fun, and relatively undemanding students).

    I haven’t got a blog about my own teaching experiences, but there’s a section on this site with teachers’ advice and observations about working in different countries [url=http://www.eslbase.com/countries/]here[/url]

    For info about the school system in different European countries – your best bet is probably sites dedicated to the individual countries – a Google search for "school system in Spain" for example brings up some useful results.

    The subject of your degree won’t really matter for EFL teaching – few schools will take it into consideration too much, unless perhaps there’s a case of strong competition for a job, and all other factors for two candidates are totally equal – otherwise, it’s not something you need to worry about.

    Hope that helps.

    Keith

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