If you’re looking to teach abroad, the dynamic Asian country Myanmar can offer something truly unique. XploreAsia has been sending teachers to Myanmar for the past couple of years and we recently caught up with one of our graduated TESOL course students Kai Hallberg to talk about his adventures in the country’s former capital Yangon.
The Kids Learning About Winter Clothes
Hi Kai. After finding out about XploreAsia, what made you decide that Myanmar was the right place for you to go teach?
I had my heart set on Myanmar for a number of reasons. Mainly, I knew it would be an interesting time in history to come, and I wanted to experience the rapid social/economic/cultural changes that are occurring here. I wanted to explore a new place where the culture and society would be far removed from what I am used to.
When I arrived in Yangon, I found that the city is stuck in the past in some ways but leaping into the future in others. This juxtaposition seems to apply to everything. Fashion, transportation, music, technology, infrastructure, you name it.
What have been the highlights of your experience teaching in Yangon?
The staff and teachers at my school really helped make it a great experience. They were kind, welcoming, and supportive from the very start.
Some of the best times for me were with my adult classes. I really enjoyed our conversations about how things are changing in Myanmar, and what young people care about/are concerned about here.
Another highlight for me was morning assembly time with the preschool. It’s too cute watching a bunch of 4 to 5-year-olds try to stay still for 5 minutes during “meditation time”.
What does a typical day as a teacher in Myanmar look like?
I started work 9:00 am and I would usually grab breakfast at a nearby tea shop on the way. The day ended at 5pm, but my schedule changed based on the time of year. For the first several months, I spent the morning with the preschool, which usually consisted of a morning duty (e.g. gate duty or assembly duty), followed by an hour of lesson time. After lunch, I taught two adult classes: one at Aung Tha Pyay, and the other at NELC. During this period, I had some downtime between classes to plan lessons.
My schedule during summer school (March to May) was very different. These three months busier as my school was flooded with young-learners from government schools. I had 5 or six almost back-to-back classes every day and it was definitely my most challenging period as a teacher. During this time, lesson planning had to be done outside of work hours as I had many more classes to teach.
What would you say to people who are looking to teach abroad and are considering Myanmar?
Do it. But if you come, you have to learn how to roll with the punches. One piece of advice given to me during my orientation week has particularly stayed with me: “things aren’t always as they seem.” There will be miscommunication, mistakes, and stressful times, for sure. However, if you learn to be flexible, understanding, and patient, I promise the experience of being here in Myanmar is well worth it.