I was teaching English in Yangon, Myanmar, for eight months, from May to December. I did my TESOL training in Australia and had very little teaching experience when I went to Myanmar through GeoVisions. I had spent the previous 20 years or so working in business and finance.
After I had a vacation in Myanmar, I fell in love with the country and the people and I knew I wanted to return. The next year my dream of teaching English in Myanmar was a reality.
So through GeoVisions I got a position at NELC, an English language college in Yangon. The Myanmar staff and teachers were very welcoming and helpful to me and I gradually gained confidence as a teacher, and certainly learned quickly! I was teaching English to students aged about 16 and 25 at the college.
I don’t think there could be a better country to get experience teaching. The students are so keen to learn, and teachers are so respected in Myanmar.
The college is also involved in community projects and supports some local monasteries around Yangon, so I was able to take part in some ceremonies on special religious occasions and learn more about Myanmar customs and culture. Some of us foreign teachers also did volunteer work at an orphanage and a Buddhist nunnery.
Teaching English there was one of the most memorable experiences of my time in Myanmar.
TEFL jobs in Myanmar can also lead to other teaching possibilities. I also got asked to teach private classes by a company of engineers in Yangon. I used to go to their office on Saturdays and teach about 15 – 20 people of varying ages. They made great progress with their English and we had a lot of fun. I developed a few different ways of teaching them to make a break from the textbook exercises. One was getting them to listen to fairy stories on a CD and then reading the text aloud themselves. They loved it! I found several books (with CDs) in one of the two bookshops in Yangon to help with this. Most books come into Myanmar through Thailand and there is not a lot of choice in the bookshops.
Teaching jobs in Yangon are easy to find. Living in Yangon is so interesting and there is much to see. Although while food is cheap, and very tasty, rent is very high. I had discovered this when I went there on vacation and so I had prepared to use some of my savings to support myself. Wages for teaching are fairly low by western standards, but good by local standards. And private work is quite well paid.
The great thing about teaching English in Myanmar is that everyone is very keen to learn or improve their English as the country opens up more, so there is plenty of work.
I lived with a family in their house, which was a kind of small private hotel, and that was a great way for me to experience life. I also tutored one of the girls of the family.
One of the wonders of Yangon is the gorgeous Shwedagon Pagoda in the center of town, surrounded by the People’s Park and gardens. The central markets are a fantastic place where you can buy anything, - all the handicrafts that Myanmar is famous for, including beautiful lacquer ware. North of Yangon there is the amazing ancient city of Bagan, the lovely Lake Inya region and the historic second biggest city, Mandalay. Another fantastic experience is traveling by boat on the great Irrawaddy River. Once you get out of the cities you see the real Myanmar, which is still mostly rural and (as yet) unspoiled by tourism.
I have to say something about the weather! Be prepared for a very hot tropical climate and a long monsoon. Once the rain starts it doesn’t stop for months, and often the roads flood and you have to wade through the streets. But it’s just part of everyday life – always carry an umbrella and a towel!