HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Kids are Alright

As I mentioned in my previous post, I substituted for three classes of 3 year-olds at an international school over the past week and a half. When I visited the school to introduce myself the day before my first class, the kids stared at me in utter confusion and, in some cases, outright fear. By the end of my last classes on Tuesday, however, they were climbing all over me, and I was sad to say goodbye.

Here are the three classes. If some of the kids look somewhat Western, it's because several of them had one white parent (Ok, let's be honest, this being Asia they were white dads), which is common at these expensive international schools.
Those twins in the pink shirts (they always wore identical outfits) were actually pretty annoying.

Vy Thanh - second from the left in the front row - was one of my favorites
At first, I was a little apprehensive about working with such young children. I taught a class of kindergartners earlier in the year, and I just didn't feel like I had the right personality for it, so I eventually quit. It can be quite difficult to try to teach children with no knowledge of English - hell, they don't even have a full knowledge of Vietnamese yet! - but I really enjoyed the classes. Probably because of the kids.

I haven't really interacted with toddlers very much since my youngest sister was that age - about 10 years ago - so I had forgotten how massively entertaining they can be. For starters, their motor skills are still far from fully developed. Kids would wobble around the classroom caroming off of each other and the walls, often toppling over at the slightest hint of a breeze. They were also incapable of coloring in the lines; obliterating neatly-outlined backpacks and flowers in violent bursts of red, green, and purple. Except for the one girl who colored everything in yellow. Luckily, we only had to take a class up to the second floor of the school once, for moving fifteen 3 year-olds up a staircase is a logistical undertaking the likes of which haven't been seen since Hannibal marched his army of elephants across the Alps.

These little tots also cried at the drop of a hat. Or even the threat of a hat being dropped. Minor collisions with other kids; someone using the third-to-last blue crayon; someone holding my hand and not letting another student hold it; these were all grounds for fantastic displays of waterworks. Oddly, said children could also take sprawling falls onto the floor, and pop up smiling as if nothing had happened.

The short-term memory of these kids is also the only thing in the world shorter than Kim Kardashian's marriage. I would hold up a flashcard showing the color yellow, and have them repeat after me three times. Two minutes later, I would hold the card up again: "What's this?" "Blue!" Erm... At the start of class, as we went around the circle asking each other what our names were, a kid would inevitably answer the question when asked, and then simply stare at the floor. Or me. Or the moth on the ceiling. What they would not do is turn to the person next to them, continuing the question chain. They do this drill every single day, but thoughts seem to disappear from their still-developing minds in about half a second.

All of this made for entertaining classes, as did the personalities of the children. Some were so quiet I could barely hear them when they answered a question. Others, such as Vy Thanh, were more confident. When she was asked what her name was, she always responded with: "My name is Vy THANH!!" Thien Tuan, who was very good at remembering English words, would always say "My name is Thien Tuan OH YEA!!!"

Then there were the twins, who reminded me of hyperactive, extremely needy puppies. They ruined practically every flashcard game I tried to play. Once, I told everyone to close their eyes (this was obviously translated through the TA's) as I placed flashcards around the room. I was planning to ask individual students to find certain cards, but as soon as I said "Open your eyes", the twins scooped up all of the cards and handed them to me. Um, thanks. If a game involved taking turns, they would raise a hand and repeatedly pat my leg while going "Ah! Ah! Ah! Me! Ah! Ah!" until I chose one of them, just like my dog used to do when he wanted to be pet. They were also kind of dumb, which sounds really mean, but they were still calling red blue after four days of going over basic colors!

I had also been warned about one (I can't remember all of the names) who was a little...off. Boy was he. One day, when I asked what his name was, he shouted "BAO KHANH KHANH", which isn't his name, stood up, put his hands behind his back, and started hopping around in a circle. Whenever we reviewed flashcards, he would either just wander around the classroom or shout noises, and he just had to take part in EVERY turn of EVERY game.

I'm probably forgetting a few other stories, but teaching these kids was a great experience - it is amazing how quickly they form tight bonds with you. Not sure if I'll ever see any of them again, but I'll certainly treasure the short amount of time we spent together.
Loved this chubby guy.
Thien Tuan - this kid is a genius. He gave my leg a big hug every time I walked into the classroom.
Jessica, one of several halfies in the classes
Ines! If I could support a child right now, I would try to adopt her.
Little Kien. He grew very attached to me, and presented me with a stuffed dolphin at the start of every class.


  1. Wow what a great group of kids, they seem to really gravitate towards you. I wonder if you'll ever get another "Bill" in one of your classes again. Have you ever taught in the United States before traveling to Vietnam? Thanks for the quick update, it was an entertaining read!

  2. my dearest babies seemed to love you! Job well done, thanks again.

  3. Paul - impressed that you remember Bill. He was a pretty unique one. I had never taught before coming here - I graduated from school last August and was in Southeast Asia by the end of that month.

    Alexis - No problem, they were great!