Teach English in Spain: Teach Private Classes

Once you factor in your transit time, fees and lesson planning you realize just how little you’re actually making.

Posted by Casi Cielo

Part 4 of 5 articles covering specific information on teaching private English classes in Spain. See our sample English teaching poster.

Private classes, aka teaching English one on one, are called clases particulares, so pay particular attention to the information as follows if you want to be successful with your particular classes. Okay bad joke.

  1. Make Your Teaching Poster/Flyer: Make an English teaching poster with tear away phone number and email addresses. See the template we’ve provided here. Write it in Spanish, English and the local language (Catalan, Gallego, Euskera) if you can. You can download our sample English teaching poster here.
  2. Post Your Poster: Print them out and tape them to lamp posts, bulletin boards at the local gyms, internet cafes, libraries, university boards – anywhere where people are allowed to post them. Ask friends to post them at their work. Flyers at other good high visibility places like bus stops or phone booths will likely be removed within days or hours (very disheartening).
  3. Business Cards: Get English teaching business cards, keep at least 5 with you at all times. Many new students come from referrals!
  4. Flyers: Print smaller posters, like flyers, about _ of an A4 sheet, and hand them out on busy streets or at metro stops at rush hour.
  5. English Teacher Networking: Network with other English teachers, often you’ll get their excess students.
  6. Online Ads: Post an ad on loquo.com or other classifieds sites in the language classes section. Repost it everyday! This can be an very efficient way to gain students.
  7. Hourly Rate: Don’t charge less than 15 €/hour. If you’re doing business English, at least 20 €/hour. Once you factor in your transit time, fees and lesson planning you realize just how little you’re actually making.
  8. Evaluations: Do a half hour long, free evaluation with all your new students, as taught in your TEFL course. Cafes are good meeting places. Then decide where the classes will actually take place and if this student is a god match for your. Don’t put yourself in awkward, uncomfortable situations.
  9. Communication: If your Spanish isn’t great, encourage communication via email or text message wherein you can take the time to translate and communicate correctly on your own terms.
  10. Professionalism: Maintain professionalism. It can be tempting to become casual over time, but you’ll lose out as soon as you want to up your rates, take a vacation, or charge them for missed classes.
  11. Cancellation Policy: Have a cancellation policy and stick to it. For example: Given 24 hours notice – no charge Within 24 hours of class – half charge This is fair, just be sure to be up front about this during your initial evaluation and meeting.
  12. Getting Paid: Charge them up front whenever possible, calculating the month’s class hours and bringing them some sort of invoice. You don’t need a tax ID normally (NIE, NIF) if you’re not autonomo. This just makes it easier to manage payments as it can be the least comfortable part of your job as a private English teacher, and makes you appear professional.
  13. Socializing With Students: Minimize outside social activities with your students or you’ll end up with an intercambio partner instead of a paying student. Professional boundaries are key.
  14. Class Location: Location of class is important. I wouldn’t recommend doing English classes at your house or apartment if you’re a single female. It may be uncomfortable for you until you know them well. Classes at their house or office require that you commute, so build that into your hourly rate. One teacher I know does small group English classes in the back room of a bar where he knows the owner. The students have to order something non-alcoholic and the teacher charges less because it’s a group class: everyone wins. Having English classes in a café is okay, but the background noise can be prohibitive to effective listening and thus learning. The subject of who pays the tab can be awkward too.
  15. Class Schedules: Time of classes: most students will want classes during the hours of 2-5pm and 7-10pm. That’s during their lunch break/siesta and after work respectively, and doesn’t provide many potential hourly slots for your overall schedule. You can encourage classes at other times by charging less outside of these prime-time teaching hours by reducing your rates during off-peak times or charging more during peak-times. Teaching on the weekends should be minimized as it will affect your social life, the student is less focused, and it will generally lead to more cancelled classes on both of your parts. It’ll restrict your weekend travels too, which is a common activity for English teachers (and with the stress of teaching, you’ll need them!).
  16. Summer Holidays: In August your class hours will almost entirely dry up, so save some money and do some traveling during August or work at a summer camp.
  17. Don’t Give Up: There are tons of English teachers in Spain and things may get desperate at times (or not if you’re hard working and a little lucky) but remember that teachers come and go all the time. Stick it out and keep marketing yourself, soon you’ll be turning students away or referring them to fellow teachers too. Keep your chin up. And don’t be hung over for classes, and enjoy the experience. It’ll probably change your life.
  18. Teaching Materials: Materials can be difficult to come by, or just expensive to buy. Here are some ideas and tips:
  • Borrow books from somewhere and photocopy them. Everyone does this, although we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it 😉.
  • Use the excellent materials from onetopenglish.com. In particular their news section is well suited to private classes. As the student transitions from one ability level to the next, you can use the lesson of lesser difficulty first, and follow up the next class with the same themed lesson of greater difficulty. This allows their understanding of the context from the lower lesson to aid them with the additional challenge.
  • Have them do writing pieces. A half or whole page, done over the weekend, doing student-centered corrections in the next class. They present the final copy by the end of the week, and you grade the final copy and mark it down.
  • Dictate clips from an English source (trying to keep it interesting to them) where they answer contextual questions through 2 or 3 dictations. Allow them to correct it with the original then have them read the article aloud. Bring discussion points ready for follow-up conversation.
  • Keep a vocabulary chart from each lesson and review vocab from the last class at the beginning of next; elicit students’ example sentences using each vocabulary word.
  • Learn how to re-use lessons and adapt them to different levels. It’s better to spend more time planning and creating a good in-depth, interesting lesson that can be used a handful of times than one which is boring, full of confusion and something you’ll want to throw out after using the first time. Remember quality, not quantity.
  • With kids, don’t get too technical, keep them drawing, doing games and moving around if at all possible (and relevant). Routine is very important, so make a routine of types of activities and stick to it. They’ll like (and need) to review things that they know already, so mix up the reviewed material into games. You’ll likely need at least some Spanish to provide clear instruction. Review your instructions with a good Spanish speaker beforehand so you don’t cause additional confusion with inaccurate commands.
  • Use the child’s school English class books and materials, and review their homework assignments if possible.
  • Our TEFL instructor provided a very helpful but seemingly odd (at the time) piece of advice that proved very helpful: Don’t smile until after Christmas (or until Easter). He was talking about having kids classes or groups, but the same should be adapted for private lessons. While one on one classes with children can be intimidating for you both, maintain a calm and patient air, without letting the kids know they can get away with wasting time by entertaining you.

Last updated 10 08 2008

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debaixa said:

Once you are confidently established it is not extremely difficult to become self-employed.

I have outlined my application process as a guide for other TEFL teacher?s wanting to break away from the Academies and Agencies:


JVICE123 said:

I am a certified English teacher. I have my Naric certification, and I have a Master's degree in Special Education as well. How important is it to get a TEFOl certification for somebody such as myself? I have taught many ESL students already.

Thanks for any help you can give me!

betweenbeings said:

Hi JVICE123,

To be honest, in your case it?s probably not worth it - as you already have training and experience.

I?m now doing the Diploma in TESOL (after 6 years teaching) and there are people in your situation on the course. This can be attractive as in theory it enables you to be in a better position to take on more responsible (and hopefully better paid) roles than just teacher (ie. Head of Studies or Teacher Trainer).

Apart from that there are short TEFL courses which can be useful (often run in downtime July/August/September). I?ve done one on Teaching Adults (there are ones for young learners, too) and Teaching Business English and I found them very helpful. Books from the recommended reading list for the Cert/Diploma course can also be interesting. (For example, Jim Scrivener?s Learning Teaching and Jeremy Harmer?s English Language Teaching.)

Hope that helps!



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