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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Teaching English in Hanoi Haphazzardly - Part II

One of my favorite classes - Language Arts & Drama
As one 5-year-old boy jumped (again) over the small table resembling a Japanese chabudai, another boy flung something gooey from his mouth across the room. I tried to lasso the energy from the other rambunctious children into an organized cluster of Phonics-learning-focused students. The noisy mob resisted every single one of my fool-proof teacher tricks.

Food is cheap in Hanoi, especially if you frequent the street food vendors.
Not sure that we'll go to the "Eel House" again, though.
I'd been taught a mantra early on in teaching... "Rules are the foundation of effective classroom management". 
Children have to understand what you're saying in order for that to work. 
Besides, rules are different in every culture. And this being my first class in Vietnam, I was still in the grasping stage of appropriate means of pupil wrangling. So far, I was learning that Vietnamese children can misbehave exactly the same as American children. We can thank television for that, my haggard voice echoed in my head.
So, I went with Plan B. 
I turned on the television.

The room quieted within seconds and my maniacal group of non-conformists melted together in front of the big screen. Only heavy breathing emanated from the dark holes that gaped open below their sniffers. "Meri's Super-Fun Phonics Monday" was replaced by Bob the Train teaching Phonics. I had 13 glorious minutes to figure out what to do for the rest of the hour and a half. 
Phonics for 5-ers for 1 1/2 hours??
What was I thinking when I signed up for that?

Don't 'Pokemon Go' and drive in Hanoi.
Traffic is dangerous enough already.
I almost burst out with a "Hallelujah!" when the classroom door creaked open and an adult emerged. But instead of a Teacher Assistant, a well-coiffed director walked in and stared disapprovingly at the mass of little bobbing heads glued to the colorful, singing train. I clapped in rhythm with Bob and pretended not to see her unsmiling stone-face looking my direction. But, curiosity got the best of me. She probably read self-conscious humiliation in my body language when my gaze shot from her cold eyes to the floor. Her black Gucci sandal lurked mere centimeters from the glistening glob of whatever it was the kid earlier had launched from his mouth. I visualized her perfectly polished piggies squealing "Wee-wee-wee-wee-wee!"all the way to the salon for an anti-bacterial pedi soak.

In true cruiser fashion, Carolyne and I hit the thrift shop for
used clothing. I needed garments without boat holes for work.
My situation wasn't ideal. But, after Whiny Baby snaked my classes I was left with a very difficult schedule to fill. I took what I could get. In the end, I wasn't chopped up into small pieces or turned into a sex slave when I went on an interview...
At night.
In a dark alley
At a stranger's house.
Instead, I was hired to teach Science and Phonics to different aged children at different schools by a lovely married couple. But, as the director bored holes into me with her eyes (which I think meant I was supposed to turn off the television), I had an epiphany. Teaching one subject for one and a half hours straight to 5-year-old students with no back-up is...
not my carafe of coffee...
which is how I ended up teaching Language Arts and Drama to 8-year-old angels instead.  
There are days I NEED this. Like every day.
I have my shyer children use puppets (or make their own)
to help them break out of their fear of English.

(Take THAT all of you who snubbed my Theater degree!)
((and BTW, many employers will grab up degree holders in Science, Business and "Drama"))
<sizzle sound>
I mentioned in my previous post that Jim and I read several blogs about foreigners and their experiences teaching in Vietnam before arriving in Hanoi. We decided beforehand that if Hanoi didn't "feel" right that we'd relocate. Some of my favorite blog stories came from these writers:

Our Big Fat Travel Adventure where Brits, Amy and Andrew, share their exploits of teaching in Hanoi. They also talk about work permits, how much money they made and teaching opportunities HERE. And thank you, Amy, for the Strepsils tip. I carry them everywhere!

An Overdue Adventure,written by Siobhan from the U.K., wrote this article on teaching in Hanoi for TESL Jobs World.

And we really loved reading Peter's Big Adventure. He has a wonderful post with lots of colorful descriptions in his Guide To Living in Hanoi. And, how he can be so hilarious after his traumatic teaching experience... well, it's a great read on how NOT to do it. If you like blackmail and threats of deportation stories, his stories are goodies.
WARNING: don't drink and read - can cause severe choking fit if beer goes down wrong way during gafaw!
Peter's Dumb Luck Part I
Peter's Dumb Luck Part II
Peter's Dumb Luck Part III


We've been in Hanoi for five weeks now and I'm still not 100% sure how things work. But, here are some considerations if you're contemplating teaching:
Chinese checkers to pass the slow season

Length of Stay: I've found it difficult to secure employment because my commitment here is only three months. Many employers won't hire with less than a 6 month commitment. Some want a year contract. I know of some that demand a 2-year contract. Because I won't lie, I've been turned down by wonderful employers because it's not in their best interest to hire, train... and then lose an employee after 12 weeks. Completely reasonable.

Work Visa: Depending on who you ask, you'll likely get different answers. However, this is what I've gleaned.

Working on a 3-month Tourist Visa (which is legal) can be the cheapest route, but may not be totally hassle-free. Before the 3-months is up the Visa holder needs to extend their Visa (which I understand can be a circus if you hire the wrong agent) OR do what most foreigners do... leave Vietnam. Flights to Thailand are fairly cheap. I found a roundtrip flight 2-weeks out over 5 days (because if I'm going to Bangkok I want to see some of it, right?) for $134US. There are certainly cheaper ways, but $134 round-trip sounds wonderful to me.
Who's a cute Bozo Puppy in the tree??
But, other costs accrue quickly, including hotels, meals and shuttle service. A pre-Visa is required for most foreigners entering and re-entering Vietnam - each and every time, per person. That's $20US online for the paperwork. Then, there's $25US when you arrive. And there's the consideration that the school you're working for won't want to give you the time off to "get legal". In fact, they might not hire you at all. On the flip side, there are tons of qualified teaching foreigners looking for a quick buck who'd be willing to cover your classes in your absence and some schools appreciate your ability to find your own substitute.

Another option is to sign a contract with a school for a said period of time and having the school agree to pay for your working Visa. Just be sure to read Peter's escapades linked above before you decide to go this route.

Class Schedule: Unless you work at a public school full-time, many classes are in the evenings and on the weekends. The "prime-time" is from 5:30-7pm. I jumped for joy when one of the directors added a class to my schedule Saturday night. I now work from 3:45-6:15pm... in the same building!... which brings us to...
A cheaper way to shop
Location: Hanoi is a huge city. It's a headache alone trying to piece together a smart and efficient teaching schedule. I learned quickly that accepting jobs in districts outside my Google Map self-made perimeter cost me time and money just getting from Point A to Point B. I don't accept those jobs anymore.

Living Arrangements: In hindsight, I like what we did as Hanoi Newbies. We booked a cheap-ish room at a hotel in the French Quarter for a month with decent internet, A/C and a fridge near the street food vendors. No cooking, no cleaning, no utility bills = Happy Meri! Our hotel has a queen and a double for $500US a month. It's a great location to stay temporarily until landing a more permanent job. Afterward, apartment hunting in the district where you're working is smart.
I'm an enormous elephant next to the miniature Vietnamese.
But, we seem to dress similarly- covered up!

Carolyne makes new friends everywhere she goes!
Lesson Plans: Even though I thought I would HATE (in capital letters) teaching English to pre-schoolers, Whiny Baby left me two back-to-back classes.
He's a saint.
But I realized after the first day, qualified Teacher Assistants offered support and provided the curriculum and lesson plans at the center. This is way easier.
I come in.
I'm given an easy lesson plan.
I go over the lesson plan in class.
There's singing and games and dancing. The blocks are only 45 minutes each.
Thank you, Whiny Baby!
I am having so much fun and my kids and I ROCK the Hokey Pokey!

Seriously - just because a class has a book (and some don't), it doesn't mean there are activities to accompany the curriculum. Coming up with ideas for 45 minutes is a breeze compared to an hour and a half. I've found flashcards at local stores, I've used puppets, I've brushed up on songs I haven't sung in years and I'm currently learning how to make animal balloons. It might be a disaster... or it might be fun. I'll let you know in Part III.

Tom Yum Hot Pot OR Lau Thai
And there are things I haven't even thought of yet to add to this list (or things I can't write about yet, like pay, because I haven't been paid yet)... so it will have to wait for a month or so until I discover if I'll tap dance or rant in Part III. I prefer the tap dance. Until then, my next post will be about the FOOD!!

1 comment:

  1. As well as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang there are also many teaching opportunities in the smaller, lesser known cities as well.