Despite the (relatively) low cost of living in Murcia, Spain, the 875-euro monthly stipend does not exactly provide for a luxurious lifestyle. Comfortable? Maybe, depending on a person’s spending habits and choices. I find, however, that the last week of each month consists of me nervously checking my bank account to make sure my grocery purchase doesn’t send me into the expensive chaos known as overdraft.
I manage to reach this point of stress every single month despite making money via private lessons, but that’s a story for another day. Nevertheless, giving private lessons has become an essential part of my weekly routine. It both provides me with extra cash that bolsters my desires to travel and eat out as well as gives me something to do during otherwise unoccupied weeknights. Whether or not other Language Assistants feel as though private lessons are crucial to live in the Region of Murcia, most of my auxiliary friends give one or two private lesson each week. Some of us have been able to snag more tutoring opportunities than others, but anyone who wants to fill their schedule with lessons can do so – they just have to pay attention.
One of the first things I considered doing when I arrived in Spain was applying to teach English classes at an English academy. It seems that there is an academy on every other corner in Cartagena, so the opportunities are ample. I know a few people who teach at academies, but based on their accounts I am content with giving private lessons. Academies have specific schedules that teachers must follow, and the schedules are less flexible when working at an academy because teachers must arrange for a substitute. Teachers work more hours through an academy, which is a plus, but the pay is fixed. Most people I know working at academies get paid about ten or twelve euros per hour, and they teach small group classes of about five or six children.
Private lessons are far superior to working at an English academy, at least in my case. For one, I get to create my own schedule by arranging private lessons. I give seven one-hour lessons per week, and because I choose when I am available, I only give private lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. This allows me to travel on Thursday nights if I so choose.
Another benefit of private tutoring is that I get to set my own rate for the classes, depending on the number of students and the duration of the lesson. My general rate is fifteen euros per hour for one student, and then it increases gradually with the number of students. For a one-hour class with two students, I charge twenty euros. I do this because as the number of students increases, the amount of individual attention that I can give one student decreases. I therefore charge a little less than simply doubling my initial, one-student rate. There is, nonetheless, more flexibility when giving private lessons outside of an English academy, which I prefer when building my weekly schedule.
Finding private lessons can seem like a challenge upon arrival in Spain, but I found that after about a month of living in Cartagena, my tutoring schedule was filling up slowly but surely. I arranged my first private lesson when a teacher at my school approached me, asking if I could hold a conversation hour with her ten-year-old daughter who was already fluent in English. I was ecstatic to have been sought out as a tutor, and it helped that the woman who asked me was a coworker. I have been tutoring this student since my third week of being a Language Assistant.
After the initial interaction – being asked about lessons and actually scheduling a weekly lesson – the offers for private tutoring seemed to roll in. Another coworker asked me to give her two sons two lessons per week; her friends asked me to start tutoring their two daughters once a week; my coworker’s cousin wanted a weekly lessons for her daughter and niece. I have even been approached by random people in a café, who heard me speaking English and wanted me to tutor their ten-year-old son. By mid-November, my weeknight schedule was comfortably full.
I still receive offers, and although sometimes it is difficult to pass on opportunities, I usually politely decline. I do, however, offer the lesson to other Language Assistants in Cartagena. The auxiliaries in Cartagena have a WhatsApp group chat, wherein people exchange information about people looking for a private English tutor. Many Language Assistants I know who were looking to tutor found lessons through the group chat.
Finding lesson opportunities is not as daunting as it might initially seem. What can be difficult is finding ways to spend an hour with one student. This is the downside to tutoring one-on-one as opposed to teaching at an English academy. There are set lesson plans at an academy; in a private lesson, I have to arrive prepared with enough activities to effectively improve the students’ English for an entire hour.
I still prefer giving private lessons to teaching at an academy simply because of the flexibility. I set my hourly rate and my schedule, and if I have to cancel a lesson, there is never an issue – my students’ parents understand if I occasionally cancel a lesson in a timely manner.
The extra money that I make from my lessons allows me to do things that I otherwise couldn’t if I was relying solely on the monthly stipend from my day job. I can travel quite often; I can have a good time with friends in the city center eating and drinking as I please. Without the extra hundred euros (give or take) that I earn each week, I would be much more financially stressed than I am now – and that’s saying something since, as I mentioned, I manage to spend almost my entire monthly earnings each month. I owe a lot to my private lessons, and I highly recommend that anyone living in Spain as a Language Assistant reach out to neighbors, coworkers, or friends to secure some extra cash.