By Richard Stuart-Campbell
As an Edinburgh lad who moved from Scotland to Australia at the age of 11, I managed to experience a completely different culture on the other side of the world.
That first Stepping Stone gave me a taste for travelling and getting to know other people from other parts of the globe which has ultimately led me to Madrid, Spain. It all started in Barcelona when I decided to do the TEFL Barcelona course which gave me 120 hours of methodology and teaching skills as well as nine hours of teaching practice.
I thoroughly enjoyed the foreign language classes in Spanish and Czech, which were designed to help us tap into how students might feel when learning a new language as a beginner. The guidance I was given by all of the staff at TEFL Barcelona was crucial to my development as a New Teacher on the Block! I did the course in January 2011 but I was also looking around to see what jobs could potentially open up for me in February.
I thought it would be more interesting to honour my traveller’s badge and move to a remote part of Spain to learn ‘Castellano’ in true fashion, so I did. I worked for The English Academy in Peralta where I cut my teeth and learnt more and more each day with a lovely family running a great little school up in the Navarra Hills!
In hindsight, there is no other possible way I could have spent 6 months in such a place without being a TEFL teacher and that’s what I love about this job.
You are free to decide where you would like to live and on your terms. Peralta served its purpose and I started stringing sentences together in Spanish but I started to realise that there were plenty of opportunities around the entire country, especially if you send off emails around Spring or Summer.
I decided on Huelva, which is a small city in the south of Spain. Andalusia lured me in on account of its arts culture, not to mention the sunny weather and a generous coastline that reminds me of Australia at times. Whilst in Huelva, I worked for Centro Edimburgo which is quite fitting as I’m from Edinburgh!
There are lots of academies and cities to choose from and you’re spoilt for choice really. I would be careful though, due to a few incidents I’ve had (throughout Spain) where employers try and get you to work (off the books) for a soul-destroying amount of hours. A normal week should be anywhere from 24 to 30 hours in an academy. Some places were offering me 50 hours and wanted to pay me under the table!
This might seem appealing to someone who just wants a job quickly, but I recommend holding on until you find an honest company who are financially transparent. In 2013, I went back to where it all began and got a job at Wellington House Idiomas in Barcelona.
Wellington House pays very well compared to other academies and always had my back in times of need so I appreciated that. I grew as a teacher in this academy and learnt about higher levels which increased my confidence in the classroom and made me more attractive to future employers as I had more experience. I was also playing in a rock band at this time and found myself flying from Barcelona to Seville every fortnight for gigs, festivals, photoshoots and whatever else.
With the flexibility one usually has as an English Teacher in Spain, I moved to Seville in 2014 in order to live closer to the band I was in at the time. It was there that I started working for one of the best academies in the city, The British Institute.
The professional development here is second to none and I dare to say that the talented Hannah Beardsworth is a key influence in my teaching today. She taught me how to turn a bland activity into a fun one with some imagination and positivity. Attitude is everything!
Despite the fact that I had an easy and workable set up in Seville, I developed a growing desire for a place with more opportunities music-wise. In the summer of 2016, I moved to Madrid, where I still reside in today. As I’ve been writing this article, I can’t help but feel nostalgic but also positive about my choice to become a TEFL teacher. It’s given me something that I didn’t have before and that is the freedom to throw a dart at a map and to be able to find a job where the dart lands quite easily.
I enjoy what I do. I like my Mondays! I can take 3 months off a year if I choose to do so. This gives me time to work on other projects and that is something I’ve been taking full advantage of. I currently play in a pop band called Indigo Drone and we have just started playing shows around Madrid. We have released two records which you can listen to on Spotify, iTunes or on whatever floats your boat. Find INDIGO DRONE on Spotify.
In a nutshell, I would say that the perfect formula is to have a steady income at an academy which will give you around 24 hours a week and paid holidays. Once you have that, start looking for Business classes as they pay much more!
The only drawback is that you can only work freelance through these companies which means you won’t be getting paid over the Easter or Christmas holidays, nor will you see any money if you need to take a day off.
Private classes are a good way of making some extra money on the side but be careful with students who cancel too much as time is money! I suggest a strict policy such as charging them if they cancel in less than 24 hours. As it stands, I work for Cambridge House and Speak English and have managed to find the perfect balance between my academy and business classes.
I have enough time to work on other projects such as Indigo Drone and that is a luxury I will never take for granted. I’ve decided to hang up my travelling badge for a while as I’ve just become a father and I’m more than happy where I am right now.
Doing that TEFL course back in 2011 gave me a life outside the box, more options and most importantly it gave me a genuine sense of liberty.