February, 20 2014 09:48:06

How to survive on English

Many options: An English-speaking teacher guides Vietnamese students at FPT University. Viet Nam is one of the top global destinations for foreigners seeking English-teaching jobs. Even short-term visitors to Ha Noi often find themselves picking up a job and sticking around. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Tu

by Aimee Millwood

Viet Nam is one of the top global destina-tions for foreigners seeking English-teaching jobs. The plethora of job opportunities, ease of gaining employment, and high pay compared to the cost of living makes it attractive for many people. Even short-term visitors to Ha Noi often find themselves picking up a job and sticking around.

There are many options for teaching English in Ha Noi, including language schools, public schools, and private tutoring. English jobs vary widely depending on the age group, class size, and level of the students. But if you are just starting out teaching in Ha Noi, there are some basics you should know.

A - Applying for jobs

Online resources like TNH Vietnam job listings and Facebook groups like Hanoi Massive and Hanoi Teachers frequently post job openings and are good resources. Before applying online, prepare your CV, scans of your passport and visa, and university degree and teaching certificates (if applicable). Submitting these together to potential employers helps avoid follow-up e-mails later that likely ask for this information. Also, a surprisingly effective way to find jobs is by cold-calling popular English-teaching centres. The high turnover rate of teachers makes it likely there is a job opening that hasn't yet been advertised.

B - Beginning to teach

After you've been offered a job, it is customary that a school will ask you for a demo class. It doesn't hurt to ask to be paid for demo lessons, but if you do a demo for free, a 30-minute lesson is generally ample time for a school to judge your teaching methods and skills. Experienced instructors may be undaunted by their first class, but beginners may find it takes a few classes to get the hang of teaching.

If you are entirely new to teaching, don't walk into a classroom – even for a demo lesson – empty handed. Even if you are not required to submit written lesson plans, preparing a general outline for what you will teach will help the class go smoother for you and the students. Inquire about the level of students as well as their ages before a demonstration class to help prepare appropriate material. There are plenty of ESL websites that offer ideas for games and activities and other free resources for a variety of age groups and levels.

C - Cash, contracts,

Always ask for cash in hand. Some schools may ask to keep your first lesson's salary as a deposit to ensure you continue teaching. If the school is far from where you live, don't hesitate to ask for compensation for transport costs.

Be fair and firm when negotiating with schools about contracts. Contracts are often easy to get out of if you absolutely must, but understand all the terms of the contract before signing. Make sure to ask what happens if the school fires you as well as if your contract is terminated if you miss lessons.

If you don't have an official teaching certificate, don't be dismayed. While public schools and larger private language schools often require an internationally recognised TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA, it is possible to get private lessons or work at small language schools without certification or previous experience.

D - Do's and Don'ts

Maintain your integrity as a teacher. Don't skip lessons or cancel classes at the last minute. Remember that a whole classroom of students - as well as their paying parents – is relying on you. It affects both your reputation as well as the school's if you do not show up.

Don't believe stories that teaching English in Viet Nam is just an easy job that will give you piles of money with little to no effort. Teaching is not to be taken lightly. The abundance of qualified teachers is raising the expected quality of teachers. Also note that in Ha Noi, you will often spend as much time driving to class as you do teaching. However, teaching does have many benefits, including flexibility, good experience, and the chance at quality relationships with locals.

Don't be afraid to have fun. Great teachers are enthusiastic and engaging. Be confident, speak slowly so the students understand the instructions and lesson, and encourage proper pronunciation, but remember to make the class enjoyable for students as well as yourself. — VNS

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