Teaching English abroad isn’t exactly a new idea. On the contrary, I feel like teaching English abroad is actually trending. Does the fact that it’s trending make it new…? Regardless, as I was starting my career / job / journey (not really sure what it is yet at the moment), I hadn’t really found any in-depth articles regarding how to go about actually teaching classes. So, here is me, myself, answering all the questions I had four months ago.
1. Should I get a TEFL certificate?
Okay, so I decided to become certified not because I wanted the fancy piece of paper, but because I genuinely wanted to know what I was doing before moving overseas. Crazy, I know. After completing the course and moving abroad this is what I have to say.
About the course itself
Most importantly, let’s talk money. My course cost 990$, but apparently the course was on sale. Usually, I think the course costs a bit more. About the course itself, the TEFL course is actually really intense. Each week there is a reading, a quiz and a project or an essay or both a project and an essay assigned. The readings take about 20 minutes, sometimes longer if you watch all the videos. The quiz is short, simple and easy. There are usually just 10 multiple choice questions straight from the reading, and you have an hour to complete it. The weekly project or essay is usually some sort of challenge related to the reading for that week. For example, in one unit you learn about the importance of different learning styles and how to appeal to an auditory learner, visual learner, kinesthetic learner etc. Then, you learn about different methods to teach in general such as the community language learning method or the total physical response story telling method. The project that week is something like this: “Create a lesson plan in which you appeal to auditory learners. Choose whatever method from the reading that you find appropriate. Make sure to defend your decision etc.” Don’t take such an assignment lightly by the way. It takes hours to really fully prepare the lesson. A lesson template is always provided to you. Sometimes, such an assignment includes the levels and ages of your imaginary students. Sometimes, you can choose the age, level and number of students in your class.
That being said, one of the lessons in the TEFL course is designed to help you decide what level your students have. Basically it’s a chart showing the language learning process and the steps until the students becomes comfortable. Like this:
|True beginner||o Novice
o Very limited communication in English
o Uses gestures and 1-3 word utterances
o May know greetings and a few “chunk” phrases, such as “How are you?”
|High Intermediate||o Mid-level
o Communicates fairly well
o Some elaboration, especially on familiar topics
o Can converse with errors and some hesitations
o Attempts more complex grammar & vocabulary
o Near proficient
o Communicates well with occasional errors
o Errors do not obscure communication
o Offers a lot of elaboration and interacts using appropriate social cues and gestures
o Uses complex grammar and vocabulary on a consistent basis
That being said, it doesn’t tell you what kind of grammar an intermediate student should know. Okay, great. My student communicates fairly well. She’s intermediate. Now what? What does she already know? What is she lacking? This leads me to my first point on my “Things TEFL Doesn’t Do” list.
Things TEFL Doesn’t Do
- TEFL does not give you a basic plan regarding the level of your students. By the end of the course, I still did not know what kind of grammar courses would be appropriate for an intermediate student. Do they already know the conditional tense, for example? I don’t know.
- TEFL does not teach you how to teach grammar or exactly what kind of grammar points are more or less difficult for ESL students.
- TEFL does not specialize in teaching private classes. If you plan to move abroad and teach your students privately in their homes. TEFL does very little to help.
Things TEFL Does Do
- TEFL does teach ESL teaching techniques and learning techniques.
- TEFL does offer some methods for teaching reading, writing, listening and reading.
- TEFL does teach you how to plan a lesson… EXTREMELY WELL. I mean how to introduce a lesson, what to do next, how the kids should practice what you have taught, how to get the kids to present what they have learned, etc. And you get hours and hours of practice creating lesson plans for all levels and ages.
- TEFL does give you experience. When you start teaching you either have 0 experience, or you did TEFL and have completed the required 20 practicum hours teaching. That means when you walk into an academy and ask for a job, you don’t have to say, “Well, I have no experience… AT ALL… but I just know I’ll be great!”
- TEFL does give you something to add to that resume in general. Also, in my own personal experience job searching, academies know that the course is quite intensive. Therefore, it does have some influence in the academies’ decisions to hire you. (Although I didn’t get hired because I didn’t have a visa… and I really didn’t look too hard.)
- TEFL does give you awesome teachers and contacts. They really are totally available for you. If you have a question about anything at all or just need advice, shoot them an email and they will get back to you with a complete and well-thought out response.
- TEFL does give you connections to other TEFL certified teachers in whatever location you plan to teach! THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. As soon as you enroll in the TEFL course, you are admitted into a private Facebook group where teachers are always posting about job opportunities and their own personal experiences.
Conclusions about whether or not getting a TEFL certificate is worth it
I don’t regret paying the money and doing the course. I had absolutely no experience teaching English before moving to Spain to do it, and the course at least gave me the confidence to start doing it. I had spent so many hours doing all the assignments and readings that I felt I had real life experience or at least that I had some worth as a teacher. However, considering my teaching experience comes from private classes, the course did very little to help me understand how to prepare a class for one person. The course is very focused on giving lessons to a class of students, and preparing lessons for a class is actually easier than preparing for one student. In a class the students can entertain each other. They can play games with each other, do activities and especially talk to each other in English. In private lessons, it’s just you and the student for an hour or an hour and a half so it’s up to you to fill ALL that time which requires quite different planning than the planning required for classes.
2. How do I start? (Deciding what I want and finding students.)
Finding students in Spain, and especially in bigger cities like Sevilla is SOOO easy. English teachers are in seriously high demand. For those of us who are lucky enough to speak English as a first language, the necessity of learning English is hard to fathom. I used to ask my new students, “Why do you want to learn English?” They always answered, “Because I need to learn English.” Really? I used to hate the answer, but it’s really true. Learning English is not optional in our ever shrinking world today, and Spaniards have a notoriously low level of English. That being said, the ONLY thing you really need to do is post an advertisement on tusclasesparticulares.com. But, here is a better step by step guide to finding students.
Step one: Tell your friends.
Tell anyone and everyone you know in the area that you’re coming there to teach English. I actually starting teaching English in Jerez, Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain (such a long but necessary descriptive address). I already knew a Spaniard living in the city, and before I arrived he had said something to his mom about me coming to teach English. The next day, one of the mothers in her little mothers whatsapp group asked if anyone knew any English teachers in the area. Lo and behold, I got my first student. That’s how Spain works, my friends. Take advantage. If you’re looking for more students, simply continue to talk about the fact that you teach English whenever you get a chance, and students will fall into your lap. “Hi. I got your number from so and so who got it from so and so who met you at blah blah blah who said that you said that you teach English.”
Step two: Decide what you want.
How far will you go?
Because English teachers are in high demand, you can set boundaries according to your own wants and needs. That is to say, if half and hour walking is the farthest you want to travel to give your classes (I gave all my classes at the houses of my students. Everyone likes it better that way.), then don’t agree to give classes to the students who live farther. Leave the spaces open for students who live closer. I promise your empty spaces will fill up with students who live within the boundaries you set.
When will you teach?
Decide your schedule. What days do you want to be free? If you decide that you don’t want to teach on Saturday and Sunday, and the first student to contact you wants a class on Sunday, say no. Trust me, your schedule will become exactly the way you want it within the first couple months. Don’t make yourself too flexible or you’ll regret it. I have found that almost all students want late afternoon to evening classes (4pm-10pm) because they either want classes for their children after school finishes or classes for themselves after work. Leading me to my next point.
Who do you want to teach?
Since EVERYONE wants to learn English in Spain, you need to decide what kinds of students you are looking for. To what kinds of students can you offer the most help? Do you want to give advanced speaking lessons? Do you want to be an English tutor only, helping students with their homework? Or do you want to prepare and teach your own classes? I have taught student of all kinds. Tutoring young students and helping them with their classwork is SOO EASY! I have quite a few students like this. Their parents just need you to complete their homework with them in their books. When they finish their homework before the end of class, just try and test them on what they’ve learned. “Where is your… head?” “When your head hurts, you have a…?” “Headache.” You have to think on your feet a bit, but as long as you’re smiling and joking around with the kids a little bit, they’re having fun while learning and time is passing. Speaking classes can be easy or hard to give depending on the level of your student. I find that less advanced students are easier to give classes to. They speak very very slow as they’re trying to organize their thoughts. So, if you come to class with 5-10 questions that make the students think, time passes just fine. More advanced classes require a lot more preparation. If your student is basically fluent in English, you need to think a bit about your preparation. An advanced student will answer the same 10 questions in 10 minutes. When teaching really advanced students, I try to think about interesting things I’ve read or seen and create a lesson around it. What kind of new vocabulary, phrasal verbs, expressions are present in this video / article? Then, I think of what kind of thought provoking questions I can ask. (P.s. You can use these classes as a sort of therapy actually if you do them right.) If you’ve never taught before, I recommend getting a taste of all different kinds of students at the beginning to decide what you like best.
How much money do you want to charge?
Since I find that teaching two students at a time is way easier than teaching one, I tried to offer some deals so that my students would either bring friends to class, take classes as a group in general, or parents would enroll both their children in the same class with me. Also, by offering longer classes, I could earn more money without having to have so many students to prepare for and so many houses to go to. I’m pretty sure the average amount that teachers charge is 10e per hour (at least here in Sevilla). So, this is what I did in order to achieve my goals of teaching hour and a half classes to two students at a time: 12e per hour alone, 15e per hour and a half, 20e per hour and half for two students. Perfect.
Step three: Create an advertisement.
Now that you’ve decided what you want, you can create your advertisement on tusclasesparticulares.com. I recommend you do it in Spanish. Below is mine. Feel free to copy and paste it. Stay attached to your email. Potential students will email you because they won’t have access to your phone number until you give it to them through email.
Acepto todos los niveles y edades.
Certificada por TEFL.
1h 30m = 15e ([email protected])
1h 30m = 20e (con [email protected])
Disponible = el miércoles, el jueves, el viernes, el sábado
3. Do I need to speak Spanish to teach English in Spain?
The simple answer is yes and no (haha). On the one hand, I would highly recommend that your Spanish is at least proficient. I think that without speaking Spanish, you could still find plenty of students, but, for example, when parents want tutors for their kids, they often can’t speak English. So, it’s hard for you to tell the parents how their kid is doing. In general, not speaking Spanish at all is quite limiting. That being said, DON’T LET YOUR YOUNG STUDENTS FIND OUT THAT YOU SPEAK SPANISH! This is super important. The second they find out that you speak Spanish, they stop communicating in English. I think many of my young students are still trying to figure out if I speak Spanish. I often respond to their Spanish in English, so they obviously know in the moment that I can understand what they’re saying. But then, as they continue to speak Spanish, I just look back at them blankly until the switch back to English. I find that this method works best for me. Lastly, knowing Spanish makes it a lot easier to make those connections I was talking about earlier.
4. What do I do for my first class?
Honestly, I still don’t know. Find out as much as you can about the students’ levels before you give the class. Then, try and use the first class to get to know the student as well as possible so you know what kinds of lessons you can teach in the future. They don’t expect too much from the first class. So, don’t worry. Just try and go with the flow.
5. How much money can I make teaching private classes in Spain?
Let’s do the math. Let’s say you want to work Monday through Friday during the most popular hours for private classes, 4-10pm. If all your classes are hour and a half classes, you have three classes a day. Now, this won’t happen right away. In the first month, you’ll probably get at least one class a day. In the second month, you’ll probably bring it up to two classes a day. In the third month, it will be more difficult because you’ll be less available. At the same time, you’ll have more and more students contacting you for classes as your current students start to tell their friends about you. So, stay patient and wait for ideal students. Here’s the math part: If you teach one student at a time, that’s 45e a day. If you teach two at a time, that’s 60e a day. If you teach five days a week, you can make between 225e and 300e a week. WOW! In Spain, THAT’S SO MUCH! I don’t make that much because I’m too lazy. One more thing, expect some cancellations every week.
6. How much money do I need to live in Sevilla?
Well, I’m not going to be able to answer that exactly. But, I can tell you how much money I spent for month and where it all goes, so you get a better idea of the budget. I spend 225e a month on rent and all utilities is (almost) the city center. I got a great deal to be close to the center, but at the same time, I know some other people who got just as lucky. I spend about 40e a week on groceries. I don’t buy so much food, but I eat super healthy. No matter where you are in the world, I’m pretty sure that fresh fruit and vegetables are more expensive than frozen pizza. So you can spend less than me per week for sure if you want frozen pizza every night. I wanted to include this question and answer to prove that you can totally live comfortably as an English teacher in Spain just simply giving private classes. Another day, I’ll go into depth on how much things cost in Spain.
7. Should I move to Spain to teach English?
Absolutely. Refer to beautiful pictures below:
Because you might just meet the love of your life. (We’re not married. That’s my flamenco dress for the feria hehe.)