Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching in Mexico - When Problems Arise

There's a good discussion (well, argument might be the best word) developing over at the ESL Cafe between a teacher and a school owner, with the school in question being Culturlingua based in Los Reyes, Mexico. A recently departed teacher is airing her grievances on the Cafe about the school and the owner of another branch of the same school (someone I happen to know fairly well) is responding. It's gotten a bit testy but there is also a lot of good information there about some of the problems both new teachers and language schools face working in this industry. A recruiter with an interest in this case has also chimed into the thread.

Good read, I leave you to it.

The Discussion

This is a feedback on Culurlingua, an English institute in Los Reyes, Michoacan

I worked for Culturlingua for two months (September and October 2010). My goal was to work in Mexico, therefore I didn’t mind the low salary given that TEFL market was extremely stagnant in August 2010 in Latin America. Most job offers are not posted on-line in Mexico, one would need to live here and find connections in order to find his/her ideal job. Therefore Culturlingua is a gateway into Mexico, a stepping stone for better jobs. But here is what you need to know if you are considering an offer from their institute:

The institute is extremely business-oriented. All policies are set to bring about profit. If a student registers a month after the semester has begun, they would not hesitate to place him/her in your class. You have to think of how she/he can catch up. Students are not allowed to fail; they would be allowed to re-take the same tests multiple times until they pass it. No materials are provided. The bookshelf where their materials from the age of Joseph Stalin are stored is always locked. If you care about your students, develop your own materials, you may be reimbursed. We were not.

Teaching: if you are looking forward to being challenged as a teacher, this job is not for you. You can only work within the structure of the book. Textbook comes first. The objective is to finish it, whether students learn or not. However, if you are a beginner teacher and are looking for a job where you can experiment without people breathing down your neck, this job is for you. The director, Ms. Cecilia Belmont, visits the school once in a blue moon. She may or may not sit in your classes. When she does, she will not offer any constructive feedback. She will isolate a few students and will criticize them for not participating or speaking Spanish in front of the entire class. That is why students do not have a good relationship with her.

Accommodation: The house is old, the T.V belongs to the World War I era, mattresses are uncomfortable, and there is a leak in most rooms. The kitchen has every gadget needed for cooking which is convenient, and a cleaning person comes every Friday to clean the house, paid by the school. This semester we had rats, the school did not take initiatives to remedy the situation until we threatened to leave. Cable, internet, cleaning materials, and gas are all paid by you. Services are relatively cheap.

Benefits: Money is sufficient for a simple living and traveling. However, you need to exit Mexico for your visa will expire in 6 months. The school will not provide visas. The whole program is structured in way to bypass immigration laws (yes! You work for them illegally), it’s been registered as a “language exchange program” where you teach English and receive Spanish lessons in return. Spanish classes were the highlight of our stay in Los Reyes, our teacher was wonderful.

Privacy (or lack thereof): the administrative staff of Culturlingua has some severe paranoia issues with their teachers. I understand that some teachers in the past might have given ammunition to this paranoia, but we were a group of professional teachers who went to work and came back to the house. No parties, no guests, no binge drinking. In spite of that, the receptionist would drop by unannounced to check around the house. We also suspect that she had come when we were in class and entered our rooms. The cleaning lady had been advised to spy on us while she was cleaning. Our Spanish teacher was admonished every time she spoke with us outside of class. She was advised never to interact with us after class.

Immersion into Mexican society: I came here thinking I would be guided to get to know this marvelous country by the school. The staff does not bother giving any sort of guidance, tours, maps, and tourist info. to their teachers. They maintain a healthy distance with their teachers. We worked here for 9 weeks not knowing exactly where the receptionist lives in this small town. We had to search everything on our own. I never felt a belonging to a group or an educational team, there were never any gestures made out of hospitality or mere friendship to ensure we are happy. Knowing how warm-blooded Mexicans are, this behavior surprised me.

We voiced out our problems from the beginning: lack of incentives, lack of materials, lack of openness and trust. They never listened. The entire system is set in a way to bring teachers from English-speaking countries (to sell their ‘native’ image) keep them for five months, and adios! There is a myth about past teachers. They deny that numerous teachers have breached their contract and left in the middle of the night without informing the school. You might want to ask them for a recent reference. They do not have any, with the exception of one or two teachers who somehow survived. There were four of us here in Los Reyes and Periban. We gradually lost motivation; we found better jobs and left the school in the space of five days. I take with me the wonderful memories of my interactions with my amazing students. Overall, I do not recommend this position to anyone.

Best of luck,
Los Reyes Teachers, 2010

A quick question- did you get to see the contract BEFORE you accepted the job and came? OR was the first time you saw the contract when you arrived in Los Reyes?

Another comment- maybe the secretary was visiting the house because she was concerned about the rat situation that occurred?

I am the owner of Culturlingua in Tlaquepaque and I wish to state my connection right now- to be up front and open.

Hit the link above for the rest of the conversation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Legal, After 101 Years

I will never again complain about long waits at immigration in Mexico for my visa renewals.

From the BBC.

More than a century after she crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the US, Eulalia Garcia has become an American citizen at the age of 101.

"I feel really good about what I have accomplished - at my age and with my health," she said.

Ms Garcia, who entered the US on 12 October 1909, became a citizen on the 101st anniversary of her arrival.

She said the first thing she wanted to do as an American was vote in the mid-term elections on 2 November.

"Sure, I do - for the best [candidate]," Ms Garcia said.

The naturalisation ceremony took place on Tuesday in a federal courthouse in Brownsville in the US state of Texas, where Ms Garcia has lived almost all her life.

She now joins an elite list of only 15 immigrants over 100 years of age who have been naturalised as citizens, according to the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescue - Watch it Live

In about two hours, rescuers will begin winching up the first of 33 miners trapped for 2 months 700m underground. You can watch the rescue live at the link below.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chilean Miner Rescue

Hours away. The rescue shaft is a mere 34 m from reaching the thirty-three miners, trapped some 700m below ground since August 5th.

It will still take three to eight days to rig up the rescue bucket and winch and those last days may feel like weeks to these brave souls. This most incredible story of fear, hope, and salvation in one of the world's most dangerous industries is at 64 days now, but the final chapter is upon us.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tlatelolco Massacre, 42 Years On

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of what is known as the Tlatelolco Massacre where on October 2nd, 1968, Mexican government forces opened fire on protesting students and killed many dozens of people. Numerous attempts have been made at seeking justice, most recently under the last Mexican president Vicente Fox but to no avail.

Every year, students and ordinary folks alike march to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas to mark the event.

Wiki background on the massacre.

On October 2, 1968, “La Noche de Tlatelolco” (the Night of Tlatelolco), around 10,000 university and secondary students gathered in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas to protest the government’s actions and listen peacefully to speeches.[14] Along with the CNH members, many men and women not associated with the CNH gathered in the plaza as spectators of the demonstration. The students had congregated outside an apartment complex in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco for what was supposed to be a peaceful rally. Among their chants were ¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revoluciĆ³n! ("We don't want Olympic games, we want revolution!"). Rally organizers did not attempt to call off the protest when they noticed an increased military presence in the area. 2 helicopters, one from the police, and another one from the army, overflew the plaza. Around 5:55 P.M. red flares shot from the S.R.E. (Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations) tower. Around 6:15 P.M. another 2 flares were shot, this time from a helicopter (one was green and another one was red) as 5,000 soldiers, 200 tanks and trucks surrounded the plaza.[14] Much of what proceeded after the first shots were fired in the plaza remained ill defined for decades after 1968; however, much has been corroborated by since released information from American and Mexican government sources.

Today's march begins at 1:30 PM with more details at El Universal in Spanish.

The government of Mexico City today is also offering an apology to the families of the students killed in 1968. Again, El Universal reports.

This apology is coming from the wrong people as the federal government was responsible, not the city government, which didn't even exist in 1968 as Mexico City was directly ruled by the federal government at the time. This is more about current Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard's run for the presidency in 2012...he seems to be out apologizing for everything and making grand proclamations about national affairs a lot lately. I like the guy as mayor but think he would not make a good president.