Welcome to the first of (what will hopefully be many posts) featuring teachers from around the world.
For people with a love of travelling, teaching is sometimes seen as a way to see the world whilst drawing a steady income and immersing themselves in the local culture. Teaching can of course be a fabulously fulfilling vocation, but at times, it can also be challenging.
Some people fall into the trap of thinking that just because they can speak a language, they’ll be able to teach it, whilst others underestimate some of the strain that teachers often face. There’s no doubt about it, teaching is not the easiest of jobs.
With that said, if you go into international teaching well informed and realistic expectations, you may just find yourself having the time of your life! I consider myself very fortunate to have a job that’s often varied and allows me to spend so much time with both adults and children (not to mention the fact that I can live and work almost anywhere thanks to my profession).
Some of you will already be teachers, with a good understanding of what a day in the classroom might look like, whilst others may being considering taking the leap – either way, these posts are written in the hope of giving you a genuine, unbiased look into what it’s like to live and teach abroad.
Without further ado, I’ll hand over to Sonja from Migrating Miss…
What does a ‘normal’ work day look like for you?
I work part time as an English Language Assistant at both a primary and secondary school in southern Spain. Each day I have anywhere between 2-5 hours of class, with school being scheduled from 8.15am-2.45pm. If I have breaks between classes I have breakfast in the teacher’s cafeteria or work on my blog. I have private lessons with students for about 5 hours a week in the evenings.
Why did Spain appeal to you? Were there any other countries you considered (or have previously lived in)?
During high school and university I studied abroad in the United States and Canada, and after finishing university I moved to Australia and then the United Kingdom. Spain appealed because I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish and live in a country where English wasn’t the first language. A friend of mine was in the Auxiliar de Conversación programme so I looked into and decided it was for me! I had been to Spain once before and loved it, plus I love being back in Europe!
How does living and teaching in Spain compare with the life you left back home?
All my previous jobs have been full-time and office based. I’m so happy to be doing something different! I’d been a tutor part time at university and have always loved helping others to learn so I’m really enjoying the teaching and working in a different environment. Being part time helps too! The lifestyle is really relaxed and I love coming home in the afternoon to relax before I have more evening classes. I earn significantly less than I did in Australia or the UK, but I also work a lot less and I have plenty to cover my day to day expenses. Extra travel means careful budgeting or dipping into my savings, so if I planned on staying a long time I’d want to try and secure more work to build up some savings. I’m happy working less and enjoying myself at the moment though!
What are the main advantages of living and teaching in Spain?
As above! I only have to work part time here and I have enough to live on, so in my spare time I can explore the city and Spain, and concentrate on learning Spanish and blogging. I love the food in Spain and living in Andalusia means tapas with drinks which I will definitely miss when I leave! People are really friendly and I’ve been able to meet people at language exchanges and through the school.
So far I’ve been exploring a lot of the Andalusia in the south of Spain, but I’m planning on branching further out soon. I have every Friday off and there are a few long weekends, plus a week break over Easter to take advantage of. The only issue is budgeting so I can survive travelling the whole summer too! Some people pick up more private work over the summer and stay, but I’ll be basing myself in Edinburgh and doing some more travelling in Europe.
Are there any significant disadvantages?
Where I live in Spain isn’t the easiest place to travel from, but places nearby are. This turns into an advantage for me as because less people here speak English so I’m constantly pushed to try and speak Spanish and improve. Plus I’ve travelled a lot in Europe before and my job doesn’t run through the summer which means I can travel all summer long!
What were the deciding factors that saw you go into teaching in general?
I was sick of working in office jobs and teaching English had always been a dream of mine. The timing was right since I was looking for a way to come back to Europe to live, and the programme in Spain worked really well.
What is required (in regard to education) to teach in Spain?
For the Auxiliar de Conversación programme you need to have a Bachelor Degree, or be in your last year of study. I’m not aware of the requirements to teach at a private school, but I imagine at the very least it would be the same plus a TEFL qualification if not more.
What advice would you give to someone considering a move to Spain?
Do it! Spain is a really amazing place to live. The living is fairly cheap and the lifestyle is good. Check out whether your country had an Auxiliar programme as a good starter, or look into private teaching if you think you have the qualifications.
Thanks so much to Sonja, a fellow travelling Kiwi for sharing her personal experience of living and teaching in Spain – I hope you enjoyed reading her thoughts as much as I did!