It’s no secret that I won’t be teaching English in Spain this upcoming year, but the specific reason why I initially made the decision is. While everything has been for the best, I sure will miss that residency card when my 90-day tourist visa expires come December. What I won’t miss though, is the BEDA program.
Here’s the story of what happened, how I screwed up and how I came to know the secret side of the BEDA program:
Late winter wasn’t a great time for me. On February 6th, I wrote this post teary-eyed and locked in my room. A few weeks later I wrote this post following a heavy and emotional visit to Granada. During that time frame (the end of February) I also forgot about one crucial detail necessary for extending my time in Spain.
To email in my renewal form.
I received the emails from BEDA. I had opened the attachments. I had even filled out the form. One day, I quickly sent in my program evaluation form (as also requested) and went on with my day. My mind was so cluttered, busy and distant that I forgot about the more important form (the renewal) and never even thought twice about it. I convinced myself everything was taken care of. For almost two months I heard nothing from the program and was sure everything was fine.
Stupid, I know.
Around the same time, the school I worked for requested my employment and renewal with BEDA as they were supposed to. They told the program how many hours they wanted me to work and expected everything was fine as well.
You’d think I would’ve (or my school would’ve) received an email when BEDA noticed something wasn’t matching up. If my school was requesting my placement but I hadn’t sent in the corresponding documents, obviously there was a discrepancy.
This was the case for a friend of mine who forgot to send in her documents. BEDA emailed her and she sent them in almost a month late.
Two months passed
When I realized that my co-workers had all received their renewal acceptances at the end of April and I hadn’t, I contacted the program questioning what the problem was. When they told me my placement had been given away, I was shocked.
I almost instantaneously started hyperventilating.
Now, I can’t be sure if it was because my review of the program was critical (honest) in the personal evaluation, because of something I said on this blog, or just because of something personal in general, but when I pleaded for a change, they said there was nothing I could do. They didn’t even want to try.
For a couple of weeks the teachers at my school called the BEDA program over and over pleading for them to make some adjustments. I apologized multiple times to the program for the silly and stupid mistake. One of the BEDA coordinators accused me of lying about the situation to make myself look better.
I know, thinking you attached a document and never mentioning it in the email sounds like a “dog ate my homework” kinda thing, but it was true. I had no idea where my brain was that month. Three+ years of visas and paperwork and this was the first time I had really screwed anything up.
Although it was ultimately my fault, I felt like I, a responsible employee and someone who had PAID to be in the program, was being treated like an inconvenient problem. Instead of them caring and seeing what they could do, they didn’t want to deal with it. The program which I thought was better than the government Ministry (auxiliares) program because they were smaller and more helpful, was no longer the case.
All my co-workers and friends knew it was still early in the year and that something could be done. New applicants hadn’t even received acceptance into the program yet. The only reason it wasn’t being done was purely because they didn’t want to.
“It isn’t fair to the renewing applicant who wanted to change schools and did everything correctly,” they told me.
When I heard that, I understood. I responded politely and swallowed my pride. In the back of my mind though, I knew that it still didn’t make sense. My school stated originally that they didn’t want someone else in the first place, since they had applied for my extension. BEDA was at fault as well for not cross-checking documents.
During the fiasco I was offered one solution: to switch schools. After 3 years of teaching, nothing about that felt right though. Not the uncertainty, not the starting over, not the new teachers, not the new commute.
Ironically, after a couple of weeks of stress, tears and full crisis mode I decided to let go. I thought, “You know what, I don’t really like teaching anyway. I don’t even like this program! Why do I care?”
(Oh yeah, that little thing called living in Spain, health insurance and a 10 month visa…)
Either way, I realized this was a good thing that might ultimately push me in a better direction.
I told my school to stop fighting on my behalf. I told my co-workers I wouldn’t be coming back. I wrote a blog post spilling about my new revelation.
That next day I received a phone call from BEDA, which I found very fishy, telling me they had decided they could do something. They told me they could switch things around and I could stay.
Reasons why the BEDA program isn’t what you think it is:
Most people choose the BEDA program because the online world seems to have a consensus that it is infinitely more organized and helpful than the Ministry (auxiliares) Program. While it is overall more helpful (visa help and responding to emails) and drastically easier to apply to, it is far from perfect. There are still problems but barely any bad reviews of the program on the internet.
While I don’t want to sway anyone completely from choosing the program, I want people to be informed. Put blatantly, most Spain teaching programs are a pain in the ass. Choose the one you think will work best for you, grin and bear through the annoyances and at the end of the day appreciate the fact you’re living in Spain. That’s what you’re in it for anyway, right?
1. The required university classes are (mostly) a waste of time
If you are being required to attend classes, you’d at least hope to get something out of them. As for the Spanish language classes, those were great. Free Spanish classes are never a bad thing. Unfortunately, those made up less than half of the curriculum.
In total, about 28 hours of classes (6 classes) were various workshops on teaching, classroom management and random topics while 15 hours of classes (5 classes) were on Spanish.
In my opinion, I received absolutely nothing out of the teaching and workshop classes. While there are some people out there who did actually enjoy those, (if you are out there, feel free to comment and add your input below) most people dreaded them. Wouldn’t you hate to attend a 4 hour class on a random Saturday while in Spain? I did. Some were also scheduled on public holidays. Some just seemed like time fillers where we were forced to do random classroom/team building activities. Barf.
For more of my opinion on the classes, and the detailed 2013/2014 schedule, check out my post here.
2. You could end up being the main teacher in the classroom
One friend of mine, “Scott”, was placed at a very low income school with a very unorganized and weak English program. While he initially didn’t see a huge problem with it, things quickly got difficult. He became the sole person in charge of his classes, had to lesson plan and teach without any assistance or text books.
Scott told me, “I was left doing a large amount of work from home, without pay. When I approached BEDA in order to rectify the situation, they simply told me they would come to my school and follow up with me. Instead of this, they sent a Whatsapp message (text) to the BEDA coordinator at my school and never followed up with me. As a result, nothing changed, and instead of my working conditions improving, they got worse. My school coordinator become hostile because she felt as if I undermined her by me speaking directly to my bosses at BEDA first instead to her.”
Another friend had a really positive experience with BEDA, regardless of also being the principle teacher in her classrooms.
“I enjoyed my time thoroughly, but the beginning was rough. I had some practice teaching English for a month in Peru, but I had never officially taught before and being thrown in a classroom with relatively zero experience was not the most pleasant way to start the program. I had to scour the web for activities and ideas related to teaching English as a second language, but after the first two to three months, I started to get the hang of it. It was fun, and to be honest, not that much work. My school and co-teachers were fun, helpful and incredible. They made the transition easy, and I didn’t mind leading the class on my own. It gave me more liberty to do what I wanted. I remember being so frustrated in November having to work from 8 am until 8 pm just to have enough money to live off of and pay student loans back home, but in the end it was frustration for nothing. I was building great friendships that will last for a long time. “
3. You aren’t important (but the schools are).
Another friend, “Jen”, loved the school she worked at, but there happened to be a strict and irrational nun there. This nun, whom she never actually worked with directly, decided (without any reasonable cause) that she didn’t want Jen working at the school anymore. Without any warning, Jen had been sent a letter with a new school for the upcoming year. She was very upset and had no idea why she was being moved.
When Jen went to visit the BEDA offices in person to track down answers, one of the coordinators told her, “We cannot do anything to change it. The school is the client.”
When you interview with the program you are told that if you ever encounter problems with your placement, the program is there to help. They make themselves sound like mediators and facilitators.
Scott also came to these conclusions after dealing with another situation:
“When emailing my boss at BEDA to help with a second problem I encountered with my work situation, I received an extremely rude reply informing me that I had gotten what I asked for and that it wasn’t her problem, but mine. In my experience, this is the general attitude I’ve found is held by the direct bosses at BEDA. They’re not here for you, they’re here for themselves.”
So is it all bad?
No, not at all.
Most people have little-to-no problems with the BEDA program. I just wanted to shine a light on some of the negative experiences with the BEDA program.
Overall, this truly just comes down to opinion. I’m critical because I don’t like being fooled around with, and I also like knowing what I’m getting myself into when I move to a different country. Moving abroad is something serious, and you should be told what to expect, whether it’s good or bad.
Some of the benefits of the BEDA program are: visa support (I received a misprinted residency card and they helped me through the entire process of getting it re-done), unlimited renewal (you can continue in the program longer than the Ministry program allows) and a much easier application process.
So, which Spain teaching program is better?
When debating between the government Ministry program and the BEDA program, it’s all a matter of opinion.
If I had to do it all over again though, honestly, I would have applied to the Ministry program. I would have made sure to apply super early, hopefully get placed in Madrid and been happy with my 1000 euros a month and 16 hour work week.
As for the school placement, that is a toss up in both programs. You never know with either program if you’ll get a good school or a bad school. Luckily for me, I hit the jackpot and received an awesome school. For that, all of these annoyances were worth it. My co-workers were loving, supportive and friendly. They also rarely had me lesson plan and most classes I just walked into and went with the flow. It was extremely laid back.
Regardless of the ups and downs, and the irritating programs I’ve dealt with, I wouldn’t have traded any of it. I got to live abroad, see the world and pay the bills. What more can you really ask for?
Need more information on teaching English in Spain? Check out these articles below. Still have questions? Feel free to contact me.
Young Adventuress: Top 5 Reasons Why I HATE the Auxiliar (Ministry) Program in Spain
Do you have an experience with the BEDA program (positive or negative) which you want to share? Join the discussion below.