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The Teacher Flow

This is a guest post by Ellen Shubich. 

Ellen Shubich

Go with the flow. That is just what has been happening as English teachers respond to job offers on both sides of the US-Mexico border. For Mexico, this is not a new trend; for the United States, the tide of  incoming Mexican English teachers has increased.

This is the subject of an article by Paul Imison titled “High demand for bilingual schoolteachers has educators crossing U.S.-Mexico border” (Oct. 2016) that focuses on the growing demand created by bilingual education on both sides of the border and the lack of teachers to satisfy it.

According to the article, US school districts “look overseas to Puerto Rico, Spain, and Mexico for teachers. Nearly 16,000 arrived from Latin America between 2008 and 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute” (Imison, 2016, p.2). A similar phenomenon is occurring in Mexico in response to job requirements. “According to a 2015 survey by the British Council in Mexico City, 40 percent of Mexicans speak some level of English and 69 percent of companies in the country view proficiency in the language as a key factor in hiring personnel” (Imison, 2016, p.2). International and bilingual schools have multiplied in Mexico, creating positions for English teachers and teachers who teach other subjects in English.

Though I have no personal experience with the US side of the exchange, I am familiar with Mexico’s story, as I was responsible for finding and hiring English teachers as part of my job responsibilities for 25 years. The situation is complex. It begins with preschool teachers who are needed for total early English immersion programs. There are no courses of study in Mexico to prepare teachers to work in such programs. Those who do sometimes do not have a high level of English proficiency, and though they may be dedicated, excellent teachers, this often results in fossilized errors, so difficult to overcome after the fact.

English teachers at the primary level in bilingual schools usually lack the necessary class time to carefully, differentially develop the language skills that are required for both communicative and academic competence. And those who teach other subjects in English in the upper grades are often unaware of or do not apply the skills that are necessary in a content and language integrated learning (CLIL) curriculum.

In the past, to meet the demand for English teachers in Mexico, schools often hired English speakers who were not certified teachers but who had taken short courses that introduced them to basic pedagogies. At the same time, the influx of foreign teachers ebbed and flowed depending on the value of the peso. If US English teachers had student debt to pay off, the peso-dollar value became a major factor in the decision whether to teach in Mexico. This, taken into consideration with lower Mexican salaries, tended to reduce the number of US teachers.

Today, Mexican schools continue to seek foreign hires. Globalization and international job fairs have increased the number of adventurous teachers who spend a few years in a foreign country before moving on to another. Some come to Mexico for different reasons.

In spite of the shifting numbers, the demand for well-prepared English teachers is a continuing reality, and Mexican schools must make a real effort if they want to attract talented people who can contribute to the preparation of Mexican children for a global world.

Reference

Imison, P. (Oct. 3, 2016). “High demand for bilingual schoolteachers has educators crossing U.S.-Mexico border.” Fox News Latino. Retrieved from

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2016/10/03/high-demand-for-bilingual-schoolteachers-has-educators-crossing-us-mexico/

Ellen Schubich was born and raised in the Bronx and moved to Mexico 48 years ago when she married. She has a B.S.N. degree from Cornell University-New York Hospital and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from the Universidad La Salle. Ellen has held many different positions: nurse, gerontologist, teacher of nursing, English teacher, coordinator, principal (Elementary and Middle School), and English principal. She is married, has a son and daughter and three grandchildren.