Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Choosing Books

I’ve gone through quite a few course books with my students over the years, and inevitably I have found a few that are now my favourites. It is vital to choose the correct course book from the word go. It needs to be the correct level for the student, and it also needs to be thorough and engaging. And interesting! You’re going to be stuck with your choice for perhaps a year, or even more.

My favourites? I teach upper intermediate and advanced learners in the main, and I have used the Fast Track to CAE book with all of them. It ticks all the right boxes. For lower levels I like the Inside Out series, particularly the pre-intermediate and intermediate books. But the CAE remains top of the pile – I shall be keeping my copy for memory’s sake when I quit Mexico and TEFLing next year. I’ve read it a dozen times now, and nothing will remind me of my experience more than this book!

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Finding Work

One of the most common worries I encounter amongst new or potential Mexico City TEFLers, is how exactly will they find sufficient work to pay their living expenses. I do have a few tips, although it has to be said the best way to find work is to be here in the city, ready to take it the moment it becomes available. It is perfectly possible to find employment from your home country, but it isn’t as easy.

  • Enrol for a TELF course at a reputable school that offers those that pass the final exam some classes or a job of some sort. Beware any guarantees….there are no guarantees! Although plenty of schools promote the courses they run with definite assurances of work afterwards. I would say you are highly likely to be given enough classes to make a start to your new life, but  you’ll need to be good enough, and there needs to be the work available in the first place.  I recommend Teachers International – this is the route I first took when arriving in Mexico City, and it worked for me.
  • There are plenty of language school in Mexico City. Harmon Hall, Berlitz, Washington and many more. Knock on their doors! Someone will take you in sooner or later. The downside is that they don;’t pay well, and they can often be a little irregular in their payments. But again, it gets you off to a start.
  • Print yourself off some flyers, locate some foreign companies (pharmaceuticals for instance) and hand out your leaflets to employees as they go in or come out of the building. It works. I would suggest being there in the morning, from 7.30am to 9am. You’ll catch most of the workforce – in the evenings, employee departure is more staggered – and they are perhaps more likely to respond to your flyer at their desk, rather than at home.
  • Socialize! Use TEFL forums (David’s ELT is a good one for Mexico City) and go and meet people who are TEFLing. Tell them that you are looking for work, and ask if they know of any classes that are available. Keep in touch, make yourself available and you may well get a few classes out of your efforts.
  • Word of mouth is the oldest marketing strategy in the book, and long term the most effective. Once you have a few classes, you’ll find (especially if you tell your students that you need more classes) that people will approach you. Bear this in mind if you have the opportunity to take on a class of just one hour, at a horrible time of the morning, for an hourly rate that you feel is too low. If the class is in a company local to you, with lots more potential classes that could come from there, perhaps it is best to view the class as a marketing strategy in itself. To get your foot in the door.

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This week’s BBC Digital Planet podcast had some great stuff about education and technology and how they are driving each other forward. The obvious question for me is, am I making the best use of technology in classes? I have long utlized the internet to bring content into the classroom, whether it is podcasts or video content I have downloaded via bittorrent. I have also tried to encourage students to blog. Why? It’s a format that allows me to engage with them very easily, and provides them with valuable writing practise. Generally speaking I try and avoid writing exercises in class, simply because that means they are paying me cash to sit and watch. Rather than teach.

There are two main issues in teaching Business English though. The first is time. TEFL’ers don’t earn a fortune, and tend to pack as many payable teaching hours into the week as possible, at the sacrifice of non paying preparation time. I am no exception to this. The second issue is with the students – they are all busy professionals, and just making time to make it to class can be difficult. Blogging? It never happens!

Still, this podcast was both interesting and thought provoking. At the very least, a reminder that technology and education can work together – you just need to find the best methods and mix to suit your own classes.

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The Annual Budget

One of the most common concerns/questions that I get asked by those thinking of coming to Mexico (or elsewhere) to teach English is…how easy is it to get a job, how much can you earn, how far does that stretch. It’s not such an easy question to answer. It really depends where you plan to set up camp and how well you can network. A little luck helps too. I arrived nearly 5 years ago, took a TEFL course, largely because of the promise of work afterwards through the school, and have made it from there.

The first year had its tough moments. It takes a little time to build up a schedule. But if you keep at it, there’s no reason success won’t follow. For the first year and a bit I worked mostly for schools, who gave me Business English classes, and got paid a paltry $90 to $120 (Mexican pesos) per hour. I had to travel long distances and as a result was unable to do as many classes as I would have liked.

But I eventually shed those classes in favour of better paying private classes, closer to home. The amount you can charge will depend on several factors. The ability of your students to pay it being one! Do you have Recibos (tax forms) so you can charge companies? It’s a good way to go. You’ll pay tax but can charge so much more. I guess most teachers providing cash in hand private classes charge between 150 to 300 pesos per hour.

I’ve just done my income planning for the first quarter of 2010, for my own teaching classes. In theory I could earn around the 20,000 peso per month mark, but it will never happen. January will see more cancellations than usual, as a lot of companies are slow to get back from Christmas. February is a short month and March will see plenty more cancellations as people head out of the city on Easter breaks prior to Easter itself in early April. If I pick up 75% of the planned classes in any month, I’m generally happy.

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