As an English Teacher in Vietnam, you will most likely work for either a Private Language Centre or a Public/International School. Both positions are very different in terms of schedule and responsibility.
For this post I am writing from my own personal experience working in a Private Language Centre. Something we have grown to love!
Our weekly working schedule is broken up by two days off a week. Monday and Wednesday, meaning we work all weekend.
Initially I thought “What? Weekends!”, it’s a no from me. However, I have soon come to realise that actually working weekends in Vietnam isn’t so bad. I mean almost everyone I know also works weekends, so I’d be pretty lonely if I didn’t.
A Typical Working Day for Two English Teachers in Vietnam
Get up and get to the gym. Our gym is a short 5-minute motorbike ride away.
This time is subject to change depending on whether we’ve had a few too many beers the night before.
The gym itself is pretty cheap, at 300VND (£10) per month and perfect to work off those late night meals and overload of sugar…in everything.
Head to see our favourite ladies at our local market to buy fruit and veg for the week.
We tend to stick to the same stalls as we’ve found from friends who’ve been here a while it’s the best way to not get ripped off. The first time you’ll pay too much, the second the same, the third a little less and on the fourth visit you’ll pay what you should.
It also means you get more and more smiles and even get to practice a little Vietnamese with them and actually knowing the produce you are getting is decent and and won’t just rot instantly within 5 minutes of walking away is handy too!
Head home to demolish fresh fruit for breakfast whilst enjoying a cup of coffee and watching Sky News.
Slowly we will get showered and ready for the day ahead.
We head to our local coffee shop to drink our favourite yet terribly bad for you coconut coffee, reversing all of the good affects from the mornings workout.
Here I will ramble in the bog about things like our morning routines (as I am this very second), write about stuff we do away and plan our next adventures.
Eddie on the other hand actually uses this time to be very productive and to make some extra cash on the side. He writes for various different websites and his own. Something that keeps him busy and funds our future travel plans.
Most of our friends and colleagues here use this time to take up various different hobbies and pursue jobs on the side. Some write online like Eddie, others learn how to play instruments and some teach mornings in public schools or online.
Head to one of our many local restaurants/street food stands for some delicious traditional Vietnamese food.
Here we’ll enjoy a relaxed $2 lunch and chat about various things. Such as where we should go on our day off, or when we will go for our next 4 P’s pizza (our much needed weekly western fix and the best pizza we’ve eaten anywhere in the world…and yes we’ve been to Italy).
Head home to chill in our flat for a couple of hours before work.
This is our downtime, usually spent binge watching Netflix series and napping. Napping being the best thing about local life in Vietnam. They love a nap. And really, who doesn’t?
Pack up our teacher things and head to school.
Eddie and I were placed in Bac Ninh, a 30km drive from Hanoi. Initially it seemed a ridiculous idea to commute for 40 minutes everyday, but when we found out the other teachers did, we thought we’d give it a go.
And to be honest, teachers who live and teach in Hanoi can sometimes have a 40-minute commute because of traffic.
The drive is easy to navigate, one long straight road. The unpredictable drivers are not so easy to navigate, but Eddie has gotten pretty good at saving our life with last minute decisions.
Arrive at school and begin prepping for our two evening lessons.
We give ourselves an hour to prepare any printing and to finalise any lesson planning that we might need. This time has cut down significantly since we first started at the school.
In the beginning we needed an extra hour to make sure we were familiar with the material we would be using and that we were confident. This is the same for most new teachers, but do not panic, it does get easier.
The mayhem begins.
We start to hear the pattering of little feet running through the building. Slowly the squeals of excitement begin to ring in the air and the sound of giggles fill the corridors.
And then, classroom doors will burst open as students begin to flood in screaming “TEEEEEEEEEEEEACHHHHAAAAAAA!!!”.
In the beginning we used to try and control this mayhem, but we have soon learned that it’s easier just to go with it. If I don’t have a child hanging off each limb by 17:15, there is something drastically wrong.
It’s slightly more chaotic for me than Eddie. I teach kindergarten and I love it.
Eddie still receives the mocking and abuse, but his is generally verbal, not physical.
In our centre we teach 2 blocks in the evening during the week and teach over 6 blocks on the weekend. Week classes run from 17:30-19:00 and 19:15-20:45.
During this time we do our best to keep our students contained, excited and engaged with the lesson.
It’s a hard job and far harder than either of us could ever have imagined. ‘Teacher fit’ is a term we had heard being used before, but never understood. When they say you need to be animated, particularly with kindergarten, they really mean you need to be ANIMATED.
As in you need to jump, dance, shout, sing, run, pace etc. Eddie jokes that he clocks 10,000 steps on his phone just in class, and that’s not a lie.
It takes a lot of physical energy, but if you want your kids to have their ‘eyes on teacher’, it’s got to be done.
The reward is phenomenal (and it’s not just the weight loss). The rapport we’ve managed to build with some of our kids in just 2 months is just heart warming.
Nothing beats knowing you’ve had an ace lesson and your students actually look forward the next one.
Of course not every lesson is great and we both have one or two classes we dread teaching. It’s something every teacher has to deal with. In time though we are starting to learn how to make even the hardest classes more enjoyable. It just takes time.
The bell rings for the end of the day and we send our kids on their way home.
Drained from the evening’s activities we carry out our admin and tidy up our rooms for the following day.
Our long drive home is pretty easy at this time and a welcome bit of peace and quiet. And with the sound of 16 screaming children still ringing in our ears we are able to reflect on our lessons.
What can we do better? How can we stop Johnny speaking to Elsa? Or whether it’s even possible to stop Steven screaming ‘WHAT THE F**K?’ over class without getting sacked?
Wind down with a stir-fry, some noodles or an omelet. Discuss our lessons and what hilarious things our students have gotten up to. Sharing ideas about how we can be better teachers.
Watch some trash TV and read before heading off to bed at around 11PM.
We’ve grown to love this routine. Saturday’s are the only working days that are different for us. We teach 3 morning blocks which can be a challenge after teaching evening lessons all week.
Saturday mornings are great though. The kids are somewhat more manageable. Probably because they’ve not had time to drink their 3 cans of coca-cola, or eat a bag of sweets yet.
It’s a good life being a English Teacher in Vietnam.
Read our post about why we chose to teach in Vietnam over anywhere else in Asia.