For those who are thinking about following a career in teaching, this post is for you. The key to teaching is having variety of experience and, even if you aren’t certain about becoming a teacher, by stepping your toe into teacher-related roles, you can begin to discover what this career entails. Below I have shared my own teaching experiences to hopefully give you some inspiration.
Become an English Language Assistant
There is far too much to say about this role for it to all fit under one heading. In short, an ELA (English Language Assistant) is a 6-12 month placement abroad in one school or more and your role is to assist the main teacher of the classroom in their English lessons. There are many different organisations that offer such opportunities; I found my placements through the British Council.
If you would like more information on how to apply for the British Council, there is plenty of information on their website, but you can also find out about my application process here. Also, if you would like to find out about my personal experience as an ELA, please click here.
Whether abroad or at home, private classes are a great way to develop and refine your teaching methods, and gather useful resources. You don’t need experience to be a tutor, but the more experience you have of teaching and the subject itself (with evidence of this) the more likely you are to be sought out.
First Tutors and SuperProf are two popular sites to set up a tutoring profile in the UK which I have used myself and would recommend. If you’re based in Spain Tus Clases Particulares is also a good site where I have successfully found my own tutors. Another option would be to offer your services on Facebook pages, but do be careful with what information you choose to share. Through these methods, payment solely depends on what you want to charge. It may be worth checking what other tutors in your area are charging and weighing that up with the skills and experience you have to offer.
If you’re an English Language Assistant, teachers and parents will likely come to you with the contacts of those wanting private lessons. They tend to be English conversation classes, and so you don’t need to worry about lack of tutoring experience or knowledge of English grammar. Of course, their needs and expectations should be discussed before taking up the lessons to make sure you’re what they’re looking for.
Through word of mouth alone, I had seven hours worth of private lessons a week whilst in Spain, which was more than enough, considering my ELA contract and the hours spent at home planning classes and private lessons. In terms of payment, those living in big cities in Spain can charge from 20 euros; the going rate in towns tends to be 15 euros. The latter is what I charge and I wouldn’t recommend charging any less. The tutoring has to be worth your time and you must take into consideration any preparation you have to do before the class, in addition to the time it takes travelling to the class and the costs of all this.
Finally, please bear in mind any tax you may have to pay from tutoring. As a tutor both in the UK and in Spain, I didn’t earn enough to have to pay tax. Whilst you may be receiving payment as cash in hand, do keep a record of this money, just in case.
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding experiences you can take part in and the opportunities are so broad; no voluntary work you do will be the same as another.
I started my voluntary work with Barnardo’s, a UK charity that focuses on the care of children. They offer a range of volunteering opportunities which you can find here. In Northern Ireland, they hold the “Play for All” project which is a fortnightly club for disabled children and their siblings. I volunteered with the group in Bangor for five years before moving to Spain for my year abroad and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was the first time I had worked with children in general and I discovered the importance of creativity and “being silly” to both educate and entertain them.
Through Barnardo’s, I was also able to participate in a project which focused on looking after Syrian refugee children, and thus marked the start of my experience with children whose first language wasn’t English.
This club is run through Queen’s University and offers the opportunity for QUB students to provide homework support to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is another rewarding programme to get involved in as it truly makes the difference to the lives of children and young people. The organisers offer plenty of support and training and really value the time their volunteers put in. I volunteered during my first year of Queen’s and helped teenagers with their English and French homework. The experience gave me the confidence and skills to start tutoring from home and I was also awarded a degree plus for my efforts. For more information, see below:
Call it ability/Un invitado más
This English Club in Gijón, Asturias is for young adults with special needs and is run by an inspiring woman called Serena. I got involved with this club after the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) of Asturias asked for volunteers for a one-time session. I was amazed to see the English language abilities of these young Spanish people and how much joy the club brought them – they were a solid team and it was evident how learning a second language had given them so much positive confidence. I decided to come back every Wednesday that I could.
Volunteering with Un invitado más has been an enlightening experience that has provided me with wider pedagogic skills to teach English in a fun and dynamic way. In exchange, the students have the opportunity to converse with a native speaker (myself), enabling them to improve their pronunciation and apply what they’ve learnt to an authentic context.
Become an Au Pair
Although the role of an au pair is more about looking after children, in most cases there is that element of teaching them your native language and there’s something quite special and unique about building a relationship with a family and seeing the positive influence you can have on a child, from the awareness of their own culture and others, to their progress in a foreign language.
For more information about my experience as an au pair and how to become one yourself, click here.
There are certainly many more ways to gain teaching experience, so look out for opportunities at your school, university, workplace and local community and get involved!