May 25, 2009

Vietnam: Teaching, Similar to the Life of a Hooker

Looking over my blog posts you would never guess that I am teaching English... this post is way over due, so here it goes.

Teaching English in Vietnam is similar to the life of a hooker. We get paid by the hour and as soon as the sun goes down we are off to work wearing the same clothes we wore last week. When I was a student I remember thinking to myself "my teacher wears that same outfit every week" and “is she completely unaware that her shirt has a hole in it?” Those teachers are me now. I will be in class and notice that my shirt has a food stain on it or I am wearing the skirt that has a rip in it or that I put my shirt on inside out. The things that I use to make fun of my teachers for is now my daily life. It humors me, it really does. It is only a matter of time before my Hoi An made sandal falls apart in the middle of class. I could go buy a new pair of black sandals but that involves me spending the afternoon going to a million shoes stores and having everyone tell me that my size 8.5 feet are the largest things they have seen since their last elephant sighting.

It is amazing the amount of dedication that people put into learning English and therefore the language schools are stocked full. There are all types of English teachers from the "I just graduated from college teachers" or "I live here because my own society rejected me teachers" or "I came here after college and... wow its been 30 years." As you can imagine English teachers make up a large majority of the ex-pat community here.

Teaching here is totally opposite than I would have expected. I work seven days a week and only at night and on the weekends (when the students don’t have school), however, just because we teach every day does not mean there is no time for play, that is actually all we do. We have all day to sleep in, shop, go for lunch, exercise, watch movies, lie in the sun and read. It is a pretty relaxed life besides when you are in the classroom with 20 teenagers.

I teach all ages, all levels. Here are the ones that stand out:
Beeno 1 and 2: This book is for students who are five and six years old, they have no English vocabulary besides the words you teach them. Each lesson has about four new vocabulary words/phrases that you are expected to teach for two hours. For example: hello, goodbye, see you again and please. I have become an expert at wasting time and doing random activities. Every teacher has the same story when it comes to teaching Beeno 1 and 2. Class starts and you have the kids open their books to the appropriate page and you begin to teach the four new vocabulary words of the day, all the students seem to understand the new words so you complete the activity. Then here it comes-- you look up at the clock hoping the bell for break time is about to ring but nope... 10 minutes in 50 minutes to go. Hold strong! There are a million activities you can do because they are so young they find almost anything entertaining but it is the fact that it is 7:45 am and you have 15 little Vietnamese children running around speaking to you in Vietnamese that makes playing a game a struggle.

American Headway 1, 2, and 3: Hello teenagers. Filling time is not an issue with teenage classes because a large part of class involves sitting and waiting for everyone to stop talking so that I can give instructions or even hear myself think. If you thought Abercrombie and Fitch had loud music you have another thing coming for you with the noise that these teenagers can make. There is no concept of 1. the teacher is talking we should probably whisper or even better 2. lets stop talking to hear what the teacher has to say. I will ask my students to stop talking and they will look at me and then turn back to their friend and continue their conversation. However, with that said the teenage students are my most interesting classes. You never know what might happen- a student might spit out his soda everywhere because his friend just said something really funny right as he took a sip or someone leans to far forward in their desk and completely falls over or even better is when your students try to suck up to you and call you pretty just to get out of doing the lesson. The other day I was playing a game where the students write an English word on the board and I try to guess it without looking as they describing it to me. We had 10 minuets left before class was over and the students really wanted to leave early but I told them we were going to play the game until the bell rang. As I finished my sentence one girl raises her hand and wants to write a word on the board. I hand over the pen and she writes a word on the board. The word was GO HOME! I started laughing, you got to give her credit- class was over.

Teaching English is what it is. Some days are great and hilarious and others make you wish you were at the dentist getting your teeth pulled. The concept of teaching is rather simple as I speak English and they don't but it is the activities, the planning and the need for an extreme amount of patients that really takes it out of me by the end of the day.

{ snacks during class breaks }
{ snacks during class breaks, this lady has my favorite } 

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