We’ve just about survived week one of being English teachers in Hanoi with only a handful of mental breakdowns. It’s been an exhausting, stressful and chaotic week, with the odd moment of joy, which stopped us from going back to the airport and departing for less humid climes. There’s been so much to take in and adapt to in such a short space of time, but already we feel (a tiny bit) more confident in our ability to endure 9 months here! Note the uses of endure. Don’t confuse it with enjoy. We’re not at that stage of the process yet.
Remember when we said ‘we can’t help but feel lucky with our choice of organisation’? Everything may have been hunky dory on the induction day, but once the lessons rolled around, we found some big holes in the structure of the WLC. Before we lay into the organisation, we will say that in their defense, they did provide us with a curriculum and audio/video equipment. There is also an extensive collection of songs/materials that we can use. However, they have buried these so deep in a disorganised Google Drive. Once we’ve waded through the mess, we often find that the suggested supplements are totally irrelevant to the lesson objective! For example, for a lesson on ‘Where do you live?’, the WLC suggested the all time Lion King classic, ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. Whilst we both agree it’s a fantastic song (If you don’t like the song, please feel free to stop reading the blog. We aren’t for you), it doesn’t help poor little Grade 5’s tell people which street they live on!
However, when Monday evening came we calmly told one another: We’re already at an advantage being a foreigner (which is exciting in the eyes of Vietnamese kids) and English is our native language. These are two things you can’t teach; everything else can be learnt in time and improved with confidence. So we went to bed, the nerves eventually subsiding, allowing us to finally fall asleep in the early hours of the morning.
Lawrence’s first day started early. Breakfast at 6:30. Arriving at the Washington Language Centre by 7:30. Then hurtling on the back of a motorbike through rush hour traffic to be in front of Grade 5 kids by 8. On the flip side, Naomi had afternoon classes beginning at 2pm. It was a long wait pacing around the hotel room before she was unleashed into the classroom. The raging storm that led to the power cut that led to the fridge flooding the room, the WiFi dropping out and the air conditioning packing in didn’t help to settle the nerves, and made for a thumb twiddling morning. Thankfully, Naomi’s health had been restored to a solid 81% by this point, and continues to improve on a daily basis thanks to the nutritious Chicken Pho (soup).
We deliver our lessons using the provided Britney Spears-esque head sets/speakers, which save us from losing our voices and also makes for entertaining karaoke nights in. However our throats are still feeling the effects of shouting at 40+ misbehaving bastards children every day. This equipment is useful to have but it’s not the most reliable. So far, we’ve been through 4 chargers, and both had the speakers die on us mid lesson. We’re both pretty sure this didn’t happen to Britney on her 1999 ‘…Baby One More Time Tour.’
The many difficulties we’ve faced have meant we’ve both leveled up on Improvisation. Between us we’ve survived:
- Power cuts in the classroom.
- Vietnamese teachers accidentally already teaching the lesson we’ve planned for resulting in making up a new lesson plan on the spot.
- PowerPoint’s not working/projectors not existing!
- Dodgy team name suggestions, e.g. Team ISIS. Naomi was hesitant, but the TA snatched the chalk from her hand, and cackled as she wrote it on the board. Lawrence is not able to confirm whether the TA actually cackled. He thinks she probably chuckled.
- Point blank refusal to engage by students.
- Last minute timetable changes.
- Lawrence covering 3 extra lessons a week for a mysterious no show of a teacher.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where there’s a class of 40 eyes all on you, and you feel completely helpless, just remember, you can always sing a song or play Shark Hangman.
Lesson planning feels very time consuming at the moment and the delivery of classes frantic and messy, particularly with the younger students in Grade’s 1 and 2 who have very limited English. We spent every evening of our first week labouriously churning out plans, which makes it tricky for them to be entertaining and fun for us, as well as the students. We know we will get quicker but at the moment TEFL is suffocating us, leaving no time to explore Hanoi. So apologies for the lack of photos!
The only silver lining is that the other teachers look more disheveled, are less prepared than us, and sometimes don’t even turn up in the flattering uniform we have been provided. We all expressed doubts about the whole job, and pondered quitting after day one, but after venting these anxieties and realising everyone else felt the same, we managed to laugh about it. Then we all went our separate ways and cried ourselves to sleep.
After a grueling 4 days of mental and physical exhaustion, dancing and singing the hello and goodbye songs multiple times a day (we are looking to expand our repertoire with time), we couldn’t wait for a relaxing weekend. But the WLC had other plans. On Friday night they sent an email round to all primary school teachers requesting we attend a training session on Saturday morning at 10am. We also had to be prepared to deliver a lesson they could give feedback on. It was the last thing anyone wanted to do but we decided to go and it turned out to be very helpful. We were among the 4 out of 8 teachers that decided to show face, which made us look even more committed to improving. We’re happy to be the primary teacher swots if it means the WLC will go out of their way to help us in the future and potentially give us a pay rise.