Summer is coming… What are the options for English Language Teachers in Spain?
Sun, sand, sea, and…er…sangria, we English teachers in Spain live the good life, don’t we? With a three-month holiday from July to September – who could complain? At least, that’s what our office-bound friends back home think.
What they miss is that teachers don’t tend to get paid for those months. And when late September – even early October – rolls around, we’re really hurting for funds.
So what can you do to ease the summer lull? When and where should you start looking for employment – and what should you watch out for?
1. Summer camps: young learner courses
Lots of teachers opt for out of town young learner summer camps. In terms of job satisfaction, these range from well paid, well organised, and rewarding jobs, to nightmarish babysitting prisons.
While the majority of teachers come away with a lump sum and a smile, others limp away shell shocked. I recall, some time ago, one teacher recounting a harrowing experience, explaining that for the duration of a 14-day summer camp, he had been forced to sleep in the same dorm room as his students. Needless to say, there wasn’t much sleep for him.
Here are some questions to ask the summer camp director before signing up to a Young Learner Summer Camp
How long has the camp been operational?
Camps that have been around for several years are generally better organised and have a reputation (good or bad). Ask around for opinions from teachers, and also see student reviews online.
Are there returning teachers?
If there’s a completely new batch of teachers every year, that’s a sign that you should probably look elsewhere. There has to be a reason no-one wants to go back.
Is the hourly rate comparable to – or higher – than your usual salary?
Remember, you’ll probably be working more hours at a Summer camp – and even when you’re not working, you can’t switch off completely. Your hourly rate and final salary should reflect this.
What “extracurricular” activities will you be responsible for (if any)?
Don’t get sucked into running free extracurricular classes. Make sure you are very clear what your responsibilities are before you show up to work.
How many hours are you on duty?
Everyone deserves time off – make sure you have clearly scheduled hours, and ask before you sign up to anything.
What are the sleeping arrangements for teachers?
While I doubt many camps in 2017 will ask the teachers to share rooms with their students, it’s always best to check how you’ll be accommodated. It is common to room up with another teacher, or even sleep in a dorm with several of them.
2. Summer young learner intensives (in-centre)
Sweltering though the cities are in August, not every kid gets sent away to the coast. If you have responsibilities at home, or find the idea of spending two weeks locked away on some sort of Lord of the Flies beach to be unpalatable, in-centre young learner classes might be for you.
With longer days, classes are more relaxed and they usually take place in a school or academy. This means you have resources, other teachers to collaborate with, and you’ll also hone your skills and become far more comfortable teaching longer classes.
Another plus is that you’ll get to know your students far better, and in a much shorter space of time.
Contact centres directly and send your CV as early in the year as possible to be in the running for these positions.
3. Intensive exam or business English courses
Few and far between, these courses cater to adults looking to improve their English in a short, sharp English course that usually takes place over two weeks or a month.
It’s a much smaller market, so if you are interested in teaching adults in the summer, you had better start talking to your DOS now, or start looking further afield.
Expect to teach 3- to 4-hour classes (with breaks), once or twice a day. The hourly rate will be comparable, but you can expect a bumper pay packet at the end of the month.
When should you start looking?
Schools start advertising these courses months in advance – so you can jump on the train early and apply for a position as soon as you see them opening up. Google is a nice resource – look for Adwords because these are the courses currently being advertised.
Most teachers recommend starting your search as early as February or March. But don’t worry if you haven’t started yet; positions will be opening up through early May to June. Bear in mind that if you leave it too late, all the best courses will have gone and you’ll be left with low paying dregs.
Even if your application is accepted initially, sometimes confirmation of your role doesn’t happen until a week or so before you begin teaching. It’s a nerve-wracking time because you’ll only get the job if enough students sign up.
If you do find yourself in a bad position going into the summer holidays, you can boost your income with private classes or even online teaching – the latter, however, is often not so well paid.
Good luck in your search – and have a great summer! With the right preparation you truly will be the envy of all your friends back home.