Moving abroad is hard. Teaching is hard. It’s not sitting in a grey
office cubicle staring at a coffee cup stain on your desk and making
small talk with your elderly coworkers hard, but it’s a different kind
Teaching English as foreign language can be both stressful and draining,
yet I also think that it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding
things a person can do. Realising you have to impart information and
inspire a room full of people everyday can initially feel daunting, but
over time it makes you feel pride, in both your students and yourself.
In this job there’s no hiding behind a computer screen scrolling
mindlessly through Instagram and counting down the hours until 6pm.
It’s constant. I live my life on every intertwining line of the metro
and some days leave the house early morning and don’t close my apartment door behind me until 12 hours later. However, despite this, I love it and at this moment could not imagine doing anything else.
If you are restless within your surroundings and ready to try something
completely challenging and, in actual fact, completely foreign, then
this is the experience for you. There is absolutely no way a person can
have a bad day when you walk into a school and are immediately bombarded by 15 little humans shouting your name and trying to hug you and tell you about their day ina language they barely speak. Being faced with a small child clutching for English words, throwing their arms around and frantically scribbling in order to explain a concept to you is so
endearing. The moment everything clicks, everyone understands each other and you know they have learnt something is the one of the greatest
Of course as happy as teaching here can make you, it has to be said that
it’s not always sunny in Barcelona. As soon as the safety net of TEFL
was broken and I was propelled into the real world, life proceeded to
throw outsome challenges. The weekend after the course finished both me
and my two American course mates (now two of my best friends) were
officially homeless, helpless and skint. I can tell you first hand that
going to work everyday from a hostel is not the most glamorous of
However every little problem that is thrown at you during your time away
from home is nothing but another chance to learn. Yes, sitting at home
staring at the same four walls will definitely be less risky than
packing a bag and escaping, but it won’t be as beneficial. I know that
everything that has happened in such a short space of time, whether it
be good or bad, has completely helped me to grow as an individual and
each new hurdle I come across is continuing that process.
In terms of the learning side of things, the course itself is
unbelievably realistic for what you will face when you are thrown in the
big, wide of teaching. Having a multitude of material thrust upon you
with very little information other than the level of your students and
knowing you have 45 minutes in which to impart your knowledge upon said students was absolutely crucial for me to get used to stress and get out of my comfort zone. This kind of thing will definitely happen as soon as you start working. I sometimes get a text at 9am asking if I can cover a
class in an hour with very little information but the location and age
of the students and I now feel completely able to work well with that
kind of pressure.
I completed my TEFL course in September just as many schools and
companies were hiring in October, which may have made the search easier. However I really do believe that if you fully take the career advice
that is offered to you and show initiative and enthusiasm, then a
teaching job that suits you will surely follow. One of the greatest
things about teaching English is the flexibility it gives you both in
terms of choosing the kind of classes you want to teach as well the
hours you are willing to work. This is something especially good about
working in a city such as Barcelona, as there is such a strong emphasis
on having a good work life balance (i.e its completely true that
everywhere becomes a sleepy ghost town between the hours of 2 and 4 pm)
With my current job I have no base and have to travel constantly between
different locations, which can be considered both a good and bad thing.
I actually did apply for around 15 jobs in the last few weeks of school
both in language schools and within companies and I heard back from
around half almost immediately. In the space of one week I had three
interviews, all of which were successful. I was even offered free
accommodation alongside a job by a couple who ran a school just outside
Barcelona. In the end I chose a position that offered around 10 hours
per week teaching children from 5 to 13 years old in both schools and
private classes. Initially this was not a lot of hours but within a
couple of weeks those hours doubled. If you are willing to work
the opportunities are definitely there.
I really enjoy the way I work as I feel that teaching in a child’s home
has so many benefits and allows you, as the teacher, to feel like part
of the family and thus allows the children to get comfortable with you
and learn so much more. I get to make crafts with my 13 year old, create
and perform plays with my 11 year olds and read stories to my 5 year
olds. Overall I teach over 100 different faces but having private one to
one classes as well as larger groups in schools allows me, as a new
teacher, to get a mix of experience and figure out what I want out of
teaching in the future.
After I had been in Barcelona for 3 months I returned home for Christmas
holidays and was immediately greeted by an onslaught of questions and
the inevitable exclamations of ‘I am so jealous of your life, it looks
amazing’. This can be both flattering and unsettling at the same time.
The go to phrase of ‘you should do it too!’ always seemed to spill out
of my mouth as a first response, but now a couple more months into the
experience I now know that this adventure is definitely not for
everyone… but it can be absolutely amazing for the right person!
By Jemeala Tarbah