Teaching French in Phu Thuong Primary School, Hanoi
Volunteer’s name: Florence Mc Donald
Project: Phu Thuong primary school
Duration: 4 months
I came to Vietnam to work as a french teacher in a primary school. I worked for 4 months in Phu Thuong school and it has been a wonderful experience. Of course, I enjoyed my trips to Cat Ba, Ninh Binh, Sapa, Ba Be National Park (must do!!) and Hoi An, but what really made my time here memorable, is my everyday work with the kids.
That is why I decided to describe a typical day in my school.
Waking up around 6am, I am trying to fix my sleepy face, having some fruits and toast and being ready to start my day. The way to Phu Thuong school takes me one hour (walk-bus-bus-walk) but it’s totally worth it. In this small neighbourhood in the north of Hanoï, I feel welcome: everyone around waving their hand to say hello, smells of home made food coming in my nose, my students with their big smile sitting behind their parents on a motorbike on the way to school…
Then, at the corner: the school. Not big, not small, just what it takes to feel like it’s a big family. Coming inside the school playground, under the big trees, I see all these kids running around like if nothing in the world would stop them from having fun. Like completely free souls enjoying their time before school starts.Then, a kid’s voice that sounds like happiness coming closer and closer. And an other one, coming from an other side of the playground. And all this concentrated happiness coming in my direction: touching me, hugging me, like a wave of tenderness. All these smiles surround me and let me feel like a superstar.
Then it’s time to go to class. The gong “gongs”. The kids run for their life to not to be late in the classroom. I start with grade 2, followed by the 1st grade. During the 3 hours of work in the morning, I teach with the french teacher. We do some exercices, practice some vocabulary (animals, fruits, school materials...), make the students talk, do some learning games, ask them to write on their small boards, sing, and even dance! Sometimes I work individualy with kids that need it.
At 11am, it’s lunch time! During these 3 hours, I enjoy eating vietnamese food in the school cafeteria or outside, on the street. Pho bo, tofu, Mi xao, Bun Cha, …yummy! Sometimes I have a nap, on this very confortable bed made out of chairs. I sleep very well actually, same for the kids sleeping on their desk! Finally, I have a coffee, go to the cybercoffee to do some school stuff, walk in the streets around the school...At 2pm, I come back to school and see the kids running (flying!) and shouting in the playground. In the afternoon classes, I work with grade 3 and 4. The work is similar as the one in the morning but on a higher level. Finaly, at 4pm, it’s time for me to go back to VPV’s house. I hear the usual “au revoir”, get some high fives, and walk through the gate, already thinking about how nice tomorrow will be.
In the end, I have the impression that, even without being in the best position to influence their learning, I motivated them by trying other ways, encouraging them, showing them that I believe in their competence. I observed some kids that were really afraid of talking french at first but then, they got more self-confidence and the french classes made more sens for them. It really encouraged me. And of course, this experience enriched my personnal life and my work as a teacher.