25 August 2005

One HOT Teacher

After three weeks, I have gotten the high school-ers completely under control, which is something that really worried me in the beginning. Before arriving, I had no idea I would be teaching anything other than adults, and was not super thrilled that I had two, double-period classes of teenagers, 5 days a week. Initially, I was rather surprised by their rowdy behavior; I had thought that they would be, if not angels, at least very respectful of a teacher. And now I see that they are, for the most part, pretty well behaved. It just took a class or two to get things in order.

I admit that by today’s final class, number 8 of the week, I was darn tired of the same lesson. I think I might have sounded like a recording. I no longer had the need to look at the book for anything I did. I weigh this against the thought of prepping for several different levels, and I guess I have ended up with the better option.

I really feel for these kids, who start school at 6:15 in the morning, and study too many hours to comprehend. The school itself is a massive, utilitarian, Soviet reminiscent, structure. U-shaped, it rises seven stories high, with wide staircases of polished stone winding up to each level. Every floor has an expansive corridor, with waist high, outer walls. Above this, they are open to the courtyard, allowing for air to flow freely. Steel, pull-down shutters extend along the top of the open walls and can be employed to block either sun or rain. Around two sides of the U, classrooms open off to the inside of the walkways. Strolling down the halls, you can feel a breeze, which is cooled by stone and concrete, and high ceilings. Inside the classrooms is a different story.

There are up to 42 adolescent bodies, seated in three rows of wooden bench desks, seven deep. There is nothing in the room but a chalkboard, two ceiling fans and banks of florescent lights, which I immediately turn off upon entering. The windows on the outside wall actually open, however, the hardware on the wooden shutters has been painted immobile, rendering them impossible to move. Most are open only slightly, severely blocking air circulation. There are only shutters on the wall bordering the corridor, and they are in the same condition as the others. Suffice to say, it cooks in there, especially when it is close to 90 degrees at 7AM, with 4000% humidity.

Add to this scenario the fact that I dress appropriately, which means my legs and arms are covered. (No hip-hugging sarongs and tank-tops for me, as much as I would like to be dressed that way.) My hair is generally soaking wet by 7:30AM. The students are slumping in their rock hard seats. They, however, are smarter than me. They take off their shoes. I have always worn closed shoes to teach in for two reasons: 1, you have to be sure your toes are beautifully pedicured and your feet are clean; and 2, when I taught in air-conditioned rooms I’d get frostbite on the tootsies. I plan to shop for some suitable, strappy sandals this weekend. I also plan to chop off my hair sometime soon.

Having said that, you should see the Vietnamese teachers. Apparently, it is de rigueur for the women teachers to wear the traditional ao dai. These gals are decked out in the most beautiful outfits, made of silk or polyester. The fabrics are all very formal looking, and something I would only wear to a night at the opera. Skin-tight fitted bodice and long sleeves, with that high collar. I want to pass out just looking at them. The men are in long sleeves and ties.

Final analysis of the whole situation? I like the kids. I figure this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for them, (having a native speaker as a teacher), and I want to give them the best I can. I will try to come up with a less sweaty wardrobe, while maintaining a somewhat respectable appearance. Now all I really need to work on is saving my voice. I’m trashing it, even with the kids under control.

Time to change into that sarong,

ps: The Shot I Missed: those are goldfish. (I will try my darndest to find her again.)