School field trip to Da Nang beach

Teachers are supposed to be paranoid right ? We’re supposed to think of the worst case scenario at all times. Western teachers especially fuss and worry and take extreme precautions. We prepare for a field trip like we’re organising an excursion into a nuclear wasteland. I’ve been known to take diapers, a first aid kit, a spare telephone, and demand the contact details of every parent or next of kin. I’m learning to lighten up, but it’s a long road from “paranoid western teacher” to Vietnamese style “don’t worry, it’ll be fine” teacher. Even after 5 years I am struggling when it comes to field trips, especially language centre ones which are a lot more laid back than state school ones.

Despite the weather predicting a 90% chance of morning rain, we had a field trip organised today… to the beach. I didn’t really think this was a wise move. I wanted to stay inside and watch a film and discuss it. So it took a little coercing for me to be convinced that it was still a “good idea”. But, that’s sort of how things work here. When in Rome… you know ? Time to put the control freak organised teacher hat aside for today. Or try.

I think the first surprise was that we hadn’t even decided where we were going until the last minute. It was just “the beach”. But Da Nang has an enormous beach and it’s always empty, so that was a safe bet. Nothing could go wrong with that choice. The second was the method of getting there. Taking some 60 odd students in taxis. I would have asked “But, won’t that entail a LOT of taxis ?” but I know better than that. This is Vietnam… we’ll just stuff 12 kids in each taxi. It’s not like seat belts are required here, nor are maximum occupancy limits anything more than vague suggestions, and the beach is only a couple of kilometres away along a quiet, straight road. No problems there either, although the western teacher inside me couldn’t help but watch the departing taxis bursting with kids with a wry smile. This would never happen in the west.

Arriving at the beach, the teachers who came via motorbike struggled to find somewhere to park because parking is forbidden at Da Nang beach, but fortunately some woman was ignoring the law and parking people anyway and minding their bikes. Ahh, those loose Vietnamese laws !

We had plans. More plans than we even needed. I’d been up since 4am downloading summer beach songs (despite it being a rainy winter’s day) and writing vocabulary lists to play beach games with. We had soccer balls and skipping ropes. We were definitely going to entertain the kids. We needn’t have worried though because the beach did it for us. We built sandcastles. We bathed in the ocean, in our school uniforms. One kid took his new Nokia E72 in with him. Whoops. No spirits were dampened though. Only phones.

At the end, my inner responsible western teacher was thoroughly tied up and sedated as I watched kids running into the ocean while others ran off to various parts of the beach and the exercise equipment. We began loading them into taxis again and I turned to one of the other teachers and asked,

“Shouldn’t we do a headcount ?”

“A head what ?”

“You know … we count them before we leave the school and we count them before we take them back again, to make sure they’re all here. How many are there anyway ?”

She laughed like I’d just suggested stopping at the moon for cheese and wine on the way back to school. “Ooookay” I thought, and gave my inner western teacher another shot of morphine. By that time I was so used to the Vietnamese language centre way of doing field trips, that when one student insisted that he wanted to go back to school on my motorbike with my girlfriend and I, I just just said “You know what… why not ? Let’s take a student back to school 3-on-a-bike with no helmet. This is Vietnam after all !”

I made it through the whole thing without a mental breakdown. No one got lost (that I know of) and I made sure to collect all kids’ shoes and jackets and we even got my chubby little student back to school on my motorbike, clinging tightly to me the whole way.

Sometimes I wish I was back in those well-organised, well-disciplined state schools where kids did what they were told, but mostly I’m just glad I work at a good school that does cool stuff. And if anyone’s looking for my paranoid inner western teacher, I think we left him at the beach, curled up, rocking backwards and forwards and saying “This isn’t happening”.

But it did happen… and the only casualty was one fairly expensive mobile phone. And since mobile phones can’t sue the school, I think we did pretty well ! Thanks to Eureka EC for the field trip and the students for not disappearing or dying. Maybe I worry too much. Those western ideas of field trip safety ? Ok.. perhaps it’s time to “Let it Go”. I still needed a stiff drink when I got home. I probably would rather we stayed in the classroom in neat rows on the floor eating popcorn studying a moralistic film in silence and analysing it. But *sigh* that’s because I’m one of those organised state school teachers who believes in discipline and rules and serious lessons. But oh well.. sandcastles are fun too.

Enjoy some pictures, and as always… happy field trips !

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One Response to School field trip to Da Nang beach

  1. Wendy Robinson says:

    Wise choice of bright colours should have made it easier locating any strays left on the beach

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