If you split up the stipend of an auxiliar in Spain into an hourly wage, we make a very decent income, especially considering the widespread economic crisis. Heck, at least we’re employed! But there’s one tiny detail to remember: we only work 12 hours per week. Not because we’re complete slackers or easily overwhelmed, but because our contract says so. You won’t hear me complaining about my über lax work schedule (did I mention we also get 34 days of paid vacation in the EIGHT MONTHS of our contract?), but let’s face it, even with decent “hourly pay”, working 12 hours/week is only enough to squeak by for rent, bills, food and a few “1€ caña” nights.
So what’s a girl to do? Surely, you’ll need new shoes at some point. The sharp increase in mileage covered on foot here is no joke. And you simply can’t go around in your Nike’s all the time, both for cultural (helloooo, dorky tourist!) and functional (the rain in Spain falls mainly in Bilbao) reasons. Also, once January hits and Spain’s annual “rebajas” sales hit EVERY store, it will be almost impossible to avoid a little spree here and there. Oh, and did you want to travel at all? Sure, it’s fantastically cheap to jump around Europe when compared even with domestic US flights, but it adds up quickly. All of the sudden, you need muuuuucho dinero…
It’s no secret that a vast majority of participants in this program are making extra money (or in many cases, almost doubling their income) by giving private lessons and/or tutoring students in English. The minimum going rate, in northern Spain at least, is 15€/hour ($21/hour) for a one-on-one lesson. You can charge more if you have lots of experience and/or special certifications, or if you are tutoring/teaching more than one student at a time.
People in Spain are paying big bucks to learn how to speaka da eeengleesh. Why? Well, if you haven’t heard, the economy in Spain is not-so-good. As this NY Times article points out, people here are slowly realizing that, to get the jobs they want, they need to learn English. For better or worse, it’s considered the “universal language of business.”
I have done exactly ZERO work to seek out private lesson clients. I’m just about “booked up” with clients at the moment, and so far, they have all sought me out in one way or another.
Before I even arrived in Spain, one of the teachers I work with was arranging for me to give lessons to her son’s classmate: a totally brilliant 16-year-old girl, Fatima, who is studying for the “Cambridge First Certificate”, a prestigious English proficiency exam. I meet with her once a week for 1.5 hours. We review and practice the intricacies of advanced topics in English grammar and usage. This girl has a better understanding of the inner workings of the English language than most native English-speaking American high school graduates. I have the pleasure of working up from this advanced level by explaining colloquial phrases, idioms and the numerous nuances of English. I also usually choose a podcast on a topic that she has told me she is interested in, such as environmental issues. Last week we listened to and discussed this NPR Environment podcast about the oil boom in western North Dakota.
When I began tutoring this girl, her mother (who is a medical doctor) approached me about tutoring her and her husband (who is also a medical doctor!) in English. This whole discussion happened in Spanish, so I really had no idea of their English ability. In my first lesson with them, I quickly discovered that we would be starting from scratch. They haven’t had any English education since their early 20s, and even that pales in comparison to the English education that high school and university students in Spain are receiving today. This is a common theme for middle-aged professionals: the realization that any hope for advancement in their career is likely to require acquisition of proficiency in English.
So last Tuesday, I went from discussing advanced English grammar and the geopolitics of the global oil industry with a 16-year-old girl to teaching her highly intellectual parents how to count and tell time in English. Ironic perhaps, but very fun 🙂
My youngest “clients,” if you can call them that, are a 3-yr-old Xabier and 6-yr-old Aiala who are (aside from my adorable nephew Alex!) the cutest kids I know. Their father is the director of the study abroad program I participated in here in Bilbao last year. We’ve kept in touch, and he wanted someone to come by once a week to “play with the kids in English.” Lucky for me, he thought that I’d be perfect for the job! These kids think that having a “REAL American girl” come to hang out with them once a week is the greatest thing ever. I usually spend the first part of my time with them helping Aiala with her homework (she’s a VERY serious student…seriously!) and keeping Xabier occupied with books and tickle fights. Then, we move to the playroom to rock out to some tunes in English. Or draw pictures. Or play robot (Aiala) vs. mom/son (me/Xabier). Or cars. Or Wii. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. 😉
I’m in the process of setting up a few more sessions with advanced students around my age. I met with one of them today: she is in her mid-20s and preparing for Cambridge First Certificate like the 16-yr-old mentioned earlier. I’ve been hooked up with these potential clients in a variety of ways like local language exchange groups and through coworkers. I even met one potential client while shopping for shoes: at the checkout, she cross-checked my ID (I carry my ND Driver’s License) with my credit card, told me it was the most unique ID she’d ever seen, asked what I was doing so far from home and subsequently asked if I’d be willing to tutor her and her sister once a week or so. We’re working out the details now. A beautiful example of how shoe-shopping can actually be profitable.
I really prefer the one-on-one atmosphere of these private classes to the one-on-twenty chaos of the high school classrooms. It’s a no-brainer: people taking private lessons obviously have a desire to learn the material. High school students? Not so much.
Even so, I’d better keep both jobs. I’ve got some exciting upcoming trips in the works, and there’s a pair of much-needed rain boots at Calzados that is just waiting to be mine.
Feliz miércoles/jueves a tod@s!
Hasta pronto, chicos 🙂