Three months ago I wrote this properly depressing article for Jen @SpanishInterruption about how crappy it was having to move back to England. Don’t misunderstand me; I still don’t like England, but things have improved somewhat since I boarded that plane from Granada to Gatwick 3 months and 2 weeks ago.
First, culture shock
England has changed so much since I left here in 2012. Back then, I honestly never heard anyone talk about Brexit, and I still held the belief that sound reasoning can resolve almost any problem and that most people aren’t idiots. Ah, those were the days!
Second, the weather
It’s only early October so perhaps I’ll hold my comments until January when I will likely be incredibly depressed and have forgotten what warm feels like.
I don’t have a degree. I know. Unbelievable! Who do I think I am!? I’m from a working class family, we weren’t raised with the expectation that we’d go to uni. We grew up, got a job, and moved out. I wrote a while ago for Mr Chorizo @ExpatMadrid about the opportunities I benefitted from in Spain simply because I am white and English. I made the very best of those opportunities: I started and ran an English language programme for refugees and displaced people with Asilim in Madrid; I studied Volunteering With Refugees with Cambridge Assessment English & Crisis Classroom, and English In Early Childhood with the British Council; I’ve achieved my Level 3 Award in Education & Training; gained an undergraduate qualification in Arts & Languages with the Open University; and have benefitted from numerous CPD courses provided by my employers in the 6 years since I gained my TEFL/TESOL (with a merit, by the way) in 2012.
However, without a degree, I can’t legally work as a teacher in UK schools. Nor will I be accepted by most English language academies. For that I would need Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which means a degree level education in the chosen subject plus a post grad in teaching, or a degree in the education field. It is theoretically possible to get onto a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course based on relevant experience in place of degree level education but it was too late in the year for me to even think about doing that, and I was limited to only 2 local universities to choose from as the priority right now is being near family. It might also interest anyone reading this to know that QTS can be gained in some schools while working as a teaching assistant as a sort of on-the-job training and qualification, but very few schools take part in this programme and they’re quite selective. Again, it was too late in the year for me to even attempt this!
So, as so many returning TEFL teachers before me have found, my options seemed to be limited to Teaching Assistant (with a generous accompanying salary of anywhere between 13,000-19,000GBP) or… teaching assistant.
As I have mentioned previously, I returned to the UK due to illness in the family which was depressing enough as it was, so the added prospect of having to assist a teacher in preparing materials and setting up their classroom for a salary that would force me to live in a cheap house-share didn’t exactly fill me with joy.
Consequently, I did what I could to look for an alternative, and I’m happy to say I found several! So, if you’re a TEFL teacher without a degree, returning from abroad, and wondering what the heck you’re going to do with your life, don’t despair! It would appear that there are in fact, a fair few options for you!
- Study: I mentioned that it is theoretically possible to get onto a PGCE using your experience in place of a degree. The UK has an acute shortage of foreign language teachers at the moment and instead of the usual astronomical fees charged for higher education in this country, the government will actually give you up to 25,000GBP to study to teach modern foreign languages at secondary level. So, if you’ve learnt a second language while abroad, use it!
- Translation/Interpretation: Again, if you can speak a second language, there are opportunities to work as a translator or interpreter and the pay isn’t bad. As soon as I came back to the UK I sat a Spanish language exam with SIELE in order to get my level down on paper. I scored between a B2 and C1 in total which was enough to get me an interpretation job on the lowest pay band. That means that I can interpret for informal events and they pay me 14.00GBP per hour. Obviously, if you’re a qualified translator or your level in the second language is higher, you’d get paid more, but that’s still better than a teaching assistant salary! If you’re in the south of England there are lots of opportunities with the company I’m signed up to and they provide a great training programme too.
- Online teaching: So, I’ve discovered since moving back to the UK that I’m worth more as an online teacher. Oddly, between Granada GRX & Gatwick my value increased a few euro an hour in the world of online teaching. Companies such as iTutor will pay me more based not only on my nationality but my country of residence. UK & US based teachers are paid more. iTutor pay on average (depending on student attendance and teacher rating) 13-14.00GBP per hour. Once you’ve jumped through the various hoops; buying the red polo shirt, creating your background, procuring the correct headset, I’d say it’s worth it. IQBar pay even more, although with iTutor you can choose to teach only adults, if kids aren’t really your thing.
- Other teaching-related jobs: Between January of this year and the summer I was volunteering with an organisation who provide English (and now Spanish) classes to people in the refugee sponsorship programme waiting to be resettled in English or Spanish speaking countries. Over the summer I was offered a job as a teacher/student coordinator for the organisation, and although it’s only part time and a rather small hourly rate I absolutely love it and can honestly say it’s the best job I’ve ever had! I applied for a few other coordinator or head of studies jobs, too. There seem to be a lot of opportunities of this type with English First.
- Transcribing: Ok, this is if you’re desperate. But I was when I first came back! Between various hospital visits and no fixed abode I had to find something that could work around me. I have an account with Rev (they also have opportunities translating and captioning). The pay is appalling but it’s something, and if you only have a chance to work a few hours here and there during the day it’s very flexible. Also, Cambly offer a log-on-and-teach option which is quite handy if you’ve a crazy schedule to work around. Cambly pay 10.00USD per hour but it’s something, and you sacrifice your hourly rate for the flexibility.
- (Other) language teaching! If you’ve managed to learn a foreign language on your travels, then you’re in a minority in this country! England has a serious lack of foreign language stuff in general, and given that the country is leaving the EU and many EU nationals are heading back home or to other EU countries rather than hang about to see the aftermath of a historically bad move, now is a good time to start your career in modern foreign language education! I am working for an organisation called Aspire Sussex who offer adult education for those who wouldn’t usually be able to pay for their own, such as retired people, unemployed people or those with refugee status. (They’re also after English teachers if that’s of interest, although you’d need at least a degree or a Level 5 Award in Education & Training.) The hourly rate is really good although I should mention that they are EU funded so…
- Get educated! So, despite everything, I don’t disagree with the whole degree + postgrad = QTS thing. There’s a reason why a UK education is so admired and sought after. So, in spite of all my complaining, I have enrolled myself on a BA (Hons) Arts & Humanities with Spanish and Religion with the Open University. It’s going to take me 6 years, but I think it’s going to be fascinating! Afterwards I plan to either do a PGCE in modern foreign language teaching, or a master’s in translation. Because I don’t already have a degree level education, I am entitled to a loan for my studies from Student Finance England. Normally, if you’ve been out of the country for a while, you can’t just come back and get a loan from the UK government, but if where you’ve been is within the EU, then it’s just the same as if you had been in England. This is referred to as your ‘right to roam’ (ah, but what have the EU ever done for us, eh?) As long as you’re resident in the UK on the first day of the academic year, you’re entitled to funding. With the Open University you can study part time whenever you can grab a few spare hours in the day! So exciting!
So in summary, my advice is this:
- Make sure you take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn a second language while you’re abroad
- Volunteer. It’s good for the world, your karma, and maybe your future career!
- Keep up to date with online tools relevant to your sector. I have a friend who is very proud of not knowing how to use the internet, just as he is of listening to vinyl and not having iTunes. That’s great. But I want to have a job in 10 years.
- Never stop learning new stuff, and never give up! Change is opportunity. Always.