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Teaching English in Mexico - Chiapas

The state of Chiapas, located in southeast Mexico, is fairly isolated with many people in the smaller towns and villages living in poverty. Literacy is a problem in these areas, as well, since the government has provided little or no assistance, and progress in infrastructure improvements has been extremely slow. However, Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital and the largest city in Chiapas, is a delightful exception, a vibrant and beautiful city with nearby mountains, beaches, and the pyramids, amazing archaeological wonders of Mexico. Business is thriving in the city, which serves as the transportation center of Chiapas. Based on the low crime rate, it was officially certified in 2011, as a "safe city." It is also included with other cities worldwide known as "cities of the future," based on overall quality of life and economic potential. Here you'll find a lot to see and do, as you experience the excitement of living and working in Mexico.

Credentials/ Qualifications/ Documentation / Hiring process

A bachelor's degree and TESL, TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certification are required, and universities usually require a master's degree. Two years of teaching including ESL and any references and/or professional recommendations should also be included with your application. A basic knowledge of Spanish is a plus.

Hiring is usually done in August and December to meet the starting dates in September, January, and May. Contracts are usually for 1-2 years. It is practically impossible to get a position teaching ESL in Mexico by email or letter. It is only after you have been hired that you can get the working visa, which has to be done at a consulate out of the country. This entails a lot of paperwork along with your application to include your original birth certificate, transcripts, degrees, certifications, passport, and photos. Be sure you keep copies at home. The hiring company/school must provide a letter with the details and length of contract, salary, and other pertinent information. In addition, they must also submit a "proof of registry," permission from the government to hire foreign workers.

Review your contract carefully and keep in mind that regulations can and do change; contact the Mexican consulate at home to be sure.

Work Schedules & Salaries

Teaching schedules and salaries vary considerably from public schools to universities and language schools; however, a typical salary is $400-$1,000/month. Outside the city, housing is usually free and included in the contract. The average work week is 25-30 hours, but some state and federal laws in Mexico limit foreign teachers to 19 hours/week at one school. You must be guaranteed at least 20 hours a week in your contract with the institution to be considered full time and eligible for full benefits. Some teachers may have to work at two different institutions to get enough hours, up to a limit of 38 hours/week. However, if they only teach 19 hours at each school, this is still considered part time with no benefits other than health care. Again, review your contract!

You can supplement your income with private tutoring, which is always in demand.

Advantages

The cost of living is extremely low, which easily compensates for the lower wages in comparison with Europe or Asia. You can live quite comfortably on your salary, dine out, and possibly even save a little.

Public transportation is cheap and readily available with a regular monthly bus pass about $10.

Rent for a small 1-bedroom apartment in the city averages $75/month and only $50/month for an apartment outside city limits. Even a 3-bedroom apartment in the city is quite affordable, around $200/month. Utilities are also cheap, averaging $25/month, and Internet cost is between $14 and $24/month.

Food is very inexpensive, and the large city Mercado de los .Ancianos has everything from fresh flowers and produce to meat, clothing, and household goods. You can sample some of the traditional dishes in the outdoor cafe on the market grounds.

The tropical climate is pleasant with sunshine most of the year, except for somewhat higher humidity during the rainy season. However, this is much less in areas near the ocean.

Possible disadvantages (or things to remember)

Crime can be a problem in some areas, as is true of any city, state, or country where poverty exists. Most crimes are robberies of homes and cars. Remember to walk in lighted areas and never alone after dark.

Chiapas' close proximity to Guatamala presents the problem of refugees fleeing out of the country through Mexico to the U.S. Borders in the Central American countries are tightly patrolled, much as the they are along the borders in Texas and Arizona.

Mexico is a land of "manana," (tomorrow), and you'll find the way of life much slower than in other countries. This may well be an advantage for some, however.

Job Outlook

There are not a lot of teaching jobs advertised in Chiapas, except in Tuxtla Gutierrez, so it will take some researching and a visit to the country before finding the right one. The city does have a number of schools, colleges, and large universities such as the Universidad Valle del Grijalva and other private universities outside the city where ESL teachers may find positions. For example, the American Foundation is looking for a high school English teacher (with a Political Science degree). The 2-year contract (may be extended) offers a monthly salary between $500-1,000 for an 8-hour workday and includes health insurance, 5 weeks or more paid vacation each year, paid Mexican holidays, housing, round trip airfare reimbursement and airport pickup, as well as the required visa processing costs.

Dave's ESL Cafe, Transitionsabroad, gooverseas, Oxford Seminars, and teachaway provide information on teaching ESL, as well as job postings. Online blogs and articles provide good insight, both negative and positive, on living and working in Chiapas. Numbeo.com gives details on many aspects of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Conclusion

Teaching ESL in any foreign country is rewarding in its own way, whether it is a high salary, type of accommodations, more purchasing power, or simply the satisfaction you receive from the students in your classroom, many of whom are highly motivated and eager to learn English. Chiapas in Mexico has a certain appeal in the variety of cultural immersion with the large indigenous population of more than 12 separate ethnic groups. You can learn the fascinating history of these people, explore the mountains for exotic wildlife, and visit ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque et al. You will enjoy friendly people, delicious cuisine, fiestas and ferias, and the quaint traditions in an atmosphere of old Mexico. You'll have the opportunity to travel and practice or learn Spanish while living and working here. If you are a true adventurer and appreciate interesting and different environments while gaining more experience in teaching ESL, then you should consider investigating the possibilities in Chiapas, Mexico.

Sharon L Slayton

November 2015

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