Friday, August 29, 2008


I love this picture. The commie-tubbies...

It's one of the many murals on the walls of the courtyard at the kindergarten where I teach a couple of days a week. I took over for my former room mate Ollie, who's in this next pic.

It's pretty fun because it's easy to give into the mayhem. I help teach the ABC's and names of fruits, vehicles, and family members etc. And then sometimes I just let them climb on me.

5 nights a week I'm at Children's Palace. This is kind of my bread-and-butter volunteer gig because they take care of my housing. The way they run the place is taking some getting used to. Sometimes there is a Vietnamese teacher in the room to tell me what material they're working on. Sometimes there is no other teacher and I just ask the kids what I should teach them. Sometimes I start teaching and a Vietnamese teacher comes in 15 minutes into the class and asks me to go to another classroom where there are a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds who have no text or lesson plan and are playing video games. There is a schedule, but I don't know if there has been a day yet when I taught in all the classes that I was scheduled to teach in. So, I'm getting better at coming up with lesson plans on the fly and just going with it. Last night I had a group of young teens with no other teacher, no lesson plan, no book. So we just "rapped" "Welcome Back, Kotter" style for the first half of class. And wrote a group story and played a vocabulary-building game for the last half. I think the most important thing is to get them speaking in English and keep them using English with a native English speaker as long as I can. And it ended up being a lot of fun. Here's a hallway to one of the classrooms where I have to duck to keep form hitting my head on the ceiling...

I'm not one to use marijuana myself even though I think it should be legalized. However, I do support the school's strict bong ban. These kids are just too young for that.

This is probably my favorite classroom. The others all have dry-erase boards and, I don't know if it's the climate or what, but a dry erase marker lasts about as long as an accidentally dropped dollar bill around here. The low-tech chalk is much better.

The real attraction at the school is the courtyard area. There are always kids playing badminton or doing martial arts. And there is a carnival going on every day with bumper cars and other rides. One of them uses the exact same recording that we use for car alarms in the US. So basically, there is a car alarm going off all night, every night when I teach there. I thought I was going to snap and start teaching the kids pig latin the first week, but I don't even really hear it anymore. It's kind of like living in Roger's Park again.

And sometimes the courtyard is full of fabulous, twirling, sparkly, balerina-princesses that swirl round their parents like sea water around dock posts as they get ready for their big performance.

I got a chance to stop by Blue Dragon Children's Foundation this week and get a little tour and meet the director. I seems like a really amazing place and I'm looking forward to whatever I end up doing there. I might be teaching English. I might be doing something with theatre. I'm going to start by just showing up and hanging out with the kids in the drop-in center and seeing what's up.

And Friday I got to drop by Hope Center, which is a school for kids with developmental disabilities. The staff were really good, and I was struck by how nice and well-behaved all of the kids were. They were so patient and happy. This little guy was psyched about the clay pig we made together.

I think all kids should be retarded. They're so much nicer than those "normal" kids.


Shawn said...

Seth, this is great stuff. I hope you have a lot of readers out there, and you'll keep it coming!

Seth said...

I've been pretty steady with the once a week posts so far. And there is so much interesting stuff here. So I keep my camera in my pocket wherever I go.

How's everything with you?

shawn said...

Things are good. I'm teaching pretty much full-time now, at two colleges in Detroit. I live about 2 blocks from the city limits, in Grosse Pointe Park, in a nice flat that has a kind of cottage-like feel to it. Money is always tight, but job satisfaction is huge. I've got a lot of adult "returning" students at the community college, and I really enjoy working with them. The other school is a private Jesuit university, which also has an interesting student mix. And the other great thing is that I absolutely love the city of Detroit, warts and all.

I'm glad you're getting so much out of your 'Nam experience! It's great fun to get the vicarious version online.