Teach English Abroad: Spain

Teach English Abroad in Spain

Do you want to teach English abroad? Would you like to teach in Spain? I spent 5 years teaching English in Spain with four different programs. Keep reading if you want to find out what it’s like to teach English abroad in Spain.

Teach English Abroad with UCETAM

Teach English Abroad and Earn a Master’s Degree

To begin, I moved to Madrid, Spain in 2011 to do a Master’s degree in Bilingual and Multicultural Education through the Instituto Franklin at the University of Alcala. As part of this program, I worked as an English language assistant at a bilingual school in the Vallecas neighborhood of Madrid with UCETAM.

Requirements:

You must be a native speaker from specific countries including Australia, the US, Canada, and more. A bachelor’s degree is required. You don’t need a teaching certificate. If accepted, you will need to apply for a student visa.

The school is part of UCETAM, which is one of the English assistant programs in the Madrid region. Read this post to find out the advantages and disadvantages of the UCETAM program.

While working on my Master’s degree, about half of my English teaching stipend went toward paying for my degree. To an American, this was a fantastic deal. I received enough money to cover the majority of my expenses. I didn’t end up with any debt after my degree.

However, when compared to other European Master’s degrees, this one ended up costing a pretty penny, or euro cent, should I say.

What it was like to teach English with UCETAM

Firstly, I taught primary students for 26 teaching hours per week. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, I was at school from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm nearly every day. The 26 teaching hours don’t include planning time. Also, we had a massive unpaid lunch period in the middle of the day. 

Occasionally, on Friday afternoons we left early to attend lectures for the Master’s program in Alcala.

My teaching duties for UCETAM included:

  • Preparing English, Art, and Science lessons – this could be creating games and activities, PowerPoints, or just following a book.
  • Teaching students in grades 1-6 – classes had around 25-30 students and with multiple sections of each grade. There were lots of names to learn!
  • Collaborating with Spanish teachers – sometimes I worked closely with teachers to plan lessons and other times I was alone in the classroom (which wasn’t supposed to happen).
  • Sharing my American cultural traditions – Around holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I prepared lessons that shared my traditions with the Spanish students.
  • Preparing students for the Cambridge Exams – I prepped students for the PET and KET exams (and later FCE for Schools during my second year. This exam was for the high school students.)

Continuing to Teach with UCETAM

After finishing my Master’s degree in 2012, I decided to renew my position with UCETAM. This meant that my salary essentially doubled to around 1,500€ now that I wasn’t doing the Master’s program. I was able to save quite a bit.

Since I taught with UCETAM in 2012-2013, the stipend has actually gone down to around 1,300€ for 26 hours of work per week. (There is also an option to teach 18 hours per week for less money.) You don’t need to pay any tax because the money is a grant.

It isn’t necessary to do the Master’s program to teach with UCETAM. You can apply for a position directly through the Cooperative Bilingual School’s website.

Teach English Abroad with the Ministry of Education in Spain

Teach English Abroad with the Spanish Government Program

From 2013-2014, I taught English abroad with the Spanish Government program (Ministerio de Educación) known as “Auxiliares de Conversación” or Language Assistants. 

Requirements:

You must be a native speaker from specific countries including Australia, the US, Canada, and more. A bachelor’s degree is required. You don’t need a teaching certificate. If accepted, you will need to apply for a student visa.

This program has positions in various Spanish regions from big cities like Madrid and Barcelona to small villages in regions like Andalucía or Galicia. You teach between 12-16 teaching hours per week at public schools and receive 700-1,000€ per month. You don’t need to pay tax because the payment is a grant.

With this program, you get one day off per week (usually Monday or Friday). This makes it a great option for teachers who want to explore Spain and Europe during three-day weekends.

As part of the application, you select your preferred regions (not cities). You are assigned a school (or schools) at random. The Ministry of Education placed me at a primary school in Móstoles.

My teaching duties for the Ministry program included:

  • Preparing students for the Cambridge exams – I was responsible for preparing students for the Movers and Flyers speaking exams
  • Preparing English and Art lessons – this could be creating games and activities, or just following a book.
  • Teaching students in grades 1-6 – this school was much smaller than the UCETAM school, but still had around 20-25 students per class. Sometimes the language assistants spoke with students one-on-one to review for exams or go over vocabulary flashcards.
  • Collaborating with Spanish teachers – sometimes I worked closely with teachers to plan lessons. Other times I was alone in the classroom (which wasn’t supposed to happen). I even had to substitute teach for a teacher who went on vacation for two weeks. She didn’t leave me any lesson plans to follow.
  • Sharing my American cultural traditions – Around holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I prepared lessons that shared my traditions with the Spanish students.

At this school, the kids had better behavior than the students at the UCETAM school, but it’s really luck of the draw. Like the charter school, the Spanish teachers were hit or miss. Some were very easy to work with and excellent teachers, while others took advantage of the language assistants.

Applications for the Spanish Government program open in mid-January.

Teach abroad at an International School

Teach English Abroad at an International School in Spain

For my final two years in Spain, I worked as a Kindergarten and 1st-grade teacher at an International School in Madrid.

Requirements:

You must be a certified teacher. You must have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate. If accepted, you will need to apply for a work visa.

If you are already a certified teacher, one of the best options to teach English abroad is to work for an International School. 

There are career fairs each year that place teachers in schools abroad. However, I found out about the position from a friend who was already working as a teacher at that school. 

Unlike the previous two programs, you are the actual teacher and are responsible for all lesson planning, grading, parent communication, and teaching. You also have only one class and therefore get to know the students well.

My teaching duties at an International School included:

  • Teaching Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math, and Religion classes – there was a curriculum to follow for Math and English, but we had to create the rest.
  • Collaborating with another teacher in your grade and sometimes an assistant – I worked closely to teach the same material as the other 1st-grade teacher, for example. I had an assistant who helped students with reading and math skills a few times a week.
  • Staying in contact with parents – I created weekly newsletters, emailed parents, and wrote notes in students’ agendas. While all communication was supposed to be in English, I often had to speak Spanish to students’ parents.
  • Classroom discipline – unlike the UCETAM and Ministerio programs, you are responsible for the classroom discipline.
  • Creating and grading assignments – you are the teacher so you have to make activities, worksheets, projects, and tests and grade them.
  • Helping students with special needs – some students required extra work in collaboration with the guidance counselor.

As you can see, working at an International school is much more demanding than working as a language assistant. I earned around 24,000€ per school year but was required to pay taxes

If you would like to apply to teach English abroad in an International School, you can either apply through a company like Search Associates or apply directly to the school (some schools allow this.)

Teach English Abroad at a Summer Camp

For two summers, I worked as an English immersion camp counselor at a summer camp called Granja Escuela Atalaya in Albacete, Spain.

Requirements:

You must have a good level of English or be a native speaker. If accepted, you will need to apply for a work visa. You don’t need a degree or teaching certificate.

At this summer camp, students participate in activities like dancing, pottery, gardening, animal care, scary story telling, movie nights, basket making, theatre, and more. There aren’t any “English” classes, but campers can choose the English immersion or Spanish version of the summer camp.

Working at this camp is a bit tricky if you don’t have European residency or working rights. I was able to get a work permit for the camp thanks to my work visa from the American school, but I was the only American at the camp. Other English speaking counselors were British or Spanish.

Like all summer camps, the hours were long and the pay wasn’t great, but the experience was amazing. This camp has been in the same family for years and many of the counselors were campers when they were younger.

Final Thoughts

If you really want to teach English abroad in Spain, it’s possible but will require some research. Nowadays, there are so many programs to choose from. My advice is to make sure you are eligible for the program, it’s available in a place you’d like to live, and make sure the pay fits into your budget.

Lastly, but most importantly, try to talk to someone who has done the program to see what their experience was like. In my experience, it really comes down to the individual school you are assigned to. 

Best of luck and if you have any questions, please leave a comment down below.

Check out these other posts on teaching English abroad:

How to Teach English in France: American Village Review

Teach English in Australia on a Work Holiday Visa

10 Things They DON’T Tell You About Teaching Abroad

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Certified Teacher Jamie Gajewski

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