First weeks teaching in Vietnam

While I sit here sipping a gin on a chilled Friday night in, I thought I’d give you an insight into my first few weeks of teaching here in Vietnam. I’m going to run through how teaching works out here and at my school, my routine and things I have seen or learnt so far. cropped-39098029_1970734732978207_3690897445945868288_n

So the first official teaching day at VAS (Vietnam Australia International School) was Monday 13th August however the week prior we were learning the ropes, going between our new campuses and meeting a lot of new people. How the PE department works at VAS is a little different to any school I’ve ever known. VAS is a bilingual school and the students study in both English and Vietnamese. Once they reach Grade 9 (Y10) they begin English (Cambridge) PE. Its crazy really, they wait all this time for some decent PE lessons. All the Vietnamese PE is very static, a lot of drills, one by one practises (my personal favourite, standing in a line and hitting a shuttlecock hanging from a string). They also have minimal time playing games and also love routined dancing (we’ve seen this a lot). So once they come to us, with Cambridge PE being very active, games based, teamwork, independent tasks and tactical learning they are a little stunned. It’s a fun and exciting time for them learning a style of lesson they have never experienced before. We have already been told on many occasions that they want more Cambridge PE and less Vietnamese!

Our PE department is made up of Me, Steph, Danny and Jonny (4 brits – woop!). We work between 6 campuses around the city of Saigon. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we are at all different campuses each day, and Thursday and Friday we are at the same one. Its a lot of travelling on the motorbike to different campuses, but at the same time the week goes so fast. With the longest commute being around 25 minutes and a full tank of petrol being equivalent to £3 – we can’t really complain.

The introductory week involved visiting all the campuses, tidying store cupboards and getting to know people we would be involved with at each campus. When the kids arrived we started the lessons with baseline assessments – one of the most tedious tasks! Assessing the students in running, jumping, kicking, throwing and catching to give them a baseline score for assessment purposes. This week was also a chance to introduce ourselves to the new students and get to know some names. Its fair to say its pretty cute being called “Miss Grace” but something I’m totally not used to. Another thing I am still not used to is getting to know names I cannot even pronounce. The Vietnamese language is very fast and involves a lot of rise and fall on each word. Names like Nguyen – pronounced “Win” and Nghia pronounced “Ni-yeah” and one of my favourites Phuc pronounced “Phooo” – all a very funny process when you first try to read out the register. Luckily a lot of these students use English nicknames in Cambridge lessons so were converted to something a little more familiar.

I am going to conclude this blog with some memorable moments from my first 6 weeks of teaching. Its fair to say I’ve had a good share of broken glasses from students who don’t know how to catch properly.  The language barrier is a bit of an issue at times but the kids do very well to understand. Students always need a demonstration. All very amusing but a little frustrating when you tell students to stand “opposite” each other and they move side by side with very blank faces. Sometimes a bit of physical handling is required to move students into the correct place!IMG_1361

The way in which I talk to students is completely different to back home. The language is very basic and broken down into phrases they understand like “good job” or “well done”.  As they are so new to games play or tactics, if you try and give them technical information to improve you often get a face staring open-mouthed at you… don’t bother.

Another comic moment which I am experiencing out here during swimming teaching is… cramp! The amount of cramps in one swimming lesson is ridiculous, at least 2 or 3. Students here just aren’t cut out for busy, active swimming lessons. Often when asked if they have eaten or drank much today the answer is “NO”. My thoughts are “you live in Vietnam where its over 30 degrees”, “I sweat buckets just walking to the toilet”, “I pee about 10 times a day from the amount of water I drink”… so how can you not have a drink! Baffled is the word. IMG_1600

I am enjoying getting to know my classes and the fast pace of the week. I am one for getting bored easily, so the fact we move to different campuses each day is fun for me. I have a lot of great classes with students who are so willing to learn. They are golden, the only issues I ever have is low level chatting or some lateness to lesson – nothing “Miss Grace” can’t handle. In the back of my mind at the moment there is only one issue… No break until Christmas. The long slog until then continues, wish me luck.

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