Teach English in Tuanpo Zhen - Huanggang Shi

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I was in Vietnam when I decided to teach English for the first time. I was traveling from South to North, but after reaching Hanoi, I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I decided to use the Capital as a base to explore the North of Vietnam over a longer period of time. During my 5 months in Hanoi, I decided to study for my TEFL qualification online, while also volunteering part time as an English teacher at an independent English Training Centre in the District of Dong Da. I thought that if I enjoyed teaching, it could potentially be something I can do long term. I’ve always been passionate about self-development and learning new skills, but I also liked the idea of sharing knowledge and experiences with others. Furthermore, I had thoroughly enjoyed communicating with local people while traveling through the country and I felt like teaching would be a good opportunity to learn more about the culture. The centre had only been operating for a few years, but they were at full capacity with students ranging from teenage years to middle aged adults. The majority of students were between 16 & 24, but the youngest student I taught there was 13 and the oldest was 40. As they were a similar age to me, I found it very easy to build rapport with each and every one of them. Their abilities mostly ranged from Pre-Intermediate to Upper Intermediate, but one of the things that struck me was how motivated the students were. Because of their age, they had all made their own decision to learn English. This meant that I didn’t have to worry too much about using discipline, as it was very easy to keep everyone’s attention. I also noticed that the more attentive the students were, the more I enjoyed the class. Another aspect of the centre which struck me was how laid back and relaxed the atmosphere was. For example, at the entrance was a small area to sit and drink coffee, so between lessons I would often chat to the students, other teachers and even my boss. This helped the students enormously, with both their confidence and conversational speaking skills. Each student had their own course plan (based on their personal goals and motivations for learning English) and the centre provided a variety of learning environments for them to experience. It wasn’t a traditional classroom-based centre, because my boss (the founder) knew that learning a language requires practise in a variety of situations. The USP of the centre was their ‘Free-talk’ sessions: A small number of students (between 2 and 6) would sit on the floor around a table and work through questions from a pre-assigned topic. It was the teacher's job to read the question out loud, define new vocabulary terms, explain new grammar, simplify the question if needed and prompt each of them to give their own answers, assisting with any language problems. It was also a chance for conversations to develop and cultural knowledge to be exchanged, which I thrived on. However, there were a few traditional, classroom-based lessons: These were with 1-8 students at a time. The centre provided me with class materials (usually IELTS books) which offer a lot of advantages. Using books was easier and less time consuming than creating my own lesson plans and provided a suitable syllabus for the level of the students. Also, the books provide a balanced mix of grammar, vocabulary and skills work in a progressive way that ensures continuity between lessons and units. I worked through the pages with the students, often adapting or replacing the activities to suit the student’s needs and motivation levels. There were also a lot of 1-1 lessons and because each student had their own course plan, it meant that each of these lessons were completely different. For example one girl was looking for a new job, so we spent several lessons within a week focusing on job Interviews. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my own interview experiences with her, before using role-play activities to address any problems in her speaking ability. Finally, there were also times when the students had to give a presentation on a specific topic such as healthy eating, hobbies, transport etc. The Vietnamese teachers were tasked with helping them write their presentation, and it was then my job to assess them. I didn’t just focus on vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar, but I also had to offer feedback on content and delivery, while giving praise to language points that were expressed correctly or fluently. During my time at the centre, there were several problems that I faced. For example sometimes I didn’t know the answers to specific questions about grammar, and there were one or two younger students who couldn’t stay focused. However overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. One of the more memorable students was a 40 year old man who lived next door to the centre. He was at Elementary level, so he could only form basic sentences and communicate on simple topics. He had requested 1-1 lessons, and I was his teacher for his first one. Later on I learned that after that first lesson, he had requested that I be his teacher from then on. He had a great sense of humour and even invited me out to dinner and drink beer with him. In fact, there were many times students invited me to dinner and/or drinks with them. This became one of the many perks of volunteering at this particular centre. To conclude, I now realise that teaching English is definitely something I want to continue with and I look forward to the joys and challenges ahead.