Wednesday, 15 May 2013

My first week as a Language Teacher in the classroom

Let me start by saying it's been an absolutely mental week here. Moving and settling into the apartment, starting 3 new jobs, a couple of hairy moments, a few dates with Daniel, a visit from Teresa (kon tum orphanage), the return of our legendary 'bad wolf' Maxim, and a serious karaoke session lasting until 8am, has left me pretty knackered and ABSOLUTELY back in love with Saigon.
Out with Teresa and her brothers- she managed to find somewhere that does her own minority 'montangard' food in HCMC

Wild night in backpack with Hao, Maxim, Cass and Morrin

Getting myself some home comforts for when I need a bit of the west.

So let me attempt to describe the language school I'm working at... It's a very different set up to most of the teaching I have experienced in England. The school itself is massive, one of the biggest in the city with 6 different campus's. I seem to be working at campus 6 on my Tuesday evenings (classes from 5pm-7:30) and my Saturday and Sunday classes (7AM till 6pm... that's means a 5am start to make it on time, a right shock to my system after months of getting up at 8am!), and then I work at campus 2 on a Thursday evening (classes 5pm-7:30 again).
Arriving at the school on my first day was very nerve racking - here's my First Day at School photo....

On arrival I was presented with an A4 schedule of my classes for that day. Each class has a code which corresponds to the book I need to teach them from, then I am given the page numbers to review, and the page numbers to teach, and the room number. You are not given time to prepare for the lesson beyond quickly flicking through the pages as you walk up the stairs, and there are no gaps between lessons. You are also not told the age of the kids, their language ability, or how many you will have in your class. Thankfully I had been out to buy my own white board pens.
My first lesson went surprisingly well. My second lesson was a total disaster. Then the next one was pretty good again. And the last one was terrible.
So first day over and 2/4 went well which I decided not to be too harsh on myself for as I'm hoping 'ad libing' interesting lessons will get easier with practise!
I've now taught about 15 lessons so they have sort of blended together but I'll give you an example of some of them...

ABC class: this class was on a Tuesday evening and the kids clearly did not want to be there, they'd all had a full day at 'normal' school and now their parents had sent them in to language school when they would all much rather be outside in the cool evening. My instructions were 'teach the alphabet' which I had to string out for an hour. The kids were all about 5/6yrs and I had 15 in my class. I decided there was very little point in trying to perfect their letter sounds this evening so instead came up with loads of games. I loved it. But most importantly so did the kids! I got them to all sit in a circle (which they clearly hadn't done before in school because they found it hilarious) and we sang the alphabet:
- as loudly as we could
- as quietly as we could
- like a mouse
- like a bear
- just one letter each and everytime you said a letter you jump up and do a 'gangnam style' k-pop dance move (this was very popular with the boys)
... and so on ....

An excited class: As I was frantically flicking through the book on my way up the stairs, and trying to figure out if I even knew what the rules are for countable and uncountable nouns (anyone?!), a group of kids hanging over the railings starting wooping with glee! They were so excited to have me as their teacher they were pretty much screaming with delight - I am the only white female teacher at this campus, and possibly the first white girl any of them have actually talked too. So pretty exciting stuff. I was so pleased that they were this happy to see me. Unfortunately it all went downhill when they realised I was actually going to teach them.. They didn't want to play my games, I couldn't get them to listen to me at all, no-one was interested in 'repeat after teacher'... I got myself in a terrible tangle with the bloody countable and uncountable nouns.. A total disaster lesson! But hay, you win some you lose some... :-)

I have had some really great classes and in some rare moments I think I might have actually taught them some English too. I love getting the kids up to draw on the board, creating characters we can talk about and making everyone laugh, I love it when I can get them to understand my games or when their pronunciation improves. I do not like that the TA hits the kids when they misbehave, and that I was asked to please speak with an American accent so the children can understand me better (I said no sorry), I wish I had time to prepare for each lesson so I could have even better games and activities going on. So overall I'm really enjoying using my brain and having to think on my feet is a challenge. I do not like 5am starts on the weekend...!

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