Setting Up an English Course in Vietnam - a Graduate’s Story
2019-04-15 Mark Crocker Alumni Experiences
I worked as an Emirates Airlines flight attendant for over 6 years. In order to be accepted you need to pass multiple group exercises, a written exam and a two person interview. There are always over a thousand applicants but they only accept a very small number. Two years ago I left the company and moved to Vietnam where I noticed a great interest in younger people wanting to become flight attendants, but many were fearful of the Open Day, a two day process of interviews and exercises because they were not sure if their level of English was good enough. It didn’t take long for me and two friends, who had also worked for the same airline, to decide to put together an 8 day course for people interested in becoming a flight attendant.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nemanja R.
Our Very First Class
Our first class had 12 students. Needless to say it was a big learning experience for us because we had to gauge exactly how long each exercise should take, how much we should talk and how much we should let the students talk. I was glad to notice that all our students were highly motivated because to a lot of them, this was their dream job and by finishing our course they would be one step closer to their goal. The class curriculum consisted of group exercises that airlines still use during the application process, English knowledge tests and most importantly English speaking lessons. I would also tell them about my personal experience of how I first started and what problems I faced, but would end on a happier note, telling them in the end I did get the job, worked my way up to First Class and it was an amazing journey. I provided the students with both personal and company pictures during my journey as I think real pictures, especially of the one teaching you, motivates you more because it is a true story, not a made up photoshoot. Through my personal stories and photos they learned so much more about the lifestyle and the company than they would by just reading a formal text online. It really made them want this job even more.
Also read: The Top 5 Places to Teach English in Vietnam
What I Learned from that First Class
While teaching you are facing all the students and trying to have an equal amount of eye contact with each person. From my personal experience, the ones that nodded the most with a big smile, didn't do so well when it was time for a test. That told me that I was too focused on telling my story and teaching, but I did not go and ask them if they understood me nor did I test them to see if they were following me. The best advantage of a fairly small class is that you can provide individual attention and we did learn that we needed to have a whole day of just one on one talks, to tell them what mistakes they were making and how best to improve. In my class we had a range of 21 to 30 year olds. Even though together they were all smiles, they all had very different personalities and it was up to me to make them notice the small mistakes they were making because when applying for Emirates they will always follow a few relaxing questions with a more difficult one. This is where many people panic or freeze because they were not expecting the question or simply could not come up with the answer in a short amount of time. Since I have already gone through this process I was able to prepare them for the most common questions they could expect to be asked on the day of the interview.
Every Student is Different
As mentioned before, I would do a lot of 1 on 1 with the students on the course while the rest were doing an exercise because they are very different from each other. Some students are very relaxed but overly loud. Others could be very shy or their body language would be totally inappropriate without them even noticing it. Each student was given the same exercise but it really helped that because of the size of the class I could give individual attention to each, which in the end ensured they all improved by a large margin. Usually the younger ones were the most eager and the slightly older ones often liked to second guess what was being taught. That was actually good because it showed me how important it is to know your material and what you are talking about, otherwise someone can pick up on it and it would be an embarrassing situation for sure.
Also read: Top Tips for Teaching English One-on-One
Hard Work Pays Off
What I really learned from all this is that if you have a very big class, you can still do a great job as a teacher, but unfortunately you will not be able to cater to everyone individually. Some are reluctant to ask a question because nobody else is doing it so they don’t want to be that guy/girl. With a small class we were able to keep the class very motivated, the group exercises were always a great ice breaker as it gave a chance for everyone to speak up and we encouraged questions to be asked. Unknowingly, through these pair or group exercises they became much more comfortable and relaxed than they were on the first day. That was the main goal because their next step is going to that Open Day where they will be sitting with a thousand strangers and somehow they have to stand out from the crowd. The very first class taught us about time management and to be well prepared before the class starts. All the mistakes I as a teacher made in the first class, I corrected in the following ones and I am happy to say that some students from our course are now working for Emirates Airlines.
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