Travel & Teach - Mexico
Mexico achieved its independence from 3 centuries of Spanish rule early in the 19th century. But before this it had a history of advanced civilization, the remnants of which can still be seen today in the pyramids of the Aztecs. Bordered on the north by the United States, to whom it lost some of its territories early in the 20th Century, it has always been seen as the impoverished neighbour of North America. To the south lie Belize and Guatemala and the rest of Central America. Mexico is the start of what is sometimes called the ‘Gringo Trail’ leading down to South America.
This fascinating country joined NAFTA in the early 1990’s and this has seen a general improvement in conditions in the country. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 did throw Mexico into economic turmoil, and started a recession, but the country has made good progress in its recovery. But ongoing economic and social concerns include low wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. This latter was one of the principle reasons behind the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s in the state of Chiapas.
Mexico is a delightful and welcoming country with a wealth of teaching opportunities. Although there is a slight preference for American English, this is not overwhelming. The key requirements are often native speaker ability and simply being there. As we noted above, in the past Mexico has experienced turbulent economic times which have meant that pay has not always kept up with spiralling inflation. However, this has calmed down over the past few years, although you are still likely to be paid in the local currency, Pesos, rather than American dollars. But do be aware that their value is limited outside of the country.
Mexico City is exciting and full of history. For example in the main central square (Zocalo), you can visit the National Palace and admire the paintings and architecture on one side or take tea high up on the 7th floor of the Hotel Majestic overlooking the square. To your left you can see the remnants of the ancient Aztec pyramid, which Cortes and his conquistadores dismantled to use the stone for the spectacular cathedral built next to it. However Mexico City can be quite dangerous and it is very polluted. There are many other beautiful towns, cities and villages where you are likely to receive an equally enthusiastic welcome. English teachers are awarded a high status and there is likely to be demand in even the furthest outpost for your services. You should note that the rainy season lasts from May to October, and when it rains, it really rains. The electric storms over Mexico City as you travel home on the bus at night are spectacular!
However warm and welcoming, violent crime, particularly in the big cities is a daily fact of life. Not obviously blending in can make you a target. Women too should be aware of the famous Latin machismo that exists throughout the region.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Mexico: http://www.britishcouncil.org/mexico.htm
Mexican Embassy UK: http://mexico.embassyhomepage.com/
Mexican Embassy USA: http://www.embassy.org/embassies/id.html
Mexican National Tourist Office: www.mexicotravel.co.uk
Need more info: Teaching English Abroad available through our bookshop page
Global English students are working all over the world with their accredited TESOL certificates. Find out
how TESOL training from Global English has made a difference to their lives:
I headed out to Mexico and am now working in an English school in San Luis Potosi, central Mexico.
Finding a job was relatively easy as in San Luis Potosi, and most Mexican towns, there is no shortage of English schools. I got almost immediate responses after handing in my CV to various schools, had interviews and finally decided to accept a post at the school United English. All of the schools I went to were very keen to have native speakers and especially interested in teachers from the UK.
I have been teaching for about a month and a half now and so far all has gone quite well. My students’ ages vary from 9 years old to mature businessmen but all of the students are friendly and keen to improve their English. The classes are mixed with coursework from a textbook which deals with vocabulary and grammar, and conversation and exercises that the teacher chooses her/himself.
Many of the topics studied in the Global English course have been useful but teachers will have to do extra grammar work to brush up.
I am enjoying the work and am adapting to life here in Mexico. All is very different here, the weather, environment, people, food, but it is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. Being based in the center of Mexico I have had the opportunity to visit a lot of the country and there are many beautiful and breathtaking places to visit. People here are friendly although in the small towns they are not used to seeing many foreigners and tend to stare a bit at white skin!! Saying that, however, I do feel safe here (although being a pedestrian in Mexico can have its risks!!!) and am enjoying the change of lifestyle. I plan to stay here for at least a year.
The pay in Mexico is not great compared to some other countries (wages range from 25-40 pesos) but the cost of life is much lower than in Britain. Also Spanish is not needed to teach so anyone can come out here to work. It is a country with a lot to offer and there are many job opportunities for teachers. I would definitely recommend Mexico to other TEFL teachers.
Travel and Teach
One initial option is to contact The British Council in Mexico City, which holds a list of some schools at the upper end of the market (see the Useful Contacts section). A number of American/Mexican centres employ hundreds of graduates nation wide so one idea might be to contact IMARC (again see the Useful Contacts). However, these institutes would prefer to hire native speakers locally. Speculative CV’s are normally welcome but local interviews are often required. In short, securing a job from outside the country can be difficult unless you are very well qualified and experienced.
Once there, the Mexican Yellow Pages, English and Spanish papers such as El Universal, carry adverts. Teachers can also advertise in the English speaking ‘The News’. Stay long enough in even the smallest town and it is likely that potential students will seek you out. There are excellent prospects for freelancing or setting up your own enterprise teaching in companies. Some working Spanish would obviously help here.
Mexico is not for the faint hearted or for those who like to do things by the book. Many institutions have few resources or training facilities. Competition between schools is fierce in the major towns and the emphasis is often on keeping students entertained and happy so they keep coming back rather than the teaching of English. If applying from home ensure your CV is professionally presented and highlight any business or commercial qualifications or experience. Similarly it may be wise to dress in a business like manner to create that vital first impression at interview. You might find the guide to writing your CV on our site quite helpful here.
Although you may end up teaching classes of children and young adults, the institute is likely to deal with businesses also. Teaching on a tourist visa is illegal but in reality this is the way that many teachers are employed. We would recommend at the very least you take a Global English Level 1 TESOL or a Weekend TEFL before you go.
Positions are advertised for native speakers for around 45-80 pesos per hour but if you work for a private institute you can expect to earn more. Be prepared to be paid in cash. Schools will often assist in finding low cost accommodation and if in the Capital then travel on the underground (metro) and buses (Pesaros) is cheap, although often overcrowded.
This means that you may have to travel to Mexico to secure work and be prepared to make up a full timetable by teaching in various locations, a least at first. If this is the case, allow plenty of time for travelling across the bigger, congested cities. The benefits are unlikely to be financial although you should be able to live well by local standards. It is the climate, the culture and the incredible friendliness of the people that will make teaching here such a rewarding experience. As a new teacher Mexico is an excellent place to start your career. It is often easy to pick up extra private tuition and even exchange Spanish lessons for cheap accommodation.
There is a whole range of schools from the ‘Cowboy’ outfit to the well established training enterprises. Be aware and ask lots of questions to establish the school’s educational objectives. This will allow you to plan and give you some insight into their educational commitment. Ensure your salary is adjusted regularly to keep up with inflation, particularly as rents in the bigger cities are quite expensive.