Jan 03 2012
If you’re planning on doing more than just passing through Hanoi, you may have considered teaching English as a foreign language as a way to fund your time here. There’s certainly an opportunity to do that, but you do need to come prepared.
Firstly, you should be prepared in terms of training. While it is possible to get teaching work without a teaching qualification, this would likely come down to who you know mixed with a bit of luck. It’s also more likely that you will end up teaching private lessons – to an individual or at a company rather than at a school – and that’s not going to do you any favours when it comes to getting a work permit and visa. So a qualification is essential if you want a good chance of finding steady work.
TEFL and CELTA are both recognised qualifications: CELTA involves a bit more practical training while TEFL spends more time on grammar and the psychology of teaching.
As well as a qualification you also need to come with the right attitude. Do not go to a school thinking you know it all and are God’s gift to teaching: you may be good, but you’re not unique and while confidence is a very good thing, it works best when dished up with a certain amount of humility.
Also come prepared that it might not be easy and that you might have a few falls along the way: rejection, low salary, inferior school or simply a bad fit.
I went for an interview at a school when I first arrived. I spent at least eight unpaid hours observing classes, preparing for a test class, giving the class and having further meetings; all with their young adult programme and text books. They were very pleased with my performance and signed me up… only to send me to cover a class of 11 young children with teaching materials they had only given me a few hours before. As my first ever English class it was truly a case of being thrown in at the deep end and didn’t work out for either party. Despite the lengthy prep I’ve never taught for that school again.
I tell you this not to whinge – it’s water under the bridge – but to highlight that you shouldn’t expect to arrive in Hanoi and be teaching 20 hours a week at a good school straight away.
Another thing to bear in mind is that teaching is often in the evenings and at weekends. It’s a rarity for an English teacher to just work during the hours of 08:00-18:00.
Finally, prepare for the pay. Now the rate of pay for English teachers in Vietnam is actually pretty good compared to the cost of living: pay rates start at about US$18 per hour and go up to about US$30 dependent upon experience, what you’re teaching and the school. So for a 20 hour week you’re looking at US$1,600 per month upwards, and that’s plenty to live on. But remember that 20 hours of teaching means a lot more than that in total, once you factor in preparation and marking, and is not guaranteed. On the other hand, if you’re good and teach 40 hours a week you can rake it in.
Information on finding a teaching job to follow in later posts, so stay tuned — if you’re still interested!
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