Deciding on a private language school in Spain can be a daunting experience. With so many to choose from it can be hard to separate legitimate business from less reputable employees. For me, the priority was finding a place where I could be an actual teacher and not just a glorified babysitter or tape-recorder. El Centro de Ingles was definitely the best place for me.
You certainly get a great variety of classes at ECI: at 6:30pm I’m teaching six year olds in their first year of English; one hour later I’m teaching advanced adults. We teach eight or nine different groups a week, so that’s sixteen or eighteen lessons (always 21 hours) to plan. However all the classes use textbooks which are accompanied by great teacher resource books and the school has more resources than you could ever get through. There is an established culture of sharing at ECI and if you’re stumped for an idea, somebody else will have one. One thing I was really keen to add to my CV was experience teaching internationally accredited exams like Cambridge and Trinity. I have been able to get that in spades!
I have seen photos and videos of the “classrooms” that some teachers in Spain get to enjoy; good luck doing any kind of movement in those tiny spaces. At ECI all are classrooms are big enough to deserve the label ‘classroom’ and have windows and a/c. Your classroom is yours for the year, and comes with a work laptop that is also “yours”. Anything that breaks is quickly repaired. These might seem like small things but it’s worth checking whether the school you’re thinking of applying to includes them. The staff is a nice mix of new teachers, more experienced teachers, and downright veterans; married couples, those with families, and singletons. We work hard and you are held accountable for the progress in your classroom and fulfilling administrative requirements, but in return absolutely everything is legal and above board and you will never have to worry about what you are being asked to do and whether you will get paid. If anything becomes a problem – professional, pastoral or personal – you will find a supportive and accommodating atmosphere at ECI. Definitely expect to add some professional development to your role when working here. There are weekly meetings, which often involve a teacher training element, and the opportunity to attend conferences. In my second year I was able to expand on my role to include delivering some teacher training.
Andujar is a city. Yes, a city! I didn’t believe it either when I was corrected for calling it a town. You definitely need to put the qualifier “rural” city before that to give you a better idea of what to expect. You can comfortably run around the circumference of Andujar in about 40 minutes and everywhere is accessible by foot, even the big supermarkets. The benefits of this include a community feel – expect to see someone you know every time you go out – and lots of independent businesses. But don’t expect any items on your usual city checklist; a Carrefour, a Lidl, and a McDonalds are the only big name hitters. If you do crave the metropolis, Seville, Madrid and Cadiz can be reached by public transport for a weekend away, especially if it’s a long weekend. I’ve even managed to make it to Barcelona. Nights out in Andujar tend to be of the bar-hopping tapas variety. Buying a car in my second year gave me so much more freedom and it was a non-negotiable for staying on in Andujar. I definitely think you need to factor this into your decision to come to ECI: can your budget run to a car? Will you be happy with occasional car hire? Or are you prepared to save money but forgo experiencing a lot of what Spain has to offer?
If you want more from your weekends then just relaxing and tapas, Andujar has some great road-biking and mountain biking potential. The city doesn’t have the dramatic mountains found in other areas of Spain (the town itself is unnervingly flat!) and the land in every direction as far as you can see and beyond is given over to olive production. But the Sierra is a drive or a committed morning’s bike ride away for some hiking. Jaen – a 40 min drive or one hour bus ride away – has some impressive limestone crags for climbing. El Chorro is a two and a half hour drive away (not really accessible by public transport for a weekend) and has enough world-class climbing to keep you occupied for years. You can also rock climb, hike and ski in Granada, which you can get to by bus for the weekend, or very easily by car. As Andujar is so flat, running is a good activity. There are always races of various lengths in nearby areas including Cordoba and Malaga. There is a very strong contingent of those who live for the active lifestyle in Spain but you have to seek them out, especially in Andujar. With a little bit of effort and confidence and you can meet up with people who share your cycling/running/climbing/skiing passion and will be happy to act as your guide. If you have a car, the world is your oyster.
Unlike my co-workers, I chose to wait until I arrived in Andujar before finding a flat. There are a few websites which can give you an idea of what’s available but I didn’t want to commit to a rental without seeing the place for myself and understanding its position in Andujar. It wasn’t a problem as a teacher at ECI very generously let me use their spare bedroom when I first arrived, and I was out and into my own place just under a week later. Most apartments cost around 350 Euros per month but the quality (and the tastefulness of decor) differ a lot, so decide on your priorities.
Aside from rent, my monthly expenditures include the internet and mobile phone bundle (about 45 EUR per month), a bi-monthly water bill (about 60 EUR) and a bi-monthly electricity bill (about 100 EUR). My electricity bill is based on no air-con in the summer and no heating in the winter. I’m from Yorkshire and I’d rather wrap up in a blanket than spend the money! Look to spend around 35 EUR a week on food if you like cooking for yourself. Fruit and vegetables are cheap.
The general consensus is that it is difficult to save money in Spain, but living in Andujar helps as there isn’t much to spend money on. Prior to living in Spain I lived in Asia, so for me the cost of living is high. I also live on my own which means my experience is different to those teachers who are in couples. I would say it is definitely possible to put something aside, but it is hard. It is especially hard to save if you start to do anything at weekends as even with my frugal sense of adventure, petrol, camping fees and perhaps a museum entry or similar, soon add up in Spain. My advice? Get a roommate, it’s the only real way to make any significant savings here.
And now for the TLDR generation… Andujar in a nutshell: small, quiet, olives. Possible necessities to make the most of it include a car, a sense of adventure, drive to learn Spanish, patience, a hobby for those quiet weekends. ECI: lovely school and facilities, helpful staff and senior management, caring atmosphere, oodles of potential for building your CV.
Vicky Woollven (teacher at ECI Sept 2014 – June 2016)
Dates employed: 09/2014 – 30/06/2016
LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR
- The Town
Andujar is a lovely town, very traditional with a great community atmosphere. It’s the type of town where everybody knows everybody. It isn’t jam packed with things to do, so would certainly suit someone who is ready to get stuck in with the local community. There are plenty of religious festivals and events throughout the year that are wonderful to experience – especially the Romeria in April.
Within the town everything is accessible by foot and if you happen to have a lot of shopping there is a local bus which runs from the centre up to the big supermarkets. If you’re going further afield, there is a train station and a bus station which have fairly regular links to Cordoba and Jaen and a few of the other major cities. Once you get to Cordoba, Spain is your oyster as there are trains to pretty much every province.
3. The School
The school is located right in the centre of Andujar, perfect for nipping out for breakfast or a coffee in the morning. The school is split over two buildings, the main school and the annex. The classrooms are modern and bright, with everything you need.
4. Materials and Resources
All course books come with a wide variety of resources, almost all the books have ipacks and the classrooms have interactive whiteboards. Teachers are given a laptop that is “theirs” to use – so that’s useful for designing and organising your extra resources. The staff room is fully equipped with so many books and resources that I guarantee you’ll find whatever it is you need.
5. The Staff
The staff are so supportive and there is always someone who can help you with an idea or solution to a problem both in work and outside. There’s a real community feel amongst the staff and there’s always somebody to do something with. I’ve made some great friends during my time here that I’ll be sad to leave behind.
Each teacher will have a variety of ages and levels, from young learners to exam classes. This means that everyday is different and enjoyable! There are no more than 12 students in each class. Spanish students tend to be very passionate (noisy!) but generally are very keen and willing to learn.
- Teacher Training
There is a wide variety of training both internal and external, with sessions paid for by the school, in Madrid and Seville each year.
- Finding a Flat
Finding a flat is very easy during the summer, there are flats or houses to suit most budgets and generally come with all the appliances and necessities you need.
- The Cost of Living
The cost of living is very reasonable, especially being able to have a drink and a tapas for less than €3 after work! The most expensive things are the utility bills, normally electricity comes every two months and water every three. On average, I would say they run a little more expensive than the UK, whereas your groceries and day to day life will probably be cheaper here.
- Health Cover
You are fully covered on the health system, I have experienced both visiting the GP and attending A&E. Appointments are easy to make however you may occasionally have to wait longer and you certainly will need to establish your place in the line – Welcome to the Spanish queuing system!
Robyn Tahnee Moss
Dates employed: Sept 2014 – present (and staying)
LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR
Andujar is a small town, it has plenty of amenities for most peoples needs. There are plenty of bars to socialise and enjoy tapas. Andujar is small enough that it is easy to walk around and take in some of the interesting architecture. There are plenty of different fairs and festivals throughout the year to enjoy.
Andujar is in a great location to be able to see a lot more of Spain, there is a bus station in the centre of Andujar, with buses going to Malaga, Cordoba, Jaen and Madrid daily, plus many other cities. there is also a train station on the edge of the town, which connects with Cordoba and Jaen, from Cordaba train station you can connect with most of Spain. If you have a car, there is a motorway on the edge of Andujar, which links up with Madrid, Cordoba and Malaga.
Is in the centre of the town, just off the main shopping street, the school consists of two buildings which are both on the same street.
Materials and Resources
The resources and materials available to us teachers are excellent, we have interactive whiteboards, with all course books that we use available on the whiteboards. We also have a library stacked with plenty of supplementary resources, and exam practice materials for all exam types and levels.
The staff at the school are excellent and extremely helpful, you never have to feel alone at the school as everyone will help you as much as possible. The management are open to ideas from the staff if you feel there is an idea that could help other teachers, it is a great team environment at ECI.
Class sizes are great maximum of 12 at teenage and above, with classes ranging from beginners to Advanced, the students in Andujar are generally willing to practice and speak English as much as possible and are fun to work with.
Teacher training is excellent at ECI, with plenty of in house training on all aspects of teaching and use of equipment. Plus the school also offers staff the options on external training sessions, at many other locations including Seville and Madrid conferences. I feel that ECI is excellent in encouraging their staff to become better teachers.
Finding a Flat
There are plenty of websites available to help with flat hunting and the staff at ECI are willing to help anyone find a flat. There are plenty of websites available, and plenty of flats available throughout the town.
The Cost of Living
Compared to the UK is cheap, half a beer and tapas roughly €2.50, weekly shopping is fairly cheap and fresh fruit and vegetables are very cheap compared to the UK.
Spain has a system similar to the NHS, doctor appointments are easy to arrange just by booking online, you have to pay for prescriptions but they are not that expensive.
Dates employed: September 2014 ongoing
LIVING AND WORKING IN ANDÚJAR
Andujar is a lovely town. Cost of living is low especially when compared to the UK. A glass of red wine and a tapas costs less than 2.5 euros. The people are really friendly. When walking around town be prepared to hear “Hello teacher!” at least twice per outing. In the warmer months there always seem to be some sort of festival or parade going on but generally it’s a very relaxed sort of town.
Public transport is not too bad. You can get to Jaen, Malaga, Cordoba and Madrid quite cheaply and easily. It´s very easy to take advantage of any bank holidays or to just go away for the weekend, since September I´ve visited Madrid three times and been to the Costa del sol via Malaga three times. There´s also a lot to see locally especially in Cordoba which is a beautiful city.
I cannot recommend the school enough! It´s located in the centre of town and has a very good reputation with the local community. Students return year after year which shows the kind of welcoming atmosphere the school has.
Materials and Resources
There are so many resources available it´s almost daunting to a new teacher. From folders to containing ideas for those first classes in September, exam preparation books and plenty of extra materials to use in class such as plastic food, telephone and toy animals with the smaller children. There´s anything and everything a teacher could need and more.
All of the staff are really friendly and very supportive. Being a new teacher was something that I was very nervous about. Everyone made me feel very welcome and I now class them all as friends. Whether you need someone to help you with ideas for lessons, a problem with a class or even help in buying a car, there is always someone willing to help. I feel so lucky to be working with such a nice group of people, I don’t think I could have got through my first year of teaching without their help.
Students are all generally good fun to work with. I work with children from the ages of six through to adults. The good thing about this is that each class is different and stops any monotony. The children and teenagers are on the whole very good but be prepared they can be very loud! You also get the opportunity to work with lots of different levels, my current classes range from false beginners to FCE first years.
I’ve worked for the school for a year. So far I’ve been to teacher training days in Seville and Madrid, a conference with regards to FCE exams in Jaen, a training morning with other schools in the area at our sister school in Bailen, plus we’ve had numerous training sessions and workshops as part of our weekly meetings. If you want to improve and develop there is ample opportunity.
Finding a Flat
I assumed that this would be my responsibility and obviously this is normally the case from what I know from other people’s experiences. This was not the case at all. I emailed Julie the flats I liked and she took it upon herself to check them out for us. When we decided on the flat we wanted she came with us to check the contract and made sure everything was as it should be.
The Cost of Living
Cost of living as I’ve said above is much lower than the UK. Both myself and my husband are not getting paid as much as we did in the UK however we are able to save and have a much better and healthier lifestyle. It’s much cheaper to be sociable out here and added to the fact that the weather is great we’ve found that we spend a fraction of what we did at home.
Health care from what I’ve seen is great. You can book an appointment easily on line and the one time I have been to the doctors I was seen promptly.
Other relevant comments:
As I’ve said above I feel very lucky to have had the support I’ve had this year. As this is my first teaching post I was expecting to have to work somewhere awful until I had enough experience to get a job at a “decent” school. If you want a career in teaching, you want to learn and really care about what you do, I highly recommend ECI. The change in myself and my husband since we started working at ECI is amazing, we are happy, we love living in Andujar and we actually enjoy going to work! I cannot thank everyone enough for making our first year go so smoothly and making us feel so welcome
Walking around Andujar is very easy, though a car may be better for weekends. The train and bus links are good.
The school is quite simply the best I have ever worked in. Excellent resources, including a huge variety of books suitable for every purpose in the library, as well as the collective knowledge of the current teachers who have a great deal of experience and are more than happy to share it. Indeed, sharing ideas is a big part of the school, and opportunities to do so are given regularly. We often have the chance to observe our peers in the classroom and be observed in turn, which is a great opportunity for professional development. This school year the school paid for the teachers to go to a development seminar in Sevilla, including rail and hotel for the night, which was another great opportunity.
It was very easy to find an apartment, and with the help of Julie, the owner, we had an apartment ready to move in to on the day we arrived in Spain.
The students are lovely. Almost all, whilst noisy at times, are enthusiastic and willing to learn. Most students are existing groups who have been in the school for a number of years, and their previous teachers have instilled upon them a strong desire to learn and good work ethic.
Dan Grant (Teacher at ECI Sept 2015- June 2016, moving back to Britain to take a PGCE).