Upon first arriving inHanoi, I was working for a language centre called Washington ETC. It is a small centre on Vo Thi Sau in Hai Ba Trung District and I had sorted out the placement prior to coming to Hanoi, which took a load off mind.
When I first started there was only one other foreign teacher working there aside from me, although I think now this has changed.
Overall, this was a pretty good place to start my first ESL Teaching job. John and Thuy, my employers, were very welcoming and helpful. If I had any queries about anything to do with my stay in Vietnam, they were always very ready to help. One criticism I would probably give to this language centre, was that I was truly thrown in at the deep end with little support, and my classes were recorded on cameras in the room and projected onto the big TV screen in the lobby of the center so that parents, students and colleagues could all sit and watch me teach… no pressure!
When I applied for the job, I was specifically told that I would be provided with some “training” before I was let loose in a classroom. This “training” was merely a couple of observations of a couple of classes. My first class was one of 5 and 6 year olds, which absolutely terrified me. It was a 90 minute lesson, and the children were only allowed one 5 minute break half way through. They were expected to sit at the table for the entire duration, and behave and participate in a structured lesson, which provided no real play time and the class was just so small there was no room to play games. I received many young students of this age, with each class averaging around 22 students. I received little help from any assistants, who were actually receptionists working outside of the room – I would have to go up to them and ask for their help if I was struggling with classroom control, and would often received a rolling eyed expression. (I think though, that they have added assistants to the young classes since my leaving).
Over the next few weeks I was given my full teaching schedule, and I found that I really bond well with children from 8 years old and older (though my teen class was rather difficult as one might expect from a class of 13 year old girls who definitely do not want to be studying on a Saturday morning). My Director clearly realised this and my total schedule consisted mainly of 8 year olds to 12 year olds, and I loved it.
Working at Washington ETC gave me a lot of confidence within teaching and I definitely thank them for giving me that experience.
I chose to leave the company when they suddenly, last-minute, retracted their agreement to give me my annual holiday leave despite having put in the request and it being granted months before. This sudden change of heart was due to “lots of new classes starting”. They did, however, offer me an alternative – to cut my contract short (losing my bonus) and sign a new contract (with no bonus and no guaranteed hours) to start when I returned. This new contract also required that I work solely for them, noone else including private work, despite the unguaranteed hours…
At the time I had no choice, as my mum was arriving over the following week, so I agreed in order to maintain my job. When I collected my pay at the end of the month, they decided to tell me that they had decided to hold onto my bonus until I had completed the new contract!
It was then I decided to look elsewhere…