Everyone told us the first week would be stressful, chaotic and disorganised. They weren’t joking.
We were thrown in at the deep end, having been in Hanoi just over a week we found ourselves teaching our first lesson Monday morning, to a class of roughly 48 children. But let me recap…
Hanoi is awesome. It’s a really diverse, colourful, high energy capital city and there’s a great atmosphere no matter which district you find yourself in. Those who call Hanoi home are hospitable, hard working, no nonsense people who find us pasty Westerners fascinating for all kinds of reasons.
I came to Hanoi to teach English as it seemed like a novel way to live abroad while doing something fun, meeting like minded people, trying something a bit different in a place totally outside of my comfort zone. I actually hate public speaking, and the sound of my own voice (this may shock most people). So teaching several classes of 40/50 Vietnamese kids a week was a daunting prospect and something I hadn’t fully faced up to yet…
I was really nervous about teaching my first class of Grade 1’s on Monday morning. The prospect of so many little eyes staring up at me, waiting for me to educate them in the Queen’s English, was straight-up scary. But my nerves slowly evaporated as soon as I entered the playground at 7.30. Seeing all their friendly faces and being excitedly greeted over and over with their default “Hel-lo Tea-cher” made me so happy.
My first impressions of Vietnamese primary schools was ‘OMG, WTF, SO MUCH NOISE’. Music is often played during break times, teachers beat a drum to summon the children back to class, announcements and instructions are spoken over a kind of tannoy – it’s loud. The schools are huge in Hanoi and I was self conscious, scared of being outed as an amateur. When I realised that no-one in my first classroom spoke very much English, including my Teaching Assistant, I actually became a lot more chilled out.
Some TAs speak better English than others, it varies from school to school. Regardless of their ability they prove invaluably useful when it comes to enforcing the rules. Spanking and smacking is normal here. I had been told about this but didn’t expect it on my first day and it made me super uncomfortable quite honestly. It is used in some schools more than others, and I have made a mental note to be conscious of avoiding getting the little cutie pies into too much trouble at the schools where they are likely to get an ass-whooping..
Due to the low level of English spoken in my lower grade classes – I am teaching mainly 6 and 7 year olds – I feel almost like a master of the English language, which undoubtedly makes everything a lot less daunting. The children are absolutely adorable. They are totally mad, crazy excitable and at times unbearably loud (it’s cute at the moment but I’m pretty sure that’ll wear off…) Luckily I’m not expected to remember all their names, which is a blessing as there are an inordinate amount of children with the same name.
The award for this week’s coolest kid goes to one particularly cute six year old skinhead in a ‘Viva Brasil’ bomber jacket. The little guy had almost too much swag and spent the entire class sat at the back of the room, running the show like a boss. All the girls in the class were eating out of his hand, all the dudes wanted to be him. He spudded me on the way out – trust me this kid is a Big Deal.
The job is undeniably exhausting, draining and makes me tired to the point where I find myself falling asleep sat upright, but when I’m actually in the flow of it, in full Teacher Mode, it’s such fun.
So far, so good.