Friday, February 22, 2008

What are the options for an American teacher in Madrid?

Continuing on with our prospective TEFL friend… :)

“I am American and I do not hold a European passport. That is a big part of my reservation with all of this. I want to be legal. I'm trying to explore all my options. There are some people that say that you don't need a TEFL certificate... would you agree with that? Does it give you and your CV a desireable edge?”

First of all, being legal/illegal has nothing to do with whether or not you have a TEFL certificate. In terms of getting English teaching jobs in Spain, yes, it is an edge to have a TEFL certificate listed on your CV. But it’s not absolutely necessary for many jobs. If an academy needs teachers, they’re going to hire them, TEFL or not. And nowadays, many academies require you to go through some sort of academy-specific training anyways. So even if you’re TEFL-certified, you have to learn the academy’s preferred teaching methods and/or system.

I know of very few ways for an American without a European passport or a work visa to get legal teaching work in Spain. There is one academy in Madrid – The American Language Academy – that focuses on American English and thus may be able to justify hiring Americans. In that case, having a TEFL certificate probably gives you an edge. But I can tell you from experience, having known several Americans who interviewed there, that it’s still really difficult to get a legal job there with a contract. Not all of the teachers are American, and there are actually a fair number of American expats in Madrid who have managed to get a European passport through a parent or grandparent, or who were lucky enough to get working papers in some other way. They’ll get priority, because it saves the academy from the hassle of trying to arrange your papers.

If you are really dead-set on being a teacher in Madrid, and you plan to be here for some time, I would recommend starting out by trying to get a paid internship or fellowship (such as the Fulbright, which I mentioned before). That would at least get you here for a year, during which time you can explore other options – such as trying to find someone to “sponsor” you. By sponsor I mean having someone offer you a job that no Spaniard would take – such as being a maid – so that you can get your working papers. You would have to teach English illegally for a year, after which you would be free to get a contract for teaching. (The first year in which you have a working permit, you are limited to the job for which the permit was granted. Plenty of people get around this by working a different job and getting paid in cash.)

Another thing to consider is that the elections are coming up in March, and the situation and prospects for Americans in Spain could change dramatically. The current administration has been quite open to immigration, and their policies have made it much easier for us to find ways to be legal and/or slip by unnoticed. With the elections coming up, immigration is on the minds of many Spaniards, and the politicians may feel pressured to crack down on illegal immigration a bit. This could make it more difficult for Americans in the coming months or even years, depending who wins.

1 comment:

sexymonkey said...

thanks so much for the great advice!

from what i have read so far, landing a good job at a good academy seems to be to key to doing well in spain. how can i avoid all of those language academies that take advantage of english teachers?

can you suggest any specific language academies that will treat & pay me well?

i live in the US and don't have my TESOL yet. but i would like to find a decent academy first, then maybe find a TESOL school that has ties to that academy, so i can get my foot in the door. what do you think? is this a viable plan?

any help w. finding an reputable academy would be much appreciated!

lisa lonning**