The Profiles of Saigon's Expat Teachers

Education - Saigon/HCMC: March 28, 2016

There is a large quantity and fascinating variety of teachers working in Saigon, from the super-focused aspiring professionals to the traveller who happened to run out of money while in Saigon. This variety is both a good and a bad thing, enabling a huge range in standards of education. But what is most interesting about Saigon’s foreign English teachers is their character.

The Professional

The long-time professional comes to Saigon intending to set up a life around the city and a genuine career as a quality teacher. They dress like their attitude - clean, sharp and well thought out - and their experience, qualifications and references are enough to fill a small novella. Often older, these teachers could just as easily teach in U.S. private schools as they could in Saigon, and are often found in the international school circuit.

The Pick-me-up Backpacker

There is absolutely nothing serious about this kind of teacher, except their determination to fuel their continuing travels. The pick-me-up backpackers come to Saigon on route to the rest of Asia. They sign contracts with clauses to allow for one or two month travel stints, or work for a few months before hopping on a plane to South Korea and beyond. Though many are good with kids and are reasonable teachers, they are not in Saigon solely for the work.

The Social Butterfly

This is the kind of teacher who parties all night and congratulates themselves on making it to class the next morning. Perhaps the friendliest of all teacher types on the Saigon circuit, this brand of educator may be well qualified for their job but their interest lies in a bottle of beer and a group of good friends. The social butterfly has a huge network of good friends across the city, knows the nightlife like the back of their hand and is always at every event.

The Superfan

A nanny by nature, this brand of teacher works because they love their job, whether they are good at it or qualified for it or not. Their favourite topic is their classes, their favourite activity is lesson planning, and the thing they will miss most about Saigon is “their kids”. The superfan dresses like a cupcake, with pastel colours and cute little bows, and wears the kind of cheesy smile that people generally save for small children.

The Ladder Climber

The ladder climber is only here for one thing: their future. These are the kinds of people who graduate with university degrees in childhood education and come to Southeast Asia for work experience, using the city as a testing ground to grow their skills in their discipline. The ladder climber treats each lesson as a chance to analyse, reflect and learn.