FOREWORD: I wrote this post back in September, but have been unable to publish it due to fear of my company finding out. I walked out of my job today (the day after payday) because I had no other choice -- had I given notice, they would have just not paid me.
I don't talk much about my job, and the reason is because I live and breathe it 48 hours a week. I physically and mentally clock out at 5:30 and don't like to think about it until I clock in again. I will say without hesitation that this is the hardest job I've ever had. Some people are naturals at dealing with kids, I am not one of them.
I was given a task here that I find very daunting: I am responsible for the 2nd Grade English education of eighty-five 7-year-olds. I work for one of the most highly-regarded English teaching companies in Ho Chi Minh City. This program is not free. The parents of these students pay an absurd amount of money by Vietnam standards to have their kids in our classes. This is not like when we were in elementary school in the States and had to go to one easy Spanish class a week -- half their classes are in Vietnamese, half are in English.
What they don't know is our lack of teaching education. It's a facade. The schools and parents are unaware of the fact that our company is made up of mostly backpackers with a TEFL they got online and little to no experience. They see a bunch of "white" faces and that's all that matters. This culture is so appearance-based that as long as you look the part, you're seemingly qualified.
That's pressure. I came here for life experience and to make a quick buck, and now I'm caught in this ethical crisis where I feel I owe these kids a proper education, one that their parents believe I'm delivering. I legit overthink it to insanity. If they don't know "they are", "aren't they", "these are", and "these aren't" in the next 3 weeks then it's my fault. If they don't know how to tell time by the end of the week, I've failed. There are huge expectations. We're teaching a difficult curriculum meant for native English speakers at an unrealistic pace, because Big Boss doesn't actually give a shit about what's good for the kids, only that Big Boss's company has a reputation of employing white foreigners and that we will magically cram all of the English into their heads because that's what Big Boss wants the parents to believe. Big Boss doesn't even know who we are or where we come from. I have literally never spoken to Big Boss. Respectable language centers in this city know that my company is corrupt af, but Big Boss knows the right people who make sure Big Boss's company is picked up by the public schools. This is how things work here.
I go into the office and hour early every day and leave an hour late slaving over perfecting worksheets, PowerPoints, and crafts because I can't wing it in the classroom like real teachers can. I am not qualified for this, but I can't sleep without knowing I gave it my absolute best effort. I won't even sugarcoat it: I'm losing my mind most of the time out here. I expend every ounce of my energy doing this job that I can't ever seem to get ahead in.
I become an angry dictator in one of my classes because the students are so defiant and uncontrollable -- fighting, grabbing at my clothes, screaming, having tantrums, playing with toys. I've never seen anything like it. I hate the person I become in that classroom. I have one kid in particular with massive anger issues (and some sort of mental disorder) who frequently hits and bullies the other kids and I can literally do nothing about it. In the West, this kind of behavior gets you immediately sent to the principal, your parents called, and usually suspended from school. In Vietnam, the only thing I can do is send the kid to the back of the room and have my Vietnamese T.A. call his parents AFTER class. We can't even send him out of the classroom because the school doesn't allow it. If he decides to have a massive 20-minute tantrum and refuse to do as he's told, we have to stop class to get him to calm down so I can continue teaching. I've contacted this boy's parents at least 5 times and they are fully aware of his behavior and do not care.
There's no use asking the company for assistance because our managers are powerless as well. We can't kick him out of the class because Big Boss loses money and the parents would have nowhere else to put him because Vietnam does not recognize mental illness and there are no special needs programs or classes. It's really sad how skewed the priorities are here. It's really unfortunate for the other students who lose class time (and are, like, bullied) because of one violent kid who doesn't belong in a conventional classroom and doesn't respond to discipline.
To continue the list of reasons this company is so corrupt, when we sign our contract we are forced to hand over the original copy of our degree. The exact wording in the contract is:
The Employee voluntarily submits for keeping, and the Company voluntarily consents to keep on behalf of the Employee, the original university degree.
But we aren't hired without agreeing to this, so it's actually not voluntary, it's technically coercion. If we leave before our contract is up, they won't give it back.
We're also penalized for sick days -- if we inform them that we're going to be sick the day prior before 8pm, we lose one day's pay. If we call in the morning, we lose a day and a half's pay. Ffs...
There's teaching in Vietnam for you. Granted, there are many good, rewarding things about this job (the pay, the experience, the good kids) and I've got a blog entry in progress about the pros, but the corruption and shadiness is real and someone needed to say it.
If you're considering teaching in Vietnam and have questions, send me an email and I can answer questions.
EPILOGUE: I quit my job yesterday (Dec. 5th) in a really unethical way, but I had no other choice. I'm going back to the States and had I given my notice, I would have been penalized half a month's salary. I wish I could have left on better terms, but I just had to run after payday. The company has my degree, which I won't be getting back (which I'm sure is illegal) but it's not worth the fight. It'll make an interesting story though: "Yeah, I don't have my college degree anymore because a company in Vietnam is holding it against my will until I pay them a grand for breaking contract because I needed to go home."