So, you’re thinking of teaching English in Mexico? Your experience can change tremendously depending on where you live in this vastly varied country of 128 million.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mexico’s proximity to the United States means that you can find examples of Uncle Sam’s influence in pretty much every aspect of Mexican life. From the names of stores or even taco stands to international call centers, children’s names, and common English phrases which have now worked their way into everyday Mexican speech. As a result, Mexicans are always looking to improve their English skills. I’ve had students who had to learn how to communicate with tourists, others who were looking for a promotion, and university students looking to study abroad. By far, the most common reason Mexicans look for English classes is to practice and improve their speaking skills. As such, get used to preparing lots of conversation classes and helping them to speak as much as possible, about a wide variety of topics.
Wherever you plan to teach English in Mexico, you won’t have too many problems finding work as a TEFL certified, native and enthusiastic English teacher. The first thing you need to plan is where you want to live in Mexico. In this OnTESOL graduate blog, Michael Pryor explains the different job opportunities in the most popular regions to teach English in Mexico.
Teaching English at the Beach
If you choose to live in a tourist beach destination like Cancun, Los Cabos, or Puerto Vallarta, most locals will speak English well. Tour guides and hospitality workers will be reasonably fluent. Even most taco chefs or bus drivers in the area will know all the basics to attend to their foreign clients.
In the coastal regions, there are lots of private language schools catering to teenagers who want to complement their insufficient English classes at school, as well as many hospitality workers who want to learn the basics to work their way up in their job. As such, most of the busiest class times will be early morning (6 to 8 am) and evenings (6 to 10 pm), as well as Saturday morning and afternoon.
In addition, students will undoubtedly ask you to help them develop the ‘basics’ for their job. Here more than anywhere else, you’ll probably be told that students just want to focus on speaking. Therefore, forget teaching grammar explanations and get ready to provide lots of tourism and topic-specific vocabulary, dialogues, and set phrases for hospitality workers.
One of the great things of living by the beach is that there are more opportunities to teach English privately. You can get started by posting your name on any local bulletin boards or Facebook groups. In doing so, you could quickly have your own private groups which pay more and could supplement the lower but steady income at a language school.
Teaching English in The ‘Gringo’ North
As you can expect, in Mexican cities close to the border, lots of people work or have very close ties to the United States. Most job opportunities in northern Mexican cities will involve students with a higher level of general, academic, and conversational English. These students will be looking for specialized vocabulary, exam preparation, or business conversation practice.
Expect to be able to provide assistance using technical language, especially in the fields of manufacturing, production, and technology. Normally, people here are used to reading a lot of manuals and correspondence in English at work every day. Therefore, they often want help employing this technical vocabulary within their everyday work situations.
Teaching English in the Big City
In the larger cities of Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Mexico City, as well as the surrounding densely populated Bajio and Valle de Mexico area in the center of the country, there are endless job opportunities for certified English teachers. The downside to teaching English in a big city is that you may feel a little cheated of the opportunity to discover ‘real’ Mexican life. However, there are lots of traditional quaint ‘pueblos magicos’ (magical villages) nearby. Here, you can experience the more relaxed rhythm of life and see lots of typical local festivals.
In the big cities you will find students of all levels and ages, looking for classes for a wide variety of topics. These topics include exam preparation, conversation practice, catch-up classes for school, business English, and after school classes for young learners.
The best time for job-hunting is around July or August, when the academic year starts; or January, when universities start their new semester and many Mexicans make their New Year’s Resolution to learn English (again).
Around these times, many private schools (from kindergarten to high school) will be on the lookout for English teachers. A native speaker will be an extremely tempting option for them, giving you a great advantage. The pay is steady, and most schools will also give you paid vacations. Classes here normally run from around 7:30 am to 2:00 pm. Thus, it’s easy to find some private classes on the side in the afternoons or evenings.
For entry-level ESL teachers, private language academies are the best option to get started. After a short time, you’ll likely be approached by students or parents to offer private classes. These offer even more options to boost your income.
Many experienced ESL teachers find universities in the big cities a comfortable option because the schedules are a lot more flexible and the pay is much better. As such, they have a lot of free time to fit in other private classes as to go exploring. Be warned that most universities only pay per class taught and often cannot guarantee hiring you the next semester, or assigning you the same number of teaching hours.
Teaching English in the South
It is more difficult to find stable job opportunities in smaller, more ‘authentic’ towns and less populated areas. In these areas, the language level is normally extremely basic, especially in the more tropical areas south of Mexico City.
This region offers some of Mexico’s most stunning natural scenery. However, it’s also difficult to access, with many trips taking several hours by bus on small country roads. Here, the language level and economic possibilities of residents are extremely low. Yet, the gastronomy, experiences and breath-taking views are simply unforgettable.
Something for Every Type of Teacher
Mexico has something for any type of teacher or adventure. You’ll probably find yourself mixing a steadier job and stable income with better-paying private classes to work around your schedule. So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy the endless opportunities and diversity that Mexico has to offer. Are you ready? Become a certified English teacher with an online TESOL course by OnTESOL.