You meet more than a handful of American school teachers retiring in Mexico in hopes of stretching their pension incomes. I’ve also met a surprising amount of administrators having no clue a class room needs quite so much, um, off-site administration.
Until recently in US, teachers were unionized and promised a set pension. That’s changed in the last quarter century particularly at the college level as most teachers are now paid per classroom hour.
This caught up to me when, at 47, I returned to community college to pick up some nighttime Spanish classes. In graduate school of the 1980s a teacher knew when the students were too pooped to be perky and often let us go home early. In today’s world the teacher will keep you to the last minute of class time to insure a full paycheck, even it means just watching Youtube videos to kill time.
The trend has filtered down to Mexico. Had you become part of the union in your 20s, by your 50s, you had retired from teaching. Had you been hired following early 1990s pension changes chances are you teach in Mexico, including pre-college levels, on a per class hour pay basis. To achieve a 50% replacement rate of your working income in a pension you must contribute, on average, 13% to 18% of your income over 40 years. A difficult feat even if teachers were generously paid per hour.
To my outside, over there perspective as volunteer dance instructor to former teachers, now students, there are two big perks to being a retired Mexican school teacher. One is, despite the lowly pay and diminishing pension, a teacher is given much respect. For example, as former president of the English school, the former teen students stop me in the street to this day to say “Hello, Teacher” and introduce to me to their young families.
Secondly, retired teachers are a very fun and active lot!
They’ve their own party hall to hold free classes each day on art, music and dance plus to host their monthly meetings complete with speakers and entertainment. In addition, the hall hosts great murals including one with a terrific visual history of the town.
Each year the retired teachers invite me to the party hall for their Teacher’s Day comida (big meal mid-day) that includes a variety of live music including everything from cumbia to cow bells. (Just like the ones my mother used to call her brood home for dinner each night.)
Then on the following evening teachers past and present come out to play with a vengeance. Huge orchestras play all types of music that only pause the dancing to allow the mayor to give away microwaves, TVs, grills and such to teachers at each school. The party is so intense all schools are closed the following Monday, two days later, to aid recovery!
Each quarter retired teachers across Mexico get together to compete with each other in sports, music, painting, sewing and dancing. Winners receive gold, silver and bronze medals! I’ve not seen such utter abject competitiveness among teachers since the eighth grade nuns at the Holy Name of Jesus beat the wimples off the 7th grade nuns in softball!
In addition to these grand gatherings, dancers and musicians perform locally at schools, parks and churches for a variety of local events like Mother’s Day and days honoring various Virgins and saints.
Frankly, I prefer the local events if only because any bus ride over an hour with retired teachers is going to involve many potty breaks along the highway!
The Mexican teachers I know are happy to have been teachers well into retirement as the respect, and fun, continues!
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on making your adventures around town unique.
- Creator of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.