Andrea Martins - English Teacher in Mexico
BA Spanish & Latin American Studies, TEFL Diploma.
Previous experience of teaching in Spain and using language skills while working with an international company.
Andrea travelled to Mexico for 3 months, using her experience of teaching English as a foreign language to help teach at a secondary school in a disadvantaged area. This is what she had to say about the project:
"As a career gapper (and 'older' person at 28) I was initially paranoid about being the oldest volunteer out there but I soon enjoyed spending time with the young, care-free students, although I met a few older volunteers older than me - which added to the diverse mix of people working out there. I think that being older meant that I was now more focused and appreciative of the country and the breadth of what it had to offer; something that perhaps I would not have been when I was younger!"
The Project Partner
Marco is the head of the English Department at the Benito Juarez Secondary School in the city of Ciudad Guzman. He worked with Andrea during her three months stay at the school, using his experience of teaching in Mexico to help her to adjust to her new surroundings. He encouraged her to bring in postcards, photos, newspapers and other things that she had brought with her in order to show the children different aspect of foreign culture. Even though he is an experienced professional, he was grateful for any new ideas that Andrea had for the classes and they worked together on a number of new topics. Marco saw that the students knew very little about British history or customs, so he actively encouraged Andrea to talk to them and share stories about her life back home.
Role of the Volunteer
Andrea’s role at the school included the following:
- Using her experience of teaching English as a foreign language to work with disadvantaged children aged between 12 and 16 with class sizes of up to 50 pupils.
- Providing talks about British culture and history in order to broaden the horizons and improve the knowledge of her pupils.
- Working with Marco to assess and improve current methods of teaching and the content of his classes.
- Helping the school with a wide range of extra-curricular activities such as organising a dance routine and Mexican Mothers’ Day celebration.
- Planning classes for private tutoring.
- Regularly helping out at a local nursery school.
- Taking on non teaching-related tasks and projects such as fund-raising and organising the purchase of equipment etc.
- Helping to raise awareness and secure the long-term future of the centre by obtaining sponsorship from overseas aid agencies and businesses.
Benefits to the community
Andrea’s work alongside Marco helped to provide the following benefits to the local community:
- Children of all ages who live in poverty are given access to education and the chance to gain skills that they can use in the future.
- Receiving free support from native English speakers at the school was a privilege for the teachers and students. They do not often get British English speakers working at their school and the lack funding from the government meant that having them come for free was incredibly beneficial.
- The advantage of working with a native English speaker opens up doors for students and teachers alike. They can practice their English and understand more about British culture. Mexicans are bombarded with North American culture on a daily basis, and as a result they are extremely curious to learn about different accents, lifestyles and food in order to broaden their horizons.
- The opportunity to practice their English and improve their skills ultimately helps the students to get better jobs as well as travel overseas (if they have the chance).
Through working with Marco and the children at the school every day, Andrea was able to build strong friendships and learn about the history and culture of Mexico. They were also determined to find out about her life back home in the UK and she got the chance to tell them stories and show them pictures of her friends and family.
Away from the classroom, Andrea experienced the generosity, friendliness and diversity of the Mexican people. Her host family made her feel welcome straight away, providing her with meals and making sure that she acclimatised to her new surroundings as quickly and easily as possible. Through interacting with other volunteers she was also invited to meet their host families and attend regular meals and parties in the local community. This community spirit was particularly striking and not only did Andrea gain from their hospitality but she really felt that they appreciated her and the worthwhile work she was performing.
Andrea clearly could not get enough of life in Mexico because soon after returning home she signed up to work for another six months as one of our in-country Assistant Managers. By doing this she was able to help new volunteers who came to do similar work and make sure that they learnt as much from their experience as she did.
Having returned home, Andrea still keeps in contact with the children of the host family she stayed with. She tries to visit Mexico once a year and during another of her trips she stayed with her ‘Mexican Grandmother’ to whom she still sends letters and Christmas cards. Just recently, her grandson came over to London and stayed with Andrea for a few days. She took him around the sites of London, feeling like she was giving back only a very small part of the hospitality and generosity that she received when she was in Mexico!