Should You Work at an English Academy?

The primary way Auxiliars make extra cash in Spain is by giving private English lessons, either in homes or at an academy. This year I do both, and find there are pros and cons to each. Below is a guide to deciding whether working at an English academy would be a good fit for you.


No cancellations, reliable income. This is by far the biggest reason Auxiliars choose to work at an English academy. It can get really frustrating, not to mention financially constraining, when your private families cancel on you last minute because little Iker has a headache. I’ve been really lucky this year and my families are reliable, but I also have a policy where if they cancel within 24 hours of the class, they owe me half my rate. An academy solves the issue: your class will always be there.

No transfer time. Sometimes you can stack English academy classes. I have friends who work 3 classes in a row, which saves them a HUGE amount of tranfer time. (I generally walk 15-30 minutes between my private lessons.)

Preparation done for you. I am extremely lucky in that my English academy director plans and prepares ALL THE LESSONS. I literally do no outside preparation, and I just have a very short meeting with her once a month so she can explain what storybooks, songs and arts and crafts we’ll be doing in the upcoming lessons. This is a huge pro for me, but keep in mind, it’s also a rarity. Everyone else I know has to plan all their academy lessons from A–Z, which is time-consuming and challenging if you have no prior teaching experience.


We did a similar arts and craft for Christmas. Source.

Foundation on how to be a teacher. No one really teaches you about teaching here. The orientation for Auxiliars is a measly 2 days of presentations that don’t help in the slightest. Giving private one-on-one lessons in houses also doesn’t teach you how to be effective, at least when you’re starting out. My academy director got her college degree in TEFL, so she knows what she’s doing. Through her I learn teaching tips and pick up skills for classroom management.

Provides ideas for other classes. My director will often make enough copies of whatever worksheet we’re doing so that I can take an extra to use in my private lessons, or at my high-school. Working at the English academy has given me great ideas for activities to do in all my other classes. I have even tweaked some meant for 8-year-olds into very successful lessons for my 16-year-olds!

Dream come true: When I was little I was obsessed with office supplies, and would force my mom and sister to play school with me. My closet doors were full whiteboards. So in a way, having my own classroom in the academy with tiny chairs, tables, cute posters and my very own box of teachers’ supplies is fulfilling my childhood dream. *Squeal of delight.*


Larger class sizes for same pay. I charge 20 euros/hour for one kid in private lessons. So how am I only making 15 euros/hour for five kids at my English academy? The math is weird, but for obvious reasons, the academy pockets a large percentage of the students’ payment.

Intense planning. Basically the pro I listed above (about no planning) rarely applies, so you have to plan lessons that will placate parents and satisfy children. Some academies provide a textbook, others zilch. My friend has a class with ten students ages 3-6. How do you design a lesson that targets both three and six-year-olds??

Difficult to cancel. Canceling lessons works both ways—sometimes in your favor, when you want to jet off to Morocco for a week. But for academy classes you would need to find a sub, which can prove difficult when most of the English teachers in your city have the same vacation days as you. Mass migration on Ryanair means few people left behind to cover lessons.

Boss-employee dynamic. This can be a pro or a con, but either way, you have to learn to work under somebody. You are the boss in private lessons, but not so at an English academy.

Difficult students. I’m not saying be a quitter, but if you have a student you just really can’t take in a private lesson, you can drop him. If you have one in an academy, you can’t drop the class.

Length of contracts. Your Auxiliar contract ends May 31st (except in Madrid); English academies end when students’ school ends, which is mid-late June. You may have to stay an extra few weeks just to finish your classes with the academy, but won’t have the income from your Auxiliar job.

Under the table. You’d most likely be illegally working for the academy, so it requires a lot of trust. Of course you’re under the table with your private families as well, but they generally pay you after each lesson. An academy pays you at the end of the month (or every two weeks, depending) so you’re not seeing the money and have to trust that they won’t rip you off. If they do (never heard of it happening, but still) you don’t have a contract, so are rather helpless. (The flip-side is that they are also illegally hiring you, so you could technically expose them if anything bad happened. Man, I am stuck in a U.S. litigation mentality!)

Extra work: At my English academy, there is a bit of extra work that I don’t love. For example, those monthly teachers’ meetings. Also, every student has a “communication book” that I must fill out after each lesson, so their parents know what we did, and I must also write a paragraph about each class for the weekly newsletter. Small stuff, but it counts. I also once spent one unpaid hour getting a tutorial on how to stretch and roll synthetic clay to make pumpkin magnets for our Halloween lesson. I kid you not.

So there you have it! English academies generally start hiring in September, so you’ll want to arrive in Spain a bit early, or send your CV through email. Just do a Google search for English academies in your city. I found mine via the Auxiliars Facebook page VERY last-minute…she hired me 3 days before my first class.

Do you think you would work at an English academy, or are private lessons (or no extra lessons at all!) more your thing?