Teaching Abroad

Hey everyone! We thought it’s about time we tell you about our jobs here in Spain. We currently work for a program called Up International and take courses online for a STEP Graduate Program at the University of Navarra. Since we are taking a class, we technically have a student VISA, which allows us to live here in Spain legally. (For tips on how to apply for a student visa in Spain, check out our previous blog post here).

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VISA paperwork

There are many ups and downs to teaching English abroad, but for the most part we’ve found it enjoyable. Our coworkers are very friendly and helpful. The students are fun, enthusiastic and sometimes crazy. Overall, there’s nothing too much to complain about.

You may be wondering what our average week looks like. We work only 25 hours for our school, but both of us do some tutoring on the side to make extra money. We start our day at 8:45am and work as an assistant teacher to help the head English teacher until 1:45pm. (We usually have one or two periods off throughout the day in there as well). Our school provides free lunch for us everyday in the cafeteria, so we go straight there after school to eat at 2:00pm. Then we have a break from 2-4 until the afternoon classes begin. Although it depends on the day, we usually have 1-2 hours of afternoon classes Monday-Thursday. On Friday, there are none! (For the next two months, I’m working an extra 6 hours a week to teach an Adult English Class at night!)

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Mark with some students on Maria Auxiliadora Day at school

Our job is definitely different than working at a school in the US. For starters, lunch is at 2:00 and most of the students and teachers go home to their houses to eat. (Only a few stay to eat in the cafeteria if their parents can’t pick them up).

Elementary students have a break everyday from 11-11:30 (HS is from 11:30-12) where the students have their “breakfast” or snack. Our “playground” is basically two basketball courts and a large open space with some soccer fields. There is no grass and no jungle-gym. Every teacher stays out at a recess each day, chatting with each other or having their coffee. (No such thing as recess duty here–that’s on everyone!)

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View of our school from the playground

Our school is also both pre-school, elementary and high-school in one! Grades 1-6 have recess together and the students in middle/high school (they call it secondary here), have break afterwards. Most of the students have siblings or cousins in the same school, so I’ve never seen any problems with the high schoolers interacting with the students in elementary. In fact, I see most of the older students giving hugs and kisses to their family members in the lower classes when they switch for break.

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The perks of being a teacher: cool handmade gifts from students! Mark got this American Flag Heart Key chain from the 2nd grader he tutors.

One major difference I see at this school vs. some schools in the US is the discipline. Students here are very respectful of their teachers. If they happen to misbehave, the teachers will very quickly take away their recess. The students here must ask permission to leave their seats during class (to sharpen their pencil or get a tissue) and they are not allowed (usually) to go to the bathroom in the middle of class. They are told to go at the break or in between classes, when the teachers are changing. (Elementary students have one head teacher, but also 7 other teachers who come in to teach them different subjects throughout the day).

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An apology note I received from one of my students because he was “berry berry bag” in my class.

Our school also has the best parties! (I’m serious). There are two big days in particular where we celebrate Saints important to our school / city (Don Bosco Day and Maria Auxiliadora Day). The students play games all day (almost the equivalent to field day in the US) but the best part is after, when all the staff at the school has a big lunch together (beer and wine included)! Everyone goes out to a nearby bar after the lunch to continue the fun! It’s two of the best days of the year at our school!

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Food from the Don Bosco Day Lunch (Yes, that’s beer)

We are lucky because there are a total of 4 native English speakers in our school. One for pre-school (ages 3-5), two for elementary (Mark and I) and then one for high-school. Our program accepts native teachers from all over (US, UK, Australia, Ireland, etc.).

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Our hallways are open air! (The classrooms are on the right)

If you are interested in teaching English abroad, here are a few links to different programs that can help you.

  • UP International
    • This program is the one Mark and I are in now. They help you to organize your student VISA, match you with a school and connect you with your coworkers. They also provide a free online course to take. You are paid a monthly stipend by the school and the program is free. (Sometimes the school pays for your apartment as well, like in our case). You only have to worry about the cost of flights / VISA applications.
  • Meddeas
    • This was the first program I was in when I started teaching last year in Spain. They are also very good, but sometimes you are placed in a school that gives you a host-family to live with. They require you to take a TEFL course online throughout the program.
  • North American Language and Culture Assistants
    • I don’t know much information about this program, but I know that it’s a deal for people in the US/Canada to come teach in Spain. I’ve heard the application process is lengthly and competitive, so I would recommend the other two programs first.

If you are already an English teacher in Spain and are looking for helpful resources, here are the best websites we’ve found for grammar, listening and vocabulary activities:

I’ve also come across some websites that have great games for students learning English.

Finally, there are two websites which I use a lot to create review games or activities for students before an exam, but any teacher could find these helpful (regardless of if you are an ESL teacher). For the jeopardy game builder, you must create a free account so it can save all the review games you make!

I hope you’ve found some of this information interesting or helpful, whether you are a teacher or someone who is curious about what the job entails. Please feel free to e-mail us at livelavidablog@gmail.com if you have any more questions!

Stay tuned for a post about the pros and cons of living in Spain!

Hasta luego! Amanda


One thought on “Teaching Abroad

  1. Hola, Amanda! En primer lugar, muy feliz 2017 para ti y Mark también! Me da mucha alegría leerte y ver que ambos están muy contentos y cómodos enseñando en España. Y deduzco, por tus comentarios aquí, que tú y Mark están enseñando en el mismo colegio ahora. ¿Me equivoco? ¿Están juntos? ¿Y siguen viajando mucho… como el año pasado? Últimamente no he estado entrando mucho a Facebook porque he estado trabajando duro en terminar un libro que ahora sí, finalmente está completo! Es una colección de entrevistas que hice durante mis años de profe activa (más 4 entrevistas recientes, del semestre pasado), entre 1981 y 2016, que se va a publicar en marzo, espero, y Ray y yo iremos a Asunción (Paraguay) para la presentación pública de _22 CHARLAS LITERARIAS DE AYER Y DE HOY_ el 4 de abril, si Dios quiere!

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