Low Pay, Big Rewards

What it’s like being a teacher in Los Cabos

I originally came to Los Cabos from Canada for a six month internship working on urban agriculture research for the city planning commission. About halfway through my internship, I started to fall in love with this place and realized that I didn’t want to leave when my six months were over.

About nine months after I moved here, I stumbled upon a teaching job at a private bilingual school. I have been working at this school as an English and environmental education teacher for nine months now and have had many interesting (both good interesting and bad interesting) experiences as I integrated myself into the system.

I’m not going to lie, starting at the school was like being thrown to the wolves. I began without any formal training and wasn’t given any once I started my job. I don’t know if this is because there was no one available to train me or because they were confident that I could figure out what I was doing. Which I did, for the most part.

Elementary school was a breeze; the kids were calm and patient with me. My secondary school students, on the other hand, were quite a handful. In their defense, these students had had a rough year. By the time I started in April, I was their fourth teacher of the school year. It almost felt like a test, as if they were trying to see how far they could push me. Although I cried a few times and was almost to the point of quitting, I stayed strong and, slowly but surely, gained their respect.

Starting a new school year has been a completely different ball game. The kids came back refreshed from the summer break, ready to learn (most of the time) and with completely different behavior towards me. Now, a “bad day” for me typically means that my classes are interrupted for some sort of dance performance that the students are working on, which happens way more often than you would believe; holidays consume far too much class time. It also bothers me when punctuality isn’t respected by my students (and colleagues), and when I don’t get my normal break hours because we don’t hire substitute teachers. 

This year, I was also asked to teach and prepare a curriculum on environmental education. I’ve always wanted to do this, but I never expected to have just five short weeks to prepare a year-long curriculum for six groups of students. To be honest, I still haven’t finished my curriculum and continue to plan week by week. So far, this hasn’t been an issue for my supervisors, who don’t seem to be worried about what I’m doing as long as the teaching gets done. In some ways, it’s nice to have so much freedom, but I also wouldn’t mind a bit more oversight and guidance.

Something interesting, and honestly quite shocking, to me about work life here is that most people work six days a week. I have so many friends who tell me how lucky I am because I only work five days a week and I finish my day by 3:00 p.m. (Of course, this doesn’t include the time I spend preparing my lessons before and after school.) To me, a five day work week is normal, but for many people here it is quite a privilege. To be completely honest, I don’t think I could ever work six days a week because I value my free time so much.

I also don’t get paid enough to put in six days a week. Teaching isn’t known for its high paying salary, and especially so here in Mexico. When I got the job I was offered about $665 USD a month, and the director mentioned that “This is a good salary for an English teacher here.” Not having anything to compare it to, and being desperate for a job, I accepted the offer.

In terms of living, I managed to find an apartment that only takes about a third of my monthly wage, I shop mainly at Walmart (due to proximity) for my food, and I take the bus to work as I can’t afford to buy a car just yet.

I supplement my income with other side jobs (including writing for the Gringo Gazette) and now make enough to live comfortably, but it’s taken a major adjustment of my spending habits. I am not alone in this. The majority of my colleagues have to work two to three jobs in order to get by. And take into consideration that I am a single woman without children, without a car, and renting an apartment. Imagine if the tables were turned and I had children to feed or a car and house payment to make. I think I would have to get a fourth job, to be completely honest.

Suffice to say, this job is not for the uncommitted or undedicated. You have to love what you’re doing, and be patient and able to go with the flow. But if you can get there, it’s worth it. Every day I fall more in love with my students as I see them maturing, learning, and becoming the best version of themselves.