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I'm not ready, but it's time to say goodbye..

It’s time to pack! I look back at the past 3 months and I can’t believe how this journey is almost over. It feels like not too long ago that I was preparing to come to Vietnam, and now I am packing to return back to Canada. I reflect on the time I spent in this country, and the numerous lessons I have learnt along the way. I wanted to explore Asia for a while, and TAB ended up being the perfect opportunity to work on my skills as a teacher, while also getting to know this country and its culture. Thank you Vietnam! For your hospitality, for the people, for the warm smiles, and for the beautiful beaches! I will never forget the crowded streets, with bikes and cars honking continuously, and having to look our around all corners when riding my motorbike to get to school. I will never forget the confused look on people’s faces when I tried to ask something in English, or the confused feelings I felt when someone would try to speak to me in Vietnamese. I will never forget the positive and uplifting attitudes of the people that had experienced hardships in their lives, but still chose to look at the brighter side. I will never forget the memories I shared with my roommate and other TAB members, and the way we supported one another. I will never forget my students and the lessons they taught me along the way.

I never thought I will be celebrating my birthday in Vietnam, let alone Sapa. I had the most authentic experience, surrounded by the beauty of the nature and fresh air, I couldn’t help but be appreciative for this experience. I joined tab with the intention to grow, explore the world and myself, and advance my practice as a teacher. I can say that, this experiences pushed me out of my comfort zone both personally and professionally,, whether that be having to create lesson plans to teach students who speak minimal to no English, to riding a scooter in between two massive trucks on my way to work during rush hour. I learnt to adjust, to be flexible, to be patient, and one thing I know for sure is: I am not leaving here like I came! 

(Picture of a few TAB members in front of Da Nang University)

(With a few students after our presentation on Canada at Da Nang University)

(Singing the Canadian anthem at Da Nang University)

(Presentation on Canada and its culture at Da Nang University)

(A few TAB members and our liason Jade wearing Ao Dai)

 

(Having fun taking pictures with our liason Jade in front of the Primary School)

 

 

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Differentiation in classrooms..

Teaching has officially begun! Immediately, I can't help but notice how the educational system here is different than Canada’s. The students were so excited to see us! One my first day of teaching, once I entered the classroom, the students greeted me by singing the “Hello teacher” song. They are excited to learn and have a great sense of appreciation for learning, unlike Canada, where education is often taken for granted. One of my Grade 3 class has nearly 40 students, all wearing white shirt uniforms with blue shorts or skirts. My specialization is English Language Learners (ELL). After observing the various classrooms, I noticed how no differentiation techniques are applied when teaching the content to students. Students have a range of learning levels and needs, all differing from one another. The lesson plans, however, are taught quite standardly, with the teacher delivering the information at the front of the class, and students being the recipients of such information. Due to a lack of technology, I had to rely on props, such as the use of puppets and the blackboard, to deliver my lessons. I also modelled exercises for the students before splitting them up into groups since an explanation in English often did not suffice. It was difficult to communicate with the students since their English levels were quite low, but they definitely did not lack the enthusiasm and excitement, which made the lessons fun!

The classes consisted of the teacher pronouncing conversational sentences, such as “How are you?”, “This is my friend Linda”, etc. and students repeating them over and over again. Students would memorize these sentences, but while doing walk-arounds and observing students, I noticed how some required the extra support and resources to be able to learn and understand English. I decided to speak to my partner-teacher about whether I could use scaffolding techniques to teach students. She said that, with classes being 40 mins long and the heavy content to be covered each time, she wasn’t able to cater the lessons to accommodate students’ various needs.

I couldn’t help but think of the educational system in Canada, and how, I am so grateful that in encourages differentiation to ensure all students are able to reach their maximum capability. My experience in Vietnam has helped me develop more empathy, patience, and understanding for English Language Learners. Students have skills regardless of whether English is their first language or not. It’s important to me to notice those strengths and use them to enhance their confidence. Teaching in Vietnam has been a great opportunity for me, and my students have taught me so many valuable lessons that I look forward to applying in my future classrooms.

 

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Settling in Da Nang and exploring Vietnam!

After 25 hours of travel, I finally reached Da Nang, Vietnam! I landed around 10pm and I surprised to see how hot it was! As I get to my apartment, my landlord informed me that Holly and Adrian (two other members of the TAB group) will be my neighbours. I felt tired but I was so excited to finally get there, that I barely slept that night. I woke up early, and although jet lagged and tired, I was ready to get the day started and settle in. I wanted to explore so Holly and I decided to explore the beach, which was only a 5 minutes walk from our apartment. A dream come true. I was just in awe with the beauty of the sea, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Our liaison got in touch with us and schedule a meeting to meet with us the following Monday, which meant we had a few days to explore the city, which is exactly what i did. I had a lot of energy with my and I was craving my independence, so I made myself a list of places to visit in Da Nang, and I began my adventures!

Having travelled to India before, I was familiar with the chaotic traffic and car/trucks/bike horns coming from all directions. I had moved from Italy to Calgary in 2007, so I felt I’d feel a similar culture shock. Well, this time it was a bit different. The biggest thing being the language barrier and inability to understand Vietnamese or speak English with the locals. I noticed how I quickly reverted to using my body language using Google translate when I trying to convey a message. I realized how, living in a Western and developed country comes with a lot of benefits. For example, when driving my car I know that traffic laws and regulations will protect me in case of any accidents. Vietnam, however, was different. I had to use all my senses, and make sure I was very careful when crossing the road, or trying to get from place A to B with directions other than English was also very challenging.

Traveling to different cities, such as Dalat, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Sapa really exposed me to the distinctive beauty of Da Nang. Each city was different, and it had its own art, culture, and history to offer. I realized how, I am so grateful to be living in a city like Da Nang, with beautiful beaches and things to explore, yet still not too overpopulated as compared to other cities in the South. I felt that, Da Nang is a city that deserves to be explored more, and I was looking forward to spending the remaining 8 weeks there!


                                                                                                            (In front of a building in Hue)

                                                                                                 (View of My Khe beach and Da Nang)

                                                                                                                       (Ba Na Hills)

                                                                                                         (Elephant waterfall in Da nang)

 

 

 

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Where has the time gone?!

I can hardly believe how fast the time is flying by!

In Germany, we have a Holiday next week and there is no school Monday to Tuesday, so I have a half week... and then two weeks from now it is Autumn break and we are off for two weeks! I am starting to realize that I only have roughly three weeks left in the classroom!! I have really been getting to know the students and the routine and after a few weeks I am feeling a lot more confident and comfortable in the classroom. Alex and I have had the pleasure of being able to teach a few lessons, since I am an elementary specialization, it was hard for me at first to find my place in the grade 6-12 classes. However, I have worked through my nerves and it has proven to be amazing! I am starting to thoroughly enjoy being in a classroom with the older students. It is much easier to relate, have conversations and explain connections between their schooling and the world around them. And not to mention, much easier to speak to them because they actually know a bit of English...

I have been continuing to work on my German, although I still cannot speak much, I am starting to understand a lot more. For example, when my family speak German, I am able to pick up on what they are saying now. I answered my cousin who asked his girlfriend a question in German, I hardly even realized I had answered a question I shouldn't have even understood. We had a good laugh and this was when I realized I am actually learning more than I think. I am also starting to pick up on what students are saying about me in German, mostly they tell each other that they can speak German because I don't understand... today a couple of students noticed I chuckled a bit when they said this (in German) and got wide eyed looks on their faces, they realized I understood. This is both good and bad, it is good because now they might think twice before talking about me in German hahaha, but it is bad because now they think I understand everything and they try to speak to me in just German.

I am starting to miss some of my regular food from home... I have been craving sushi for about a week now, and although they have sushi here, everything I have found is pre-made and extremely expensive! I don't want to cave for bad sushi! I also really, really, really, REALLY want some franks hot sauce!! I LITERALLY put that on everything... I almost got to the point where I asked for my Fiance to bring my a bottle in his suitcase when he came to visit. Super markets are small here, and each time I go I become more aware of the fact that it is because they have way less garbage available! Which is good, but so hard when you are craving chips and salsa or something. I thought talking about missing these foods would make me feel better, but now I am just hungry and my cravings are worse... I'm starting to realize I talk a lot about food in my blog posts... Beyond this, I luckily have not been too home sick! However I am desperately missing cuddles with my dog still and cannot wait to get home and spend a day on the couch with her!

The past few weeks I have been spreading my wings and exploring small towns around Hamburg! Luckily this past weekend we had some great weather, perfect for exploring so I went to Lubeck, home of marzipan! I got every flavor of marzipan they sold as I was totally unaware of how many flavors there are and felt that I needed to try them all! MMMM.. I also went to Hohn, where some of my family lives, and they took me out to, Rensburg, Friedrichstadt (a cute little town with Holland style buildings) and Sankt Peter-Ording, where we stopped by the North Sea! And finally Karlynn and I took the train to Luneburg to explore some old architect and relax in the salt-water hot springs. Again it is absolutely amazing to me to see how each town and city is completely unique from the last. Each beautiful and exciting in its own way. I cannot wait to see what the last half of this experience holds!

 Dip in the North Sea                                                                Rainbow of Marzipan! (don't be too jealous friends)                My Cousins and Fiance :)

One of the best parts of living in Hamburg is reconnecting with my family! I have an Aunt and Uncle and two cousins who have lived in Germany my whole life. They have been very close with my family since I was very young. Sadly after my Omi passed away we lost contact for a while and it was harder for both families to travel... now I am able to reconnect with family that is able to teach me things about my Omi that I never knew and share special memories with me. It is really special to me. My cousins are just a few years older than me, and we become great friends over the past few years. This is the third year I have seen them in person but we connected on Facebook about 5 years ago. It is great to talk to this side of my family, get to know them and spend time with them in person rather than just online! This experience is beyond special to me for so many reasons but most importantly for bringing me closer to my family!

Lubeck                                                              Luneburg                                                                                                             Friedrichstadt

I am really looking forward to my last few weeks and hope to teach some more lessons, continue to learn new skills in the classroom and add to my understanding of German! This experience has been incredible so far and I will never forget the memories I have made thus far and continue to make.

Thanks for reading friends! Until next time...

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