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The Truth about ESL in Mexico

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The Truth about ESL in Mexico

Post by Enishi » September 12th, 2010, 10:08 pm

As of late I have been developing an increased interest in latinas and was considering living in Mexico, but now I'm not so sure. :| ... exico.html

The Truth About ESL In Mexico
Teaching English
By Doug Bower
October 2005

What's more disappointing than a person who makes a promise he can't keep? A person who makes a promise that is a lie. Many promises to make a "decent living" teaching English in Mexico are just that - a lie.

If you do a phrase search on Google, "teach English in Mexico," you will get almost 11,000,000 hits. Some of these sites are filled with tantalizingly appealing phrases like,

"If you sign up with us to train in TESL we can get you a job in Mexico where for only a few dollars a week you can have anything you want in Mexico and live a life of ease".

"You'll live a life of luxury where First-class bus travel to such and such a place is only____"- you fill in the blank.

All are allurements, for sure, trying to sell their how-to books, tapes, seminars, schools, or placement services for teaching English abroad. These web sites give the impression that you will be able to make enough money to live a life of unprecedented luxury and ease with all that money you will make teaching English in Mexico.

We've met many young women who come to Guanajuato with the hope and dream of getting a teaching job and making a bundle. The word "shock" is putting it mildly when they find out what their salaries will be in some of these private schools. A good pay scale would be less than $3.00 an hour. I know of some schools that pay even less than that amount.

Can you imagine how many hours you would have to work to make ends meet? Minimum wage is about $400.00 USD a month. Granted, many Mexicans live on that. But could you - an American? Could you downscale to living on so little?
Four types who come to Mexico to teach English are:

1) Someone who wants a new adventure - something different.

2) Someone who wants to build a resume, no matter the salary.

3) Someone who wants to earn a little traveling money.

4) Someone who thinks they can earn a decent living.

Groups 1 through 3 don't care what the dollar sign is in their salary. They have other sources of income like savings or parents who help support them while they are in Mexico. These are the most transient. Here today, promising their employers a year contract, and gone tomorrow. Some told me that those who do not fulfill their teaching commitments no longer surprise them.

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They've grown accustomed to this unethical practice by mostly Americans. Some employers will not hire these "floaters" simply because they have built the reputation of not fulfilling their contracts with Mexican private schools. They are, in fact, notorious for NOT staying the entire term for which they contracted. Schools would love to hire those with ties to the community instead, but they are rare.

Group 4, people who think they can make a living, do not accept the reality that you can rarely make a living at teaching English in Mexico. They are like many of those who go to Hollywood with the delusion of becoming an actor, "Oh, it's a long shot, but maybe I can do it."

In an informal e-mail survey I took of Mexican schools that offer ESL classes, the overwhelming majority agreed that it is rare for anyone to make a living at teaching English in Mexico. One called it "an unrealistic expectation" to believe otherwise.

"...the pay is very low and it is difficult to imagine how one could live on it."
Another source told me that unless the teacher had signed a contract with a large established organization before departure to the country, it was unlikely that a good salary would be waiting for them. Countries like Japan or China offer a competitive salary with benefits - Mexico does not.

While in language school in Guanajuato, I met a young man who was learning Spanish and who had lived in Japan. He was an American who contracted to teach ESL in Japan (his Japanese was excellent) and actually did hit the jackpot there. He not only received a good salary but his housing was paid for and he received a food allowance on top of a decent salary.

I have a friend who teaches in China who has a very similar situation. Most of the available jobs in Mexico are with small private schools that pay too little.

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Some have come to Mexico and made a living teaching ESL. But, that is all they can do - work until they drop. They usually have to sign on to teach with at least three schools to get enough hours to earn enough to pay for cost-of-living expenses. There is little time to do anything else.

We had a neighbor who fell into this trap. She was told she could get a good paying job in Guanajuato teaching ESL. When she got here reality hit her like a brick. Just to "make-ends-meet" she had to work in multiple schools, all hours of the day and night, and when she wasn't actually teaching she was spending her time trying to get to the various schools by either walking, bussing, or by cab. Her weekends were taken up with trying to recover from the week and resting for the incoming work schedule. She had NO life!

A notable exception to all this is the experience my wife had. When we moved here my wife was offered two teaching positions at the university level - both offered attractive job packages. Both schools wanted to pay her $1,000.00 a month with benefits. They aggressively attempted to recruit her knowing that she was not a "floater". So, while a decent TESL job is certainly possible, they are rare, employers want those who will make a long-term commitment - with ties to the community- and a TESL certificate is not necessarily a requirement. In my wife's case, they only cared that she had a university degree.

Something worth noting is that schools that do pay well, will not hire you "sight-unseen". You will have to come to Mexico for an interview at your expense.

A life of luxury, excitement, and adventure? Hardly. But they keep coming, filled with the delusion that perhaps they can make it work.

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Post by Think Different » September 12th, 2010, 10:28 pm

"The word "shock" is putting it mildly when they find out what their salaries will be in some of these private schools. A good pay scale would be less than $3.00 an hour. I know of some schools that pay even less than that amount."

Considering that's about half of current US minimum wage now, and there are no decent jobs left in the US, that sounds OK.

"Four types who come to Mexico to teach English are:..."

5. Someone who is desirous of getting kidnapped by the cartels and being held for ransom and then their head cut off. (read the news lately?)

Do you really think you can trust any promises coming out of Mexico today? The country is one of the most corrupt in the world, at all levels. If you want to experience Latin life, why not choose a safer and more prosperous one? Do some research on Paraguay and Uruguay. The same website, Escape from America has a lot on those. Also, check out the Sovereign Man website.

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Post by MrPeabody » September 12th, 2010, 10:46 pm

I am currently living in Mexico, and you can find safe places to live. So, I wouldn't let that get in the way. However, I can't comment on the salaries for English teaches.

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Post by Enishi » September 12th, 2010, 10:47 pm

Thanks for the advice. :)

I do know some nice mexican women in my area, but since I plan to get away from my hospital job eventually, I'm not sure if it would work. (some are also single moms inspite of being traditional, blah).

I'm still considering the areas you mentioned though, along with others. Mexico, Argentina and Brazil I'm considering ruling out entirely (for ESL).

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Post by Montanaland » September 13th, 2010, 1:48 pm

In regards to Mexico..I've heard good things about getting a Uni job like in Oxana, etc. probably around 1 or 1,200 a month. Colombia is good if your certified and get into a public school.

For a good comparison of esl of Mexica vs. Vietnam ... -city.html

All in all esl in S. america doesn't pay...but I would love to do Lima one day.

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Post by ladislav » September 13th, 2010, 2:56 pm

I really recommend you guys teach online. I am serious. It is doable. Just google " online english esl teacher wanted". Apply at as many online schools as possible. Takes a couple of months to get up to some 1000-1200 a month which is pretty good. And you can live anywhere and get paid through

Advertising scams are these- bait and switch, and then- if it sounds too good to be true...

I remember how when I was a teen I bought a teach yourself Spanish course which promised "exciting jobs" to bi lingual Americans. Most bilingual jobs in the US are not exciting at all and getting an int'l job with some big corporation is very hard. They will not hire you just because you know Spanish. And you will have to compete with hyphenated Americans, too.

You may get a job as a bilingual clerk somewhere at a welfare office if you are lucky.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!

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