The question I get asked the most is, "How do you teach English if you don't speak Vietnamese?"
The answer is mostly, pretty easily. I've touched a little bit here and there on how my job works but I have to write more in depth to really explain. Bare with me, this is the most I've ever written on here.
Getting hired: The company I work for will hire anyone. I didn't need any background in teaching or in English. They just want natural speakers. (None of my roommates have a background in teaching and they all have the same job as me). I moved here, then after a couple weeks I went to the company and I filled out an application. They throw you into a demo class and have you teach 45 minutes with no preparation (This was scary. If I had never taught before I would have bombed, I don't know how my roommates did it. They're amazing.). That Thursday I had an interview and signed a contract. Friday I got a couple hours of mediocre training and Saturday I started my job.
So I went in knowing nothing about teaching English and had to figure it out. Thankfully I have a lot of roommates with a lot of experience in the same company who gave me all kinds of games and ideas to get me started.
How our company schedules us: I've mentioned this before, but our school has many different campuses and they can send you to any school. I generally get placed at the same 2-4 schools every week. Luckily this gives me some consistency, and I know most of the students at the school where I am most often.
Obviously this is a challenge because you are working with different students every day. When you are at a school regularly it goes much more smoothly. They know you and respect you a little more and understand how you expect them to behave. Also you can actually learn some names.
When we arrive at our school we are given a sheet of paper with the classes we will teach, the times, the classroom, and the lesson number. We grab the lesson books we will need that day and plan our lessons. Most people just wing it. I am an extreme overly organized planner, but I really don't need to be at all.
|Planning lessons. A level 7 book.|
Level 1 lessons are generally 4 new words and a couple phrases (i.e. "how are you?" "thank you" "i'm sorry" etc). By level 9 they are learning intense grammar things that I had no idea about. Ages range from preschoolers to young teenagers.
|Level 9C, the highest level|
How I teach students: First off, organization and planning. For me, planning comes naturally. I keep a note book of all of my regular classes at different schools where I keep track of their names, what activities they've done, and other little notes (i.e. "likes drawing games", "talks a lot" "love colored markers" "trouble with he/she" etc). On my actual schedule I write down whatever activity they did the week before and plan what I want them to do this week. Because I teach the same lessons over and over and over, this takes me maybe 5 minutes a day and at least for me, makes a world of difference. Again, I don't have to do this at all.
|Everything in my bag, including my planner of student information, my coveted marker collection, and some verb flash cards.|
|My schedule at the end of a weekend|
Lastly, classroom management and the language barrier. There's no consistency so you can't have a regular cue to begin or settle down. And the kids don't understand what you're saying so you can't explain anything. Without getting too wordy (cause I haven't done that here yet, right?) in America we have tons of tips and tricks for classroom management and teaching good behavior. Vietnam...does not. Their management is based on demanded respect and consists of yelling and discipline (for example, making students stand for an entire lesson). In public schools, teachers can hit students. I cannot hit students (literally this is the only thing they tell you in interviews/training. "Just don't hit the kids.") not like I would anyway. Some of the students know that because we won't hurt them, they can act up in class (especially if no Vietnamese teacher is present). Hitting kids aside, I can understand that the discipline is just a cultural difference.
|Level 8 or 9?|
I will only yell one time. If it doesn't work, I will write rules on the board that I know they understand. Generally, "1. go to your desk. 2. sit down 3. be quiet 4. play game". I will stand quietly by the board looking angry and tap on step 1 until all students are at their desks, then tap on step 2 until they are all sitting down, etc. This works because a handful of students will understand, "oh if we are good we will get to the game". They will start yelling at each other and I can just stand and look angry. Eventually they all catch on. I will stand and tap on the board until every single student is sitting quietly in their seat. At the most, I've waited 15 minutes. Then I will have a Vietnamese teacher explain to them, "I want to play games and have fun and help you guys. But if you are misbehaving you lose game time." This is basically my "I give up" plan when a class is completely out of control and it works. It works a little bit faster and better each time I use it and they catch on.
|Level 1 or 2|
Other language barrier tips: act out everything while you say it simply in English. If I want them to "sit" "be quiet" and "raise your hand", I will do that. If I want them to "make a line" I will say it over and over and move them into a line. If I want them to "turn the page" I will say that and turn the page dramatically and loudly slap the next page (the little kids love to turn the page because they get to slap their desk). Then I write the next page number on the board. They catch on fast. With higher levels I act out verbs and things like that. It helps a lot to be animated and goofy.
I also draw everything. I always have lots of pictures on the board to point to. And I color code everything. I always use 3 different markers (and generally have more in my bag. If a class is good they get to use alllll the colors and they know that's a special treat that Teacher Tina has. I do things like use pink or red for women and blue for men when I'm teaching "he is" "she is" or "this is his" "this is hers" etc.
|Color coded "this is his" "this is her" game. Level 3.|
If you read this whole post I will give you 5 dollars.