Cairogal, who writes Here, there, and everywhere and is also one of the more prolific TEFL Logue commenters, has worked in Spain and the Middle East and is finishing up an MA TESOL. I recently asked her if she’d be willing to share her experience and advice for others in an email interview…how did she find Madrid in the winter and, more importantly, how did she survive on the salary? How is it finding work in Egypt, and what should you avoid doing before you find work in Cairo? How do you sidestep culture shock jaunting off to the Middle East for the first time? Find out here…
On getting started – and young learners
I fell into language teaching like so many who came before me, and like those who will surely come after. A self-proclaimed stick-in-the-mud with no experience teaching English flew thousands of miles to be a primary teacher in Sharjah, UAE over the course of one academic year. I truly enjoyed teaching the little ones in Sharjah, (which included mixed Arab nationalities, some Indian, Pakistani, etc.) and through the course of my trial and error classroom management tactics found that I could forgive a few jerky teachers from my own youth. My advice to those considering teaching young learners is to buy some books on classroom management, talk to other teachers, and become a well-oiled machine in terms of
organisation. They’re like wild animals: kids smell fear and poor-planning.
Following Sharjah I spent over a year in Spain teaching mainly in Madrid, but also doing a stint with one of the notorious language day camps in the Vasque Country. Spanish adult learners were lovely people who hated homework and exams. They were not particularly strong language learners, but they were fun to teaching Spanish teenagers? Eh…not so much. Class conversations meant no topics were off-limits and I actually enjoyed teaching class every day. Note to TEFLs hoping to work in Spain: Madrid, where you’re likely find the most EFL work, is hot as hell in the summer and cold beyond belief in the winter. This ain’t no beach holiday, and your Spanish salary will not afford you much more than hostel stays and cheap wine. I wouldn’t trade that year for the world, but teaching English in western Europe ain’t all roses.
Continued in Part 2