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Two years - my experience in Mexico
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:56 pm    Post subject: Two years - my experience in Mexico Reply with quote

Since this forum is pretty dead these days I thought I'd write down my experiences in Mexico for anyone who stumbles in here. Going to split this into multiple posts so I don't break the "300 wordcount" rule...

When I first visited Mexico City it was 2014. At that time, there were English schools almost everywhere. In less than a week I had multiple job offers. One of these schools was Interlingua, which is a low-paying but well-recognized chain. At that time they were willing to hire me, train me, and provide me with a small stipend until I would have been formally hired and given a contract plus sponsored for a work visa. Due to family circumstances I had to leave Mexico without being able to pursue any of these opportunities.

Flash forward. The year is now 2016. I have saved up money and come back to Mexico. I start contacting all the schools I met with before. The same day i arrived in Mexico City I put on a suit and went to a hiring event at Interlingua. This time, for whatever reason, the hiring manager (or whoever it was) told me he couldn't offer me a position. When I asked why, he said he'd prefer not to say. I pushed him on the question but he wouldn't answer. I contacted all the other big schools in the city and found that they had zero interest. I had a friend who took a CELTA course with The Anglo, so I spoke with them about teaching opportunities. But when I spoke with HR about jobs and certification and so on, I was (very strangely!) told that they did not have any courses to offer and that I would first have to take a basic teaching course before undertaking a CELTA. I knew that this was clearly not true based on my friend's experience...


Last edited by DrValenzuela on Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At this point I was kind of stumped. I had a bachelors degree from a reputable university, was bilingual, and had multiple years experience working in bilingual classrooms with children and adults. I also noticed in 2016 that it appeared several branches of different English schools in the city had now closed or moved. It seemed like the English-teaching market had (for reasons unknown) taken a blow. Eventually, I found a smaller school on craigslist. Big mistake. I worked there for about 5 months and realized that 1) the owner was a absolutely unbearable, 2) he lied about how he would help me get a work-visa, 3) no foreigner working at the school lasted more than a month. Basically, nobody could stand the owner. He would literally interrupt a teacher in the middle of a class to browbeat them about what they were doing wrong in front of the client. I decided to quit. A friend later told me that my position was taken by another English-speaking foreigner. This person also quit within 2-3 weeks due to the fact that the owner treated them like an idiot and tried to short their pay. Another foreigner then took the position and also promptly quit. I have no idea what happened after that.

It was now early 2017. I realized that if I were going to survive I'd need to find my own clients since none of the schools even cared about my education, work experience, bilingual skills, whatever. It was up to me at this point. A friend and I succeeded in organizing private classes for ourselves. We had considerable success in spite of the fact that we had very little money to invest in any kind of promotional materials or anything. I actually made enough through giving private classes to pay my necessities. The downside was that I still didn't have a work-visa or legal status within Mexico, nor could I really do more than break even financially due to lack of capital and the various obstacles that non-residents face.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After various months of giving private classes my tourist visa was running out of time. I sent out more inquiries to schools. Almost any school I could find. I contacted HR emails, supervisor emails, almost anyone who might be able to help me find an 'in.' A friend of mine offered to introduce me to an acquaintance who owned a small school in Iztapalapa. When I spoke with the owner they seemed genuinely interested in getting a native-speaker like myself into their school and at least claimed to be open to sponsoring me for a work-visa. Ultimately, I decided not to take the job based on several reasons. The first was that the commute would have been at least 3 hours a day in good traffic. And with a shift running until 9 or 10pm, I wouldn't have gotten home until after 11. Second, the school was located in one of the most dangerous parts of the city. Spending 3 hours a day in public transportation also increases the chance I would have been robbed. Third, the pay was low. Really low. I wouldn't have even been able to pay for basic necessities.

I contacted The Anglo yet again to ask, again, about job opportunities and the CELTA course, but was told that payment needed to be made in one lump sum and there was no possibility of paying in installments. Since I didn't have $1,700.00 that wasn't really an option.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was now fall of 2017. I decided that my only option at this point was to leave Mexico, return to my home country, and work for six months so that I could save up more money, go back to Mexico, and then be able to pay whatever costs of certification or training might be required. So I went back, worked, paid off my credit card debt, and (after all expenses) had several hundred dollars in my bank account.

I came back to Mexico in spring 2018 and began contacting schools. I visited branches in person, sent emails, sent letters of interest, copies of my CV, etc. I met with someone from the Teachers Latin America agency and maintained contact with them for several months.

I knew, from the beginning, that only the bigger schools would be likely to support a work-visa and help me obtain legal status. The following were what I was told:
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Anglo - (see next post)

International House - They informed me quite simply that they don't even attempt to recruit candidates who do not already meet their full requirements due to past problems with people changing their minds about "who, what, and where they want to teach" during the course.

British Council - after visiting a branch in person and being told to apply online I did just that. After a period of maybe 60 days I received notice that I had not been shortlisted for an interview. Two months after that notice, I received an email from British Council telling me they felt I had "potential" and were offering me a discounted CELTA course. If I failed to complete the course I'd have to reimburse them the full price. Successful candidates would be given interviews for.....*part-time* employment with British Council. I told them I wasn't interested in part-time work and never heard back from them.

Alexander Bain - This was an IB school that contacted me after finding my resume via Teachers Latin America. When I arrived for the interview something seemed "off" and when I asked the interviewer whether or not the school sponsored work visas he simply said he didn't know. Later, I found out that TLA had specifically asked the school if they sponsored visas and were told no. So the school basically wasted my time probably just to fill some kind of interview quota for a position.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Anglo - My experience with The Anglo was ...confusing, to say the least.

I originally contacted them via email. No response. I then called a week later and was told that I needed to speak directly with one of the branch supervisors. One supervisor responded to my email. I was informed that they would pass my info to HR. After two weeks of zero contact I emailed again to ask for clarification: was the school interested or not? I was told that HR would get in touch with me shortly and the next day they did.

What followed was an interview with HR in which I was told that the school was currently offering a program for certification+hiring. I was told that someone would get in touch with me regarding a Skype interview and send me an online exam. This person did send me an initial email but never confirmed the interview time nor did they send the link to the exam. *Then this person seemingly dropped off the face of the planet.* I sent a followup email and, when the date of the interview approached, I called their phone extension but was told that person was unavailable... I then called HR to clarify what exactly was going on and whether the interview had been cancelled, etc. HR was likewise unavailable but sent me an email at the end of the day informing me that the original program had been cancelled due to *budget cuts*, but there was a possibility that candidates already in Mexico would have a chance of being considered.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Anglo (continued) -

A week later I was contacted by HR for another meeting. I was told in this meeting that I was being considered as a candidate but would need to pass through 3 interviews. This I did. I went through a total of 2 meetings with HR and 3 interviews with separate individuals. But there was a stunning lack of clarification on different issues. For one, the cancellation of the original hiring program left it unclear regarding who would be paying for the CELTA course, whether or not a stipend was being offered, and when a formal contract would be signed. After completing the round of interviews, and with less than 5 days until training started, I contacted HR to clarify these issues and was told by HR (again, with less than 5 days until the beginning of the course) that he had still not been informed, which *probably* meant that I wasn't being selected but he would let me know when he found out. The next day HR sent me an email saying that they were moving forward with other candidates.

Frankly, I was kind of shocked. I had, at this point, assumed that I was locked-in for the job since 2/3 interviews seemed more like a formality than anything. Two of the interviewers could not even answer my basic questions about the job. Stranger yet, they had *at no point* even asked for my professional references. My experience with The Anglo's HR has to be one of the strangest, most frustrating, and biggest wastes of time in all my years as a working adult. Was it all a joke? Sometimes I wonder!
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So here I am... two years in Mexico. What happened... and what advice would I give other people?

After my experience dealing with English schools I decided to give up on that option and went back to giving private classes and doing audio/translation work for private clients. It's not the ideal situation, but at least I know I'll always have work and can pay my rent.

At this point would I recommend Mexico as a place to teach, or even live?

Honestly - no.

And I don't say this based *only* on my personal experiences. There is definitely a demand for English teachers in Mexico but the job market for foreigners seems very poor and (based on appearances) has shrunk over the past several years. There was a time when you could easily get a job simply based upon the fact that you were a native speaker of English and looked "güero." Not the case anymore. What if you have a CELTA or other certification? Doesn't matter. I have an American friend with CELTA certification who hasn't been able to find formal employment despite certification+experience.

What about private classes? You can definitely make money doing this. But if you want to make enough to survive you'll have to *really* work at it. And you'll need to be willing to commute long distances to meet up with clients. This can be highly frustrating since Mexican culture (in general) is very, very bad at keeping appointments or showing up on time. Tardiness, cancellation, and simple no-shows are common. A teacher who gave business classes via a language school told me he had the same issues.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Then there's the issue of violence. The violence in Mexico has gotten much worse since I first visited in 2014. Last year was actually the most violent on record. Even in Mexico City, with a huge number of police and security, there has been increasing violence. People are robbed and killed in broad daylight. There has been many a night where I've been laying in bed and heard gunshots. Almost everyone I know has personally been robbed at least once, usually at gunpoint or knife-point. If you think I'm exaggerating I'm not. The violence in Mexico is *bad.*

The really frustrating part of this is how absolutely non-functional the justice system is. And everyone knows it. Nobody wants to report crimes because the police are corrupt. Nobody wants to file a report with the Ministero Público because nothing will happen. The sad thing is that they're right. I've filed a police report before and received zero follow-up. An acquaintance of mine, a lawyer, told me that she had spoken with a friend who worked for the Ministero Público that frequently dealt with tourists. She said that they rarely investigate crimes against tourists since they think these people will soon leave the country. And yet, they don't investigate crimes that happen to Mexican nationals either! They don't do anything.

A few months ago a dismembered corpse was found in my neighborhood. A leg here, a torso there, etc... This is reality in Mexico.
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DrValenzuela



Joined: 29 Aug 2016
Posts: 22

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally, if you're thinking of working in Mexico my advice is to always clarify details before you decide to come here or take a job with anyone. Demand a formal contract. Ask when they will have paperwork ready to sponsor you for a visa. Clarify if you'll be working inside a school or if they plan to send you across the city to give classes to a private business. Clarify absolutely everything before you set foot in Mexico and, once you do, don't take crap from anybody. The schools need you, you don't need them.
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MotherF



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1448
Location: 1748'N 9746'W

PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences, hopefully that will help some people.

Personally, I've gotten to the point in life where I could never see two years as ample experience. And I'm wondering why you never left Mexico City? Surely we can't judge the country one city even if it is a mega city. I do agree that the problems with the justice system are nation wide, but the world seems to be going through a kind of violent time right now--or maybe that's just how the media is painting it. At least I'm very confident here I won't be teaching during a school shooting--not something I could say about the United States.

Throughout your posts you talk about what qualifications you don't have, but don't every really mention what qualifications you do have--apart from being a native speaker. Maybe its not that the job market has dried up--but rather that the standards have risen? I have positions to fill, but you need to have a MA in TESOL/Applied Linguistics and 2 or more years classroom teaching experience to be a competitive candidate for these positions.
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Mexican culture (in general) is very, very bad at keeping appointments or showing up on time. Tardiness, cancellation, and simple no-shows are common.”

No argument there! When I established my private teaching business in Querétaro four years ago, I quickly learned that one needed to be paid in advance in order to make the business run. My individual students and corporate clients now all pay for a month at the start of the month. It works.

I agree that money can be made in private teaching. I charge a lower rate for an individual class than many of the schools charge for a group class - 200 pesos / hour. For that price, students get completely individualized classes from an experienced, certified teacher with master’s degrees in English and education. They’re not complaining!
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But I was VERY lucky. When I started this business - in Querétaro, one of the best markets in the country for adult and business English - I had already been a sponsored employee in Mexico for four years, three of them at Tec Prepa (in Culiacán), a nice CV credit. I was just beginning the Residente Permanente process, which went off without a hitch. I had no problems whatsoever in registering a solo business through the local SAT office. I am SO legal - I have a bilingual accountant who prepares all my facturas and declarations, and I pay my taxes scrupulously. I am a genuine upstanding citizen! 🙂
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many others, I know, have not had experiences anywhere near as smooth. So I thank my lucky stars that I was in a good position and able to take full advantage of it.

Private students and corporate clients will still drive you crazy. The commitment to continuing classes is low, because as the great business sociologist Geert Hofstede makes clear with his “Country Comparisons” tool, there is a very low sense of futurity (“Long Term Orientation”) in Latin America (as compared with, say, East Asia, where I have taught and where they are ALL ABOUT the future and the long term).

So I have to keep adding prospects to the pipeline, ALWAYS. I do find some students who are keepers, but you can never know in advance who they will be.
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 224

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

30-40% of my students are not in fact Mexican. I did not plan this or strive for it, but Querétaro is an extremely cosmopolitan and increasingly bilingual city with a ton of international investment, and there are expats from everywhere. So I have had students from Spain, France, Russia, Hungary, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil so far, and will certainly add more countries to that roster. Many of these students have been among my most reliable and committed. It is a delight to discuss their experiences with them.
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