Oct 23, 2014
I try to start Off each class with a positive quote. It’s a simple warm up which helps get the students thinking and talking in English. It also makes them think outside the box. But the quote I used yesterday simply didn’t work:
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln
I asked three students what they thought it meant, and got blank stares. So I started asking questions. Did they know who Lincoln was? Yes, he was an American president (though they seemed to think he was a recent one). Did they know what a thorn was? A bush? No. So I Googled photos of thorn bushes to show them. But they still didn’t understand. Turns out they didn’t know the word for rose. They had seen the flower, mostly on TV, but I had to explain that roses have thorns. They don’t grow here, so none of them knew that. It turned out to be more of a lesson for the teacher than the students!
The rain seems to fall the heaviest JUST as I need to leave for work. And on a scooter, that’s a problem. I decided to wait out the storm and was a bit later than usual getting in. But everyone did the same. That’s how the combination of monsoon and scooters goes!
Oct 22, 2014
I have begun a simple, daily routine now. I get up around 6 or 7am, when the temperature is still cool. I stretch and have a large glass of water. Dehydration is a real issue here since it is hot all the time. Best to start off hydrated. Then I have some yogurt (sua chua) and coffee while I organize my backpack for the morning.
I’m out of the house in less than an hour, walking (for exercise) to a street side café (quan) for breakfast. I can get Com Tam (literally, broken rice) for 15,000-25,000vnd and it’s served with about 2 ounces of grilled pork, a fried egg, a small salad of cucumbers/tomato/onions and iced tea. That’s only about a dollar and cheaper than I can buy the ingredients. Plus it’s very fresh food. I study my Vietnamese while eating.
Next I do any shopping I need. I don’t keep much in the kitchen, but always have fresh fruit, yogurt, instant noodles, dumplings, tea, coffee, and peanut butter. All of these are easy to get nearby, except the peanut butter. Today I bought candy for my students. If they are very good, I toss a piece of candy to them. It gets students to volunteer to talk faster than anything else I’ve tried.
Then I go to a coffee shop and do my lesson plans and read while I drink ca phe sua da (coffee with milk and ice). If I get hungry, I’ll eat there or I might pick up a banh mi (sandwich made on a French baguette) or banh bao (steamed, filled bun) to take home for later. Each are about 15,000vnd when purchased on the street. I’m back to the apartment around noon, which is about the time Robert gets up.
I do what I want in the afternoon, but today it is quite hot. It’s already 33C (91F), so I’m not likely to move around too much. If I do get out, I go on the scooter. If I was up late, I might take a nap after lunch, during the heat of the day, or just retreat to my air conditioned room to read. If I have two classes to teach in the evening, I try to be at school by 4:30p for my 6p class.
This routine seems pretty boring, but it allows me to try different restaurants and coffee houses, learn and sample new foods, and practice my (very) basic Vietnamese speaking skills.
Oct 21, 2014
I’m settling in, feeling less anxious. The routine of teaching is beginning to take hold and I’m better able to understand what’s needed to prepare and teach classes. I find I do better with Boost classes, later ODI classes. I loved the IELDS group and would teach them anytime. But I’m not doing so well with new adult learners or the very, very young. I have to do a better job with these groups. Slow down, focus, and figure out their level. Today Marcus gave me some good feedback on the class that was videotaped last week. He offered some excellent suggestions, ideas for improvement and additional options for how to accomplish tasks.
I find I have lots of new injuries, mostly below my knees. The bed has low, sharp edges which I run into, particularly at night. I have half a dozen bruises. Ouch. I also have a small scrape on my left forearm. Going up the concrete ramp to the second floor parking deck on the scooter, I scraped it on the wall. Getting better…..
Condensation on glassware is such a problem here! It’s due to the combination of high temperature and humidity. I’ve taken to saving the lids from instant coffee and peanut butter. I put my drinking glasses in the lids to catch the water. Many of the cafes do the same and I notice that outdoor cafes will pour the excess water directly on the ground (if the floor is dirt) or into a floor drain (if it’s tile or concrete).
Turns out the thing I hate most about my new home is the plumbing. This is a very new building, but the plumbing is substandard. I never put any paper down the toilet, but I still have to spend time coaxing it almost every day. I’d gone three days in a row without an issue and thought I had it cleared, but today I had five separate rounds with the plunger. Nothing seemed to help. Then when I came home from class, it was working just fine. But now my bathroom sink is running slow. They’ve never heard of Liquid Plumber here, but perhaps I can find something like caustic lye? Can’t even find baking soda to combine with vinegar to clear the sink. (They don’t bake much here.) I’ve tried pouring boiling water down the drain. Not sure it helps, because I doubt this is actually a clog. It’s more likely that the system simply is laid out poorly—inadequate pipe diameter, sections where the water has to rise rather than fall.
Good news! I may be getting my own class. The World English 3, Firefly group, has been taught by Marcus, who is from the UK. Possibly he just needs to free himself up from some classes, but he’s suggested that I take the class permanently. Whatever the reason, I told him I would, but I’ve not gotten confirmation. I’ve taught the group twice. Once the class was videotaped, so Marcus has seen me with them. It’s a wonderful group of young adults. Three of the men have a good enough grasp of English to crack jokes. Frankly, I do better with a more advanced group. I can work on pronunciation, idioms, and cultural differences. I can expand their vocabulary, too, though sometimes inadvertently. I used the word “sloppy” to describe something and they’d never heard it before. I defined the word and gave some examples. Later, we were doing a short listening exercise on how words like “Did you” become “Didja” when they are spoken. The class asked asked for more examples and I came up with a few, including “ya’ll.” This one was completely new to them (having had a teacher from London, not Atlanta) so I explained it and even did a Southern accent. At the end of class, Marcus came to check on us, using some slang greeting. One of the young men mimicked my southern drawl and told Marcus, “Ya’ll are just bein’ sloppy with your speech!” We both fell out laughing. Hey, at least they are paying attention!
The other big success tonight was the Random Name Generator. There are several on the web and all you have to do is add a list of names to it. The generator will digitally spin a dial or wheel and select a student’s name at random, along with sound effects. This way when you want a volunteer, you really pick someone at random, and the students don’t feel “picked on.” The kids loved it, even the adults were facinated. This is the one I’m using.