I worked at a private K-12 school teaching students aged between 12 and 17. The numbering system for grades in Ecuador is strange. It begins at 1st grade and continues through to 10th grade, then 4th through 6th. So '11th grade' is 4th grade, '12 grade' is 5th grade and '13th grade' is 6th grade. I'm still not sure why it's done this way.
The school taught many subjects in English such as History, Business, Science among others. I was the Language Arts teacher and taught 26 periods of 50 minutes per week; the same as most of the other teachers. I taught double periods to both 9th and 10th grade 5 days a week and taught a double period to 5th grade 3 days a week. So I had 3 days of teaching 6 hours and 2 days of teaching 4 hours.
There were 2 other foreign teachers at the school when I began. During my time there it was a revolving door or teachers, both foreign and natives. Unlike the west, this is looked at as completely normally in Ecuador.
School was 5 days a week, Monday to Friday and one or two Saturday mornings a year. I had to be at school from 7:00 am until 2:30 pm. While the early start was tough, being off work and home by 3:00 pm every day was worth it.
I was provided with a Cambridge textbook (as were the students) and some reading books and CDs. Apart from that, there were very few resources. A few computers to be shared between around 30 teachers, 3 printers that were from the 80s and often didn't work (even getting paper for the printer was a challenge). The classrooms had whiteboards, and that's about it. Everything was extremely basic. Although students attending the school were well off, Ecuador is still quite a poor country.
Consider the following questions:
- What time is the staff meeting?
- When will I be paid?
- When do I need to complete report cards by?
Although each question has a different and specific answer, the answer your principal or coworker would be most likely to give you is 'ya mismo'. Learn to embrace the chaos, rather than be frustrated by it.
One of the cool things about life in Ecuador was that I was able to make many Ecuadorian friends I have to this day. Besides the fact that Ecuadorian people are very friendly, there were many young bilingual teachers I worked with, making the language barrier less of an issue.
I enrolled at a Spanish course two evenings a week and with some study I became intermediate at the end of my first year and pretty good at the end of my second year. Ecuador is really a great place to learn Spanish and do so cheaply.
Although Ecuador is a small country it is actually the most bio-diverse country in the world and is fantastic to travel in. From Guayaquil I could go on day trips to the beach, travel to active volcanoes, trek the Amazon, snorkel with sharks in the Galapagos and experience the cultural and culinary diversity the country offers.
Being foreign grants you some advantages and disadvantages. Students will want you to like them and want to try to be your friend. Because of this, they will often like you more, but respect you less than Ecuadorian teachers. I always tried to be friendly, but firm. Class time was serious, but I made sure to talk to them casually during recess and not hold any grudges after class was over.
There are definitely other teaching jobs out there with a higher salary, but I had no experience and was happy to take any job I could get. Most teachers in Ecuador started with a low salary, but soon moved up closer to $1000 per month. I even had friends with nothing more than an unrelated University degree on around $2000 per month including free housing. The longer you are around and the more you network, the higher your potential earnings will be.
Like previously mentioned, job hopping in Ecuador is common, even for teachers, so if you see a low salary, don't feel locked in. Depending on your visa, you're free to find new employment at any time.
Rent - I split a 5 bedroom house with 3 friends for $550/month total. Expect to pay around $230 for a place to rent solo.
Internet and utilities - Around $40/month
Local bus - $0.25 per way.
Meal at a cheap restaurant - $2.50
Meal at a mid-range restaurant - $7
Large beer from a mart - $1
Intercity-bus - Around $1/hour
I travelled every second weekend and aimed to spend around $500 per month.
Have you taught in Ecuador? Leave your thoughts below.