“Naturally” the school schedule changed again—three schedules already for January! I had prepared two classes for Friday and Saturday (since I was traveling, I was trying to work ahead) and now that is a total waste. Sigh. Also notice that I have no more 25-45 minute classes. Only 15 minutes, like before.
The new teacher, Mike, is gone. I had no idea he was a short timer here. He is back in Ho Chi Minh City teaching at his old school. I take it this was the plan all along, but no one told me. Or at least it was HIS plan? And, naturally, Mike borrowed money from me, Bob and Marcus. Don’t suppose we will ever see any of that again. No good deed….
The Grocery store downstairs at the apartment complex seems to have closed. It didn’t carry much, but I could get the occasional cold beer or ice cream after work. (Note: it was closed for a week then opened again, with irregular hours. I can’t figure out the schedule) It opened about the time I got here, so only three months. In October they sent around a survey asking what we’d like in the store. I said peanut butter, butter and wine, but those things didn’t come. No fresh foods. They only carried yogurt for the first month, It’s mostly high priced snack foods, candy, cookies, crackers and instant soup. It’s not much of a loss, but I did like it. On the positive side, it’s probably going to keep me eating healthy.
Outside as I write this, there is a training going on for our guards about fire safety. They are practicing using the fire extinguishers, which is good. Nice to see some training going on. In an emergency, it’s good to have practiced, even once!
Just back from the school (to copy my weekend lessons) and the store (Coop Mart) for a few items I can’t get in the neighborhood. I am now several jars of peanut butter, two loaves of bread, a stick of butter, and frozen bao ahead. None of these items are available within walking distance.
What concerns me is that I’m shaky and a little spacy this morning. Didn’t notice it until I left the apartment. Trust me: I’ve had my two cups of coffee, so it isn’t caffeine withdrawal. And a full breakfast with two eggs and lots of veggies with a little cheese, so it shouldn’t be low blood sugar. I swear I’m tired of being sick! And I sweat constantly—literally sweat dropping from my nose. It’s become a normal activity, but it is annoying and I look so awful. And this is the cool season.
While I was at Coop Mart, I went up to the top floor book store. I got a couple books, geared for children, which give words in English and Vietnamese. My learning level is very basic, so this should help. I lost my beloved Vietnamese vocabulary notebook and lost a lot of the words I was working on. Two women befriended me and introduced themselves as English teachers at a center nearby. Their English was quite basic—better than my Vietnamese, though—but not good enough that I would have thought they were teachers! They were NOT impressed with the books I bought. “Dat fur baby,” one said. “In Vietnamese, I am a baby.” Her response was one of surprise, asking why I learned just words and not sentences. “I need words,” I said, simply. And then, in what I suppose was English, I was told I should “NEVA” learn “juss wor” only senTEEN.” Obviously, she is entitled to her (mispronounced) opinion. I don’t agree. Sentences and grammar ARE important, but useless without vocabulary.
Last night I tried a new activity to start off class, one I learned by watching William’s class this week. It requires you to ask and answer a few written questions very fast, but you get to do it several times. My hope is that it gets a lot of speaking practice in a short time and the speed forces you to think in the second language (L2 See? I’m even learning the lingo!) The only problem is that it takes an even number of students, so if there is an odd number, I have to participate, which the kids seem to love. One of the questions was “what year were you born?” They all seemed SHOCKED when I gave my birth year. Every one of them had to ask the question a second time! Most of them were born in 2001. That was shocking to me! I’m sure I must seem ancient to them.
Last night I was so excited about my classes when I went into the first one. Thought I had two good lesson plans. The first went fine—lots to keep them busy, both physically and mentally. I felt good–like I’m finally beginning to understand how to teach. But in the second class, Firefly, it didn’t seem like they liked the class much. They didn’t get much from The Sword-fight (scene from The Princess Bride) and only a little from Interjections (music video from Schoolhouse Rock). And at the end of class, Billy, one of my favorite Firefly students, said that I didn’t look good, like I was sick. And I am, but no woman wants to hear she doesn’t look good! (Even if it is true and told by someone who is concerned for your health.) So I came home depressed and went to bed early. Good thing I don’t drink. And the store wasn’t open so I could buy chocolate ice cream. I didn’t sleep well. I could use a nap.
Oh Joy. Another new schedule for January. That’s 4, and it’s only the tenth of the month. Not likely this is the last one, either. My days off have changed again, so it’s not possible to plan ahead. But my “favorite” is a new teacher training. On SATURDAY nights from 7:30p-9:10p. All the Saturday nights. Of course, we aren’t paid for it and it’s mandatory. This place just keeps getting better.
Had a surprise class observation from Khanh (business manager and common-law-wife of the owner) last night. It was a good class and she conceded that my Teacher Talking Time (TTT) was good and generally said positive things, though in a tone that made me feel I was being chewed out. I’m so confused.
Though I think I am learning and getting better at teaching, my worst classes are WE Intro and WE1 (World English, adults with little to no English skills, the lowest levels). I’ve been asking for help with these classes since the beginning. I need better activities for adults. Specifically I’d like ideas of how to practice vocabulary and structures with this age group without doing kid’s activities. I have issues with getting them to talk at all. I would not be offended if the school would prefer I did not teach Liberty or any early WE classes (that won’t happen). I expect I’ll have another observation by Marcus this week too.
Saturday night, after working all day (first Saturday class is at 7:45a), we were required to sit through a teacher training class until 9:10p). Most of us had to teach the next morning, too. The activities that Marcus shared were fine, but I had trouble following his directions. I didn’t understand most of the exercises until he was through, which makes it hard to take notes. But, IMHO, many of the listening activities will not work here, since the speakers are blown in most classrooms. As a native English speaker, I had extreme trouble with the final listening exercise (the best one)–part of it was the speakers, as well as heavily accented English. And the teachers were talking non-stop (I’m sure they didn’t want to be there either but they would NEVER want their students to talk so much!). I found the whole thing depressing. I barely got through the meeting without screaming at someone–simply kept my mouth shut and head down. Was glad just to make it to my bed without losing my mind. Went to sleep in a horrible mood and it wasn’t much improved the next morning. If it had not been a day off, I would have simply called in sick for fear of what bad behavior I might exhibit.
I hate working so many days in a row and ending them on such a negative note. I end up spending my days off recovering—physically and mentally. I’m trying to see this experience as “teacher training boot camp.” But it’s loosing it’s charm.
The honeymoon is clearly over. But the adjustment period isn’t.