Teaching English in Madrid: Pros and Cons

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So teaching English in Spain was a bit of a whirlwind decision for me, and since deciding to do it last May and moving to Madrid in July, my opinions and expectations have changed a lot. Firstly, I was so completely against teaching children. I hated high school when I was there myself, why would I willingly spend more time there as a grownup? One of the selling points of teaching for me was that I could work exclusively with adults. So how did I end up, eight months later, working with kids (and more importantly, enjoying it so much more)? Let’s investigate.

I’ve pretty much done the whole teaching spectrum during my short time in Spain. I’ve worked in an academy, taught in-company Business English, and taught in a secondary school. I’m by no means an expert, but just in case anyone is an obsessive Googler like I am, here are my thoughts on all three of my teaching gigs so far.

Teaching In An Academy: Most people who teach in a language academy will tell you the same thing: it’s very hit or miss. I kind of fell into academy work. It was one of my first job interviews in Spain, and they were the first place to offer me a job. As an unemployed college graduate, I jumped at the chance. I was gonna have money? Yes please! However, I really wish I’d done more research first. I quickly found out that my €10 an hour pay was kind of, well, terrible. I pretty much just spent my days teaching straight out of a textbook and fighting with the CD player to get listening exercises to work. Also, for all my fear over teaching kids, adults (with barely any command over the English language) will very often fight you over basic English grammar or word pronunciations. Like, who’s the English teacher here, Juan?

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place and most of the time materials will be provided.
  • Cons: The pay isn’t the best and there’s a strong possibility they’ll expect your academy classes to have precedence over any privates you might have.

Teaching In-Company Business Classes: I really liked teaching Business English, but I did get amazingly lucky teaching only C1 level students. A lot of the time Business English students will want to focus more on conversational English that will help them with clients and travel, rather than revising the joys of the past participle for two hours. Originally I was worried that my lack of business knowledge would hinder my ability to teach Business English, but you’d be surprised how much stuff you pick up from just general day to day life, and there weren’t any instances were I couldn’t answer my students’ questions. A lot of the time I’d plan a lesson on a specific subject, and by the end of the class I’d be answering random questions about Scottish Independence and the, uh, nightlife in Amsterdam. Definitely more interesting than phrasal verbs.

  • Pros: You have more control over the lessons and can ask your students what they specifically want to learn (you’ll also get to sit in fancy conference rooms a lot).
  • Cons: When taking on new classes, you have to account for travel time between locations, so you better bring a book to read on the Metro.

Teaching In A School/Being A Language Assistant: After my Business English contract was coming to an end and seeing how much my friends liked working in schools, I decided to try my luck applying for the Ministry Program… in the middle of the school year. Shockingly enough, it actually worked. And I’m so glad it did. Teaching kids is very different to teaching adults, but for the first time since starting this little teaching adventure, my job actually feels… rewarding? I thought that teaching paying adults would feel like this, but I quickly realised their interest mainly stems in landing a job. Whereas kids might not be learning English by choice, the majority of them do seem to actually enjoy their lessons. And the best part is that because I’m only a measly language assistant, I just get to play games and do fun stuff with them, all the boring grammar stuff gets loaded onto the teachers. It’s like being the cool aunt or something.

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place, you get to hear sentences like ‘Madonna will have a baby… and then kill it’ whilst teaching the future tenses, and let’s be real, the pay is pretty great.
  • Cons: The likelihood of getting placed in a school in the centre is slim, but honestly the commute isn’t so bad. When I first got placed in Zone B2, I almost cried. But it only takes me about 45 minutes and my 40 book reading challenge is coming on like a dream. So not really that much of a con after all.

So that’s my experience with teaching English in Madrid. I know the experience is different for everyone, but that’s part of the fun of it. It’s supposed to be an adventure! And if you really do get a job and it’s completely terrible, just change it. In case you couldn’t tell from what I just wrote, there’s lots of opportunities for teaching English in Madrid and you’ve just gotta find your perfect fit. If you’re thinking of applying to teach English abroad, I highly suggest it! It definitely changed my life for the better… although whether that’s the joys of teaching or the cheap vino blanco is purely a matter of opinion.

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Author: Rosanna Parrish

Brit exiled in Spain.

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