Vietnam: A Teacher’s Paradise
September 6, 2017
Nearly everyone who has taught English in Vietnam raves about how great it is. And that’s for very good reason. There are countless benefits of teaching in the country, and each teacher’s experiences are unique, but here are some things that everyone appreciates.
Cost of living is very low. You can lunch on a delicious bowl of pho and one of Vietnam’s famous ice coffees for a couple of dollars. You can find a great room in a converted French colonial building for a few hundred dollars per month. And there are plenty of cheap travel options to the rest of south-east Asia.
What makes Vietnam unique is not its low cost of living, but the combination of low costs and high wages. Classes range from anywhere between $18 and $35 per hour. That’s a lot of coffee and noodles! It also means that you get to decide your own work-life balance appropriately. Some teachers survive on minimal classes and keep the rest of their time for exploration. And who can blame them?
The range of salaries also represents the diverse teaching opportunities that Vietnam offers. From total beginners to seasoned experts, Vietnam’s wide array of options ensures that there’s the perfect class for everyone, if you know how to find them. From private-classes and home-tutoring, to state-schools and universities, Vietnam has options for everyone.
What is more, as a teacher, you are treated with respect. Vietnam truly values its teachers as they realise the value of education, a trait that is being lost in much of the western world. On Teacher’s Day, you can expect to be showered with gifts, food, and flowers. A symbolic token of the generosity that you will receive throughout Vietnam from its warm and welcoming people.
Vietnamese people have a great sense of humour and will welcome you into their homes without question. During my time in Vietnam, I was continually impressed by strangers going massively out of their way to help me. I experienced a level of hospitality that made me feel ashamed of the welcome Vietnamese people likely get in return when visiting my own country.
Unless you’re really in the middle of nowhere, you’ll also have access to a great group of fellow expats and a lively social scene. Many of the home-comforts that you might crave after a long time abroad are all easily accessible. From roast dinners to open-mic nights, Vietnam pretty much ticks all the boxes.
Though for many, the real joy of Vietnam lies in the adventure it offers. From towering rice paddies that terrace hillsides like the seats of a coliseum, to the karst limestone mountains that jut out of the sea. North, south, east, or west, adventure is everywhere in Vietnam. There is enough wildlife, culture, and stunning scenery to keep someone satisfied for a hundred lifetimes. And it’s oh so easy to find. Take any road and you’re bound to find something of interest. Overgrown temples, forgotten villages, war relics, storytellers, new friends, all ready to be found.
Vietnam is a country of memories lying in wait for you to discover them. So what are you waiting for?
Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam
Top Teaching Tips for First Time ESL/EFL Teachers
September 5, 2017
First things first, stop giving yourself a hard time. It is completely natural to have nerves. Unfortunately for most teachers, those first-class nerves never really go away. You do however, learn how to deal with them.
The more you plan before a lesson, the less there is to be nervous about. Having some back-up activities and extension activities is always a great reassurance, even if you never use them.
When you are planning a class, have a clear aim for what you want to achieve. Once you have decided your primary (and secondary aims), work backwards from there to reach your goal. A well-structured lesson will start with controlled exercises, then move on to semi-controlled exercises with more room for student improvisation. Once you have achieved this semi-controlled practice, move onto free-exercises where students have a chance to use the new vocabulary/grammar/skills with autonomy.
Preparation goes beyond planning. Be creative with your learning-material. Get your scissors, tape, and post-it notes out. Find interesting, high quality images. If you have great learning content, then half the battle is won. Be sure to create materials that work with all learning types. Technology provides us with an almost infinite amount of material to work with, but remember that it can be unreliable. Every teacher at some point will have painstakingly prepared a class using online materials, only to discover that the internet is having a day-off.
Despite the benefits of preparation, it isn’t the be all and end all. Good teachers make good activities, great teachers know when to abandon them. Some classroom exercises might feel like a stroke of educational genius in your head, but in practice just don’t work. Change it up and move on. There is no point persisting in an exercise that isn’t working, just for the sake of your own ego. Most experienced teachers will also tell you that sometimes improvised classes that abandon plans, can turn out to be the best ones. There is even an educational theory called “Dogme” which suggests abandoning plans completely in favour of a naturally flowing class that goes wherever conversation takes it.
Be sure to utilise concept-checking questions to ensure students have understood what you have taught them. Student feedback is essential to knowing that you are teaching effectively. Often new teachers get too caught up in speaking that they don’t give students a chance. Remember that teacher-talking-time should only take up about a fifth of the lesson. Don’t lecture!
It also helps to have some great safety games to fall back on. Is your class unresponsive and apathetic to your exercises? Sometimes, nothing beats a good game of hot-seat or pictionary.
If a class does go wrong. It’s important not to dwell on it, yet even more important to learn the lessons from it for next time around. It’s not unknown for teachers to have terrible first classes and fantastic second ones!
Your greatest resources are your colleagues and friends. Talk to other teachers - newbies and old-hands. You don’t need to take what they say as gospel, but play it off your own ideas or use it for inspiration. Experienced teachers are veritable encyclopedias of educational knowledge, brimming over with great ideas and solutions. They have lived these experiences before and know what you are going through.
Always remember to use your personality to your advantage. No two teachers are the same, and that’s a good thing. Whether you’ve got a big bubbly personality or a dry sense of humour, as long as you bring a positive learning experience into the classroom, you’ll be able to catch your students’ imaginations. Enjoy yourself and you will inspire a love of learning. Good luck!
Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam
6 Great Teaching Games for 5- to 7-Year-Olds
May 1, 2017
Students aged five to seven are a joy to teach. They are naturally inquisitive and more often than not, full of joy. However, it is safe to say that their irrepressible energy provides teachers with some unique challenges. Here are Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam’s top-notch teaching games for harnessing this energy, and changing it from an obstacle to an advantage.
If you’re from the United Kingdom, you may well know this game as ‘Chinese Whispers’, a title that is now considered politically incorrect. The concept is simple; sit students in a circle and choose a word/phrase from that lesson’s target language. The first student must whisper the word to the student to his right, that new student then whispers to the student on their right, and so on until the turn of the final student in the circle (the student sat left of the original student). This final student must repeat what they heard out-loud for the class. The game then repeats by switching both the initial student and the chosen vocabulary point. A lot of the time, the final students will get the answer completely wrong, but that’s all part of the fun. The game is not only an enjoyable time-out, but it provides subtle language drilling; students will unwittingly focus on the pronunciation of the language they repeat.
7 Excellent Attractions in Hanoi
April 19, 2017
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
This striking building is perhaps Hanoi’s most iconic monument. Inside is the preserved body of beloved leader Ho Chi Minh. It is worth getting up early at around 6am for the impressive changing of the guard. It is well worth the surreal experience of visiting his body but opening times are strange, it is only open in the morning and not every morning. Be sure to look it up before you visit to avoid disappointment.
10 Unmissable Foods in Hanoi
April 19, 2017
There is not one single food capital in Vietnam, but the capital of Vietnam certainly has a lot of incredible food to offer.
- Phở (pronounced ‘pherr’)
You can’t walk down a street in Hanoi without finding a pho joint. Whether you prefer the classic bo (beef), or the slightly lighter ga (chicken) this iconic dish is a must. If there really is a chicken soup for the soul, then this is surely it. It’s available any time of day and is a popular choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s best with the local black pepper, lime, chili and garlic sauce that sits on nearly every table.