u calgary tab 2018 (5)

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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Bye Calgary, Hello Vietnam!

When I applied for the Werklund Education Program, now a little over a year ago, I was thrilled to know they offered an opportunity to teach over exchange. I remember the very first TAB meeting I attended, and being instantly drawn to Vietnam. It had been on my bucket list to explore Asia, and TAB seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my skills as an educator, while also growing on a personal level. I remember attending every single TAB meeting because I wanted to receive as much information as I could about the country from the previous years’ group.

Shortly before the TAB Showcase came along, our applications were due and we had to indicate our first, second and third country options, in case our first country of choice was not available to us. At the TAB Showcase, after hearing about the previous Tabbers’ experiences and stories I knew Vietnam was the country for me. I was so excited when, In fact, I was chosen to go to it! I remember creating a list of all the things I needed to do before leaving, and places I wanted to see when I’m there. Time seemed to fly by, and by the time I knew, the two weeks mandatory summer classes were over, and here I was packing my bags!

As I said goodbye to my family and friends, I feel a duality of emotions run through my body. Some had me excited and others a bit afraid. Whenever I felt a bit of fear peak in, I reminded myself of the intention behind this experience. To grow, explore the world, to get uncomfortable, and advance my practice as a teacher. As my flight was about to depart, I looked outside my window and said goodbye to Calgary’s beautiful sky! I will see you later!


                                                                                               (Picture of the Calgary sky in the evening)

                                                                                                 (Picture of the Calgary sky during the day)


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