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vietnam (53)

Now that it's over...

Having been home for a little bit now, I am beginning to experience many different feelings in regards to our experience in Vietnam. One of my fears was that I would revert back to my old ways when I come back to Canada, and so far I have noticed this concern's relevance. It is easy here - where we have all our needs met - to get wrapped up in things that in Vietnam seemed incredibly trivial. For example, the concept of "public image" is different. In Vietnam, I was looked up to by many. Whether this be due to mislead views of white people, or just an appreciation of foreigners, I found it incredibly shocking that we were such objects of awe in Eastern Asia. It makes me sad, because when back in Canada I interpret most attention or interactions as negative ones, most likely judging the sad state I feel I am in, or trying to tell me how I should better myself for next time. But in Vietnam, this never happened. No one made me feel bad for being myself, and no one made me feel judged - and on the rare occasions where I was judged, I welcomed it with open arms, which usually resulted in some sort of bonding between myself and those who were questioning my actions! Most moments where judgement was occurring towards us, it was delivered with a naive honesty that was based on a concern or compassion of something. Our new found friends were not racist towards our diverse group because they are bad people, but because they didn't know it is considered rude to act that way.

Now do not get me wrong, racism is awful and we should actively work to prevent it. However I realized how sensitive we have become in Canada. We are so scared of offending people in North America now, that everything we say must be filtered. I think this brings up an important notion, because if we are filtering all we say, are we able to be truly honest? Now I do not want people to confuse honesty with cruelty, rudeness. etc. Being honest can be done in a caring way that is evident of the compassion that backs it up. I think a lot of my anxieties are because of all the filtering I am aware is needed before I speak or do anything! Without these concerns in Vietnam I felt I could be more myself. I felt I could express myself genuinely because I knew these people came from a caring place. I don't always feel that back home, but I hope I can continue to feel this way here in Canada. In Vietnam, no one wanted to hurt us. I guarantee our ethnic background had something to do with this, but it also reminded me that this is an option in regards to how we lives our lives. It makes me wonder if Vietnam will grow to become more like Canada's culture as the country develops. Will Asian countries remain collectivist or drift towards the individualist nature of North America? 

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. Ultimately this experience taught me the benefit of taking risks. The missed opportunities that go by when you live in your own little bubble, letting strangers pass you by with regard only for what is on your to do list for that day. We are so wrapped up in our own lives that many of us forget that life isn't anything without having a passion for life itself, for the people, for the world. I have been helped and accommodated so much here, arguably more than I would have been back home. Experiences make life worth living. You might have to do things that feel uncomfortable to get these experiences, but it will not be something you regret. Go with the flow, and don't be hard on yourself when things don't go as planned. There isn't enough love in this world, so let's decide to embody it and enjoy the life we have.

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(in English: Goodbye, see you again! )

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Final Reflections!

I can’t believe I’ve been home for 5 days now! It’s definitely been bittersweet, I was incredibly excited to see my family and friends, however, I can’t stop talking about my experiences in Vietnam. From teaching the adorable elementary students to creating bonds with the high school students to the authentic Vietnamese lunches and dinners we’ve had the honour of being invited to. To exploring places such as Ba Na Hills, Marble mountain, Hai Van Pass, Son Tra mountain, etc.

I absolutely miss everything about Vietnam! When we weren’t in the classrooms or working on course work, we would take advantage of the beautiful beaches or opportunity to explore the different areas around Danang! I remember scouting out different restaurants depending on what we were in the mood for that day! I’m going to miss waking up in the morning knowing that everyday would be a new adventure full of confusion and excitement! We would embrace the confusion and take in the excitement that every single day had to offer.

Throughout my stay in Vietnam I have gained a lot of experience, which I believe will help me during my practicum here in Calgary. Although nervous, I am excited to start teaching and applying everything that I learned in Vietnam to my grade 2/3 practicum class!

I am incredibly sad to have left Vietnam but I am very excited to soon return to such an incredible place full of memories and long lasting friendships!

Ps. The jetlag is unreal!

tạm biệt - hẹn gặp lại!

(Good Bye - See you again!)

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Before my adventure ends...

As our time here is coming to and end, the list of things I am grateful for has become larger than expected! I am grateful that Sunaira stayed in a homestay, because we got to experience a family cooked meal to celebrate National women's day here. It was a very interesting time, with lots of rice wine and very good Vietnamese food! We have tried so many new things here, I cannot begin to imagine how it will feel to be back at home. We literally remember thinking about how much time we have to do so many things, but here we are now hearing the end and I feel panicky, as if I can't possibly do everything I want to before we leave. It is a shocking feeling that I didn't expect. Of course I am eager to go home now, but a big part of me wants to stay here!
Today I almost drowned trying to surf. But with some tips from the locals I was successful a handful of times at least! I am constantly shocked at how accommodating and welcoming the people here are. It makes me think that if I saw someone in Canada struggling, would I be willing to throw my own day away to lend a helping hand?
We have been treated so well here. Some of the best experiences I have had here were thanks to people that we connected to by visiting local restaurants. My favourite Pho place ( pronounced 'fa' despite how most Canadians say it!) was somewhere I frequented quite often. I got to know the owner who speaks English only minimally, but enough to become someone I would call a friend. He recently invited my friends and I to his home, where we got to experience a very authentic seafood meal. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. His family treated us like we were their own, and my last day with Phuong at the restaurant was full of brimming tears. I have added him on Facebook, and hope to maintain a relationship in the future.
The last few weeks have been full of everyone saying how much they will miss us, even students we did not get to teach! It humbles you to know how highly these people see you, when we are only just pre-service teachers hoping to help. My decision here was a bold one, as I was incredibly nervous about my abilities to adapt to a different culture and be able to prosper. But the people here, the learning experiences we have gone through, will change my life for the better. I am looking forward to practicum more than I had before, as I feel more strongly about my ability to adapt and be creative. I hope that I am able to carry this back with me to Canada. I am nervous still, but it has turned from an anxiety ridden nervous, to an excited anticipation, which is an important distinction in a life where I have struggled to see the positives out of past challenges. 
I finally know how to speak a few things in Vietnamese, and am devastated that we are leaving just as I feel comfortable here. It is a strange feeling, but one that I will treasure. In the last week we have gotten to celebrate Halloween with both the high school and primary school students, and it was amazing to see the joy they got in celebrating something that isn't even a typical holiday on this side of the world. Sometimes it made me sad however, as I feel they have many relevant celebrations of their own culture, that I think Canada would benefit in from sharing. For example, we learned on November 25th (my birthday!) it is National Teacher's Day in Vietnam. We were told that typically there is no teaching done on this day, as it is devoted to the students celebrating and doing things for the teachers who guide them. This country also celebrated National women's Day, while in Canada we just have the one International Women's Day, which is hardly celebrated as much as it was here! In Canada I fear we are forgetting many values, like gratitude, appreciation, and an overall sense of love. Their lives here are busy like ours, but filled with different concerns, and thus different ways to obtain and see joyful moments. 
I am feeling such bittersweet emotions at the thought of leaving. I will miss my friends here, but I will not forget how they have influenced my life. We were lucky enough to be able to go see a beautiful Buddha statue prior to it's closing (as Donald Trump is staying at the Intercontinental and it is now currently closed down to all public and even the Vietnamese people that worked there!). It was a wonderful way to wrap up our time here in Vietnam, reminding us of the appreciation these people have for their beliefs, their land, and their people. 
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Back home

I have been back in Calgary for two days now and have spent some time reflecting on my time in Vietnam and the things that have left the biggest impressions on me.  

In these first few days I realized once again how different life is between Canada and Vietnam. One of the first things I noticed once I was back home was the amount of structure and order our lives have in Canada. Everything - the traffic, the streets and houses, even they way people dress - is so incredibly orderly. It almost seems overdone to me now. I noticed I am suddenly more concerned with how I look when I leave the house. I am more self-conscious because I somehow feel it matters more and that people here will judge me. At the same time, this seems paradoxical since what struck me the most about Canada so far is how 'impersonal' my surroundings feel now. Nobody here cares when I walk down the street, whereas in Vietnam I always drew attention and everyone was excited to talk to me. Some people even insisted on taking pictures with me. Even among the locals, there seemed to be more of a connection between the people in Vietnam. The feeling is hard to explain. While I appreciate the privacy and anonymity I have here in Canada, it does feel odd. As a whole, it seems everyone here is operating inside a personal bubble, inside their own private world, even when outside in public. I too feel like I am disconnected and removed from the people around me. I almost feel a bit lonely. It is fascinating to me how different the experiences can be from one place to the next.

My practicum placement here in Canada will start in only a few days and I am curious to see how it will compare to my time in the classrooms in Vietnam. I wonder what new differences I will notice once I am back in a Canadian school. The classroom is where I think my time in Vietnam has affected me the most. Teaching in Vietnam, and living there in general, has been an unpredictable roller coaster and I have constantly been thrown into unexpected situations. This has helped me learn to relax, to not be as stressed as I used to be, and to simply go with the flow. I really hope that I can hang on to this newfound confidence and calm in the future. I have also been forced to work without many of the basic resources that we tend to take for granted here in Canada such as books, space to work in groups, or any sort of technology. I am now much more aware and appreciative of the resources we have here and I hope that I will be more mindful of how I use them to improve my teaching going forward. Most importantly, as mentioned in previous posts, Vietnam has helped me to truly understand the importance of building genuine relationships with my students.

As I think back on my time in Vietnam, I am incredibly thankful that I got to be a part of the Teaching Across Borders Program. This experience has had a significant impact on who I am as a teacher and has helped me grow as a person as well. Vietnam has been amazing!!

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Canada, home sweet home!

It's good to be home,

As I write this it is 5:30 am and minus 15 degrees in Calgary. I arrived home from Vietnam 3 days ago, thankful to have just barely flown out before a Typhoon hit the area. It’s bittersweet to be home. First of all, it’s freezing! I’ve barely worn socks in the past 5 months let alone winter wear. Secondly, I almost had a heart attack grocery shopping in this country again, I can see why people go to South East Asia and never leave. But overall, I am relieved and happy to be home. My first stop on the way home from the airport was Tim Horton's. I sent a picture of my coffee and a picture of the roads covered in snow to my new friends in Vietnam (two Canadian staples: timmies and snowy road conditions). I've been periodically checking updates on the typhoon that hit Vietnam shorty after I left. I was saddened to learn that it caused flooding in Hoi An, a magical town only 40 minutes from where we were staying. Hoi An is a touristy area that left a lasting impression on us. We returned multiple times to enjoy the shops, lanterns and relaxing atmosphere. It is disheartening to think of the damage caused by the flood.

            Being home still doesn’t feel completely real so I haven’t really begun to deeply reflect on the entire experience. I am still trying to catch my bearings in this winter situation. In Vietnam we joked about all the things that would feel weird about being back in Canada, such as the open spaces, the silence and using crosswalks. I haven’t really noticed that anything about Canadian culture feels weird though. It feels as though I never left (apart from the weather and the atrocious price of food). But I suppose that is because Canada is home, it will always feel just right.

As happy as I am to be back in Calgary, I am sad about leaving Vietnam. We met so many wonderful people who helped us along our journey. It’s funny how just as we are getting used to the culture we have to leave. I am so grateful for this trip. I think it's still too soon to fully grasp exactly how valuable this experience has been but I know It will be something that I look back on often.

 Since returning home, I have been thinking a lot about practicum and to be honest I am a little nervous. I had finally gotten used to teaching in Vietnamese schools and now it’s time to teach in Calgary again. The schools we taught at in DaNang were very standardized and simple. Teaching entailed a lot of lecturing and textbook reading, something I find very different from teaching in Calgary. It will also be very different and refreshing to have access to technology in the classroom again. Something that I really missed in Vietnam. 

I can't wait to see how this experience has affected my confidence and creativity as a teacher. I'm hoping I get the chance to share some of my photos and stories with my grade 2/3 practicum class, because it's really all I want to talk about right now. 

cảm ơn và tạm biệt!! 

(Thank you and Goodbye) 

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Tạm biệt!

It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that I will be leaving Vietnam in just a few hours. As I am preparing for my flight, I inevitably have to think back and remember how I felt when I packed this bag to come here so many weeks ago. I remember I was incredibly nervous, to the point where I could hardly sleep. I was worried about what life would look like here in Vietnam, and I had read books and done research to prepare myself as best as I could. I have to say some of the things I read came in handy along the way! I was especially worried about my performance in the local schools, since I had no idea what the expectations would be and if I would be able to fulfill them. When I look back now, I realize how far I have come. I can confidently say that I am comfortable in this environment now. I have learned so much about the culture and way of live and many things that seemed difficult or foreign at the beginning are now a normal part of my life.  

Looking out of my window right now makes me sad, because it shows me what I am leaving behind. While I am excited to go home and see my family, there are many things here that I will miss. I have fallen in love with all the little coffee shops, the beach, the sunshine, and the palm trees. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I think I will miss driving my scooter through the local traffic chaos! I will miss the simple and unstructured lifestyle; the many busy, but happy and friendly people everywhere. Most importantly though, I have formed genuine relationships with many of the people here, especially with my students and partner teachers. Saying goodbye was not easy, but I am taking a lot of fond memories home with me.

Through my stay here, I have gained many valuable insights that will influence me as a teacher going forward. The most important realization I had was that forming genuine relationships with my students was making all the difference to our learning experience in the classroom. For several different reasons it took me over two weeks to truly connect with my grade 10 class, and the impact this had on my teaching was truly shocking to me. The quality and relevance of my lessons, the students' engagement, and my ability to gage their needs in the moment changed drastically once I was able to form genuine relationships with them. My time in Vietnam has also given me some perspective on how fortunate we are in Canada when it comes to the space and resources we have available to us. I have also become much more comfortable with going with the flow, improvising, and adjusting to the needs of my students in the moment. The experiences I have had here will certainly influence my teaching in the future.

It will be interesting to see how I readjust to daily life in Canada - the weather, the traffic rules, and the structure in life in general. What I know for sure is that I will miss Vietnam, and I am determined to come back for a visit!Until then - Tạm biệt Vietnam! See you again!

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Adventures!

I can’t believe our adventures are coming to an end! It’s been such an incredible experience. To be honest, I’m kind of sad to be leaving such a beautiful place!

In the past few weeks we’ve had the opportunity to explore some interesting places around Vietnam! We all went to a place called Ba Na Hills, which has the worlds longest gondola ever! Once you got to the top of the mountain, there is a bunch of places to visit, such as a French Village, an indoor amusement park, a beautiful garden, temples and much more! It was such a unique place, it almost felt like a mini Disneyland! The amusement park was awesome full of fun rides and games! I definitely felt like a kid again!

We also had a chance to go to Son Tra mountain, which is also known as monkey mountain. We spent a whole day on the look out for monkeys! It is safe to say that we were extremely successful. We had a chance to see the cutest and most frightening monkeys on that mountain. The viewpoints were beautiful and everything about this place was just so serene. It was so nice to enjoy some quiet and relaxation time away from all the hustle and bustle. After enjoying a beautiful day exploring, we stopped at a temple on our way

home. It was so beautiful full of lush gardens and the most beautiful architecture ever. On our way home from the temple, we passed the intercontinental hotel where we discovered the APEC summit will be held. We also learned that both Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump will be attending the summit here in Vietnam!

We also visited a place called Hoi An Ancient Town, which was full of lanterns and beautiful lights! That is also where I tried egg coffee for the first time and loved it! We took a boat ride in Hoi An, the entire river was full of candles and the entire town was lit up. We also had a chance to tour the night markets and make friends with tourists from all over the world!

A few days go we were honoured to be invited to an authentic Vietnamese lunch by one of the locals who we made friends with down the street. This was definitely an

experience never to be forgotten. We had the chance to bond with some of the locals and enjoy their home-cooked food (to be fair we didn’t really know exactly what we were eating, but it was delicious nonetheless!). No matter how much of a struggle it was to communicate throughout the lunch we always ended up resorting to laughing. That being said, the lunch was full of smiles and laughter!

Apart from all the exploring we have had a lot of time teaching in the classroom. Teaching has been both incredible and difficult at times. I am constantly learning a lot despite the language barrier. Sometimes I think that it is so important to embrace the uncertainty and learn to be flexible and enjoy these moments. 

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Saying Goodbyes

Xin Chao!

 

                Coming up on my departure from wonderful Danang, I have so many fond memories and experiences in this city. I really want to share one experience in particular that happened today. There is a pho restaurant around the corner from our house that makes the best pho I have ever had! We eat there frequently (and we would go multiple times a day if it weren’t for it only being open for dinner time). Of course, being western tourists, we stick out like a sore thumb when we eat there. The owners (who can just barely communicate with) have gotten to know us and invited us for lunch at their home before we leave.

                Arriving, we learned that they also own and run a piano and guitar store out of their home (it is very common here for your home and business to be under one roof. I initially assumed they lived at the pho restaurant). The couple, their son and his wife and a family friend (or nephew we still aren’t sure) prepared for us an authentic Vietnamese meal of plenty of seafood, soup, pork and fresh spring rolls. This was a hilarious, fun and confusing experience, filled with laughter and poor communication. This week as been incredibly busy, and I had considered not going to this lunch but I’m so glad I made the time for it. It reminded me of why travelling and meeting all kinds of people is so amazing and was a perfect wrap up to my time in Danang.

 

Teaching

                Our last days of teaching have past and I am sad to have to say goodbye to the students here. For our last days at the elementary school we taught the grade 3s and 4s about Halloween in Canada. We taught Halloween vocabulary and explained trick or treating. We had them line up outside the classroom and then they got to trick or treat for candy.

                The grade 11 English class that I teach for two periods a week, planned a surprise Halloween party for my last day of teaching. We shared candy, pop and chips and made Halloween masks. Instead of having a lesson we just hung out and had fun together and took plenty of photos. I wish I had more time with them and am sad to leave so quickly but I have made many lasting memories and connections in the schools here.

 

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Sad Goodbyes

We said goodbye to the students this week and I am saddened to leave them. The language barrier at times has been difficult and just when we have seemed to make authentic connections with students we are forced to say goodbye. Many of the students have requested our emails which we happily provided and especially in my secondary school classroom many students have already contacted me for advice about post-secondary education. The students and teachers have more than grateful for our time here in Vietnam not realizing that I am the one who should be thanking them.

Deep into the rainy season in Vietnam our weather is reflecting our mood. As more rain comes we are relived from the hot weather but saddened by the dampness of outside. Just as we feel both excited and saddened to return back home. This week I have been reflecting on how to bring what I have learned here in Vietnam back to my practicums in Canada.

I have really learned a lot about the importance of engagement here in Vietnam. It is wonderful what adding in an extra activity break into the classroom can do for overall energy levels. I think it is important to pose discussion questions that are controversial or provide opportunities for miniature debates to force students into exploring multiple perspectives. Here in Vietnam there doesn’t appear to be any kind of differentiation that occurs in lesson planning. This is difficult to work with – because those students who excel feel bored and those who struggle can’t keep up when teaching to the “average” individual. I look forward to being back home and practicing a more student-based approach.

The emphasis on games in Vietnam is something I will definitely be bringing back with me to Canada. Students enjoy anything competitive and they seem to forget they are even learning when competing against one another for points. The games keep students engaged during lectures especially when they know the content of the game will be based within the content of the previous lecture. I like the idea of handing out worksheets during these instructional periods to engage students to follow along however the additional element of points with worksheets adds more layers of engagement for the students.

Furthermore as time progressed here in Vietnam the student became much more open and more willing to take risks in the classroom. This stemmed from their comfort level with me and their peers progressing as time went on. I want to try to establish this level of comfort earlier on with my Canadian classroom. My practicum teacher at home has informed me the unit I will be designing will revolve around poetry. My aim is to include an ‘About Me’ lesson plan right away so both the students and I can get to know each other and become comfortable with the classroom. I look forward to implementing many of the strategies I have learned here in Vietnam back home.

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Still exploring!

It took me a long time, but I have finally gotten comfortable here! I have found a routine in the schools, have settled into daily life, and have overall gotten quite used to the local way of life. Two weeks ago I took perhaps the biggest step yet in proving that I can handle this country - I started driving a scooter through the insane Vietnamese traffic! I have to admit that it was (and often still is) a scary experience, but I am very proud of myself for even trying.

We have also found more time lately to explore some of the beautiful areas surrounding Da Nang. Through my newfound 'scooter liberty' I have been able to visit 'Ba Na Hills', an amusement park/castle on top of a mountain at the end of the longest non-stop single track cable car in the world! I also visited 'My Son', a UNESCO world heritage site of 12th century Hindu Temples, and 'Hoi An', a city just south of Da Nang famous for old town with tailoring, markets and beautiful lanterns. I continue to be in awe at all the sights, sounds, and culture this country has to offer. Hopefully I will be able to explore more before our time here comes to an end.

During my stay here I have also grown quite a bit as a person. I have noticed that I am no longer as stressed as I used to be when I am feeling unprepared for the situation I find myself in and that it has become easier for me to just go with the flow when my plans my plans don't work out. I hope that I can continue this way after I get back home to Canada. As we are getting closer to the end of our placement I am looking forward to spending the last couple of days with my students and enjoying the time we have left.

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Good Morning (from) Vietnam!

It is crazy to think that "packing" has now been added to my to-do list here in Vietnam! It is only a little more than a week until I board my first of three flights home to Calgary. Vietnam has been an amazing experience both professionally and personally.

On the professional side I have gained serious appreciation for elementary school teachers, like seriously, how do you do it?! The students are amazing but so high-energy! Even though I am a secondary-school teacher, I have learned so much about the competitive drive of students here in Vietnam and what really motivates the younger students to learn. In the secondary-school I have learned the importance of having a 'plan B' when relying solely on technology and just how amazing the and creative the students are. Watching presentations that my grade 12 students prepared was not only insightful but educational for myself. I enjoyed seeing what the students are capable of doing is they are provided with the right guidance and motivational tools.

On a personal level Vietnam has enabled me to see an entirely different world than what I am used to at home. Touring multiple cities and villages on motorbike you really gain a feel for the vastly diverse ways of living in this country. Having come a month early to Vietnam I was really able to explore the whole country-side. Learning to drive the motorcycle was a bit tricky but the skill has saved me a small fortune in cab rides to and from the school. I think the hardest part of Vietnam has been getting used to the mattress (literally the hardest) and the bugs! We had one particular night of screaming and panicking as a colony of cockroaches decided to make a visit in our AirBnB. After incidentally alerting the whole neighbourhood with our screams and RAID fumes, we all fled to a hotel for the weekend before braving our house once again. The cockroaches have yet to make a second appearance and I'm now able to sleep soundly once again. The experience has been educational, comical, at times stressful, but overall 100% worth the experience.

There are many things I'm looking forward to when I get home. Some of which include: butternut squash soup from Vendome cafe, a soft mattress, and a hot shower. However there are even more things that I am going to miss about Vietnam. I have loved the people here and their kind and generous nature, the beautiful coastal beaches of Da Nang and the hustle and bustle of the streets at night are all things I will miss dearly. I look forward to sharing my experience with future TAB participants and can't wait to implement some of the many things I have learned into my placement back home.

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Post #3- DaNang, Vietnam

Xin Chao!

 

Hello again from DaNang, Vietnam. We are just over half way through and I cannot believe how fast the time has gone. It has been an incredibly busy month with lesson planning and teaching. I have started to get the hang of the teaching style here. Things are much more standardized than in Canada and I have struggled with the lack of technological resources in the classroom. I didn’t even realize how much I relied on technology until I had to teach without it. As I have said before the class sizes are huge, this has also been a challenge for me. Keeping so many children engaged while also dealing with a language barrier. I have also learned to always have a backup plan. In one instance we had prepared a YouTube video to watch, only to realize the room didn't have speakers. You have to get creative in these situations.

We were invited to attend the primary school’s mid-autumn festival celebration. This was very exciting and new to us. We sat with the children and watched a performance put on by professional dancers. We also got the chance to take a look at some food displays created by the students. It was really fun to see how excited the kids got watching this performance and trying to imitate the dancers they admire so much.

Throughout the past few weeks we have explored the area a bit more and have met many new people. A few of us went on a hike with our Airbnb host and his hiking group. We hiked up and down Hai Van Pass which was about 21 km. Needless to say, it was an exhausting day. We are also beginning to realize that people will take any opportunity to practice speaking English. People who meet us are eager to speak with us and especially eager to make their children speak to us.  Speaking English here is a highly sought-after skill and can create many opportunities so parents are very adamant about their children learning. 

Goodbye for now! I look forward to posting more about this crazy adventure.

Sam

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Cultural Learning - Post #3

Xin chào!

We have now been in Vietnam for over a month and have been teaching at both the elementary and high school for several weeks now! This week we had the opportunity to celebrate the mid-Autumn festival with the elementary students! We had the chance to see dragon dances and students perform! It was quite the show! There is also apparently a contest where students and their parents create a display, which is made completely out of food! Some of the students gave us moon cakes to try!

A few things that I forgot to mention in my previous posts about the teaching here is that I feel as though it is extremely standardized, I realized how blessed we are to have access to resources to be able to do arts and crafts with the kids, and even spice up their learning by providing them with different activities, whether it be on the smart board or a computer. We have constantly been asked to come up with different and unique games for the kids to play. However, with the number of kids each classroom, the lack of space and the whether being extremely hard to work in, it is hard to come up with new games each time. I also have noticed the difference in students' ability. In both the elementary school, some students seem to be fluent in English and some students struggle immensely. With one teacher a classroom of about 40+ children, I am wondering how the teacher can attend to some of the struggling students.

It is definitely much harder not knowing Vietnamese, because when students don't understand something or are misbehaving it is hard to get them back on track without knowing the language. However, the kids are typically well-behaved. I feel like for those kids that know English well have a harder time paying attention and goof off! But how can we blame them!

Fun Fact: did you know children in Vietnam, up until the fifth grade, take 4 hour naps everyday!

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Teaching, teaching, teaching!

Hi everyone!

We have been teaching here in Vietnam for several weeks now and while I am getting used to the way things work in this country, the heat continues to be just as overwhelming as our workload. While our stay here is at times exhausting, we have learned to go with the flow and are enjoying our times in the school. I immediately felt welcomed by both students and staff at both of the schools we are attending and everyone seems to have a genuine interest in us and wants us to be there. The children take every opportunity they get to talk to us and at times we find it difficult to cross the schoolyard since we are immediately surrounded by a group of elementary students who will refuse to let us leave! :)

During my time in the classrooms here so far, I have noticed a lot of differences and learned a lot about myself as a teacher as well. Something that I noticed immediately upon visiting the schools for the first time and still appreciate every time I walk in is how bright and green the schools are in comparison to most Canadian schools. There are lush plants, ponds, and natural light everywhere you look. It might sound odd, but I strongly believe that this is something that can significantly influence the students' enjoyment of school and ability to learn. At the most basic level, natural light and fresh air help keep you awake and focused, not to mention the mental health benefits such an environment has. It is quite simply a very inviting environment.

Something that continues to be difficult is working with the limited space and resources available to us in the local classrooms. The rooms themselves are quiet small and lack many of the resources we often take for granted in Canada such as books, a computer, a projector, or even a space to sit as a group. There are usually about 40 students in each class. The space tends to be cramped, so there is not much room for students to move and group work is not often possible. As teachers, we are usually limited to a book, a cassette/CD player and a blackboard as resources. I have found that this environment severely limits the amount of differentiation we can include in our lessons and the amount of individual attention we can give each student. I have noticed significant gaps in student abilities within any given classroom and am wondering if this is due to the limited amount of individual support students are able to receive.

While we are very caught up in our lesson planning and university assignments, we are still taking to time to experience Vietnam whenever we can. We recently visited the local markets and were able to attend the schools 'mid autumn festival', where we were able to watch dragon dancers perform for the students. We have also been to a tailor and are now proud owners of ao dai, Vietnam's traditional dress, which is still worn by female teachers on a daily basis.

In the next few weeks, I will need to work on finding a better routine when it comes to my university assignments and my lesson planning. I look forward to continuing my work with the students and teachers here and hope to find some more time to explore more of Da Nang and the surrounding areas. I have gotten lots of recommendations for places I need to see and I hope I can visit them all!

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Teaching in Vietnam!

Hello!

We have now been teaching in Vietnam for an entire month! It’s been both incredible and nerve wracking all at the same time! We definitely have to be creative when explaining ourselves sometimes and vice versa. I feel like sometimes it’s tougher because teacher’s in Vietnam don’t really have a scheduler or planner, they kind of just write things down on paper and then forget about it so we tend to get at least a few revised schedule before it is finalized. It’s stressful at times, but I feel like we’ve learned to just go with the flow and have fun with it. It definitely takes getting used to. I remember one time one of the teachers was ill, so we couldn’t meet with her ahead of time to review the topic of the class we were required to teach the next day. We had to consistently think on our feet and be extremely creative in the way we taught the lesson that day. This was extremely valuable, because in Education, we are constantly taught to be flexible in everything we do and teaching in Vietnam is about being flexible all the time!

Teaching at the high school is especially interesting, because half the time I don’t know if they understand me or not, or if I’m talking too fast or not. I use my hands a lot in order to get my instructions across. Today, one of my students made fun of me because I was using my hands too much! It was quite hilarious I must say. Teaching here has been incredible and difficult. There are so many things that I would like to do in a lesson, however I don’t have much space or time, the classes are typically 45 minutes. I don’t want to stand up in front of the class and lecture the entire time because I don’t want students to get bored, however, students seem to be at different levels. Some of the students aren’t being challenged at all, while other’s don’t know very much English, so they end up shutting down. I also can’t play any games that require movement because it is way too hot and student’s end up getting tired and too hot to learn.

In conclusion, teaching in Vietnam so far has been so much fun! It’s been quite the adventure with the communication, but it has also taught us a number of things, including being flexible, patient, having fun no matter what situation you’re in and just rolling with the punches! I am definitely learning new things everyday and most of all enjoying every minute of this experience!

Ps. With the little time we do have, we usually spend it relaxing at the beach, which is beautiful!

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Week 3

It is Week 3, actually, scratch that, Week 4 of TAB for us Vietnam girls. I saw this because we started a week before everyone else, therefore it is Week 3 of our ed studies starting again, but Week 4 of us working our butts off trying to lesson plan and keep up with classes! Regardless I am still having a blast!

Life here is different in so many ways. One of the other girls here was asked by her class to talk about some taboo topics from Canada. This got us discussing over lunch one day about the differences in what we would call taboo stuff back home versus here.

One of the biggest things that stand out to me is that the physical way that people communicate here. This can be seen in interactions at the mall with other people and at the school between different students, both at the elementary and high school levels. Whether it be a pat on the back, or a (not always so gentle) grab of the arm, there is (not surprisingly) no sense of personal space! Though we were prepared for this having researched Vietnam and eastern cultures prior to coming, it is never quite fathomable until it has been experienced. Not only do the elementary children seem to be almost always play fighting, smacking, etc., the high school students also demonstrate it; as I witnessed today when a group presenting slapped his partner on the back of his head to imply he needed to switch the slideshow presentation to the next slide. They do not seem to take offence to this like people back home would, and never do they react in shock, in fact they usually just slap right back! Apart from roughhousing, anytime we try to find something, a grab of the arm resulting in us being dragged towards what we are hopefully looking for is the end result. It’s hilarious to me, as I know they don’t mean negatively. However, if you tried this back home you would likely be assaulted or the cops called for some sort of physical abuse charge! :P Some of my fellow pre-teachers here remarked that if a child is slapped in a class at elementary school in Canada, the rest of the children are often upset about it, and in no time the teacher will hear about it and have to deal with it. I must admit, I do miss much of the order that we have in Canada. Here they truly live as if it is every man for themselves; no regard for waiting in line, or for saying excuse me to get by (unless of course it is to get the annoying tourist teachers from Canada to move because they misinterpreted your incredibly close proximity as just wanting to be friendly!)

I am feeling overwhelmed with the work load here, and will have to work harder to assert to the schools that I need some more time to work on my university projects. Nevertheless, I do enjoy my time with the students, and love chatting with the teachers who are interested to get to know us and support us. One of my high school teachers is incredibly welcoming, and I hope to visit her home soon to meet her family!

Finally, we had quite a rough past weekend, when we (okay, it was my fault) disturbed an apparent cockroach nest within our home. This resulted in more cockroaches than I could ever imagine basically pouring out of multiple places in our home. It was both traumatizing and eye opening, and after two nights out of the house we returned, hoping the cockroaches would agree to call a truce. As life should have taught me by now, attacking is never a good method! We will move forward and attempt to share our home in peace, hopefully resulting in the night creatures only venturing out when our eyes are closed, and we can pretend to remain naïve to their existence at all! Evidence is below.

Ps. I have not yet acclimatized. I am starting to lose hope! Though I did notice I felt chilly in my airconditioned room the other day, and was shocked to see it was only set to 22 degrees Celsius!

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Half-Way There!

It has now been one month since we first arrived in Da Nang city. It is crazy to think that our experience abroad with TAB is half-way done. With only five weeks remaining in the program I have been reflecting back on the experience thus far, both the positive experiences and the difficulties we have encountered.

First and foremost, the experience is one I do not regret! The opportunity to be on the other side of the world and experience first-hand what it is like to be an English teacher abroad is one I have immensely enjoyed. It is a stepping-stone that will contribute to the work I will continue to do as an English teacher abroad in my career. That being said, there have been some difficulties. The language barrier proved more difficult than anticipated. I expected to have problems but in some instances charades simply do not work. In the high school the English proficiency is very high while in the elementary school sometimes the students are not capable of understanding direction which makes teaching extremely difficult. The people here are wonderfully kind and everyone tries to help you when they can. People have even gone out of their way to help me with a flat tire, directions and translating to other Vietnamese people. In the schools everyone is friendly but at times I feel they misunderstand our role as I am often left alone with the students for multiple periods – if not the whole day. This was a little overwhelming and lesson planning on my own with course work has proven difficult although I feel my confidence has grown significantly in the classroom. Despite the additional workload we are receiving here in Vietnam I feel much more confident for my upcoming Canadian practicums.

One particular thing I have learned about teaching in Vietnam is the emphasis on competition. Students are hesitant to respond in discussion however with minor tweaks to a lesson plan you can divide the class into to teams and they cannot wait to participate. Debates are my go-to favourite activity as the high school students get extremely competitive to win the debate, enabling them to practice their pronunciation, listening and speaking skills as well as explaining their comprehension of the topic. I prefer the high school over the elementary school but I guess that makes sense considering I am a secondary teacher! I have enjoyed the experience in the schools thus far and cannot wait to teach them about thanksgiving in Canada and Halloween this October!

Outside the schools I am adjusting to the life and social norms of Vietnam! It is not polite to make eye-contact with those who are in the administration and the hygiene standards are lower. People will come up to you on the beach and try to drink out of your water bottle if you’re not careful! Another thing very different from home is the idea of lines and personal space. No one appears to adhere to the convention of lines, but rather who can push their way to the front and personal space is non-existent. Adjusting to these new social norms has been difficult but also opens my eyes to the difficulty our immigrants may feel coming to Canada. This experience has been extremely beneficial so far both as an educator and for my own personal development as a global citizen. I can’t wait to explore more and take advantage of this opportunity while we still have time!

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Second Post!

Xin chào from some of the Vietnam crew!!

    Issues at home will seem forever trivial after this. Every bathroom trip here I think: Will there be toilet paper? Will there be a hose? Will it work? Will I have to use a squatty potty? Will there be water to manually flush the toilet? Is there going to be a bucket to transfer the water? (Because I lifted a giant garbage can full of water in order to flush due to a lack of bucket!) Will there be hand soap? More often than not the answer to all these questions is no! Nevertheless it is a beautiful place.

            That being said, I love being here. I am enjoying having to figure things out, and the overwhelming culture shock has settled into a deep appreciation of the way they live their lives here. I am finding that I deeply regret not learning more Vietnamese words, as the few I did learn are not nearly enough! As a side note, I am truly dreading coming back to Canada where we wipe our dirty behinds with toilet paper instead of neatly cleaning ourselves off with water first!

            In Vietnam we are going to a primary school and a high school. After experiencing some classroom experience in both, I feel amused to realize how much more I am looking forward to teaching the high school class versus the primary.

            The primary school we are going to starts at 7am. Though I could not believe it when I heard it then ends at 4:15pm, it makes sense in hindsight because we learned the children nap for about 3 hours a day. This surprised me at first, but it makes sense! Like many other places that are incredibly hot, siestas, for example are common and necessary! Our correspondent at the school we call Jade. That is what her Vietnamese name means. She is such a wonderful person, and has expressed to us so genuinely multiple times her passion for teaching English. I love learning about her life story (having gone to air/piloting school, and working at an airline in security for years), and learning about how she became the passionate teacher she is today. Jade has treated us so well, and has already taken us to the well known Han Market to help us get our Vietnam áo dài’s (a tad unsure of the spelling still!) made to wear when teaching. It is funny to me, because like in Canada, Jade wears lovely colours and adorable outfits at the elementary school, and we kept this in mind when we were with her buying our outfits. However, we then learned at the high school that the teaching outfits are moving towards being more simple in colours, as to not make the teachers stand out. Though in all fairness, all 5 of us stand out basically wherever we go, so I suppose it does not make much difference! I hope they are proud that we have gotten them, and I am eager to see everyone’s reactions when we come to class wearing them. All in all, the primary school is not what I expected, though I am embarrassed to admit that. In hindsight, I should have realized that the young children are not yet fluent in English, thus making explaining anything to them incredibly difficult. I am trying to learn some Vietnamese to help this, though it usually just results in them hysterically laughing at me, and the teacher (who occasionally is not in the room) having to save me from being completely lost in translation! Our experience at the primary school has been incredibly overwhelming, but I am still loving every moment of it. There seems to be some miscommunication between the teachers and Jade, and she has tried to clear that up for us. The Vietnamese culture seems to purport a ‘sink or swim’ sort of mindsight, which has taken some time to adjust to. Nevertheless, the children adore us all, and help make it worth it. Jade is so appreciative of us, despite me feeling like sometimes we are just a hindrance during this busy beginning time of year. Here in Vietnam we had quite a bit of trouble accessing D2L at first, and were very behind due to this struggle. After letting Jade know, she was incredibly accommodating and ensured that we had some days off to catch back up.

            The high school experience for me so far has been wonderful. The high school we are placed in is a prestige school, requiring the students to take an extensive exam in order to get in. All of the students are incredibly smart, though the subjects they major in does differ. Due to the unfortunate unforeseen events that occurred here, I have taken on working with two different teachers. Therefore, I am teaching 4 high school classes a week. The problem with that is, though I could use the same lesson for all classes, they differ in majors. Therefore, the English majoring students are much more fluent in English than the other two classes I teach. The other class majors in Math, and the other class is an IT class. I found it fascinating that the high school teachers warned me about the differences between these classes, though I did appreciate it. I am noticing that the differences are not quite as large as the teachers let them out to be. However, the eagerness in learning English does seem to differ a tad more. Though I truly think it is not an attitude problem, and more so a fear of speaking a language they are not as good at. The below picture is a shot from the high school hallway that I found incredibly amusing.

            Before I ramble far too much, I will point out that living in Da Nang has been wonderful so far. I was a tad concerned when we were in Ha Noi prior to arriving here, as it is a very different place. I wonder if the comparison is similar to living in the centre of New York, versus the smaller cities that surround the area and are less face paced. We are so lucky here; we live in a beautiful residential neighbourhood and am incredibly close to a large mall where we are able to get groceries. The life is very different, and there are an endless list of things that have taken some getting used to; fires of garbage being burned in the streets at night, a ritualistic drumming ceremony that seems to happen randomly throughout the city almost every night, non existent traffic rules, the list goes on! But I am so grateful to be here, and have been treated well here overall.

            Today I was explaining to my teacher why I sent my lesson plan in so late (after 5pm on Sunday for a late morning class on Monday) and she was surprised to hear I have University classes on the side. She said, “How are you meant to experience the life here in Da Nang?” I replied, “Well, I am not too sure yet!” Though I am sure it will be quite an adventure!

Not to copy Sam or anything…but PS. Jade suggested I buy some different tops so that the vast amount of sweat I am sweating out everyday is less visible. Ha! And the picture of the fans doesn't explain enough, as I couldn't get all the other 6 fans that are on the side walls in the picture!

“Teacher Jenny” (as they call me here!)

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Two Weeks of Teaching in Vietnam

We began our teaching adventure in Da Nang about two weeks ago. So far, we have settled into our Da Nang home and have already begun teaching. First, we started at the primary school, where we’ve been going 3-4 times a week. I started teaching at the high school today and will go every Monday for two periods. It has been a very busy and exciting couple of weeks.

            The primary school we teach at is very different from Canadian elementary schools. The instruction is traditional and the class sizes are huge. I counted 46 students in a grade 4 English class that Sunaira and I taught for one period. The school days are also long. School starts at 7am and ends at 4:15 pm. The day also includes a long nap period for all grades (1-5). When we aren’t teaching English classes we help with English Club. English Club is voluntary and the students who attend are passionate about learning the language. Something I found interesting about English Club is that members of the club must choose an English name for themselves.

            The high school we teach at is a school for gifted students. I teach two grade 11 English periods on Mondays. Most of the students speak English quite well. I complimented a student on his English and told him I hear a bit of a British accent in his pronunciation. He laughed and told me he watches a lot of British television. The teacher I am working with would like the students to practice listening and speaking with me. We decided that my lessons will focus on Canadian and North American culture (the students love to discuss this) and I will incorporate many opportunities for them to practice their speaking and listening skills. Many of the older students in Da Nang aspire to leave Vietnam and attend University in The United States, so they have many questions for me about North American Culture. Today a student asked me why Canadians have a reputation for being “push-overs,” which I found quite humorous. I was also asked if it is normal to kiss someone on the cheek when saying hello in Canada.

I was surprised with how much respect and admiration I was shown by the high school students. They seem to truly love practicing English with an English speaker. I allowed them to vote on next weeks cultural topic and they decided on Canadian slang and social norms. I am excited to create a fun filled lesson that gives them plenty of practice.

 

P.S: Neither school has air-conditioning and today a girl got up during my lesson to point a fan at me.

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