Born in Guadalajara, the family (3 brothers) came to the Bay 30 years ago for a one week’s vacation – and stayed 3 months in PV. Ruben’s father became a donut seller on the beach.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
No! I first studied to be an accountant just because I need to study something. I was two years with the Sheraton Hotel but I quit because I realized I didn’t like the job. So I went back to school for Business Administration, but I didn’t finish that course – I met Norma.
Where did you meet?
My Mum had a children’s day care, 30 kids, and one of my brothers and I used to work there – I’m very good at changing diapers! Norma came to work there and we became friends, then very good friends, and now we’ve been married ten years – we have a very close relationship.
Do you have children?
Yes Ruben David and Liora Hazel – and now 2 rescue dogs. We are looking to rent somewhere that has a yard!
So then you became a teacher?
No! I went into the tourism industry with PV Net, building a website, and became manager of tourism activities, but I quit that because I got to the stage where I had learned everything and there was nothing more, and I wanted to learn more.
So I responded to an announcement in the newspaper for people to teach English, and along with about 700 others, we had interviews and an examination to see just how good our English was. Only 30 of us had a sufficient standard to pass. Then we had to go on a course to learn how to be a teacher! A lot of them did not stay – they discovered they were either unable to teach, or didn’t like it – it’s hard work controlling large classes! But finally I have found the job that I like – I’ve been doing his for three years now and I am not bored yet!
What is it that appeals to you so much?
Every single day is different, I am learning something new – not just the kids! There are different situations to deal with, each child has a different question as they learn – so I have 800 different questions – every day! And it is so rewarding to see the kids improving – and it’s exciting!
Tell us a little about how the teaching system works. I know there are 2 schools to every school building, with associated change of teachers and principals.
Yes, a morning school and an afternoon school. But it wasn’t always like that. It used to be the same professors in the morning as in the afternoon, and they earned good money. Each professor had his own classroom and looked after it, personalized it. But as so many professors were out of work the Government created morning and afternoon schools. Now we all have to share everything – and the professors get half the money that they used to! Teaching English in schools has only been part of the curriculum in the last 3 years and under this new scheme it means I am actually not paid the same as the general subject teachers – I am only paid for the hours I teach and do not receive the benefits other teachers receive. And there is the added inconvenience that unlike regular teachers who receive their salaries in their bank accounts, I have to travel to Tepic once a month, at my own cost, to receive my salary.
You recently were tested on your English knowledge again – is this a regular assessment?
Yes, these are certifications based on our increased learning and knowledge.
And I know that you alone in your group received the accolade of “outstanding” – well done!
Thank you. Studying English, learning all its peculiarities, its idioms, is something else that continues to fascinate me.
I see every school has a small shop or a table selling candy, drinks, food to the kids: this is to raise funds for the school, yes?
No! The profits go to the women who have negotiated a contract with the school.
I understand parents have to pay for their children to attend school: uniform, supplies – what happens if they don’t pay?
It used to be that way, but with the new government now at the beginning of the year the government provides for uniforms and supplies. The families make a “cooperation” to the school which may be used for maintenance or improvements. Of course the supplies don’t last very long, so schools continue to need paper, pens, crayons, etc.
Is it true that some schools do not have a caretaker and the children have to clean the school?
All the schools I know of do have caretakers – but they are there just to keep the common areas clean. The kids have to keep the classrooms clean, and they do this according to a schedule, taking it in turns. I think this is good: they learn that they need to be responsible for where they spend part of the day, and hopefully they will help with the cleaning at home too.
I know your time is taken up with school and the library – and also looking after your kids first thing in the morning and again in the evening when Norma works – but do you have any hobbies?
I used to play sports: volleyball, basketball – but then I started having problems with my back, so no more. But I can always find some time for reading!
Apart from Mexico, have you traveled, and where would you like to go to?
I’ve never been outside of Mexico. But I would like to go to Canada.
You were the co-organiser of the ABC Festival in the huge Explanada Corona at the beginning of March and everyone has said what a good event it was, it brought together the Mexicans and the foreigners. Do you think we tend to hold separate events because of our difference in culture or in language?
We can appreciate our culture differences and enjoy them and benefit from observing and learning. For example everyone can go and watch a charro (rodeo), or folkloric dancing. It is the language that is the big barrier. Remember we have only just started teaching English in schools, and of course all the older generations don’t know English. Of course it must be the same for foreigners who have not been taught Spanish. And I know the older you get, the harder it becomes! I believe it is really important for everyone to make an effort and learn SOMETHING of the other language so that we can communicate better. We all want to – but people are afraid of trying, of appearing stupid when they can’t explain, or can’t understand. Just to be able to ask directions, or the price of something, or to ask how the sick neighbor is doing – that effort will be really worthwhile. It doesn’t matter if you take lessons or teach yourself, the main thing is to get out and practice by talking with the people – they really will be very pleased to help – and you might give them a few words in English as an exchange!
Thank you Ruben – is there anything else you’d like to add?
I thank God for my beautiful wife and my kids – they are my reason for being.
Thank you Ruben Ramirez!