I am so… incredibly honoured

I have always protested that I’m not a teacher. I do teach sometimes. But I hate it when I tell people in Vietnam that I live here and they automatically say “Oh you’re a teacher” and I get very annoyed and say “No I am NOT a teacher. Just because every dumb shit with a high school education comes here to be a teacher doesn’t mean I’m one of those people. I’m a professional. I have a real career”.

I do teach though. But I teach for free. I think education should be accessible to everyone, and it’s unfortunate that it’s the people who can afford it the least who are the same ones who need it the most. So I donate some of my time to helping teach English to some students here.

Today is Vietnam’s “Teacher’s Day”, when everyone is supposed to honour and respect teachers.

Well, I got an apple from a student. I totally wasn’t expecting that. It had actually slipped my mind that it WAS Teacher’s Day. Until I was given an apple.

I was so touched and honoured to receive this gift that after I was out of sight, I actually cried. I feel so special. I just teach because I can. It’s not my career. I never expected to be honoured as teacher by having a student give me an apple. That is THE sweetest thing that’s happened to me all year.

My special apple.

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2 Responses to I am so… incredibly honoured

  1. Patrick says:

    I have been reading through some of your blog posts, and have found them to be quite thought provoking and interesting. Thanks for your insights into Vietnamese culture. It is always good to read how other people experience Vietnam, because we all have different experiences.
    However, I felt I needed to express my disappointment in your wording within this post. In the first paragraph, you state your response to being mistaken for a teacher as “I’m a professional. I have a real career.” I realise that there are many unqualified English teachers around Saigon, but you have chosen to group all teachers together with this statement. I strongly object to the implication that a properly qualified teacher is not “a professional” and that teaching is not “a real career”.
    Education is a key to improving the world in many ways. Most teachers are people who choose to spend their lives (not just their paid working hours, as any teacher will agree) helping others to learn. This is a career which should be admired and celebrated, as it is in Vietnam and many other cultures. It should not be denigrated or belittled or referred to as a less than important career.
    To all the teachers and educators who may read this: Great job and keep up the admirable work.

    • pawz says:

      Yes. I realise this is a very brash statement and I appreciate your comments. It’s not so much that I am referring to the fact that there ARE so many unqualified English teachers around who do nothing but read out of a book and don’t know a word of Tieng Viet.

      It’s actually more of a case of “Why do you assume I’m a teacher ?” because the second you say “I live here” everyone goes “Ahh you’re a teacher” and I say “NO ! I actually have a career involving something OTHER than what 90% of foreigners come here to do and I rather resent that you are assuming that the only thing people come here to do is to teach English”.

      I find teaching very rewarding. I am a really tough teacher. I had one student leave because she complained that she didn’t want to do all my quizzes by translating a Vietnamese word or phrase into English and have her form her own sentences in English or “fill in the blanks”. She said “Why don’t you just give me a magazine to read”. I got very mad at her and said “You don’t need my help to read a bloody magazine. Go buy VietWeek and read that if that’s all you want. You want a job in finance where you can right reports and things, yet you cannot construct a basic sentence without using the wrong grammar. THAT’S why I’m quizzing you on grammar, not having you read out of a damn book”. She said I was a terrible teacher and she left and never came back.

      But some of other students appreciate it. I am very good with positive reinforcement and when a student is clearly hesitant and knows the answer but is afraid of being wrong, I will smile and coax it out of them and tell them not to be afraid of getting it wrong and when they get it right I try and show how pleased I am. My girlfriend gets different sorts of rewards and punishment when she gets things right or wrong. Some would say that my method is very condescending. Some would say that it’s very strict. But my students don’t leave with some half-assed phrases. The learn PROPER English.

      I’ve had customers in a bar express amazement at the polite and courteous way an employee has come up to them and said “I am so sorry for the mistake sir. Please have a free drink as an apology for the inconvenience” and they’ve turned to me and said “Oh my god. I’ve never heard a Vietnamese waiter speak so politely or so well” and I’ve just smiled and said “I know. I taught him”.

      That’s why I got an apple on teacher’s day. It wasn’t even from one of my English students. I said to him “Why are you giving me an apple ? I don’t even teach you English ?” He said “You taught me plenty of things. You taught me how to mix music. You are a teacher of life. So I am giving you an apple to say thank you”. Because my English students, I teach all of them for free. If I see an underprivileged kid, or a friend who I know who really wants to improve their English and customer service skills but can’t afford to, I like to spend a bit of my free time helping them.

      But it’s not my job. I’m not a teacher. I’m a journalist and IT professional. I have OTHER careers. Teaching is just a hobby because it’s something I’m pretty good at.

      Please understand that I don’t mean what I said as an insult to teachers. I just get offended when EVERY SINGLE PERSON automatically says “Oh you live here ? So you’re a teacher ?”

      Teaching doesn’t make you a teacher. I always said that the day someone starts PAYING me to teach is the day I will call myself a teacher. But I revised that. When I got my first apple on teacher’s day, I decide “Ok, I will call myself a teacher. But I will call myself various other things FIRST”.

      Teaching is a side interest for me. It’s like DJ’ing or doing charity work. It’s not my job. It’s not my career. I just do it for fun, ok ?

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