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The Pleasure of Teaching English to Adults in Vietnam
Written by: Meredith Clarke
Last Updated: January 25, 2021
I’ve never particularly liked kids. I’ve never babysat a day in my life. I have no younger siblings. Even growing up, most of my friends were at least a year or two older than me. I get along well with the occasional child at a wedding or family function, but more than one at a time and I start to feel overwhelmed.
My disenchantment with children had me worried as I started to look for a job after getting my online certificate from International TEFL Academy. Most of the information I found about teaching abroad was related to children or teenagers, and while information about teaching adults was available, I had to dig for it. As my departure date drew closer, I was nervous that I wouldn’t find a school I would feel happy in.
But I was smart and waited until I landed in Ho Chi Minh City to scope out companies, and eventually I found the perfect fit for me, and for the past seven months, I’ve been working with adults at every level of English. Teaching adults in Vietnam has been immensely rewarding and incredibly fun. here’s why:
They’re Easy to Teach
Unlike many young students, adults come to school because they want to. They’re eager to learn, be it for personal or professional reasons, and they have the intrinsic drive to do well—that’s half the battle of teaching solved, right there. They ask good questions and pay attention when you give answers. They are unbelievably respectful, participatory, and well behaved. Of course sometimes you come across someone with a bad attitude, but hey, that’s life.
There are No Accidents
And by ‘accidents’ I mean…accidents. I have kindergarten teacher friends who’ve described themselves as ‘glorified nurses.’ Granted, these people love kids and find fulfillment in their jobs, but if you’re like me, cleaning up after an oopsie is exactly the opposite of everything I ever want to do.
Here’s an understatement: I am not a morning person. A lot of public, private, and language schools for kids and teenagers start early in the morning, meaning teachers have to wake up at 6:30am to get to school by 7 or 7:30. Schools for adults function differently. They have to work with adults’ schedules, so almost all classes are in the afternoons and evenings. This means I can sleep in until 11 am some days, have a leisurely brunch, then head off to work! The only downside is that if you work full time (which is rare), you do get out quite late at night, but in my opinion, it’s worth it to have my mornings to myself—and skip all the rush hour traffic.
I am a teacher because I love learning new things, and I’m a traveler for the same reason. Just because I’m at the front of the classroom doesn’t mean I stop learning, and I’ve pleasantly found that my adult students have ensured the exact opposite happens. I have had absolutely astounding conversations with my advanced students regarding cultural comparison, current affairs, history, ideology, and I’ve even started soliciting the occasional Vietnamese lesson from them. We teach each other in ways that leave everyone feeling enriched.
Language learning involves energetic interaction, no matter what the age of the students. My classes aren’t boring. We run around, draw on the walls with markers (dry-erase on glass, it’s not vandalism!), play games, throw things, and play pretend. There’s a special kind of joy in playing with adults, too. Because so much, if not all, of their lives are taken up by the practical facets of life, play comes rarely, and even more rarely in the absence of children. It takes a while for everyone to get out of adult-mode and into the fun atmosphere, but when it happens, it’s like magic.
Teaching English isn’t a one-size-fits-all job. There is a lot to consider as you do your research and narrow your options, and if you hadn’t thought about working with adults yet, it’s absolutely worth looking into! Wherever you choose to work, it will surely fulfill you in ways you can’t expect.
An ITA Graduate, Meredith is 25 years old from a small town in Pennsylvania and has been teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City for seven months. When she’s not teaching, she tries to visit as many countries as she can and explore her city to its extent. She wouldn’t give up the world for this opportunity.
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