“Don’t ever do it!” some said. “You will never get a decent job”, exclaimed some others. “That is crazy”, confirmed most.

So, can you make a decent living teaching English abroad although you are not a native speaker of English? Is there a career for you or is this just another Facebook Russian hoax so you end up watching a video of a cute kitten licking ice cream off some Justice League ad?

Let’s examine some facts.

Most things can be taught. Languages, although hard sometimes, are no exception to this rule. And whether is law, medicine or poker, if something can be taught then it can be learnt. And those who learn a language or anything else can then in return teach it as well, if such is their inclination and they work hard and honestly enough.

In other words, teaching English is not necessarily exclusive to those who are born speaking it. It just takes determination. Accent is less important than teaching skills, unless racism is a valid hiring criterion, and it is not.

OK, so you can do this. But how is it teaching English in Mexico, in particular?

You probably have heard some bad stories about this wonderful country, but with all due respect, you probably ignore some important facts too.

Mexico is so big you could fit most of the countries of the European Union inside its borders… together. In reality Mexico is a country made out of different, hugely diverse countries where opportunities, adventure and worthy experiences are to be found every step of the way. There are problems too although the scope of the country makes it easy to dodge them as long as you keep your wits about you and apply basic common sense – that dark alley in the middle of the night? Maybe it´s not the best idea to get in there -.

The variety of climates, food, landscapes, accents and culture is simply mind blowing.

Do you enjoy boredom? Then you can stop reading right now, Mexico is not for you.

This country suffers from terrible inequalities at the same time that enjoys a healthy demographic pyramid. This contradictory situation translates into numerous job and business opportunities for those in the field of education. Whether is teaching or managing, there is an opportunity for you if you keep your ears near to the ground and have a can-do attitude.

Once you start teaching in Mexico you observe some striking differences when compared to many other countries. Namely:

  • Teachers are generally respected. A teacher in Mexico is not a loser, a teacher is a “maestro”, and there is an innuendo of deference in the treatment. That is, if you are a good maestro and not a “pendejo” maestro, of course.
  • There are jobs everywhere, positions that you can land according to your level of experience and qualifications.
  • Every city in Mexico is a different culture, so you can have a different experience with every job.
  • Food is always spicy as hell, no matter what Mexicans say.
  • Music is in the air. In the air, in the bus, on the streets, in almost every bar, restaurant, beaches and shops.
  • Spanish people sound to Mexicans like Harry Potter teachers sound to people from Michigan. And that is a good thing. Mexican Spanish is also incredibly rich and colorful; a delight when well-spoken and well listened to.
  • There is a lot to be done. Schools and methods are often bureaucratic and demoded, but it is for this reason that the job can be so rewarding. If teaching is like building, then there are few places where this is truer than Mexico. And that is a good thing as well, if you are an honest teacher with a clear understanding of what your job is all about.
  • You can feel there is a life for you here. As a Spaniard, well, you speak the same language, you have the same sense of communal pleasure when sharing a good meal – and Mexican food is nothing short of awesome, spicy or not -, the weather is generous with an optimistic spirit and you could have fun every day of the week if your body could take it – and it shouldn’t because you are a teacher, right? -.

 

So you may want to give it some thought and consider the possibility of a move that can change your life for the better and, possibly, for good. They say “¡Viva México!” for a reason after all.

What is CLIL?

Oh no, yet another acronym! What is it this time? What does this mean, Can Lightsabers Impair Love, maybe? Well, sorry for bringing down your hopes, but CLIL is all about making the world a better place for everyone. And it’s also about money for you, possibly.

Ok, here it is. CLIL stands for Content Language Integrated Learning. I know, not very titillating. But please hold on for just a minute.

Imagine that bilingual school in the country of your choice. You have landed a better job than the usual English teaching gig. Now you teach math in English, or chemistry in English, or history. Then there are several possibilities. One is that most of your students come from English speaking families, i.e. American or Canadian immigrants in the country. So move along, CLIL is not needed here. Another possibility is that you have a mixed bag of students, some coming from the aforementioned families, most of them though coming from local families who speak no English or limited English, in a country where the language of Milton is an oddity outside of hotels and golf courses.

In general these students will most likely tend to speak better English than the average student in the country in question – they have been schooled in English from their early years, possibly-, but they will be far from the level of a native speaker their age. However, they need to learn exactly the same math, chemistry or history that everybody else that age is supposed to learn so they get their high school diploma. In other words, you have to provide results.

Here comes the punchline. You need to strike the right, delicate balance between content – the subject your students are supposed to learn – and language needs – how to explain photosynthesis without using the word photosynthesis, or carbon dioxide, or chlorophyll because of the limited languages skills of my pupils? – Some schools just hope for magic to happen. “Go out there and teach, teach them stuff”. Those who can get what you are talking about will be saved, while those who can’t will be embroiled in a mixed trap made out of both foreign language gibberish and a bunch of subject’s concepts mysteries. The latter not being a context where student’s motivation grows and flourishes, precisely; no good for your numbers by the end of the school year, either.

Some other schools have a more systematic, careful approach to the needs of their students. CLIL, our dear acronym, is the answer to this challenge that those employers are looking into. Bilingual schools are mushrooming all around the globe for a number of reasons and with their growth, the different levels in terms of language proficiency of their students is becoming more and more noticeable. This has brought to the table the need for a specific methodology to teach where both language and subject content are in perfect balance by means of the right educational tools, materials and training for teachers.

This training that we call CLIL cultivates the required language awareness, language teaching strategies and planning for lessons in such a way that we can bypass language barriers without watering down content. CLIL teaches you how to teach striking that necessary balance between subject content and language. By applying the happiest features of the Communicative Approach to most topics on top of very carefully designed lesson plans instructors from all over the world are obtaining outstanding results with their pupils, who not only perform better in regards to their curricula but also become bilingual as a byproduct of their work in the target language.

What?

That is a lot of chit chat, right?

Well, CLIL powered schools have been multiplying fast all around the globe during the last ten years for a reason: they work.

And because they work students profit from it and properly trained teachers, specialists in this manner of teaching, are also reaping the benefits in the shape of rewarding jobs, good pay and motivated students to work with.

Food for thought, even if there are not lightsabers involved.

A life­long friend of mine has been a teacher her entire adult life. Before coming to Puerto Vallarta she shared her secret to being a good teacher. “Act like you know what you’re doing,” she told me. My experience these last for weeks in the classroom has proved her words to be true.

 

What surprised me most about the teaching practicum is how the students expect this to be true as well. They walk into the classroom more or less ready to accept that their teacher knows exactly what she is doing. A student’s quickness to look to me for answers, confirmation, and explanations struck me immediately. It’s an awesome responsibility and one that is basically the teacher’s to squander if they are not careful.

 

This attitude has made me realize the importance of preparation, of familiarizing myself with the curriculum, making sure that I, too, understand the directions, so it’s clear what exactly is expected of the students as I guide them through their workbook exercises.

 

During the training I learned, much to my delight, how to parse a sentence using the correct grammatical terms, that the key to recognizing the perfect tense is knowing there is some form of the verb “have” in the clause, and the subtle differences between the five conditionals. All these are important to explain in class, but I also learned that fiddling with the CD player for minutes on end can derail a class faster than you can say, “This would have been a great class, if only the teacher knew how to work the equipment.”

 

Before teaching practices, I thought my years of studying French and Spanish off and on would be an asset to me as an educator. This has proved to be true. As a language learner myself, I understand the challenge these students face in acquiring a language to the level where you can actually have an easy conversation with a native speaker (as opposed to filling in the blanks in a workbook in which all the answers are there if you have been paying attention.) In fact, with its emphasis on L1 only, EFL curricula is more challenging than the various French and Spanish text books I’ve studied over the years, since those texts always gave the directions in English! At least at the earliest levels….

 

I plan to spend the weeks before my first full­time teaching position reviewing the training manual, my class notes, the peer­ and trainer feedback, and mastering the verb tenses so that I can regurgitate the rules in my sleep. With this review and a whole lot more class room experience, I think I can refine the skills necessary to meet my friend’s criteria to being a great teacher: I’ll not only act like I know what I’m doing, I WILL know what I’m doing.
After taking the TEFL training course, I will forever have a much greater respect for teachers everywhere.  Teaching students to speak English as a foreign language may sound easy, but there are many factors that impact the excellence of a TEFL teacher and the overall engagement of their students.

 

The practice teaching component of the TEFL training course was in my opinion, the most interesting.  I learned that I love to perform and entertain as a teacher.  I depend primarily on the use of visual materials such as magazine images, the use of drawings and graphics on the white board in various colors.  My final lesson was with a group of beginner level students, in which I implemented fruit and candy to teach the words “fruit”, “candy”, “sweet”, and “delicious”.  I was able to get the student’s attention when I pulled fruit and candy from my pockets and lobbed them across the classroom.  Incorporating colorful, three-dimensional props help students relate to and interact with the lesson.  Teachers who deviate from the book in creative ways gain instant respect from their students, if lessons are entertaining and relevant to their culture and interests.

 

Another great tool that was used in the lesson above was cognate words.   Creating lesson plans around cognates allows for seamless translation from L1 to L2.  Students gain confidence by recognizing the word first in their native language and then being able to easily read it in L2.   My level 1 students were able to learn fruit, candy, sweet and delicious in a matter of minutes, as the words in Spanish are almost identical.

 

I also learned the value of introducing interesting and sophisticated words to the class.  This keeps students enlightened and makes the lesson meaningful for every day use.   The objective of every class should be to get students excited about speaking English and to give them useful words and phrases to feel confident communicating with others.  Considering this, it is equally as important to know your student’s comprehension level and abilities.  We want to introduce words that are stimulating and challenging but not at the expense of confusion and frustration.  Know what is appropriate for the class level and what is relevant to their needs.

 

Another way to build self-confidence in students is to have them actively participate in a lesson.  I try to incorporate some type of physical movement in each class whether is be students standing up to read a composition or simply walking up to the board to help with a written exercise.   Every opportunity students get to practice English dialogue with their peers will be helpful to their development.

 

One of the greatest challenges I encountered in classroom management was navigating the pace of a class with various learning speeds.   With practice and observation, I learned how to give broad instructions to the class and then dividing my attention evenly between individual students making sure no one was left behind.  It is important to ensure that faster learners are being challenged and slower learners are not frustrated.  Allowing the fast learners to help their slower peers is one method of keeping the class spirit positive while maintaining forward momentum.

 

Overall, my teaching style is collaborative and creative.  I make use of positive encouragement, praise and rewards to motivate students.  I approach each lesson as a performance.  It is a chance to entertain students and make learning fun, stimulating, and memorable.  One of my favorite high school Science teachers, Mr. Fougere, taught us about Mitosis by having a candle lit dinner with a model of a plant cell.  I hated science but I will never forget about how plant cells reproduce.  It was entertaining, stimulating and memorable.  I hope to leave this sort of lasting impression on the students I will be working with.
When I arrived here in Puerto Vallarta I had many preconceived ideas about both teaching and living in a foreign culture. The past weeks has taught me that the idea that both would be easy was hubris in many respects.

 

Despite the fact that I have been speaking English all my life years and also in spite of the fact I have an above average mastery of the language, I had forgotten the “whats” and “whys” of grammar just not the “hows.” Teaching the nuts and bolts of grammar required me to relate material to students in a way they could understand when in some cases I didn’t understand it myself.

 

I now understood that I would have to relearn things from grade school in order to be effective as a teacher. On the positive side this deepened my empathy toward my students. I admired there undertaking of this challenge.

 

Something that I did know going into this endeavor was the importance of the teaching practicums. I had experience presenting detailed information to groups large and small but I never had any critical feedback that I could use to improve upon. This feedback has helped me a great deal in my efforts to develop my own personal style and to become ever more effective.

 

As I improved in one area, I discovered my shortcomings in another. For instance, when using the student workbook I proved to be highly proficient because of the clear outcome that this type of work provided. On the other hand, my initial attempts at teaching grammar points proved to be less successful. Apparently I wasn’t being clear enough in my examples and my explanations.

 

I was able to use this feedback to move forward, become better at this skill, and discover what I needed to work on next. I find it hard to comprehend how a person could teach without these hours of practice with actual students. I know I will be better at my craft because of those hours.

 

My deficiencies in my knowledge of Spanish created some hurdles for me both in teaching and in adapting to the culture in which I was now living. At times I found it frustrating attempting to communicate with some locals about basic things. I could only imagine some of the frustration the students must have felt when tried to explain simple concepts with words they did not comprehend.

 

However, as my time here went on that continued exposure to the pasts of the Spanish language I didn’t know brought rapid improvement in my understanding. I supposed this was how the concept of teaching English as a foreign language worked. I was fortunate enough to see this in the classes where I taught the same students for several days in a row. I believe this is an extremely important aspect to the teaching practices that would have left me less able had I not been able to do them.

 

One other thing I never expected was the level of joy that I felt when my students grasped and then used the concepts of the lessons I taught. Receiving joy from helping another person achieve their goals is something everyone should experience. I believe it would make the world a kinder place because it illustrates how much we are all in this together.

 

My final thoughts on this experience are profound for me. I did expect to enjoy learning to teach English and experiencing life in a place that was very different than what I had known. What I did not expect was the level of personal growth it has caused me to experience. My desires to help others and to make a positive impact in their lives is more pronounced than I could have ever dreamed. Surely my time here will continue to impact me well into the future. I know I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to make this a part of my life’s experiences.
During my life I have purposefully never left any stone unturned in the pursuit of life experiences. I am not certain if it was good or bad fortune to have been afforded the adventure at age 16, to travel the world aboard a tall ship for a full year as crew and student. I do know that I became addicted to adventure and learning.
 
That pretty much ruined me for any kind of “normal life”, and so I have just followed every whim, raising children and building businesses along the way. I thought getting my Private pilot’s license was academically challenging until I came face to face with some things I had avoided my entire life, grammar study and public speaking at the TEFL course.
 
The mere idea of studying sentence structure and grammar jargon just seemed unnecessary; after all, I had always spoken and written eloquently enough to accomplish any objective I had endeavored to do.
 
I chose to take on this challenge to teach English thru the TEFL course in person in country because at this point in my life teaching TEFL seems like a perfect vehicle for me to continue experiencing new cultures without depleting my savings.
 
There is no better way to learn than by teaching and no better way to spend extended periods of time in Spanish speaking countries and other exotic places I want to explore than getting paid to teach English.
 
So here I am, humbled by the awesome responsibility to pass along good teaching to eager learners at the ICEP-TEFL course in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  I find myself a novice among masters. To be specific, I have discovered that I still have a lot to learn in this trade at the end of the 4th week and after 10 teaching practices. The course has been priceless and gives homage to the old saying, “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”. My strength is that I can read the room and find ways to get through to people with ease. My weaknesses are many when it comes to the trade of teaching, such as, picking up on learning patterns and adjusting tack accordingly, smooth transition from book to improvisation, stage fright, and of course hand writing.
 
I feel all will come together in time with practice as have most in my experiences in life. I plan to forge ahead working as a teacher and studying teaching techniques. With the solid foundation obtained here at ICEP TEFL I believe I am on track to a rewarding career and personal growth.
 
Referring to the solid foundation mentioned above, all the staff members are consummate professionals with an uncanny ability to impart information in a concise fashion which results in an enormous amount of knowledge acquired inside a relatively short period of time. None the lesser, are their teaching styles that one hopes to emulate. Aside from the teachings from the book, they are examples of teachers that will resonate with me throughout my career. 
 
In closing I would like to mention that my fear of public speaking has given way to risk taking behavior to keep the attention of the class. My aversion to grammar study has given way to fascination with the complexity of language structure, and my hand writing has shown a little improvement, although some may disagree with the latter. All in, this has been a great ride and I will walk away a better person and prepared to pursue my TEFL teaching career. 
Throughout my class time, my observations, and my teaching practices, I have learned and gained knowledge and experience. I still have a lot of room to grow but that comes with time and more experience.
 
I feel that I have improved with my teaching practices, not just because the grade has increased but because I have learned how to make a better and more detailed lesson plan. When I taught level one, I enjoyed it because it was the foundation that I was giving and I know how important that is. I can relate to how they feel because I remember when I first started learning Spanish. The level nine was more complex with more conversation, so conversing with them in L2 was much easier. I got to know them better because they are more advanced.
 
Managing the class was easy because the students do not misbehave. A student or two would start talking and get distracted but I was able to get them back on track and continue with the lesson. The students did a lot of pair work and I think I was entertaining to them.  I need to work on the pace, when there is a lot of reading or writing to do, depending on the class.
 
I will only become a better teacher with time and experience. My mind is still young and growing and I catch on easy, I just sometimes need to be told exactly what to do. Each school and each class is different and I understand I will have to implement different techniques at different times. Having a job right after the course was amazing!
My overall experience earning my TEFL certification at ICEP TEFL Academy in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico has been great. Before coming here, I did not know what to expect and that made me fearful. I did not know how I could learn to be a teacher in a one-month time span. It seemed like too much for a short period of time. Once the first day of class was over I was more confident in how things were going to be done because we went over a course overview. This was perfect for me because I was then able to put my only fear about becoming a teacher aside. From grammar review to classroom management most aspects of being a teacher have been reviewed and taught. I have learned a lotduring this month that I have been living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

 

My teaching skills have developed tremendously. I have learned how to manage a classroom, present new information and create a lesson plan. With these skills I will be able to more easily adapt to my new job as a TEFL teacher. I have seen a great improvement in the way I present information. I am able to come up with more activities and questions to give my students a variety of ways to learn. I am less nervous in the classroom therefore; I am able to more comfortably discuss or introduce different topics that expand conversation.

 

I need more growth in being able to answer questions that I did not expect. I have learned that it is ok to look things up using technology or a dictionary. For my last few teaching practices I have used this tactic and it was extremely helpful. I also would like to deviate from the book more. I learned how to do this towards the end of my practices. I see how helpful this is to the student and it makes the class a bit more fun and interesting.

 

The ICEP TEFL staff has all been very helpful in leading me through earning my TEFL certification. Through them I have learned how to teach a grammar lesson, how to create and execute an excellent lesson plan, how to be personable with students and other classroom tactics. Having these teachers’ help was one of the greatest assets to the program.

 

The school in its entirety, technology, classrooms and other resources, was enough to create and execute great lesson plans. The book I was given as well as the teacher books were very helpful. They enabled me to see how to begin a class with a catchy “Lead In” for the students. Any supplies I needed were available and this made things very easy. Wifi was a tremendous asset as well. I was able to use my computer and phone to reach the internet to find different answers and activities that were not in the books.

 

 
Being a student at ICEP has been a great learning experience and a pleasure. Grammar, teaching tactics, classroom management and assistance from other TEFL teachers at ICEP have all given me what I need as a teacher.  I have learned a vast amount of information that I feel confident will help me succeed in my new career as a TEFL teacher.
Since I was a teenager, I have always wanted to travel the world and experience a variety of different people and cultures. I never really had an opportunity to actually make that dream come true until I heard about the TEFL course here in Puerto Vallarta. I took a leap of faith and decided to fly down here and see what this teaching thing was all about. Needless to say, I could not be happier. I have learned a lot about myself over the last few weeks and what my strengths and weaknesses are as I strive to become the best English teacher I can be.
 
One of my strengths that I have noticed is that I wasn’t really ever super nervous at the prospect of going in front of a class and teaching. During my first couple of teaching practices there were some nerves, but once I settled in and started getting familiar with the material and the students themselves, all of those nerves went away. I improved on this strength throughout the course by implementing a few techniques that I learned. One of these techniques was to be personable with the students. This meant that I tried to make myself interact with my students in a friendly manner. This method was helpful in many ways. Whenever I did seem a little nervous at first, especially during my first couple of teaching practices, being personable and making smalltalk with my students got rid of those nerves entirely. This method also helped the students relax as well. Instead of sitting and trying to learn in a classroom with a boring and stiff teacher, they would feel more comfortable with a teacher who tried to make the class more entertaining and enjoyable. I would always ask each student how his or her day went. I would also try and have side conversations about interesting topics such as different countries, to make the class more relaxed and enjoyable.
 
The obvious way I can help myself when it comes to understand the student’s’ native language is to study Spanish myself. This can be done in my spare time, but when it comes to teaching in the classroom I can use other methods. The best way I can prepare myself for these types of questions is to create a thorough lesson plan. Creating great lesson plans was a big emphasis of the TEFL course this year, for a number of reason. In this particular case, creating a good lesson plan can help when a student asks me a question in Spanish. When creating my lesson plans, I plan on reviewing the content I will be teaching first. After reading the material, I will write down certain words and phrases from the book that my students may not understand. Then I will write the Spanish counterparts of those phrases so I have and idea of what content my students may be having trouble with. This situation shows just how important developing a good lesson plan is and that you cannot just come to class and try to teach off the top of your head.
 
All of these methods and many more have helped me prepare for my teaching career on the path ahead. I already have my first job lined up for me here in Puerto Vallarta, or as some would call it “Paradise”. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given and I know that I still have much to improve as far as my teaching techniques go. I hope to one take make it across the entire world by teaching English and make the promise of “Teach, Travel, and Adventure” come true.
If you have an exotic landscape as your background, read more maps than books, research new destinations in your free time, and get weekly e-mails with discounted flight rates, then you might be a traveler in workforce clothing. Chances are that you find your daily work grind to be the shackles of your existence and it’s only until you’re on the road or in the sky that you finally feel free.
 
There are two sides to the spectrum: those who shrink away from long-term career offers that they know would hinder their travel days and those who are so involved in their day-to-day tasks that traveling is something they only dream about. If you’re unwilling to commit to the vagabond life or the die-hard career life, then the answer lies in the middleground.
 
Travel While You Work
 
For some careers, traveling can enhance your work productivity. Freelance artists (writers, photographers, etc.) can easily work away from home, as well as most businessmen, and scientists. Whether you are doing field work, gathering materials, or attending a relevant seminar, you can create the opportunity to have a “working vacation.” If you’re a student, then PLEASE study abroad or take the summer off and explore. Whatever the case, if you’ve got the kind of job that would let you do it, then find the place and go!
 
Work Hard Travel Harder
 
If you don’t have the kind of job that would let you travel while you work, then seize every opportunity to travel! Take a trip on holidays, save up your sick days for an epic month-long trip, and make weekends into mini-adventures. I know this means that you have to work extra hard for a bit, but that saying didn’t come out of nowhere. Trust me, it’s worth the rush of fresh air. If you’re not someone with a career or obligations then work extremely hard for 3-5 months during high-season, blow it off for the rest of the year, and do it all over again!
 
Make Time Not Excuses
 
I know that the grind can get the best of you. The appointments, deadlines, parties, hobbies, and oh my gosh why are there always dishes in the sink!?! But that’s when you need to slow down and ask yourself what you really want. If your priority is your career, or to have a hoppin’ social life, or to have your house featured on HGTV, then that’s okay! But you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. You’re here because traveling is your priority now and you’re ready to get some perspective- far away from the routine of your life. So when you say you don’t “have time” to travel, then it’s time to make some. You’re more in control than you think.
 
On the Cheap
 
Is economics the only thing holding you back from your adventure? All you need is a traveler’s credit card, an e-mail price check alert with Kayak, and the resolve to go through with it. Credit cards always have a bunch of promotional sign-up offers just to get you going and airlines have a new sale every week. Get your mind to it, pool your resources, pick a place, and once that price drops then make it happen! Don’t let your bank account dictate what you can and can’t do, you’re better than that I promise.
 
Eyes on the Prize
 
You’re in a travel drought, stuck in a whirlwind of obligations, and your inspiration feels like it’s being sucked out of you. It’s gotten to the point where you wish there was a “resent” button for all of the nature pictures on your Instagram feed. This is not the time to give up and accept your fate. This is the time to dig deep and pull your passions up for the world to see. Spin the globe around and see where your finger lands, go to the bookstore and run through the travel aisles, become absorbed with a new place and let your daydreams run their course. You have to feel it first.
 
So, sometimes life is pretty overbearing, but it’s all about finding the balance. How do YOU cope with your travel urges? Shed some light on us!