How to: Get Private Lessons (as a Teacher) in Spain
As you’ve likely heard, teaching private lessons is an excellent way to supplement your income as an auxiliar or language assistant (as well as any other sort of job here in Spain). Only trouble is, how does one find students interested in taking private lessons, or clases particulares as they say in Spanish? Considering that so many people in Spain want to learn English (or at least want to get their children lessons with a native-speaker) it should be a relatively easy task. However, you have to understand a bit about the way things work here and how students (or the parents of students) tend to look for lessons.
Word of Mouth is the Key
I cannot stress enough how much Spaniards—especially parents!—depend on this method of finding a private English teacher. This makes the start-up process a bit more difficult but once you get a few classes you’ll soon have parents contacting you for more lessons than you could ever teach! Personally, it took me about two months before I got my first private lesson (and that’s because I didn’t follow any of the advice I’m sharing with you now) but this year, thanks to that same first family, I have had to turn down four hours of lessons that I simply could not fit into my schedule. If you’re a good teacher to the students you get (no matter how few they are at the start), word will get around.
I know what you’re thinking: That’s great for the auxiliar who’s been here for three years but what are the rest of us supposed to do? Not to fret! Thanks to technology, new teachers can easily connect with the older teachers who have classes to hand off. Additionally, you can start spreading your own word of mouth before you even arrive by telling the principal (or whoever your contact is) at your school that you’re interested in giving private lessons and they will often be happy to pass your information along to parents at your school who ask or sometimes their own friends or families, too. Once you arrive, don’t be afraid to talk yourself up a bit to random people you meet. You’ll be surprised how happy neighbors, local business owners, even your banker may be to find out that there’s a native speaker right there in their area offering classes!
Facebook Groups can be a gold mine
Again, I really missed the train my first year around and didn’t join any of the “Auxiliares de Conversación en _(city)__” groups on Facebook until later in the game but these group can be SO helpful when looking to snag some private lessons. Without even needing to know another teacher personally, you can benefit from hearing first about a lesson they are no longer able to continue with (or which they were not able to take in the first place due to a full schedule). Teachers with more experience, who have had more time to profit from the word of mouth method, regularly post about private lessons that are available and they can often provide details on the neighborhood, age/level of students, date/time they’re looking for a lesson, and even the rate they last agreed to pay.
These sound like obvious details you’ll need but as an eager new teacher you might find yourself a little caught-off-guard and simply overjoyed at the prospect of a new lesson that before you know it you’ve agreed to give a lesson on the other side of town. With the details typically given in posts like this, you can often see that important information and decide if the lesson would be the right fit for you before you agree to anything.
Pro-Tip: Timeliness is essential when it comes to these posts as people usually scoop them up quickly. At the same time, there’s no need to give up hope just because ONE person has responded. Unless there’s already five or six people showing interest, I’d drop a comment and send the person a direct message for more details. Sometimes the first few people to respond don’t fit the exact criteria or timetable the student was looking for and the lesson is still available. Additionally, there’s a chance that the lesson in the original post has already been taken but the person has another one they can tell you about instead of posting it in the group. (As someone who has posted available lessons in a group before and been inundated with interested messages, this is not an unrealistic circumstance.)
Making an advertisement may work, too
When I first came to Spain, everyone said you simply had to print up some flyers and post them around town or create an advertisement for your English classes on a webpage like misclasesparticulares.es. To be completely honest with you, I never had any luck with the webpage nor brought myself to make flyers. While these methods may work, I find it much more effective to position yourself so that students are coming to you (word of mouth) or you’re benefiting from the overflow of other teachers’ schedules (Facebook groups) rather than waiting passively for feedback from an ad.
If you do choose to go this route, however, be sure to specify what kind of classes you are willing to give—consider if you prefer conversation classes or have the knowledge to provide exam prep, if you’re looking to attract adult students or children, etc. Again, I find that parents are much more likely to ask around to see if someone else at their child’s school, sports team, etc is using a native English teacher than to pick a phone number off an advertisement so be aware that both online and public posting of your lessons will likely lead to more adult than child students.
A Few Important Things to Keep in Mind
While you may feel desperate for the extra cash and willing to travel all over town for whatever classes you can get at the beginning, you’ll soon find that being haphazard in what you agree to teach is not going to be sustainable. Teaching just one class a day in five remote areas of the city might seem great at first, but wouldn’t it be much better to teach five hours over two days, bundling lessons that are in the same area? If at all possible, be strategic about your schedule and find out where the student lives before you start talking about times you have available. You might be free on both Tuesdays and Thursdays but on Tuesdays you already have a lesson five minutes away from their house! There’s nothing wrong with pushing for Tuesday (even saying it’s your only option).
Likewise, I find families to be the best students to have as you may be able to teach two lessons back to back with siblings and, if you’re lucky, at least one of the kids’ friends will need lessons, too. In this way, you can easily set up two or three classes on one evening with the same commute time you would have spent for just one!
Finally, don’t be afraid to talk about price—and value yourself fairly! This is always the hardest part for me, but it’s important to establish your rate early on so that nobody feels misled and the student doesn’t end up cancelling at the last minute because you charge more than they expected. The going rate will vary depending on the area you’re in (especially city center vs. village) as well as the kind of lesson you’re giving (exam prep > homework help > conversation) and your experience.
I hope that helps you get going on your private lesson-hunt! While I definitely advise you to be open-minded and willing to take on a variety of different kinds of classes, be sure to be fair to yourself as well and keep these final important tips in mind. Have you successfully found private lessons through other means? Let us know in the comments!