I had wanted to try my hand at English teaching for a while. In all honesty, I had assumed that it would be pretty easy. I did an intensive weekend course in Kingston University (London) a little while ago to get my TEFL certificate.
For my second month in Vietnam (after completing my motorbike journey from South to North) I accepted a short voluntary live-in teaching placement at an immersive homestay project in Hanoi (via Workaway). I would be living with all the students and teaching “casual” lessons as well as spending time with them to improve their conversational skills.
I personally found that I was much better at planning the lessons than executing them. How you think a lesson will go in your head is very different to how it might actually pan out. I really struggled to remember people’s names. I mean, I struggle to remember peoples names anyway, but it felt more embarrassing being the “teacher”.
My hearing is not so good and I didn’t consider how overwhelming and more difficult this would make teaching. When shy students spoke quietly, I could not hear them. When the whole class all spoke at once, especially in a debate setting, I found it difficult to hear and keep up with the conversation. I realised my memory retention is really quite bad. If people asked my specifically about verb, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, prepositions etc. I was floored because I couldn’t remember what they were or jack shit about them.
It’s sometimes a struggle to think of synonyms and phrase things in a way that students will understand. It can be tricky to keep them interested and with mixed ability classes I found it extremely difficult to find a good balance for everyone because the levels were vastly different. Often some students would feel bored and not challenged enough, and others in the same class would find the work too difficult.
The lack of organisation really bothered me and I felt that the project could have been organised more effectively and managed better. On several occasions, one of the managers asked me to change my entire lesson plan (for no good reason) the same day I was due to teach the lesson. We were given a debate list but I was often told to change the debate topic I had picked because it was “too controversial”. Why give me a list then?
Overall, the experience was a good one. My students were absolutely lovely and I enjoyed their company and helping them as much as I could. Having said that, sometimes living in the house with so many people could be a little intense at times. I enjoyed the experience but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. I don’t think teaching is my calling in life and I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I thought I would, nor did I feel that I was really any good at it or that the students were benefiting from my classes.
Whether this is something that would improve over time with practice I don’t know, but on the plus side I left the homestay project with a lot of new friends! We made some wonderful memories, drinking ice tea in the evenings, going camping, singing karaoke, going to the cinema, trips to Hanoi old quarter and visiting museums and monuments.