Settling In


The Middle

Slowly, but surely, as sure as the earth turns around the sun, I got used to life here. I rode a bicycle to learn about the traffic, I took the bus and discovered different parts of Hanoi. I got lost and found my way back. I made friends, went out, ate at different restaurants, went to the gym, discovered Hanoi’s many cafés, took Vietnamese lessons, and drove past Hanoi’s many lakes and through her winding alleyways. The market place became less daunting, a place of colours and smells and life, and of discovery of the never-ending appearance of tropical fruits depending on the season (mmmmm mangosteen, lychees, dragonfruit). I knew the prices, I could speak a little Vietnamese, people knew me now and I felt that they were yelling at me less in the streets in order to get my attention. Life was feeling more relaxed.


Teaching English

I came to Vietnam unsure about work. After humming and hawing over whether to teach English or try to work at an international school, I finally settled on teaching English. I wanted to keep things light, and spend more time discovering Hanoi and Vietnam than working. Finding a job was… too easy (warning sign number one) I sent out one CV and got a job. The pay was good, the work seemed very manageable and so it was fine. I could tell from the “interview” that this would be a dysfunctional job, but didn’t care too much at the time. So I started working, teaching beginner English classes five days a week. I worked at several centres that the school owned, allowing me to discover different areas in Hanoi. My students were sweet overall, although somewhat hyper coming to English class after a long day at regular school but I tried to vary my teaching activities and got better at turning a lot of their learning into a game in order to keep them engaged.


After a few months, though, I was bored and losing my motivation. English centres, in Vietnam anyways, are all more or less the same. Students sign up for a course that runs about two months. They do a test in the final class, and if they pass, then they move on to the next level. The overall goal of the students or their parents is to pass the IELTS test, which allows them to study abroad. Centres just want to make money and parents just want their kid to pass the test. Lots of lies are told to keep the system running. Teachers at my centre were told in many different ways that they were replaceable and if you don’t like what’s happening, there’s the door. So after teaching more or less the same courses over and over for a few months, five nights a week, in a system that leaves you little to care about besides the students and the pay check, I was done. So in a very detached and easy way I stopped teaching at the English centre, leaving behind the disrespectful emails from a boss I had never met and the general feeling of money hungry apathy that was pervasive at the school.

A lot of people wonder about teaching English abroad, especially in Asia. At the end of the day a lot depends on your attitude towards your job situation. But from the stories I’ve heard my experience was very similar to most. English centres are for profit. That being said, I think you can make the most of a situation, or turn negatives into positives as needed. In my case though, I got a new job.

**Note** Some people love teaching English in Asia and centres can vary in degrees of niceness to horribleness obviously. At the end of the day, it’s important to come to your own conclusions. I think my experience takes on a more negative tone for various reasons, but this is definitely not the case for everyone.


International School Bliss

Subbing at UNIS was maybe one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had. This school (overall) is a dream school: Like if someone dreamed of the perfect school and then built it. The staff was amazing, the students wonderful, lesson plans clear and resources aplenty. Going back to subbing gave me the chance again to see many different classrooms, teaching styles, and lesson plans. I really appreciate the time that I worked there because I came away from it with tons of new ideas and new information about teaching that I look forward to putting into practice. I also feel newly inspired about teaching and education.

My experience there made me think about how people say that you learn a lot when pushed to your limits, in broken school systems teaching horribly difficult classes. Well yes, maybe, after you stagger out disoriented, and take a few months to sort through and figure out what happened, then perhaps? But I feel that this is the wrong way of thinking. Our society has gotten too used to dysfunctional conditions and has normalized unhealthy living and work situations. I feel like the time I spent at UNIS was so valuable because I was seeing a school that worked. I could see a system that wasn’t broken, that was strong and thriving. Being able to relax and feel supported in a school allowed me to learn so much and made me feel even more confident and strong about my teaching, something that I’m not sure would have happened so immediately in an opposite school situation.

** Note** UNIS has tons of money and students pay a lot to go there – hence, a huge contributing factor to have the ability and the means to have a school of that calibre. That being said, it doesn’t have to be that way if governments invested more in education, in the right places





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s