Native speakers only!

Native speakers wanted! Our academy hires native speakers only! Learn English with native speakers! Sounds familiar? What if I tell you that it is all a lie…

If you’ve ever looked for an ESL job, surely you were bombarded with native speakers only! as the top requirement. When I saw it for the first time I was mortified – who’s going to hire a Polish girl to teach English? Luckily for me, Spain has one of the lowest percentages of English speakers in Europe with less than 30% people being able to use it! (El Pais, 2017). Language academies, especially in smaller towns or in less popular areas, would do anything to have you on board – with or without any certifications. That is precisely what happened to me and how I discovered my love for teaching English.

Even though I am a certified teacher with a few years of experience and good reputation among my students, every now and then I get side-eyed by some parent or an older student when they learn that I am not a native speaker. This raises a question Can you be a good ESL teacher without being a native speaker? The answer is simple – Yes, you can!

I remember starting CELTA and thinking What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t understand everything? Will I ever be able to teach higher levels? In fact, the thought of teaching a B2 level group kept me awake at night, to the point that I decided to address my concerns to Mike, my CELTA tutor. He told me a story about a guitar student who kept attending guitar lessons despite being better than his teacher. When asked why he continued taking lessons, he answered that he has fluency but the teacher has the technique.

Needless to say, Mike boosted my confidence and helped me with teaching higher English levels. I passed CELTA with flying colours and realised that I am a good ESL teacher. A teacher who listens and understands her students. A teacher who isn’t afraid to look for help or admit that there are some things beyond her current knowledge. A teacher who continues learning and growing to accommodate the needs of her students.

A message to all language students: If you ever look for a language teacher, don’t reject non-native speakers. If they have university studies, years of experience or any extra language teaching certifications, you are much better off with them than with a non-certified native speaker. A native speaker without any certification or knowledge of language can give you fluency but will not be able to give you the technique.

A message to all language teachers: If you ever look for a teaching job that in a description puts native speakers only or rejects you based on your nationality – it is for the best. It may seem like a bummer at first, but you don’t want to be somewhere where people are discriminated based on their passport. Look for a work place that appreciates your expertise, allows you to grow and most importantly accepts you for who you are!

School’s out! – and now what?

We made it! One of the most challenging school years is done! But what are you going to do now?

There is no doubt that the school year 2020/2021 was one of the most difficult years for teaching. We all needed to adapt to the new routine, disinfect everything every 5 minutes, keep the distance, transition to teaching fully online or worse…hybrid teaching.

If you teach in a state school, the answer to the question is very simple – now relax. However, if you are teaching in a private academy and your contract ends with the last day of school, you may find yourself in a pickle.

In Spain, most of the ESL teachers working at private academies work under contrato de obra y servicio (work and service contract). This means that you are hired for an academic year and once the year is over your work and service is done too. Private academies often offer intensive summer courses that focus mainly on exam preparation, but there simply may not be enough work to keep you around. If you worked hard during the year and your service was appreciated, there are high chances of rehiring you in September, but this means that you have 3 months of unpaid leave. But worry not! There are many different ways in which you can find something to do.

1. Find a new job

In case you feel insecure about your current position and you just don’t know if you get a callback in September, there is no better time to find a new job! Update your resume and apply for new positions – there is also a chance that you will find a summer job either as a counsellor in one of many summer camps or as an intensive course teacher.

The best websites for ESL teaching jobs in Spain, which I used myself and could recommend without the shadow of a doubt, are TEFL.com and Spainwise. Through these websites, I found plenty of job offers and many academies actually reached back and scheduled an interview. Even if you feel a bit uncertain about some places, there is no harm in going for an interview (which are normally done online) and getting some job interview practice.

2. Become autonomous

Another great way of making some money is by offering private classes. The most common platform in Spain is Tus clases particulares. You are your own boss, you decide the time, the place, the level and the prices. It will require some self-implemented rules and making sure that you stay on top of everything, but it can help you create your own teaching space and teacher-student relationship that you can maintain even when you go back to work. It can be your main summer hustle and your side hustle for the rest of the year.

3. Develop yourself

If you’ve been thinking about doing some teacher related courses and you just never had the time, why not now? There are plenty of websites that offer short and relatively cheap fully-online teaching courses. Before I got into teaching, I learnt about different planning strategies for adults and for children using Tefl.org. Keep in mind that even though you work with a tutor and you do get a certificate at the end of the course, these courses are more for you than for any future employer.

In case you have some extra money and you actually want to impress your future boss, then you may want to invest in getting one of the teaching Cambridge courses. There is a variety of different courses, but if you haven’t got it already, CELTA is the best option. You can get it through one of the intensive courses offered by many different language schools. I got mine from CLIC Seville, which is also a part of the International House. The intensive course takes about 4-5 weeks (depending on the academy) and can be done in person, 50% online or fully online. It is quite pricey but it is definitely worth it.

4. Prepare for next year

If you are the lucky one who knows that they are able to come back to the same academy next academic year, then why not prepare some classes. I find it incredibly challenging to start the year and I am yet to develop a plan that is a perfect year opener. This summer I will definitely prepare some extra lesson plans and worksheets that I can use at the beginning of the new year. You may find it excessive now, but you will really thank yourself in September.

You may also want to find or make some games for your students. Do research about some online tools and try them for yourself. There are so many incredible websites out there that still need to be discovered!

5. Get creative

Another great way of developing yourself, networking and sharing your knowledge is by creating your own platform – such as this one! However, if you are not much of a writer then why don’t you share some of your incredible lesson plans and worksheets on websites like Teachers pay teachers. I am yet to explore this world myself, but to be completely honest I have used it a few times to download some of the freebies and I have definitely used some of them in my class. They are well done, professional and interesting for students. This is also another great way to make some extra cash during the year!

6. Just rest

This goes without saying. Switch off, relax and get ready for next year!

This summer for me is a bit different as I am taking a month off. During this time I am going to develop creative writing (aka this blog) and try creating the best lesson plans and worksheets for my students. Summer 2021 – let’s begin!

CELTA – one year later

The year 2020 – what else is there to say? This is a story about the time in my life when I lost almost everything, but at the same time gained so much more. It’s the year when finally decided to invest in myself.

I arrived in Spain in September 2018 and decided to change my career path. Up until this point, I was an environmental engineer who was getting a bit unhappy with the career choice. Spain was like a breath of fresh air – a new place, new climate and new job as an ESL teacher.

I quickly learnt to love the profession as it allowed me to be me, have fun and develop my creative side. However, it is not as easy as it seems. It requires a lot of patience, attention and definitely planning – something that I learnt with time.

I was a teacher in a small village in Extremadura and over time I wanted to become a professional. I started researching Cambridge teaching courses when I stumbled upon CELTA. I decided to find out more so I emailed CLIC Seville, the academy that offered a 50% online course and the teaching part done in person every Friday for 10 weeks. Great deal! Except…not as I was already teaching every Friday and was unable to take that time off. Time passed by and I forgot about the course, but then the unexpected happened – 14th March 2020, aka you are unemployed for the next two weeks and another two weeks, and another two weeks…

This is how I ended up having way too much time on my hands. During this time I looked for new jobs, started knitting, watched a lot of films, baked cakes… Suddenly, on one fine May morning, I received a message from CLIC Seville talking about a 100% online CELTA course. There was no time like then. I replied, got an interview, got accepted and paid 1440 euros. That was the beginning of the CELTA adventure.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin

1st June 2020 came round and I was very nervous. I was afraid that I would be the worst addition to the course and the tutors would tell me not to teach ever again. I was wrong. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I learnt a lot of new techniques, but what I valued the most was the feedback and the observation of other great teachers. After spending five truly exhausting weeks, averaging eight hours a day in front of the computer, teaching, planning, completing the tasks, I made it to the very end with a Pass A.

This is what finally brings me here. This newly found confidence, realization that I am a better teacher than I ever was an engineer and the freedom, and ability to create – is what I truly appreciate about being a teacher. So here I am, at last ready to share my ideas with other teachers.

Hope you embark on this journey with me and help me build this creative space.