by Astrid Schmidhofer
My aim was to become a teacher because teaching is
what I am best at and what I enjoy.
When I opened the newspapers at the beginning of September,
there seemed to be lots of adverts offering teaching positions
for English and German teachers and finding a good job seemed
to be quite easy. I was invited for a few job interviews and
some companies were interested in hiring me so I started “building
up” my timetable. It took me a few weeks to realize that the
interesting hours for companies are early in the morning from
8 to 9.30 and at (Spanish) lunchtime from 2 to 4 p.m. As soon
as these hours were covered in my timetable by one company other
companies were not interested in me any more. Besides, many
companies only offered one or two German courses which meant
that in my second year in Madrid I ended up teaching for 4 different
academies. In addition to that, I had to take on private students
in the evening, if I wanted earn an acceptable salary. So many
days I worked from 8 to 10 a.m., 2 to 6 and de 8 to 10 p.m.
As I had no idea about contracts of employment I either got
contracts for fewer hours than those I worked (very common in
language schools and agencies) or freelance contracts (which
means that the company treats you as if you were a freelance
teacher and they do not pay for your social security). I worked
much and earned little because I was only paid for those I hours
I taught and I did not get any money if the students cancelled,
for public holidays or if I was ill. But I obtained something
very important: teaching experience. I taught civil servants,
children, adults, unemployed people, in-company-classes, university
students. . . and each course added more valuable experience to
After 2 and a half years I decided that it was time for a change
and I signed up as a freelance professional (language teacher
and translator). I was lucky enough to find an institution that
was looking for a freelance German teacher where I started teaching
various days a week and where I was paid a fair hourly rate.
I also started teaching in-company-classes in companies without
intermediaries, so that I got a far better rate than I had in
the years before.
Now I still work as a freelance teacher (and translator) of
German and for the time being I make enough for a living. I
teach in institutions, companies and I also have some private
classes. No longer am I pressed to take on everything that is
offered to me at any price.
To those who would like to start as a German freelance teacher
I would like to give the following advice:
- The best place to find clients is Internet and it is important
you can be found by potential students in the web.
- Before accepting a class think twice if it suits you concerning
timetable, distance to your home, etc. To abandon a class after
one month is regarded as a lack of professionalism.
- If your client is a company do not forget to offer them to
hand in a monthly follow-up sheet and course outline. That will
help you to enhance your image as a professional teacher.
-Try to look professional at any time. That does not only concern
clothing (it might not be necessary to wear a suit, but avoid
trainers and torn jeans) but also the material you hand out
to your students.
- Do not “run with the fastest”. Do not let the best student
of a group set the class’ pace. The others will either complain
or abandon the course and the company might cancel the course
as a consequence.
Although there is not as much demand for German teachers as
for English teachers, the market in Madrid is big enough for
a freelance teacher to make a good living. German is becoming
more and more popular and many company and private classes are
available. It is a risk to sign up as a freelance teacher without
having enough classes but it is also very motivating to have
your own clients and be able to charge a fair price. And that
leaves you more time to prepare your classes better and create
your own teaching material.
I wish luck to all those that decide to take this step.