This week we chatted to Eddie and Ellie who recently began their journey of teaching English in Vietnam with TravelBud. Below are Ellie’s words on how she found the experience. Happy reading!
We started this journey as clueless classroom idiots, and we have so far successfully managed to hold down good teaching jobs whilst getting better and better feedback. Our journey has been amazing, the local people, the kids and our fellow teachers have made it all unbelievable. Deciding to teach English in Vietnam is the best decision we’ve ever made.
It’s a pretty terrifying thing uprooting and leaving everything you know to move to a country you’ve never been to before. We were lucky enough to have each other for support, but many individuals don’t, and the majority of our course pals were brave enough to do it alone.
There are testing times, but this is all part of the learning curve and part of the experience.
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Why we chose the in-class TESOL over the online TESOL
As new teachers we cannot put a price on the experience we had completing the Vietnam in-class TESOL and the extent it prepared us for teaching life. There are just so many different aspects you cannot cover through sitting at a computer screen.
In summary we feel as though the course prepared us for the following:
- Culture Shock and New Friendships
- Classroom nerves
- Developing our own teaching style
- Meeting students
- Admin duties
Asia is a whole other world, and living here comes with no end of culture shocks. The blow however was somewhat softened through the completion of this course. We didn’t face it alone. We are happy to say that we really connected with everyone on our course and we now have friends all over Vietnam.
When we’re having a difficult time or a particularly difficult class, they are always there to listen and not judge.
Our course leaders were all individuals who have lived and worked in Asia for some time. They were able to shed light on situations we thought were initially terrible, but were just the norm and part of a few days of adjustment.
We have such an amazing support network across the whole of Vietnam that we just wouldn’t have if we hadn’t chosen to study our TESOL here.
In Class Teaching
Trust me, you cannot be fully prepared for your first in class lesson. There is no way of knowing what your students have in store for you. We just felt you cannot possibly truly experience a lesson online…
Being able to actually teach real lessons with the support of experienced teachers was so valuable to our development. The confidence we all gained through doing so is amazing. You’ll walk into your first lesson knowing you have some idea of what to do if plan A, plan B and everything up to plan Y goes out the window!
Week One: Meeting our fellow adventurers
The focus of our first week was to ensure we were comfortable within the group and in the country. This week was an invaluable introduction to life in Vietnam and something we don’t think we can put a price on.
On the first evening we were introduced to each other and to our course leaders. We were given a timetable showing what we would be getting up to over the upcoming month and a course workbook to aid us in our study.
At first, we were all a little nervous and unsure of each other. It was the first time I think we’d been in a room with Americans, South-Africans, Australians, Brits, a Scot and a Canadian.
After our introductory meeting was over, we spent hours bonding and comparing accents over beers in a nearby bar. Talking about worldly topics and why we were all crazy enough to have made the big move to Asia.
The Vietnamese cultural experience
Over the course of the first week you will be introduced the Vietnamese language and culture through various lessons delivered by a local. She was our direct contact to Vietnamese life throughout the duration of this course.
Our guide helped us feel at home in a country we all initially felt a little bewildered in. Her support and guidance was second to none throughout this time and we can’t thank her enough.
She also acted as a personal tour guide when visiting a local market in the Vietnamese countryside and museums in the heart of Hanoi. We learned how to get by using our very basic understanding of the language and Vietnamese etiquette.
At the end of the week, her family very kindly opened their doors to us and invited 17 westerners into their home for a cooking lesson. Aided by her friends and family, she taught us the very basics of cooking traditional Vietnamese food.
Together we prepared a feast for us all and the whole family. We sat traditionally on the floor, the food was spread and we all enjoyed a few too many rice wines, imposed on us by the men of the family.
It is one of our favorite experiences in Vietnam and one that has truly prepared us for life here. The Vietnamese have a particular type of hospitality that often revolves around rice wine and food. You can easily get used to it.
In fact we’ve since been to a Vietnamese wedding, which is not uncommon if you plan on spending a year in the country! If you get the chance, go! They are great fun and another experience you’ll always remember.
Week Two: Learning to Teach
The hard work begins… By this point we had all gotten to know each other pretty well and were excited for classroom life to begin.
Our course tutor met us for the first time and guided us through our study for the upcoming weeks. We were set our first assignment in which we explored various different teaching styles and how they can be used.
Together we were able to discuss what we had learned about these methods and how we would put them into practice in the classroom.
Being able to discuss our findings with each other and our tutor is something we would not have been able to do if we were to have studied online. Our tutor was an experienced ESL Teacher who had an endless bank of examples and stories he could share with us.
Many of them hilarious may we add. When we made suggestions, he was able to feedback on whether he thought they might work in the classroom or whether they might flop. We soon realized the added value he provided to our study and how we could use his experiences to better ourselves as new teachers.
Throughout the remainder of this week we were introduced to the basics of lesson planning and were paired up to deliver our first lessons to our class. Again this is something that we would not have been able to do online.
Physically standing in front of class, even if it is a class of adults and you’re with your new pal, is extremely daunting. Nothing quite beats it for preparing you to teach on your own.
Over the course of the qualification we designed various different lesson plans based on the materials we were provided. We were able to focus on reading, speaking and listening lessons.
All were then compiled onto a drive for us all to access after the course. It’s been very handy being able to access these from time to time when we’ve drawn a lesson planning blank.
Week Three: Observing other teachers
As everyone became a little more familiar with lesson planning and the types of lessons we would be expected to deliver, we are all given the opportunity to give teaching a try.
For our qualification we worked alongside a Private Language Centre in Hanoi. Here we were able to meet and talk to existing teachers about their experiences and to get support regarding our lesson planning.
Prior to being thrown into a classroom, we were all given the opportunity to observe other teachers. By doing so we were able to experience different teaching styles in action. There is so much you cannot experience if you are not in an actual lesson.
You can be taught hundreds of tactics for classroom management that can all go out of the window at the last minute. No simulation can truly prepare you for how your students will behave the first time you walk into your classroom.
Being able to observe how experienced teachers maintained control of their classroom and their kid’s behavior was a great help. We were then all teamed up with a teacher and were asked to work alongside them to deliver the second half of their class. With the support from our experienced teachers we were able to give teaching a go for the first time.
Over the course of the next two weeks we delivered a total of 4 lessons using our own lesson plans. In most cases the teachers we were paired up with observed these lessons and gave us constructive feedback.
We found this feedback to be extremely beneficial and felt it heavily contributed to our confidence when walking into our first lessons solo and formed the base of finding our own teaching style (something which everyone does differently!).
Walking into a class of kids for the first time is daunting to say the least. And if someone tells you they weren’t at all nervous, they are probably lying. As a new teacher you are your hardest critic. Having the support from someone who has had the same experience at some stage is second to none.
Week 4: Our turn to take the wheel
During our final week we taught the last of our lessons and were given feedback based on our progression throughout the previous few weeks. By this stage we were all familiar with the concept of lesson planning and it’s importance when entering a classroom. We all worked alone to design our final lesson plan to be delivered to the group.
Considering how nervous we were at the beginning of the course, we were all pretty confident at this stage. It was evident how much our lesson plans had come along.We were supported through the final training for our qualification and were prepared for our final exam.
The exam itself was pretty straightforward and mostly a recap of what we had learned throughout our course.
Once we had finished our exam, we all went to a local bar for our graduation ceremony. Here we were able to drink too many beers without feeling guilty about the following mornings class.
The placement process
Throughout the course we had regular meetings with the course leaders to support us with our placements. At the very start of the program, before we had even arrived in Vietnam we were asked what our preferences for teaching were. Age, location, hours of work and whether we would prefer a Private Language Center or Public School.
Our course leaders were very aware that our decision might be subject to change upon arriving in Vietnam. For this reason we had many different one to one meetings to ensure they were up to date with our wants and needs.
Obviously, the same as any job placement, they cannot guarantee that they will find you a perfect match. However I do believe they did their best to get as close as possible.
Throughout the four week course we all interviewed for various different positions across the whole of Vietnam. We were given support in the interview process and were individually prepared for what to expect. Every one of us accepted paid positions with different schools across the country before the course was completed.
Ellie and Eddie are a married couple from Leeds, England. They decided to pack up their comfortable lives in 2018, contacted TravelBud about teaching English and now they’ve just completed their in-class TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City. Here are their handles, to keep up with their journey:
Instagram : @idiotsteachabroad