Over the last few months I have lived and worked in Hanoi as an English Teacher for a Private Language Centre. My day to day routine is very much dependent on the hours and responsibilities that come with my position at the centre. My schedule can switch and change depending on team meetings, training and teacher cover. Generally, however, it does stay the same. In just a few months I have managed to build a routine that allows me to pursue hobbies, travel and explore the vibrant city of Hanoi and beyond. As I work for a Private Language Centre, I’m required to teach 25 hours over the evenings and the weekends, with two days off during the week. Initially, I thought I might find this schedule hard to regulate. And as someone who’s been used to having weekends and evenings for quite some time, this schedule felt somewhat strange. However, I have grown to love it! I have found time that I never thought I would have.
Average Weekday Working Schedule
07:00 – Wake up, go to the gym (normally)
My alarm goes off. Slowly I’ll drag myself out of bed and to the gym. My local gym is just around the corner costs around $12 a month. Or (300,000 VND). At this point I appreciate the luxury of being able to snooze for another 30 minutes if needed. After my tiring 9-5 routine back home, time is for once on my side in the morning.
09:00 – Head back home
We arrive home and prepare a delicious and colourful plate of fruit for breakfast. Brew a coffee and watch the news. Once I’ve had a chilled breakfast I’ll get myself ready for the day. I’ll start thinking about any errands that need to be run and which of Hanoi’s many incredible coffee shops we’ll be heading to.
10:30 – Set out to our coffee shop of choice.
One of the most appealing things about Hanoi is its endless amounts of cafés and lunch spots. It would take you a very long time to discover Hanoi’s entire extensive coffee scene.
Once we’ve found our spot, we will spend a couple of hours enjoying one of Vietnam’s many delicious coffees. My favorite being the coconut coffee and Eddie’s a traditional egg coffee. Here we will work on various different things. Generally I will write about our experiences in Vietnam, travel plans and teaching for our blog.
Eddie uses this time to write for a second income. As an experienced content writer he is able to earn money by writing for others online and for his own websites. We try to be productive as we can!
Most of our friends also use this time to pursue various different hobbies and side jobs. Some English teachers choose to tutor in the mornings, others learn to play guitar and a couple even rock climb. It’s precious time most of us are not used to having, and something that is greatly appreciated by most teachers here.
12:30 – Lunch time
Decide what we fancy for lunch. Again, the choices are endless.
Eating out in Vietnam can be as cheap as $1 for a delicious meal. It is arguably cheaper than buying and cooking in. Depending on how we are feeling, we could go for a western brunch or a street side Pho.
Western food is much more expensive, but cheaper than home. It’s generally a treat we allow ourselves once a week.
14:00 – Naptime
With full bellies from lunch, we head home to get an hour of chill time before we set off for work.
During this time we usually take the opportunity to have a nap like the locals or to watch some TV.
15:00 – Commute time
Set off on our 30km commute to work. Don’t worry, a 30km commute isn’t the norm for most teachers in Hanoi.
Eddie and I were placed in a center 30km outside of Hanoi. We made the decision to continue living in Hanoi and to commute by bike to work. It usually takes us about 40 minutes depending on the traffic.
Most teachers can expect up to a 30 minute commute, sometimes even longer if traffic is bad. Generally a job in a private language center will require you to travel during rush hour, which means commute times can vary greatly.
16:00 – Arrive at our English Language Centre
Lessons in our center don’t start until 17:30 during the week, which allows us plenty of time to review lesson plans and prepare for the evenings two lessons. Each lesson at our center consists of two blocks of 45 minutes, with a 5 minute break in between. Every English teacher is different. Some teachers like to carry out all of their planning and printing on one day, others prefer to arrive early to prepare before their lessons. I personally prefer arriving an hour before class begins each day to prepare lessons. This is mainly because it keeps things fresh in my mind and I don’t end up with brain fog in class.
17:00 – ‘They’ arrive
The evening starts to get into full swing.
I start to hear feet pattering in the corridors and the squeals of excited children ringing in the air.
At this stage I find it very difficult to actually get anything done. The kids seem to know few boundaries and I find them running in and out of my classroom as they please. As I teach the younger ages, it is very hard to ignore them.
I quite enjoy this period of madness. As I teach the younger ages I use this time to try and tire them out as much as possible before they have to stay relatively calm during my class.
17:30 – First class
We do our best to calm our students and line them up for class before teaching begins.
At this stage every day is different. Some days classes are a dream, others are a nightmare. It all really depends on how prepared you are for lesson, what sort of mood your students are in and what sort of mood you’re in.
“Teacher fit” is a term I have heard used to describe a certain fitness level that can only be obtained through teaching. At first I didn’t really understand what it meant, but after gaining experience as an English teacher, now I certainly do.
Teaching has you running around, dancing, singing, jumping up and down, shouting words and generally pacing. It is a term that is particularly appropriate for kindergarten teachers.
Two classes in a row can really take it out of you.
20:45 – Home time!
The bell rings for the end of the day’s final lesson. We say goodbyes to our students and send them on their way home. Once all of our admin is completed, we aren’t far behind them. It’s time for us to reflect on the evening’s lessons and think about what we might do differently in the future. As teachers I believe we learn something new from each and every lesson. I always leave the classroom feeling as though I have gained something.
21:45 – Arrive home
We throw together a simple meal, such as a stir-fry or omelet and appreciate some well deserved peace and quiet. Depending on how we are feeling, we may stop in at one of the street food stands for dinner.
During this time we will wind down with a book or some TV. It’s often quite hard to shut off after being so active for the last few hours, so allowing ourselves this time is necessary.
Weekend Workday Schedule
As I mentioned before, if you are an English teacher in a Language Centre it’s likely you’ll be working long hours over the weekend. For us we teach 3 lessons on Saturday mornings and 3 lessons on Sunday afternoon/evening.
It can be a challenge sometimes getting in for 8am on a Saturday morning, but I quite like it. I don’t know whether it’s the time or whether the kids haven’t been at school all day, but I find they are somewhat more chilled.
Around those hours we stick to a similar routine, with a few beers with friends thrown in on a Saturday evening.
Days off in the city are my favourite. Simply hopping on a bike with no plan and no particular place to go is a great feeling. Hanoi is full of interesting things to do and some wonderful things to see. If we’re feeling more adventurous, we might even hop on our bike and head to Ba Vi National Park or Tam Coc. Both a straightforward 2 hour drive from Hanoi.
In the evenings we will normally meet up with our pals from work and go to an open mic night or to a karaoke bar. We definitely work hard, but the reward is so worth it.
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