Teaching in Hai Phong

As a teacher in Hai Phong, I was lucky enough to experience teaching students of all ages. I taught the ages 6 to 19 and every one of them had both rewards and challenges. Here is a little insight into my experience teaching them all abroad!

School Opening Ceremony

Today was our first day of teaching. In the morning I had to go to a primary school for their opening ceremony on my own which was rather daunting! I walked into this incredibly busy playground which had a huge multi-coloured marquee in the centre. Kids were sat underneath in their respective classes waiting for the show to begin. As I took in the atmosphere, I wandered around like a headless chicken not knowing where I was supposed to go and couldn't ask anyone either due to the language barrier. I am sure it was quite entertaining for those watching me! I finally found a TA who sat me down and I was given some money in an envelope for the start of the year which I thought was a lovely gift - I really wasn't expecting that! The kids put on a show for us which included dancing, singing and acting! They also gave out new uniforms for the poorer children - I later found out that this school was one of the most poor when I started noticing the condition of some of their clothes.

It was also so strange to see all the children stand up at the end of the ceremony, start waving their Vietnam flags and belting out this 'Vietnam Ho Chi Minh' song which is something I have not seen before! I suppose this does happen in some countries like USA where they proudly sing the national anthem but in England this pretty much only happens in football!

Primary School Opening Ceremony
I ended up teaching at this school once a week and they were darlings. I mean, they exhausted me and I crashed so hard when I got home but they loved having me around which meant the world.

Primary School

My first day of teaching was at a primary school with a few other interns. I was so nervous waiting to go to my grade 4 class but I had my TA with me who made such a difference. I walked into the classroom and had 40 kids clap, jump up and down and scream 'hello teacher!'. Their enthusiasm was like a breath of fresh air and I felt instantly calm. They were so excited to see me and they hugged me so tightly I could barely move! Once my TA got them to sit down and open their books, I took a deep breath and wrote my name on the board. My hands were shaking so much and my handwriting isn't the best anyway! As they were so excited I decided to help them release all that energy! I got them to stand up, dance, jump up and down, wiggle and sing and eventually sit back down with their arms folded. 

My Amazing TA Thuy
Grade 4

Lesson plans for primary school did not differ too much and did eventually get rather boring. For this lesson, and for many others, I drilled new vocabulary, did a listening activity and played a game. However, due to their low level English, these activities became very monotonous! The kids had lots of energy though and this made up for it! 

One sad thing I did notice in the primary schools was the lack of support or rather complete ignorance of kids with disabilities. I had a few students with learning difficulties in my classes and was told 'He is crazy' and to ignore him rather than teach him anything. Of course I did try but the local teacher didn't seem to care - or she may have done but didn't have to resources to help. The government generally doesn't provide much money to the schools and this can be seen in the conditions of the buildings so it didn't surprise me that there was not any additional support for students who needed it. My time at that primary school was short-lived and only taught there for a month. 

I was moved to a different primary school (the one at the opening ceremony) where I was to teach grade 2 only. My first experience at this school was not good! The children were unruly and were writing all over the blackboard while jumping on tables. I was in over my head and even my TA could not do anything! However, I got a new TA (Thuy) who I had worked with before and she was incredible. They suddenly became the sweetest children ever and I could see progress with my students every week. They remembered what I had taught them and often gave me gifts! I became very fond of one class in particular. We had our own jokes where they would shoo me away from the class then run after to me hugging and dragging me back inside. They would give me all of their stickers and make drawings for me! I really felt the love and it was extremely rewarding. 

These angels. You can also see they do not stay in their assigned seats!
My Besties.

Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations

I only taught primary once a week. I was observed by my boss who said I looked like a 'fish out of water' and thought I would do better with older students. However I was relieved because these little kids were hard work and I have so much respect for those who teach them full time! I enjoyed the Tuesday afternoon I had with them, but that was just enough for me.

Secondary School

We started going to secondary schools (ages 10 to 14) in the countryside to try and win a contract with them. This meant waking up at 5am and then travelling up to 2 hours to schools outside of the city. Once awake, this was actually great fun! The students had never really seen a western person before so this was an amazing experience for them to practice their English. Once again you would walk into cheers and clapping! I never really got used to this but it made my day! We would give them demo lessons and the local teachers would also watch (I had about 8 of them in one of my classes!). I did get used to observations during my teaching over there but at the beginning it is hard to pretend they aren't there watching your every move! At the end of the demo, the students would come up to you and ask for your signature! It was so cute and baffling at the same time! Why would they want me to sign their clothes and books? It was amazing that I made that much of an impact on their life that day.

Signing a student's shirt

Living that celebrity life!

I had my own scheduled secondary school out in the countryside every Thursday morning to teach grade 7. This also consisted of a 5am wake up and 2 hour drive but it was worth it every week. This school was incredible. Their English was so good and they did all the work without me having to ask twice! They listened to me, responded to me and asked me questions all of the time. I was told it was the best secondary school in Hai Phong and there was an entrance exam to attend. I felt very lucky to have been chosen to teach there. The lessons were interesting and we often had that much fun, that the headteacher would tell us all to shut up! For me, this was the best age group to teach as they were still young enough to have enthusiasm about the subject but old enough to concentrate and get on with the work. I also had no TA at this school as it just wasn't needed.

My Grade 7s!

High School

I had some of the best times at my high schools! Because they were older, I related to them much more than other grades and if they could speak good English, the lesson was pretty fun!I could mix up the games a lot more and do music quizzes. However, the lesson content was awful and there was nothing fun learning about the environment and technology let alone in a different language. I had 2 favourite high schools which I taught at every day and even when I had a class that did not care about learning, I could just sit and chat with them instead. I had barely any observations during these classes which was great knowing I could change up the lesson depending on the class. The only downside about having no observations was that if the class was awful, and trust me I really did have a few bad classes, then it was just a waste of time. 

The high schools I was given were amazing. I had managed to get all the best classes too and they  behaved so well.  I had awesome TA's to help me out and translate some difficult words and grammar structures. So a special shout out to Phuong, Son, Trung and Ha. 

Son, Ross, Phuong, Me and Trung
Me, Cherise and Trung

Me and Ha
Picture Race
                                   Funny grade 12s/Amazing grade 11s/Awesome grade 10s/My fav grade 11 girls!

Teaching was such a life changing experience for me. I had always wanted to be a solicitor but it just didn't work out. Instead I was out in Vietnam actually making a difference to people's lives and although at times it was challenging and I turned into a demon on occasion when yelling at teenagers, I had so much fun. There were days when a student would sing for me, I would receive gifts and just have pure banter with students. The day I finished teaching at these schools I received a beautiful bunch of roses and my prized Vietnamese hat that sits proudly on my bedroom wall.  I seriously recommend this so much! Some days I just want to get back on that plane and do it all again...

I guess that's enough about teaching! Let's get to know Hai Phong...


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