Why Spain is perfect for first time TEFL travellers

I wouldn’t have taught TEFL in Spain for almost seven years if I didn’t think it was a great place to live. I’ve had my moments when I’ve wanted to jump on the nearest ferry to Morocco for an adventure, or swim back to England to escape the blistering heat, but Spain is a great destination for first time TEFL travelers. (This post is as seen on the i-to-i TEFL Blog.)

Life in the classroom

Spanish kids and teenagers are not the best behaved in the world. They can be pretty chulo – cocky – and it might take you a while to get your classroom management up to scratch, but once you get to know them they are a decent bunch.

The Youngsters

I live and teach English as a foreign language in Seville, in the south of Spain, and I’m in my sixth term with the same academy. So yes, I do love my job. Normal hours are from 4pm to 10pm, Monday to Thursday, where I teach kids and teenagers. This year I have 90 students spread across 8 different classes. That’s a lot of Marias and Pablos to remember, and plenty of reports to write after the exams, but I like the working environment of an academy. (Photo of a valley in Cazalla de la Sierra)

We prepare students for the Cambridge Certificates: KET, PET, FCE, and CAE, which helps get into University or find a job. Demand for English is high and business is booming. It’s great seeing the kids grow up through the years. I’ve got some 18 year-old students that I’m preparing for the PRE First Certificate at the moment. I first taught them when they were 13. Helping them achieve their goals brings great job satisfaction.

Despite following a syllabus, we have freedom in the class. We use ebeam whiteboard technology, which is great for creating dynamic and interactive classes. The kids love getting involved and over time it has become a necessary tool in my working life. I love showing funny youtube clips and getting students to answer follow up questions. I also use funny photos of their favourite pop stars or actors and take the mick in class. I have one group who love (and hate) Justin Beibel, who I call Justin Beaver. A photo of Justin’s head attached to a beaver’s body went down quite well, with most of the class.

The Adults

Times are hard in Spain and the standard TEFL wages of between €1,000 and €1,200 is enough to get by, but I do extra business classes in the morning to bump up my pay packet. Teaching adults can be more chilled, mainly because you’re not constantly telling them to stop checking wassup on their blackberry. (Photo of sunset over Granada)

Adults are generally keen to learn and have a fun sense of humour. Conversation classes are popular and they love being corrected. I’ve banned talk on the current economic crisis though; a bit depressing first thing in the morning. I’ve had a few ‘dry’ groups over the years where classes tend to float by like a slow boat on the river Mekong. You would have thought that every Spanish person has loads to talk about, but sometimes getting them to speak is una lucha – a struggle.

If you’re a first time TEFLer, beware. You need to be shit hot on your grammar. Spanish adults want to know ‘why’ for everything. My first two years were a nightmare; I always thought I was prepared, but Jose or Carmen would normally find that extra question that I didn’t have the answer to. “Err, I don’t know actually, I’ll tell you next class,” would be my typical answer. Make sure you do though, because they have excellent memories.

Life in the real world

Let’s be honest; TEFL in Spain is great because you get a lot of free time. You tend to teach between 20 and 24 contact hours, with a few more for planning, so you have time to live.

In Seville we get over 300 days of sun a year. When it rains, it absolutely chucks it down for a couple of days (or a couple of months which is did two years ago), but in general you can plan trips away at the weekend without worrying about the weather. Saying that, it rained on my wedding day last September and it NEVER rains in September. (Photo of moat in Seville)

Each region of Spain has its own culture and list of things to do. I’d recommend researching before you choose a destination. I picked Seville because I wanted to be in largish city near the beach, which ruled out Madrid, and learn Castellano, which ruled out Barcelona. Learning Spanish is a great feeling. After 6 years I’m pretty good; my pronunciation is still crap because I can’t roll my r’s, but I’m almost fluent reading and listening.

One great aspect of living in Seville is the places to visit in Andalucia. You have fantastic beaches in the south near Cadiz, historical cities to explore like Cordoba, pretty paths to walk along in the countryside in Aracena, mountains to ski down in the Sierra Nevada in Granada, flamenco shows to watch while drinking sherry in Jerez, and if you fancy it then crazy nights out to be had with the drunk Brits on the Costa del Sol.

Don’t forget the public holidays. Two weeks at Christmas, a week during Semana Santa at Easter, Ferias – fairs, and random bank holidays spread through the year. Spanish aren’t lazy, most work damn hard, but they do appreciate a good day off.

You never know, you might meet your future couple like I did. My wife used to be my student. I’ve got a dog too, her name is Pepa and she loves walking by the beach.

So life as a TEFL teacher is pretty good in Spain. Are you thinking of going to Spain? Which destination grabs you most? I’d be happy to answer any questions if you want to leave a comment. Suerte.

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