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Teaching English in Guanajuato, Mexico: Q&A with Derrick Brown
Written by: Derrick Brown
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
What is your citizenship?
What city and state are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Master's Degree or Higher
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc.
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
UK, Ireland, France, Russia, Costa Rica
What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?
I am a career changer - making the transition from a career in banking to secondary education. My wife and I planned a one-year sabbatical in Mexico with our three daughters. The TEFL training and the year of full-time classroom experience in Mexico has been a great preparation for teaching back home.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
My Spanish was extremely basic before coming but did not impede work - just taught immersion English!
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
Fairly typical I expect - some good, some bad - but many were jealous and impressed.
Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?
We planned a family sabbatical and I knew teaching English would help prepare me for a career in teaching back in the States. I am certain that the TEFL certificate was critical to obtaining my job. I shopped numerous online TEFL programs and the overall program, structure, timing, and pricing of ITA was a great fit for me.
Which TEFL certification course did you take?
Online TEFL Course
How did you like the course?
This was my first experience with online learning of a full-length course/program. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the program, the amount of material covered, and the interaction with other students and instructor.
I was lucky to put together three different practicum activities which gave me a lot of insight and preparation for actual teaching. The practicum is critical.
How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?
I would not have had the basic teaching skills or confidence to tackle 70 students with a wide range of backgrounds and English language skill levels.
The TEFL program gave me a whole new appreciation of English language and taught me a lot about how languages work and how we learn. It was a pleasure just to learn!
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?
I am teaching English in Guanajuato, Mexico - chosen for personal reasons for family sabbatical.
How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?
One year total.
How did you secure your English teaching job?
The referral came through the Spanish language school in Guanajuato where I was taking classes.
What school, company, or program are you working for?
How did you get your work visa? If you didn't get a work visa, please elaborate on working under the table without a work visa.
I worked without a work visa under the table.
Tell us about your English teaching job!
I taught 70 students (grade 4, 5, and 6) at an elite private school, 19 instruction hours per week. Pay is peanuts - I worked more for the experience. (Planning time probably averaged an additional 19 hours per week - mostly unpaid.)
The Mexican school calendar is long (mid-August through early July) but relatively shorter days and lots of holidays.
How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like?
I worked with a local real estate agent.
Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc. about your country:
Mexico has an incredibly rich cultural heritage that is all but completely ignored by those of us north of the border. Central Mexico is particularly rich in history associated with the fight for Independence and the Revolution. Guanajuato has a large university and state government community that supports a very deep reserve of art, music and cultural offerings.
Mexico has a very good local and inter-city bus system and this is how most people travel.
Just be prepared - there is no TexMex food this far south of the border. You will not recognize the food!
What are your monthly expenses?
I lived in a Mexican city with my wife and three children. We had housing, auto, travel, food, and tuition expenses that would far exceed the typical TEFL instructor traveling abroad alone. Talk among other Americans in Guanajuato makes it clear that many are able to live on a very lean budget due to low cost of living.
How would you describe your standard of living?
Far above the local standard
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?
Teaching in Mexico means you may have a number of motivated students and students with an English speaker in the home like I did. Of course this allows you to pursue some more advanced material which was a lot of fun.
After a successful career in banking, Derrick Brown decided he wanted to transition to secondary education in his mid-forties. Along with his wife, he planned a one-year sabbatical in Mexico with his wife and three daughters to teach English, with hopes that one year of ESL teaching in a classroom in Guanajuato would prepare him for teaching back home in the USA.
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