The ultimate guide to teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Spain
June 14th, 2016 / Spain
So you’re thinking about becoming an ESL/TEFL English teacher in Spain? Well, many people do and for good reasons; Spain is a beautiful country, its food is amazing and, with the second highest number of native speakers in the world, Spanish is a very useful language to learn. But what can you expect from teaching English in Spain? Well, take a look at this TEFL guide to find out.
What happens when I arrive?
Before you can even think about looking for a job you have to get an NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero). Without this you won’t be able to set up a bank account, get your residency papers or sign any kind of work contract. For a guide on how to get your NIE go here.
How to find a job
Now you have your NIE, you can look for a job. You don’t necessarily need a TEFL qualification. Academies are usually so understaffed they’ll consider you anyway, so long as you have something relevant to teaching on your C.V. such as assisting in a classroom or teaching privately. A good TEFL qualification such as a CELTA, however, is always preferred.
But how do you find a job? Well, you can job hunt by wandering around your chosen city, handing out your C.V. This will usually net you results within a day or two and you get to see what the academy is like before committing to the interview.
Another excellent source for job listings are teachers’ communities on Facebook. Each city will have its own, such as English Teachers in Valencia, and in recruiting season (June, July, September and October) they are packed with job announcements.
What to expect from your job interview
A good rule of thumb is that if the owner of the academy doesn’t speak good English, run for the hills. Since the recession (‘El Crisis’, as they say in Spain) lots of academies have popped up with the aim of making a quick buck from English as there is so much demand. Academies like this will offer you no support or guidance and most likely hand you a cheap textbook (which they can’t read themselves) and tell you to get on with it.
It is very important in the interview that you establish with your prospective employer that they will give you a proper contract (which will run for the course – September until June) and that they will pay for your social security. This is very important, as without this you won’t be able to access Spain’s free health system.
Make sure you know your net salary (i.e. after tax) before signing. The Spanish government makes so many deductions for tax and social security payments that what may seem like a good salary before tax may well be sliced in half after all the deductions.
Salary expectations and cost of living
A great thing about Spain is that it’s cheap; very cheap. After travelling around nearby countries such as France, Italy and Britain I have concluded that Spain must be the cheapest country in Western Europe.
A beer will cost you between 1.50 and 2.50 euros while a good three course meal will cost between 10 and 15 euros. Accommodation is also cheap and a room in a shared house will typically cost around 200 euros a month with bills on top being around 50-80 euros. Food, public transport and petrol are all cheaper than other nearby countries. On top of that there is a wealth of free stuff to take advantage of such as the beach or hiking in the mountains.
All of this is good, because salaries are not high. The typical work contract will offer a salary after tax and other deductions of between 900 and 1200 euros per month. This is perfectly fine if you just mean to work to pay your living expenses. However, if you wish to save or have taken up teaching to pay off student debt then Spain is probably not the opportunity you’re looking for.
In addition to academy teaching, many teachers pick up private work to supplement their income. You can typically charge between 15-17 euros an hour for private lessons.
N.B. All price information excludes Barcelona which has become a business hub this past decade, particularly for start-ups. This has led it to become a very expensive city, not far away from being on par with Paris, or perhaps even London.
What to expect from your academy
Your contract will run from the second week in September until the end of June. During this time your academy should pay for your Christmas and Easter vacation or compensate you in another way (such as giving you a higher hourly rate). Once school’s out, however, you’ll need to find more work over the summer to keep earning and many teachers teach at summer schools run by private international schools.
Class sizes typically vary from 6-12 people and yes, most academies will require you to teach kids. Your work day will typically start from about 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon and go on until 9pm. There is also work in the day in the form of business classes.
What to expect from your students
This is another big draw for Spain. Spanish people are a down-to-earth lot with a really good sense of humor. There will be a lot of laughter and warmth in your classroom – something that keeps teachers here for years.
What to expect from Spain
Barcelona has a terrible problem with pickpockets, but outside of that city you’ll find it’s pretty safe. Spain has an excellent public health system, which you will be entitled to use for free.
Weather and culture vary enormously. In the north it is wet and cold for most of the year (a lot like Britain, in fact) but it is also incredibly beautiful with green forests, rolling hills, wolves and bears. The south is arid and gets very hot in summer but has beautiful sandy beaches and coves to explore.
It is absolutely not true that everyone in Spain likes bullfighting. This is a culture associated with Madrid and Andalucía (in the south of Spain) and many people from other regions (particularly in the north east) are against the sport.
Spain has four official languages: Castellano (Spanish), Catalan, Basque and Galician as well as numerous unofficial ones. If you live in a region of Spain that has a prominent local language you will see and hear it everywhere, though as a foreigner you will not be expected to speak it.
Where do you teach?
I teach in the sunny city of Valencia. Every year Valencia holds a gigantic 4 day festival, to celebrate St Joseph’s day, called Fallas. Fancy a taster? Well, I made a video about it here.
For lesson plans, drills, speaking exercises on every ESL grammar point, along with vocabulary sets, buy our best selling book The Ultimate ESL Manual.