Teaching English in Hanoi can not only be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, it can also provide you with an excellent lifestyle working an average of 20 hours, yet still enable you to save money very easily.
Prior to coming to Vietnam, I had next to no teaching experience whatsoever (I very occasionally assisted teaching Art & Design to younger pupils in my school while in Sixth Form). Truthfully, I never had any desire to take a career in teaching, and believed that I wanted to work somewhere within the field of textiles. After loving Hanoi on my first trip, I saw ESL teaching as an easy way to get back there, believing I would look for something else once I was there.
After completing a combined TEFL course in England, I sorted out my teaching job before arranging to leave for Vietnam. I found my first job through ESL Employment, but The New Hanoian is also an excellent, preferred site for Hanoi expats looking for teaching jobs as well as housing, events, and things to buy/sell. Unlike most language centers who often throw their new teachers in at the deep end, I was lucky that my employer, Washington ETC, allowed me to observe and assist in many classes first. When I taught my first lesson alone, with my employer observing me in the background, I was terrified! I don’t even remember it so I must have blanked out.
Anyway, after the first class was over, I was hooked. I loved it! Children really are wonderful and give so much back without even realising. My favourite ages to teach were from 8 to 14. I have to admit I enjoyed teaching adults a lot less, but over the 18 months I realised that I loved teaching teenagers. Intending only to teach for three months, I was surprised yet happy to find myself still teaching 18 months later.
For my first 10 months, I was working 18-22 hours a week, and earning anything from $1200 to $1700 a month (depending on how many weekends were in that month as around two-thirds of my weekly hours were at the weekend). With that particular job I was paid in crisp US Dollar notes, cash in hand, and I paid no taxes. This is very common for many language centers, unless you work for an internationally-recognised language center. When I was working for Language Link, I received a higher hourly wage though I had to pay taxes so it worked out a little less. However, I was guaranteed to be paid for 95 hours a month, and not once did I actually work more than 75. On top of this, any hours that I covered for anyone, was considered “over time” as were parents meetings, and I was paid for the time on top of my wage. Another huge perk which really enabled me to save more sufficiently, was that I was also provided with an HSBC bank account (Very difficult for expats to get without a work permit). I think that Language Link has since changed the contract terms though.
Six months before I left Hanoi, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to travel for a few months before I headed back to England for a little while. So, I worked as normal at Language Link (evenings and weekends – as required in almost all language centers), and I covered for Schools Link teachers during the day. Schools Link is run by the same company, but instead of running classes in the language center, teachers are sent to various public and private schools to teach there. The hourly pay is higher though the class duration is shorter. I found that students who were learning English with Schools Link were of a much higher level, despite the similar age groups.
When I wasn’t working for Schools Link or Language Link, I was either tutoring privately, or teaching in a very large public primary school, in which class sizes ranged from 40 to 60 students. I only worked 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoons, two or three times a week. This work involved teaching the same half hour lesson 7 times in one day to different classes, which sounds easy and requires little preparation, but due to the high energy of the class it was more tiring, and the repetition was often a little dull despite me trying to change my methods each time.
I overworked myself in those final six months as I focused only on saving money, and I succeeded excellently, though I was teaching 35 hours a week over 7 days, always finishing at 9 or 10pm. I only had one morning lie-in, and when I wasn’t teaching I was often lesson planning. This isn’t necessary for most other people. 18 – 20 hours a week, spread over 5 or 6 days gives you a comfortable and easy lifestyle.
What I loved about teaching was that even if you’re feeling at your absolute lowest before you open the classroom door, the second you step inside, that feeling disappears as all your energy and focus is on the students, and their enthusiasm to learn is what keeps you motivated as a teacher.
In the 18 months I was an ESL Teacher in Hanoi, I taught in two language centers, countless public schools, and seven private classes. All of these classes varied in English ability, age, and class size. And I loved every single minute of it.