A Bit of Bittersweet

Here’s a little look into what my life as a teacher is like, and the goodbyes that accompany the end of every class.

As I’ve mentioned before, I work at Can Tho University’s Center for Foreign Languages, and I teach daytime and nighttime classes. Day courses are much different from night courses. For one, day courses focus on cultural awareness and study abroad preparation, while night courses focus on conversation skills. Day courses consist of curriculum that I designed myself, while night courses are taught from a book given to me by the Center. Lastly, day courses consist of students who have already obtained their bachelor’s degrees with some master’s degrees, and they are ALL older than me (some have children my age!), while night classes consist of university students. So, as you may have guessed, I am supremely more comfortable teaching night classes.

Because I work at the Center and not in a department of the university, my classes do not follow a typical semester schedule. The day classes run on a 10-week rotation with two or three weeks of break between, and the night classes run on an 8-week rotation with two or three weeks of break between.

This means a lot of goodbyes. This week I am wrapping up my penultimate night class rotation, and so last night I had the final class with what was hands down one of my favorite groups of students thus far. They took me out for some dinner and karaoke last week, which was supremely fun!

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Sorry, iPhones take horrible pictures in the dark!

(I am going to interrupt myself here for a moment, and note the fact that I’m on the bus to the College of Rural Development, and “Last Christmas” is playing on the radio. Oh wait, the driver just changed the station to traditional Vietnamese countryside music. C’est la Vietnam, people.)

Moving on. Last night, we finished the assigned lesson about cooking and recipes in the course booklet twenty minutes early, as usual. So, I drilled them on their pronunciation, which I’ve been a stickler about: “Repeat after me, class: ‘Please put sour soup in this bowl [Fleash put shour shoup een tis bo-al]. Don’t eat the flowers or the grass.’” (I have no idea where these made-up sentences come from, sometimes!)

Hearing how much their pronunciation has improved in just the few weeks that we’ve been together is so encouraging and affirming. Class after class of contorting my mouth into different shapes to demonstrate the proper positioning of the tongue, lips, and teeth pays off! And they get so excited when they say it right!

Then, as I do at the end of every class, I spent the last ten minutes answering their questions about words or phrases they’ve heard or seen in movies, songs, or books, and responding to inquiries about life in America, study abroad, which Vietnamese foods I’ve eaten, etc. etc.

And THEN, after the bell rang to announce the end of class at 9:00, all the students rushed up to the front of the room for a slew of pictures. A picture with each student, a picture with some pairs of students, and then a group picture with everyone’s camera and/or cell phone, including mine :) I always feel like a celebrity!

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After about fifteen minutes of photos, the guard came around to the classrooms to shoo us away. I quickly wrote my email address on the board so my students could keep in touch with me, flitted around the room to flip the switches that power the A/C, erased the board, turned out the lights, and handed in my attendance sheet.

And thus ended the class. It’s bittersweet, knowing that I won’t be meeting with these amazing students twice a week anymore, knowing that I’ve sent them off into the world, hopefully better equipped to communicate their opinions and ideas to people all over the world.

I can only imagine what ending my final round of classes will be like. It’s winding down. A sad thought.

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One thought on “A Bit of Bittersweet

  1. i feel like i’ve joined you on this journey and it is also feeling bittersweet for me! hahah. maybe it’s because your story is so genuine and you express yourself well. keep up the blogging. you have many invisible readers and fans!

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