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Is Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam Right for You?
Written by: Rochelle Caruso
Last Updated: December 18, 2020
Hanoi is a mixture of old and new; it’s chaotic and polluted and one of my favorite places in the entire world. The Vietnamese are incredibly hardworking and resourceful. They have managed to rebuild their economy and country in under 40 years and are continuing that progress steadily. The expat community is heavily developed but doesn’t isolate you from the Vietnamese culture. Both the expats and Vietnamese are some of the most inclusive and happy people I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life, and I truly think that it would be difficult for a newcomer to not make friends. That being said, Hanoi is crazy in all aspects. The traffic, the pollution, and the social life can all be overwhelming, and if big cities are not your thing, I would recommend trying Hai Phong or other smaller provinces outside of the capital.
Where Should I teach?
In Hanoi, you will have the option of teaching in public schools, private language centers, private international schools, private kindergartens, business classes and more. The demand is incredibly high and if you are an organized and enthusiastic teacher, you will have your choice of jobs. So I’ll break down the pros and cons of each in my own experiences, and those of my colleagues and friends. I have primarily worked in Language centers, but I have experience in public school and adults classes.
They are great because they allow you to work daytime hours and they pay very well (around $25/hour). They typically give you a guideline or textbook to make your lesson plans from and you work with your TA to meet the learning outcomes. The classes are usually 40 minutes and you do the same lesson plan multiple times. The schools themselves don’t typically hire foreign teachers; you will be hired and paid through an agency. The downside of public school is the classroom sizes are HUGE, around 30-40 students/class. So you can potentially teach over a thousand kids a week. I personally find this really challenging to maintain control, and it doesn’t suit my teaching style; however I have friends that absolutely love public school and really thrive there.
In private centers you are working evenings and weekends, teaching smaller classes (5-18 students) one or two times a week for an extended period of time (90 minutes-3 hours). The benefit of this is you really get to know your students and your TA’s and form bonds. I find it’s easier to track their progress, and I feel more involved in their education. The pay can really depend on the center and your experience, ranging from $19-25/hour. The downsides are that you do work evenings and weekends which some people don’t like. Additionally, these are private classes paid for by middle/upper-middle class families, which can occasionally put the teacher in a challenging position because if you think the student needs to repeat a course or needs extra help, the parents can decide to move them ahead regardless because it’s their money and at the end of day, they get to make the call about their children. However, the parents, teachers, and centers typically do work well together to create the best learning environment for the students.
Private Schools or International Schools
My experience here is limited, but close friends of mine have worked at international schools. It combines aspects of public school and private language centers. These are day time hours, and you can get paid a lot. The expectations are very high and typically these families are quite wealthy. As a teacher it can be great because you have so many resources and small class sizes. You are able to develop strong relationships with students because you spend five days a week with your class and are much more in charge of the curriculum development (obviously this changes from school to school, but generally that seems to be the case).
Private Lessons/Business English
These two are less common, but definitely are still options. Typically they are shorter term and a great way to earn a little extra cash on the side. If you are doing business English, you can earn $25-35/hour if you negotiate well. Working with adults is really fun, it requires a lot less energy than kindergarten, and you can get to know the culture really well because you can engage with people who was experienced the country over the last 30-50 years.
How ITA prepared me for these various roles
I found International TEFL academy through a quick Google search. I did some more research and chatting with the staff it seemed like an awesome choice! After completing the 120-Hours Online TEFL course, I felt good but still a little uncertain about my own teaching style. Nevertheless, I had a good foundation to build my teaching career on. After completing the practicum, that converted the theoretical knowledge I gained from the course into something much more tangible. What has stuck with me the most over the last year is the section on different learning styles. Everyday I think about how to present the information in different ways so that all of my students have an opportunity to learn in a way that is best for them. Additionally the feedback given from my instructor was incredibly valuable. When I was making my first making lesson plans, I had no idea if this would translate into a good classroom activity or would end failing, so getting that constructive criticism was so helpful.
If you’ve managed to get through that slightly dry analysis of job opportunities in Hanoi, I’d like to reward you with this anecdote.
It’s a Tuesday morning and my second grade class is busy working away on an ecosystem assignment. I’m at my desk marking their tests from the day before. It’s a very standard day. All of sudden there is a burst of commotion; one of my students is out the door. One of my more precocious students then points to a poop nugget underneath my whiteboard and says “Shit Teacher! Shit!” Concerned he is unwell, I send my T.A. after him to make sure he’s okay. Upon his return I ask him if everything is okay, and he promptly goes, “don’t worry teacher, I made it in time", and class proceeded as per usual.
Teaching in Hanoi is incredible and I cannot recommend it enough. If you are on the fence about it, do it. You’ll learn so much about yourself, your students and a really incredible country and city.
Rochelle is 24 from Alberta, Canada with a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Lethbridge. She has been living in Hanoi for over a year teaching. Before flying off to Hanoi, Vietnam, she worked as a chemistry technician at a college in her hometown.
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