Teaching English in Barcelona
Most of us already know that Barcelona is a Mecca for TEFL teachers. But does teaching English as a foreign language here really pay-off? For those thinking about taking the leap, here is our step-by-step guide to becoming a TEFL teacher in Barcelona.
Step 1: Getting started
Barcelona is teeming with TEFL teachers in training or giving language classes around the city—and despite the downturn in the economy, business is booming. To begin your career as a TEFL teacher, first you need to choose your course. Nowadays there are a number of options: from online TEFL Starter courses, for those who just want a taster, to one month face-to-face intensive courses. The best choice for you depends on your situation, though face-to-face courses tend to have a better success rate due to them being more dynamic, with extra support from fellow classmates and tutors.
To sign up, most training centres require proof of your ability to cope with the academic demands of the course. This could mean having a university degree (in progress or finished), or skills acquired through work experience. You should also have the ability to communicate fluently in spoken and written English and have an interest in teaching and learning.
If you fit the bill, you can sign up to your chosen TEFL course—and it couldn’t be easier. In fact, you can do it without even leaving your seat! But that is the easy part. Actually packing up and getting on the plane may be the most difficult thing you have to do. But don't be dissuaded—you have come this far already (and telling your friends and family you have chickened out may be harder to do). Remember that this is the chance of a lifetime to get that job, live abroad and realise your dream. And it makes sense to sign up to the course while still on home turf. If you sign up early, you may even be able to take advantage of ‘early bird’ promotions and receive a discount!
Step 2: Getting qualified
If you opt for the one-month intensive course, as is the most popular choice, you can expect to receive around 120 hours of training from your course provider. This includes theoretical and practical input sessions. Expect to begin teaching on the second day, with peer observations during most classes. However much this sounds like you have been thrown in at the deep end, trust me, it’s the only way to get you started as soon as possible on the path to TEFL success. Procrastination is not the solution!
If that wasn’t enough, you will need to complete assessments in five main areas that test your theoretical and practical knowledge as well as reflections upon reflections upon reflections. Think along the lines of ‘I did this, and then I did that, so that this could happen, but I could have done this instead.’ Get it?
As the name suggests, it’s intensive! If you pass, you can expect to receive your certificate about a month after completion of the course; most academies give you a certificate to prove you have completed the course in case you need to show it to potential employers.
Step 3: Getting a job and a contract
And now you are ready to start your new career!
Recruitment is done locally so you should try to be here in Barcelona and actively looking for work in mid-August, ready for September or October courses. It’s possible to find some work during other times of the year, but you may find that you are going from one side of the city to the other giving private classes here and substitutions there.
Some schools will have policies whereby they will only hire native speakers due to client requirements but good English and a Trinity Certificate TESOL or Cambridge CELTA will usually be more important.
Teaching contracts will vary. Most schools are likely to offer you a contract from September/October until June. Other schools might pay you per class in cash with no questions asked. Perhaps a school will offer a low hourly rate but pay for travel and holidays and throw in teacher training and language classes. Make sure you know exactly what’s included before you sign on the dotted line.
In the summer (July and, especially, August), you’re on your own, so you should budget accordingly. Saying that, there is always the opportunity to work on summer camps around Barcelona, which is hard work but can be fairly well-paid if you have your accommodation and food provided. If you don’t like working with children, it is not recommended!
Teaching English means spending a lot of hours preparing lessons and activities, marking exams and writing reports. If you’re new to teaching, try to find a job with a school that offers a lot of teacher support and a good staff library.
Non-native teachers of English and those without an EU passport (however qualified and experienced) will have an extremely hard time finding work with academies in Barcelona. To improve your chances, try your luck in nearby smaller towns like Granollers, Mataró, Sabadell or Manresa, where there are fewer native speakers.
For a list of schools, try the Spanish Yellow Pages, www.paginas-amarillas.es
Step 4: Getting paid
Giving classes in a language school can pay anything from €10 to €20 an hour, though it is likely to be at the lower end of the scale for newbie teachers.
For private classes, charge between €15 and €20 an hour to start, with the option of rounding it down for block hours. This also depends on where, who and what you teach, since they should pay a bit extra for any commuting transportation costs, teaching young learners or giving exam classes. If private classes are your main income, you’ll also need to register as autónomo (self-employed) if you’re going to keep things above board.
In-company classes tend to pay more but as you have to travel to the company, you need to take those expenses into account too. Remember you might spend a lot of unpaid hours on the bus or metro.
If you have 10 teaching hours a week, then you could be earning €560 to €600 a month. A full-time TEFL schedule would have 20-25 teaching hours. If you can achieve this, you could earn €1,300 to €1,400 a month. However, there’s a chance you won’t get a full-time teaching timetable during your first few months after completing the course. You’ll also probably be overwhelmed as a newly qualified teacher with all the lesson planning you have to do! So you might start off with 10-15 teaching hours at a language centre, which you can combine with more teaching hours as a private tutor to students around the city.
As your employers get to know you and get positive feedback from your students they’ll eventually offer you more teaching hours. And remember that being a good teacher is not just about being able to explain grammar. You should also be sensitive to student needs and have good rapport with them. If you can nail it, the students will keep coming back.
Now it’s crunch time, are you taking note? You won’t be able to get a contract or get paid until you have got your NIE (foreigner’s ID number)…
Step 5: Getting your NIE
The NIE is used as your official ID in Spain as a foreigner and is used to get a bank account, obtain a contract for a flat in your name, join the gym, get a mobile under contract and many more things. If you are a citizen of a country in the European Union, you are allowed to legally work in Spain and stay for a long period of time.
However, at the end of 2012, there was a change in the law for EU citizens who want to get a NIE in Spain. Since they don’t want to give the number to just anyone when they might not even end up working/paying taxes, it is now a requirement for those that want to get the NIE to have (at least) an offer of a contract.
Once you’ve been offered a teaching job, you’ll have to begin the process of getting your NIE. You will need to book an appointment, to which you have to take: printed proof of this appointment, your passport and a photocopy of it, a letter from your employer as proof of your job offer and completed forms EX-15 and/or EX-18 (with one copy of each). You can make your appointment here and print the forms here you need here.
Step 6: Getting to know the profession
Many people have long and fruitful careers as TEFL teachers. Naturally, many teachers continue with their professional development over the years; picking up tricks of the trade here, fine-tuning skills there. Teaching a foreign language is a challenging and rewarding profession. There is nothing quite like hearing one of your classes reproduce something you have taught them just one hour before, and then heading down to a local bar for a relaxing café con leche with your workmates.
For a list of Trinity Certificate TESOL dates at Oxford TEFL click here.
What do the teachers say?
Teachers at language school Oxford House share their views:
“The course was pretty intensive but you just need to get your head down for a month. I picked up work straight after the course in a local language school and I’m now learning more skills on the job.” Hannah Scheiffele
“I enjoy speaking to students, learning about their cultures and lives and helping them to express themselves in English.” Alan Ritchie
“Teaching students and training teachers at Oxford House have helped me feel at home in Barcelona.” Neil MacMillan
“Qualifying as a TEFL teacher gave me the opportunity to travel the world. Now I have settled in Barcelona and I couldn’t be happier.” Heather Vanfleet
Have any questions or a top tip for teachers? Post your comments below.
Frankie Austin is a teacher at Oxford TEFL Barcelona.