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Party Time

I could hear the music pumping the moment I stepped out of the lift. Secretly hoping it was my students having the party, I skipped down the hallway.  Sure enough, as I walked into my classroom, I was presented with balloons, food and drink on the tables and a huge bouquet of flowers on my desk. Not to mention the handful of students having a good old Karaoke session. I just manage to take in a breath before all my students noticed my presence and burst into a round of applause. Never a huge fan of being the centre of attention (*cough cough*) I actually felt nervous as I walked down to the front of the room.

I’ve had final lesson celebrations before and I’m no stranger to the odd gift or card from a student (as I talk about here in a previous post) but I’ve never had my students go so out of their way to make a fuss. It was so thoughtful of them. What made this act of kindness particularly special for me was the fact that this was a beginner class. Just 8 weeks ago I was teaching this bunch of teenagers how to say their age and nationality and now, here they are writing notes like this to me:

Lets ignore the mis-spelling of my name for now ...

Lets ignore the spelling error of my name for now …

But really, it shouldn’t be me that takes the credit for their achievements, they have come such along way in the past 2 months and it is solely down to their hard work and determination. As I’m sure teachers all over the world will agree, it’s a rarity to find a dedicated class of teenagers. But these guys were just that; they made my job a breeze. As they shouted “thank you teacher” and offered me some Jollibee fried chicken, fries and ice-cream, I couldn’t help but think, “it should be me that’s thanking you guys”.

**Although, my stomach did beg to differ a short 4 hours later (Vietnamese fast food is the work of the devil)**

Teaching is tough, even at the best of times, especially with a youngster class like this one, but its moments like this that makes the late nights, lesson planning and exam marking totally worth it.

I am one lucky teacher!

I am one lucky teacher!

The F Word

It’s a rarity, but as I write this, I’m a little lost for words. So, without beating around the bush, I’ll just get straight to the point.

Last night, during one of my classes, a young female student looked directly into my eyes and said ‘F**k You Teacher’.

I genuinely could not believe my ears. I got home and was really quite emotional. I know, I know, the first rule of teaching, don’t take things too personally. But really, a Vietnamese student just swore at me … in English! This is the one reason why I chose to teach in Vietnam in the first place; to avoid the disrespectful youth of the UK.

The girl in question is a part of one of my more rowdy classes; a group of 25 young teenagers where the boys are just interested in fighting each other and the girls are preoccupied wasting their flirts on the uninterested boys. I’ve been teaching this class for 7 weeks now though, so the boundaries have been set and my good cop/bad cop routine has perfected itself. By this point, we all know where we stand inside Room 103.

Last night, the class were a little more hyperactive than usual. So to calm them, I presented them with a ‘pop quiz’ which they had to complete in silence. All the students obliged and each offered a polite ‘Thank You’ as I handed out the paper, except for this one 15 year old girl who produced the venomous words proudly. The rest of the class died in a sea of laughter which immediately put me in a vulnerable position, something which was, until that point, extremely unfamiliar to me.

Teachers in Vietnam have poll position in the respect ladder, they even rank above parents. So much so, we even have a Public Holiday dedicated to our efforts (roll on 20th November). I’ve never let this respect go to my head though; I am the friendly teacher, the one that tries (probably too hard) to be best mates with all of her students. As a result, I’ve always had a great rapport with my students and I use disciplinary methods very rarely. So this latest incident has really quite shaken me.

Regardless of the events that followed, I’ve since been preoccupied with de-constructing the whole lesson in my head. I have so many questions that need answering.

Did this young girl know the true meaning of what she was saying?

Was it just a phrase she picked up from the latest Hollywood release?

Did she just want to impress the boys around her?

Is the Vietnamese translation seen as jovial slang in their culture?

Maybe she just overheard a foreigner saying it in the street and thought it sounded ‘cool’?

Or could it have been a way for her to vent her teenage worries and frustrations? (We’ve all been there).

Or am I just creating excuses for her? Maybe she knew exactly what she was saying and was happy to suffer the consequences?

The latter of which poses a worrying thought: what hope is left when students of a different nationality are insulting you, their teacher, in your mother tongue?

Anyway, not one to whine, it’s probably time to brush the incident under the carpet and move on!

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The show must go on!

Oral Exams

Every 9 weeks I have to conduct oral exams for each of my students. Their oral mark contributes to around 5% of their final grade (it should be much higher than this in my opinion, but I’m not the one who makes the rules apparently). For many of the oral exams, I just interview each student alone but every now and again I like to shake things up and have them do a dialogue in pairs. I always love oral exam week; 1) because I get to find out the student’s real views on things and 2) it involves very little preparation on my part. The students never fail to provide some amazing comedy too, here are just a few snippets of the conversations I experienced during this week’s oral exams:

1: Social Etiquette

Instructions: Conduct a polite conversation with your classmate. You are both work colleagues who are meeting for the first time.

Student 1: Hello, nice to meet you!

Student 2: Hello, nice to meet you too! Are you gay?

*Have I taught you nothing in the past 9 weeks?!*

2: Family

Me: Tell me about your family

Student: There are 3 people in my family, my parents and me.

Me: Oh, so no brothers or sisters?

Student: No, and I hate my Dad, he always makes my mum cry.

*How are you meant to respond to that…*

3: Playing cupid

Me: So, tell me a little about yourself

Student: I’m 19 years old. I am a student at HUTECH University. I study business. I like shopping and going out with my friends. I’m single. Do you know any single foreigners?

*Nice*

4: Arrogance

Student: I’ve just finished 3 years studying in Boston, America so I don’t need this class

*What a fabulous waste of my time*

5: Apology

Me: Hello! How are you today?

Student: I’m fine thanks, and you?

Me: I’m pretty go…

*Students phone rings*

1min 46secs later…

*Student hangs up, says nothing*

Me: Ok, your speaking test is over. Thank you.

*Just one apology is all you needed to save yourself there, my friend!*

6: There’s always one

Me: How are you today?

Student: I’m 12 years old.

*Yup*

7: The pièce de résistance

Me: Hello! What’s your name?

Student: My name is ****

Me: I don’t see your name on the register here …

Student: Oh no, I’m taking the exam for my friend, she is too busy.

*Say what now?*

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Misleading: This little darling actually passed her exam with flying colours!

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