Recession?

A fair number of European countries, excluding the one I originate from, have exited recession. The US is still struggling, and poor old Mexico is faring even worse, what with the triple whammy of recession, swine flu and bad press regards the drug gangs. But I can’t say I’m noticing. In fact I’m busier than ever, having taken on an extra couple of classes. I scarcely had room in my schedule for any more classes, but I’m greedy and what with my desire for a new camera and Christmas fast approaching, I managed to fit them in.

So how does it work, being a Business English teacher in Mexico City? I currently work 27 hours a week. Which isn’t an extraordinary amount, for someone working in a school. But I travel from class to class, giving lessons in my students offices – all my ‘students’ are working professionals, most of whom are 35 years old or older. Often older! My travelling time is currently running at 27 hours a week as well, which means I’m effectively doing a 54 hour working week.

Recompense for my efforts is good by Mexican standards. Not so good by my previous earning standards in the UK. But a Business English teacher can charge anything from 180 to 300 pesos an hour, depending on who they are teaching and what sort of experience they have. All these figures I’m quoting, it’s worth noting, are for independent classes. Some schools sell Business English classes, but few pay more than 180 pesos an hour. Most of them pay less. Some of them considerably so.

If I managed to get through a whole month without a cancellation, I could, in theory, take home something approaching 25,000 pesos. That’s enough to live happily with. Not enough to be worth bragging about or being kidnapped for! But I never collect that much anyway. I often lose 20 to 25% of my classes through cancellations, holidays and such and so forth. But really, anything over $10,000 allows a reasonable standard of living, if you’re a little careful. Forget saving cash or foreign holidays though!

The real motivation behind this post though, is the fact that my latest student wants a TOEFL study course. TOEFL is the English course for most Mexicans. And yet in 4 and a half years, he’s the first person I’ve taught who is actually studying for TOEFL. All my other students are simply looking to improve their English for professional use.

6 thoughts on “Recession?

  1. Two things. TOEFL is “the English course” for admission to a U.S. graduate school. SOME businesses use TOEFL scores as a way of scoring English proficiency for their executives, but not in any official sense.

    Secondly, Mexico is experiencing the worst recovery in Latin America, in good part because it is dependent on U.S./Canadian trade. Certainly, Mexicans — at the macro-economic level — are better able to weather hard times than in other OECD middle and upper income countries (there is still access to a family network, communal self-help etc. that is missing) and expectations are lower… but with an expected growth rate of -7.9 percent for Mexico (as opposed for Latin America’s surprising winner, Bolivia with a + 3.9 percent growth rate for 2009), you can hardly say the country is out of a recession.

    That’s good for you, though. In a bad economy, the people with jobs want to keep them, and — with over-dependence on U.S./Canadian trade — that means having to brush up their English to stay ahead of the competition from younger workers who’ve been learning English since grade one.

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    1. Ironically, in my experience, its been mostly non US companies using the TOEFL. It’s a bit difficult to relate Mexico’s recession to other Latin American countries. After all, as well as being the US’s neighbour, this year has seen tourism decimated by the press on the ‘narco wars’, the Swine Flu outbreak and the price of oil.

      I did blog quite some time ago, probably at least a year ago, about the prospect for TEFL’ers in Mexico in the recession. The general consensus of those who’d been here through previous economic downturns, was that there’d be more work for the reasons you state. Mexicans do sometimes tend to be a little more reactive than proactive.

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  2. That’s interesting. It must be so difficult at first to deal witht eh cancellations and lack of stability (for want of a better word). I spent 6 months on the road as a life insurance sales person once and was amazed at how relaxed people can be in keeping appointments. (I did horribly by the way, taking it personally when times got hard. Thankfully, my old boss asked me to return at twice my leaving salary and I jumped at the offer!)

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      1. It certainly is! Although along with food we do also need to pay for a few of life’s other necessities, without which our continued existence would be far from certain. You know, Sky TV, internet, cell phones….oh, and turtle food.

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