By Eva Dianová, Teacher in Bien Hoa
Some information about my school
I teach for a private language center in Bien Hoa, which means my job slightly differs from public schools. The most significant difference is my schedule. Whereas public school teachers mostly work mornings and afternoons on the weekdays, I teach in the evenings and during the weekend. Also, I have one to three teacher assistants in my classroom – depending on the number of students. They take care of students’ homework, attendance and so on. This way, fewer admin tasks are left to the teacher compared to public schools.
How are your students?
Students come into our center after school, so you will most likely encounter two groups: highly motivated and sleepy pupils. Fortunately for us, the first group is much more common. Our school has three main groups of young learners, which are: Jumpstarts (3-6 y.o.), Super Juniors (6-11 y.o.) and Smart Teens (11-16 y.o.). The variety is wide, which is excellent for gaining experience. In general, students are polite, respectful and excited about all the activities done in the classroom. We also teach IELTS, adults and in-corporate classes, but that is not my case.
My favourite group so far are definitely teenagers! In the beginning, they can be tough nuts, but once they come out of their shells, you can appreciate their language capabilities, passion for leading long conversations about anything, and the hard work they put into their studies! Moreover, they are funny and, to my surprise, love most of the activities I come up with.
The youngest students are just adorable! The most significant advantage is that planning lessons doesn’t take up so much time compared to more skilled teenagers. Kids are playful, capable of learning a new language fast and pleased easily. On the other hand, teaching them requires a lot of energy, and some students may also miss their parents and cry for half of the lesson.
In my opinion, the most challenging group are juniors. Even though they are lovely and motivated to learn. They are placed by abilities, so you can have 6 and 10-year-old students in one classroom. Then you must choose the activities wisely to satisfy all students’ needs. But don’t take me wrong, I love teaching all of them. I prefer various schedules with all of the groups. It would be too easy to stay in your comfort zone and teach only what you consider a piece of cake!
How are your colleagues?
I am truly blessed to have amazing colleagues who became my second family here in Vietnam. About 27 teachers in Bien Hoa are from many different countries – USA, UK, South Africa, Columbia, Russia, Philippines or India. Thanks to my colleagues, the atmosphere at school is pleasant and supportive. Everyone is helpful, and they made my first weeks at work smooth and easy. We get together almost every Sunday after work and explore new restaurants and bars. We even celebrated last Thanksgiving together.
Is it difficult to manage your workload?
Honestly, my work-life balance has been unbalanced in the past few months. There is a simple reason behind this reason. I became a senior teacher, which was unexpected and made me incredibly happy! But I had to go through special training and learn thousands of new things to be able to support our teachers. We have also been struggling with a teacher shortage which caused a heavier workload. As an academic team, our main aim is to exceed our team and relieve our teachers. New teachers are finally coming, so I believe our situation will improve.
As a teacher, I would say that the workload is manageable, especially during the week when you have only one to two lessons in the evening. In other words, you can spend all day doing your stuff – you just need to ensure you come prepared for your lesson. Of course, weekends are different, but you can still steal some time for yourself. Moreover, on Mondays, our center is always closed.
What is an average school day like?
I used to teach six days a week, but with new teachers, we aim for our teachers to be off for 3 days. So now, I teach only on Wednesdays, Fridays and at the weekend. On Wednesday and Friday, I have the same classes. The first is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm (15-minute break is included), and a late shift from 7:40 to 9:10 pm (10-minute break is included).
I prefer waking up earlier and planning my classes in the morning, so before going to school, I can spend my time doing my hobbies before the lessons. In the evening, after teaching, I am more than happy to do nothing and go to bed. My school uses google drive with thousands of resources and pre-planned lessons. However, I prefer making my own slides and tailoring the lesson plans. On average, for a 120-minute lesson, it takes me about 45 minutes to make a plan and prepare slides. I arrive at the center about 30 minutes before my class. This way, I have enough time to print out some extra materials, prepare my basket and chat with my co-workers.
During the weekend, I have a morning class from 9:45 to 11:45; after that, we grab lunch. After that, I usually stay at work and do some admin work and help our new teachers with their lessons. Most of the colleagues go home, as they have some time before the next lesson. My last two lessons start at 4:15 and finish at 8:30. I have two different classes, but breaks are also included. Our Saturday tradition is heading to Texas chicken or different fast food with other teachers after work. On Sunday, we usually explore the city a little bit more and try some new places.
What is the most enjoyable thing about going to school?
For me, the most enjoyable part of working is, without a doubt, teaching. Even though sometimes this job can be challenging, especially dealing with some disruptive students or too pushy parents, teaching is my dream job. Apart from that, chatting with my colleagues has become an enjoyable part of this job. Our TSC is filled with various cultures and personalities, and getting to know them is a rewarding experience for me.
What is the least enjoyable thing about going to school?
I would say admin stuff and correcting the tests. I know it’s part of teachers’ duties. However, it is time-consuming, and I would rather spend this time teaching or prepping. I always procrastinate, and it takes me forever before I get down to work! 😀
If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about our school, I would love to change the sizes of our classes. Because of the lack of teachers, many of our classes have been overcrowded – about 21 students. I believe the smaller the class, the more rewarding the learning experience for the students. You, as a teacher, have the opportunity to focus on individuals and work on their insecurities. Luckily new teachers are coming, and we are finally able to split classes!