Friday, September 26, 2008

The grass is always greener...

As I said a few days ago, my blogging buddy has moved on to another teaching job in another European country. I won't say where -- I'll leave it up to him to decide if he wants to write about his new life in his blog -- but I do want to point out some of the differences between where he's gone and where we've been...

I think I've made it pretty clear that I think EFL teaching in Spain (or at least in Madrid) can be great for a year or two. It's a good way to make some cash while you use Madrid as a starting point for travel to Spain's other regions (almost all of which I prefer to Madrid, but that's just me). You can get to pretty much anywhere else in Spain in just a few hours by plane or train or take advantage of overnight buses to save money without wasting a whole day of sightseeing. You can also find lots of cheap flights to other places throughout Europe -- though if you're in Spain illegally, you may not want to risk it. You can learn a lot (though often biased) about the history, culture, languages, and food of Spain through your students. You can take advantage of loads of free photo and art exhibits in the city, as well as some free or low-priced museums, and also enjoy the pricier stuff that's on offer.

The problem is that eventually you have to start thinking about your long-term future. If you're living in Spain illegally, you have to face the constant possibility (though admittedly not a probability for most English teachers, at least for now) that you could be discovered and kicked out of the country. Not just that, but they can ban you from re-entering Europe for five years. It's a pretty scary thought. Plus, if you're illegal, you're definitely not paying taxes in Spain and contributing to social security, so you're not putting anything towards a pension. Granted, you probably wouldn't get much of a pension even if you were legal and contributing, but something's better than nothing. You may think, as I did, that you could just put some extra money aside each month and then transfer it over to your private retirement fund back home. Great in theory, but since you're not able to collect unemployment in the summer and don't have paid vacations, most of the money you save up during the year ends up carrying you through the three-month dry period from July-September.

And what if you're legal? While a lucky few make a very good living out of English teaching in Madrid, the majority of teachers working in the typical Madrid language academy do not. They may make a good wage on a full month of teaching, but it's rare to have a full month of teaching due to the many holidays and cancellations by students. Plus, there's the issue of contracts. I recently read an interesting debate/discussion about contracts for English teachers in Spain on the Spain forums of Dave's ESL Cafe. An academy owner explained some of the legal reasons why academies can not and do not give 12-month contracts to all of their teachers. While it's nice to have some light shed on the subject, it doesn't change the harsh reality for legal teachers who want to make a living and career out of teaching English in Madrid. Some will get lucky and find a place that gives them a 12-month contract and thus some stability. However, most will not. (By the way, check out Troy's recent blog entry on the different wages and contract terms in Spain -- very relevant.)

And so, for me, Madrid's not a great choice for people who intend to make English teaching a career, but it can be a fantastic place if you want to spend a year or two living abroad, traveling, and experiencing another culture. I have a lot more to say on this, but in the interest of keeping things short, I'll stop here for now. And eventually get around to my initial point -- comparing EFL in Madrid to EFL in other places.

4 comments:

Troy said...

Thanks for the link. I am starting to feel like Mr. Rain-on-Everyone's-Parade here (posting everywhere about the possible negative sides of teaching in Spain), but really I totally agree with you. It seems that teaching in Spain is made for those that are just thinking about doing it for a year or two.

This is a problem, especially for the learners, as you get a non-stop flow of backpackers with little training or experience, OR Mr.Jaded who is teaching 40hours a week to pay the mortgage. That or people get sick and tired of if all and open up their own school and thus perpetuate the same.

Point being, there has to be a better way, and here's hoping that one develops with a little pressure here and there.

Goodluck where ever you end up.

eslhell said...

I agree, and I'm going to be touching on this a little bit in my next post... There definitely has to be a better way, and all you have to do is look at other countries to see how much better it *can* be for teachers...

Cat N. said...

Hi! Thanks for all the great info in your blog. I taught in Madrid for two years (sin papeles), have spent two years away, and am now back in Madrid, and am interested in teaching again (con papeles, this time, if possible!). I have a quick question you may be able to shed some light on: rather than being sponsored for a visa by an academy, can someone 'sponsor' themselves to become autonomo? Or can a person only achieve that status once they already have permission to work and live in Spain? Thanks for any info you might be able to provide!
Best,
Cat N.

eslhell said...

Hi Cat,

You can apply for autonomo status at your local consulate (in your home country) before coming to Spain. Keep in mind, of course, that things can move very slowly when it comes to anything bureaucratic in Spain... :) If you're interested in doing that, I would call them ASAP and find out what you need to do.

Most likely you're going to have to apply for a self employment visa, which requires you to have quite a bit of money in the bank...

Hope this helps... Good luck!