24 November, 2006

Substitute teaching

The last three days of this week I spent subbing at the International School. The night before I started, I couldn't sleep: I was nervous, and jittery, and I had the same old dream that I used to have all the time when I started teaching a few years ago. In the dream I'm trying to get a large group of students to hear what I'm saying, and we're always in an auditorium or some other sort of really big room. Usually the students are talking to each other instead, and I can see that they know I'm trying to get their attention but they can't be bothered; they don't respect me. I'm trying tactics, I'm wheedling, I'm waving my arms (and in this most recent one, I was using a microphone but it wasn't working) to get them to listen to me. The meaning is obvious: I'm afraid I won't be an effective teacher. The cool thing is that in this week's dream, I had some helpers. There were a few of my best students from Pisgah in this dream, and they were trying to shush the other students for me, helping me regain control of the class. It didn't work, but it made me feel a little glimmer of hope. [ever notice how these words always want to go together, glimmer and hope? I don't like how contrived it sounds but that's what came out.]

Anyway, sleeplessness and reoccurring dreams aside, this week has been great. I love being at this school. Too bad they can't hire me for this coming semester, because the ceramics teacher needs an aid and the dance and music teachers want a drama person to help with the production of their spring shows. The campus is clean and beautiful, the kids are *uber* respectful (at least, in English-- but some of the Korean girls I'm pretty sure were talking smack), and the cafeteria food rocks. You're not teaching in Vietnam until you've had little plastic mini-bowls of pho in the morning. Today has been the best day of them all. Since it's Friday, most of the classes are viewing movies (Uncle Tom's Cabin in US History and Luther in World History) but the best one has, very surprisingly, been in AP Economics. I would seriously recommend this DVD to anyone: it comes with their textbook and it's called DiscoverEcon with Paul Solman. Brilliant wit, truly funny scenes, and crystal clear examples that made me go "Ohh!" out loud and all the kids looked at me and giggled (hey, I never took Econ). I am going to try not to steal it and take it home with me. What a fun day.

Tonight is Thanksgiving Dinner: we're doing it supra style with lots of wine and toasting. Kenny and I are making our famous (sorta) tofu chocolate mousse pies, and garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans, and we ordered a turkey (it comes cooked already: that was actually the only option). Yum.

In other news: now that we've watched all the Deadwood there is to watch, I've moved on to Carnivale. It's pretty great so far, and juuust enough like Deadwood to keep me happy.

Also: on Wednesday morning my xe om driver took me to the wrong end of the city (whoops!) and we backtracked through the part of the city I think that maybe no expat knows about: the network of marshes and fields and dirt paths that make up the "other" side of An Phu (District 2). I felt like we were in the middle of the country somewhere. It was straight outta National Geographic. The scenery and the poverty were together so brightly hued and poignant and just striking, and I thought, "ah ha: Saigon has not always been what I know it to be." And I was late for work, and we got on a ferry to get back to town, and my driver was stressed, but it was very memorable.

Right now, it's planning period, and if you look away from the white boards and the faux-wood desks and the computer and the American flag and out the window, you can see a river winding around the edge of the land. The school has planted trees but they're not big enough yet to bock the sight of the water. On the banks are low bunches of palms and every once in awhile a little makeshift hut, and there is one canoe dipping its oars into the water, far away, in profile. There is one airplane in the sky, flying fast. How amazing it is that you can just go somewhere like this, and be here, and be so far away from where you were.


Serena said...

Yay! You rock, lady! I'm glad you're enjoying your new job.

Karen said...

Hey J,

How id your TG go? We continue to fantasize about visiting y'all before you head back to the chilly hills of Vermont. But let's hear about those garlic mashed potatoes. (C and I and our friend Leon made pierogies for dinner last night - I highly recommend giving 'em a go. You & Ken are imminently qualified!).


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