Charlotte Watts blog#1

TEFL Blog- Hai Phong, Vietnam

Blog 1 – A Quick Background

A quick background update- I’m Charlotte, 24 years old, from the UK. I am a graduate from Bristol Business School who has come to Vietnam to get some teaching experience before I start my PGCE in September.  It also helps that Vietnam is definitely my number 1 favourite country!!

This is going to be a brief blog about my teaching experience and overall thoughts of living and working in Vietnam, which will hopefully help you if you are looking in to it. It was really helpful to come through ELC as David, Lyn and their team were very accommodating and easily assessable, especially when I was a bit delayed coming out here.  I was slightly nervous when coming as all teachers had already met each other, but the team of little fairies – the Red Team (team that basically helps you with anything and everything) and everyone else were super welcoming and it also helped that I was ridiculously excited to be back in Hanoi again.

Hai Phong- I was placed with 23 others in Hai Phong which is about 90km East from Hanoi – definitely the best placement in terms of location and people (most probably biased but needs to be mentioned). First of all Hai Phong isn’t full of hustle and bustle in terms of tourists or events but it is most certainly authentic, here you are living in actual Vietnam. It takes a while to settle in but once you find the markets that you will visit weekly, your way to and from your favourite café that sells Ca Phe Sua Dua (Coconut coffee-amazingly sugary! – they love their coffee here) and the other little gems, you will begin to love this city! Also, it definitely helps that I am constantly surrounded by amazingly lovely people.  We live in a house of 20, which sounds overbearing but we have our own rooms and bathrooms so whenever in need of own time or socialising it is readily available. We are the minority, so we have met most of the other English teachers/foreigners living here which creates a nice little community. What also makes Hai Phong a great place to live for 5 months is that Cat Ba, Halong Bay and Hanoi are only 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours away. I have found that I regularly visit Hanoi as I have friends there and the bus journey is too easy. On some weekends and holidays, we go to Cat Ba which is a beautiful island, technically still classed as Hai Phong, just off the coast. A lot of tourists tend to go there as it is close to Halong Bay, has a few beaches, too good to be true scenery and a national park. As it goes for Halong Bay – absolutely breathe taking, definitely worth a weekend boat trip, I don’t think anything has to be said that google images doesn’t show.

Food wise- Vietnamese food revolves around rice, noodles and bread. Being in the bigger cities that are used to tourists eating is a lot easier but as Hai Phong is mainly populated with Vietnamese, getting to know the different dished proved to be quite difficult, especially as most stress only focus on one meal. At first, we did find that we tended to eat the same meal at the same places as that is what we trusted but over a couple of weeks we ventured elsewhere, and we are still finding new ‘favourite’ places. Also, we are adapting to the Vietnamese taste in relation to drinks, main meals and desserts, as when in Nam you have got to try new things!

Keep a look out for my next blog post on how I am finding teaching J

Blog 2 – Settling in to Teaching

Let’s just say teaching in Vietnam is an experience and I absolutely love it – you never really know what to expect.

At first I had no idea what was lined up for me, and I am not going to lie, the first week was a shock to the system as I went in blind. As I missed orientation I didn’t know what to expect in terms of teaching and I came over here with no experience (a part from the few weeks I had to do to get on to a PGCE) so I was slightly freaking out.  But!! the teacher assistants definitely came to my rescue- they are there to help control and translate in class which comes in super handy and also are great friends and tour guides. As well as the rest of the teachers as we all would group together to plan and talk about potential activities and games that may come in handy.

It did take a while for me to settle in to my teaching schedule, due to the schools changing their minds on class times/teachers and the TA’s switching, so getting to know the students and feel comfortable in a class setting took longer than expected. Now I work at 6 different primary schools per week and tend to have the same TA’s. Most of the classes are mad, and a few are pretty much impossible to control but the majority of them are great fun.  I find that because of the language barrier and the short attention span children have between the ages of 5-11 years, you need to be constantly enthusiastic to keep them from messing around and getting bored. Obviously, you have better days than others but that comes with every job, you learn to come up with games and activities on the spot according to how the kids are acting and you slowly begin to realise what they like and don’t.

Just a quick heads up, in Hai Phong, most of the males tend to teach in Secondary and High schools and the girls in Primary – not sure whether this is the same throughout the rest of Vietnam, but something you could look in to if you wanted to do both.  Only a few teachers work in the same school for the entire week but the majority hop around

A few of the girls and guys work at the DTLC language centre in the evenings as well and also Hai Phong is a 5 or 6 day week, it really depends on the luck of the draw who works the weekend. So overall there are three shifts in a day – morning, afternoon and evening. There is always usually a 1-2 hour break between each shift for lunch and dinner too. Getting back and forth from school is done by taxis and a bus, sometimes the schedule is a bit temperamental and at some schools you do have to wait around for a bit which can get a bit irritating (just pop into the nearest cafe) but it’s nothing to worry about.

Anyway, I hope this blog is helpful and I’ll be back soon with a day in the life of teaching.


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