We are in the middle of our practicum experience! On Monday, I was able to observe two others "team teach," and yesterday and today I have team taught with two different classmates. Each class has been 2.5 hours long- with a 10 minute break. My class on Tuesday had nearly 40 students, while my class today had almost 30. And, each class has started at 7:00 a.m.! This means we have left the hotel at 6:30 by taxi to get to school on time. So I have been getting up in the 5 o'clock hour!! A shocker, I know. This year might turn me into a morning person yet :)
I'm sure things will be different once I begin teaching at Dalat University, but I wanted to share some of my first impressions of a university classroom in Vietnam. Here's what I've noticed:
- Classrooms consist of three rows of narrow benches connected to narrow tables (about 3-4 Vietnamese students fit on one bench, but 4 is tight), a desk and chair for the teacher in the front left of the room, and a chalkboard. There is also a ceiling fan and wall fan right by the teacher's desk. While these fans are a nice reprieve from the heat, they also cause papers on your desk to blow away.
- The chalkboard is so great because you can move it up and down. So if you need to write on the bottom of the board- there is no need to bend over- you just move the whole board up! I LOVE that ;)
- There is usually a class monitor for each classroom who, I believe, is a student selected by other students as a leader for the classroom. The class monitor assists the teacher when needed. For example, when you are running low on chalk, the class monitor somehow disappears and a minute later magically reappears with an abundance of chalk for you! It's a great system.
- Being on time for class isn't a major priority for some. However, if you have already started class, a late student will stand at the doorway and wait until you make eye contact with them. Then they will request, "Teacher, may I come in?" And they will only enter the room after you have nodded your head and motioned for them to join the classroom. When I was late to a University class, the last thing I wanted was for the professor to notice my tardiness!
- The students fill in the front rows of the classroom and leave the last rows empty. What a novel idea!
- Students love to come up to the front and act and present. However, you really have to ask them to speak loudly- sometimes it sounds like they are speaking in a whisper.
- Just like most all language learners, their comprehension and reading/writing ability is much stronger than their speaking ability.
- It is more rare for students to raise their hand and answer a question without being called on. They are used to being specifically called on. Interestingly, when you ask a question and invite a specific student to answer, they will stand up to give their response.
- It's going to take me a while to learn students' names!! Today I had a gal whose name is Ngoc. To pronounce this, you start with the sound you hear at the end of the word "Sing"... and I'm not sure how to explain the rest... except that your mouth closes at the end- and at first I thought it sounded like it ended with a "P."
I really enjoyed both classes I taught so far, and can't wait to meet the students I will be with for the year!
Oh, and on another note, I wanted to share a photo of my nephew Sam- he has made a WONDERFUL first impression! I love being Tia Suzy :) How cute is he?!