Kathryn's Story - "Teaching in Mexico"

By Kathryn Eilert

One visit. I admit, this is going to be difficult for me. Each visit opened my eyes to some unknown world and just processing it all has been a challenge for me. When I returned to work on Wednesday morning (a bit bleary eyed), my colleagues asked: “How was your trip?” (For anyone who has traveled anywhere, whether it is around the corner or around the globe, I am sure you will agree … this is one of the most difficult questions to answer.) Trying to sum up 10 days of people and places is difficult, if not impossible. But I found an answer that teachers can talk about infinitum… school.

The visit to the University of Guadalajara Regional Preparatory School in Tepatitlan (Escuela Preparatoria Regional de Tepatitlán … I think I’ve got it right???) was scheduled for our last full day in Mexico. Our incredibly thorough tour of the tequila factory was winding down and our group faced a tough decision – eat, shop or go to school. As everyone’s blood sugar plummeted, it became obvious that eating would need to take priority. But shopping? School? Luckily, it worked out that a few of us could drive the trusty Durango to the school while the others traveled to the market to spend the last of their pesos. This visit was the highlight visit for me.

Admittedly, it is sometimes hard for me to go back to school. The prep work – both for my courses and for myself can be overwhelming. Upon entering the school courtyard in Tepatitlán, I felt a sense of calm. Students. Learners. Energy. Excitement. I could feel the anticipation of the new year. I was at home. We were shown into the auditorium – a room that may have been smaller than my classroom at school – and pulled chairs into a circle. Pretty typical of teachers… the universal message that the conversation space is open to all. Our conversation alternated between Spanish, English and pantomime (the official universal language). Comments from our conversation:

  • I was shocked to hear that there are 14 classrooms for 1800+ students.
  • Classes are run on a morning schedule and an afternoon schedule with other variations for some students (i.e. classes 2X week, evening classes…)
  • Over 900 students test to get into the school – around 300 are accepted.
  • Acceptance is based on standardized testing.
  • Even though the school is associated with the University, students are not guaranteed admission.
  • School fees are only administered to cover the cost of the entrance exam.
  • Class sizes average 60 students. Through pantomime I learned that it is a tight squeeze in the classrooms and that you always have to watch where your backside is.
  • A new school is being built that will double the classroom space.
  • Students participate in core subjects – Spanish, English, math, computer science, science (but it did not seem like a heavy emphasis), history, music and physical education.
  • The morning session begins at 7am. There is a break after the first period for breakfast. The school has no cafeteria, but food vendors are located outside.
  • Teachers work 48 hours per week. Some split time at with the University and some are only part time. The English teacher (Heriberto) that we spoke with is part-time (19 hours a week). In addition, he is the “Academic Coordinator” – a nice title, but without pay.

About 30 minutes into our conversation, several of the teachers stood up and indicated that they had to go to class. You could see the excitement in their eyes (or it was the fear at having to face 60 + students!). Our conversation continued with Heriberto. We asked about discipline problems in such huge classes. In a way, he almost seemed surprised by that question. He passionately explained that the teachers work very hard to help students find within themselves their own motivation and desire for learning and to help students see that education is an opportunity to better their opportunities in life. He indicated that English, Math and Computer Science are the language of the future and that all students at the school need to be fluent in these languages.

So what did I tell my colleagues? I told them all about the school, class sizes, facilities and curriculum. I told them about tacos, tostadas and tamales. I told them about the beach, OXXO stops and dairy farms. But the story that captivated everyone was the story of the teachers – our colleagues – in Mexico. Their jaws dropped as I recited the school stats. One even said: “Wow. Maybe things aren’t really so bad here. I guess I shouldn’t complain about a class of 25.” And, like me, they were inspired by Heriberto’s passion and energy. A great end to the trip and I feel incredibly lucky that we were able to visit the school.

KeywordsKathryn Eilert, 2008 Study Tour, Mexico   Doc ID56686
OwnerAntonio A.GroupDS 473 Field Study Abroad
Created2015-09-23 22:20:30Updated2015-09-23 22:20:41
SitesDS 473 Field Study Abroad
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