New Teacher Tales – Harri

In our New Teacher Tales series, we interview people teaching English abroad, about how, why and where they started out, about their experiences teaching abroad, and what advice they have for new teachers.

In this post, Hari, from the UK, talks about how she ‘fell into’ English teaching while travelling in Vietnam. This lead to a career in TEFL, as she’s since done a CELTA and Delta and is finishing her MA TESOL. She also met her husband in Vietnam and they currently live in Malta together.

Where do you work now?

I was working at Sprachcaffe Languages Plus in Malta as Assistant Director of Studies, but I’ve just finished that job so I can focus on writing my dissertation for my MA TESOL as well as go into teacher training.

At Sprachcaffe we offer residential English courses, and students come from different parts of the world to study English with us for one or more weeks, intensively. I taught multinational groups of adults general English, as well as IELTS and Cambridge exam preparation.

What’s the best thing about living in Malta?

It’s pretty chilled out and it’s allowed me to really grow (and qualify more) as a teacher.

A group of teachers at Sprachcaffe Malta
With my team of teachers in Malta

Why did you become an English teacher?

It was an accident! I had never even thought about being an English teacher before. After university, I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam for a few weeks and ended up in this massive city in the north (80km north of Hanoi) called Thai Nguyen, where I mostly just drank mango smoothies and read all day.

One day in a cafe, I was approached by this guy from India, we started chatting and in the end, he offered me a job teaching for this small company. At that time I had nothing much back in the UK so I went for it.

One British and one Vietnamese girl
During my first teaching job – no idea what I am doing!

Was this the right way to start?

I don’t know. Is there ever a right way to do anything? I must say though, I didn’t know anything at first and often felt like I was winging it. I think people should do an initial qualification to be allowed to teach. Being a native speaker does not qualify you.

Read our advice on what TEFL qualification you should do

What was your first teaching job?

As above – I was teaching the company’s workers. I hated it and they ended up underpaying me so I quickly moved to Hanoi to work after that and ended up teaching teenagers – some of which I am still in regular contact with – it’s been amazing to watch them grow up!

A group of Vietnamese students
With my students in Vietnam

Where have you taught?

I’ve taught in four cities in Vietnam: Thai Nguyen, Hanoi, Ba RIA-Vung Tau, and Ho Chi Minh City, in London, and Malta

What was your favourite place to work? Why?

Probably Ho Chi Minh City, I was there for the longest. I taught adult classes and IELTS preparation.

Teaching British Culture in Ho Chi Minh City
Giving a presentation on the British tea drinking culture in Ho Chi Minh City

Read our guide to teaching English in Vietnam

What is the best thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?

So so so many things. I have been able to travel and meet so many people, I met my husband in Ho Chi Minh City. But ultimately the beat thing that happened to me is that I found a job that I love and I’m passionate about.

After teaching for 5 years I completed my CELTA course, then a couple of years after that I completed my Delta, now I’m just at the end of my M.A in TESOL and started a new chapter as a teacher trainer. Exciting times!

What is the worst thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?

I’ve missed a lot of big family events, that’s the worst. But really nothing. It’s a great career to build!

Read more stories of English teachers in Vietnam.

Is there anything you would change about your time as an English teacher?

Absolutely nothing. I have been so very lucky.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an English teacher?

When I started teaching (almost 13 years ago!) things were very different than they are now. There is so much more competition and some countries are really cracking down on people without work permits. Do an initial qualification like CELTA. Don’t go for a cheap online course – you’ll get nothing from it in the long run.

Read more stories of how English teachers started out in our New Teacher Tales series.

Would you like to be interviewed about how you started teaching English? Let us know via our Facebook page.

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