Season Workers TEFL Guide - Finding a Job
I love the idea of being free, of travelling the world with no set plan and picking up jobs as you go to support yourself. In September 2006, fresh from my Certificate in English Teaching to Adults or CELTA course, I decided to put this theory to the test. What followed was three of the most miserable months of my life.
My boyfriend at the time was Spanish and since we'd been living in my native Edinburgh, we decided it was time for a move to Spain. We decided on Santiago de Compostela, a town in the Galicia region in the north of Spain. It's a beautiful town with a good art school which my boyfriend wanted to study at.
In preparation for the move, my boyfriend went over in the summer to find somewhere for us to live and have a look for TEFL schools. I stayed at home preparing my CV and working my notice period. I looked on the internet and found the addresses of about ten language schools which I then sent my CV to. I also enrolled on a beginners Spanish course.
About a month later it was time for the move. We had somewhere to live and my boyfriend had got on to his chosen course, but I hadn't found a job yet. The first week there, I looked through the local phone book to find the addresses of more language schools. The next few weeks were a nightmare.
Galicia in autumn is miserable. I think that out of the three months I was there, it rained heavily every day except for two weeks, when it rained moderately. By this stage I was walking round the town looking for schools and hand delivering my CV. The constant rain, being wet, messing about with umbrellas, trying to keep my CVs from getting soggy while still looking like a professional was tough. And at every school it was the same answer; sorry but we employ our teachers in the summer, we don't have any positions available now but we'll keep your CV on file.
After about a month, I received a phone call from a school who wanted to interview me. When I got there however, I realised that the school taught using the Callan Method as opposed to the Communicative Method which I had been trained in. I went through the interview and observed a lesson which didn't use any of the skills in teaching English that I had been studying and learning how to use. I was offered the job and had to make a really tough decision: accept and be earning money but make no use of the skills which I had spent time and money acquiring, or refuse and be back to walking round the streets looking for work? I refused.
Eventually, two schools got in touch with me, but they could only offer me a few hours work per week. One school I worked at for three hours per week, the other one started off at eight hours but was quickly reduced to two due to student drop outs. I appreciated the jobs, but they weren't enough support, financially or socially. I found myself in a vicious cycle. I didn't have enough work to support myself so I couldn't go out much and socialise or meet people, which meant that I didn't have the opportunity of networking and possibly picking up more work. Every day it was pouring with rain too, and although it seems like such a small factor, all of these things combined made it extremely difficult to remain positive. On top of this, my boyfriend was at college most of the time, enjoying his course and meeting friends. He also had the advantage of speaking Spanish, another factor which kept me enclosed in my little world. After three months of this, I decided that I'd tried everything I could and it was time to leave.
So what did I learn from this experience? Firstly, I'm the sort of person that needs to have a job lined up before I make the move to a foreign country. It's a nice idea picking things up as you go, but my lack of language skills and limited teaching experience made it impossible to get a job, teaching or otherwise. Secondly, make sure that you've saved enough money to support yourself, just in case it takes longer than you thought to find work. I had some savings and earned a minimal amount, but after three months it wasn't enough. Finally, emotional support is really important. I found that I got low really quickly and if I hadn't had my boyfriend there to talk to and take me out I would have felt much worse.
I always try to find the positive things in every situation, even the bad ones. From these three months, I learned that I need to be more organised and forward planning when I want to move somewhere. I know now that to start a TEFL job in September, I need to apply in April or May. I've learnt that I rely on friends and family a lot for support, and this theory of travelling the globe like a free soul doesn't match those needs. Also, because of the amount of time I spent walking round the streets of Santiago de Compostela, I have a map of the town imprinted on my brain. If I ever return, I won't get lost.
Finally, just because I had this negative experience doesn't mean that it will be the same for everyone. Just make sure that you're realistic about how things might turn out, don't go expecting that all schools are crying out for teachers and getting a job will be as easy as buying a coffee. Good luck.
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