The First Week of School

My students are amazing and adorable.  Of course.

Every year, the start of school is terrifying for me.  I stress and panic and don’t think straight, but every year, none of the worries matter when I meet the kids.  Teaching is great fun: it involves meeting new people, figuring out new puzzles, reading new texts, and other exhilarating tasks.  I often forget to be in awe of the fact that my job is different every day.  Of course, it is a job, and there are days that I would rather not go, but overall, teaching is for me.  

Orientation week was hard.  I was missing my Bowie family, and I felt overwhelmed by all the new systems that I had to learn.  This week was better.  Despite the fact that I am fighting (and sort of losing to) a vicious sinus inflammation, I really enjoyed getting to know the kids. I even had a cyclops eye this morning, but after an ice pack, my friends falsely assured me it was barely noticeable.  

Monday was orientation, and we didn’t have much student contact in the high school.  On Tuesday, we met ALL of our students.  We spent time with our advisory classes, and then had brief meetings with all 8 blocks even though regularly we only have 4 blocks per day.  These whirlwind classes were long enough to take roll, play a getting to know you game, and briefly introduce myself and the course before sending the kids back out into the hallways.  Then our regular schedule started on Wednesday.  And when I say “regular,” I do not mean easy to understand.  We have an 8 day cycle.  On odd days we meet blocks A-D; on even days we meet blocks E-H.  Each class is 85 minutes.  Easy enough.  Except, each day of the cycle we meet the classes in a different order.  If on day 1, A block meets first, then on the next odd day they will meet last.  This is further complicated by adding advisory on Mondays and class meetings every other Thursday which leads to shortened blocks regardless of cycle day.  I actually do love the idea of getting to know kids at different times of the day, but I may be perpetually confused.  I have almost an entire bulletin board full of scheduling info in hopes that I have always prepared lessons for the students that show up in my room.  I will let you know if my color coding and highlighting fail me. 

Today was the first day that I sort of started to get students names right.  I only teach 2 classes on odd days, and today was a day 3. I might need another couple of weeks to master even days since I have 3 classes.  Today, if I asked students for the first letter of their names, I was about 90% correct on my guesses.  I think that you should find this impressive since in the same class I have a Youngjae, Jae Young, Yeon Ju, Yeon Jun, Jun Wei, etc.  Unlike my co-worker Rita, I will not be promising to do 5 pushups for each missed name any time soon.  It is strange though not to have any names ending in -onte or -isha.  

Even though it was the first week of school, and I was exhausted and under the weather, I did manage to squeeze in some fun.  Rita had a first day of school dinner at her sweet new apartment for a few of us who live on this side of the river.  Her place, like Melissa’s, where I ate dinner on Sunday night, made me less sure of my apartment’s awesomeness.  This is mostly because they own belongings, and I have arrived in Vietnam without many of those.  Also, my helper just started yesterday so prior to my arrival home last night, the cleanliness of my place has been downhill from day 1.  Yes, I realize that it is pretentious and unnecessary for me to have a helper.  But seriously, I LOVE her.  She is going to make living here so much easier than it should be.  I digress.

Dinner at Rita’s was great even though I of course lost at Jenga.  I do not have a delicate touch.  Then on Wednesday, I went to Rebecca and Greg’s for take in with some of the other newbies.  The Jardins have for sure scored the nicest apartment that I have seen yet.  It is a 3 story penthouse apartment with a rooftop deck big enough for at least 50 people.  Heaven on earth!  Then on Thursday, I went for mani/pedis with 8 other teachers from school.  I decided halfway through that it was a BAD idea for me to say yes to a manicure when I really needed my hands free for nose blowing, but it all worked out.  They only had to repaint one nail because of tissue smudging.  These are not my usual problems, but here a mani/pedi that lasts about 1.5 hours was less than $15.  I think I should indulge again.  But only when I am healthy.  

So now, it is Friday night, and I am updating you (without pictures because I wasn’t really in the photographing spirit due to my snotty hands and face).  It is pouring outside.  This is the first rain since Monday, and I am hoping it clears all the allergens out of the air and restores me to perfect health by tomorrow morning.  I am going to meet Shelley, a new teacher who just moved into Canh Vien, for a quick dinner soon to celebrate the end of week one. 

If I feel better tomorrow and get a significant amount of grading done by the pool in the morning, then I will spend the rest of the weekend exploring the city and dancing with friends.  Fingers crossed life cooperates with my desires for productivity and fun!

I hope your week was as full of little joys as mine.  New jobs aren’t so bad after all!



  1. Glad to hear the first week went so well, sorry you are not feeling well. Same things happening at home, when I told your Dad you were missing our garden he said he would just about give it to you. Think he is tired of spending an hour picking things every night when he gets home!!!


  2. I just finished reading your post aloud to Justin. We both got a good chuckle hearing about your first week. Of course you were cyclops, you poor thing. That is just your luck. Hopefully that will work somewhat like not smiling until Thanksgiving. I bet you scared the hell out of those kids haha. I loved reading about your students names. They are amazing! I also loved the “onte” comment, and I believe this is a blessing for you haha. I hope to not have any names ending in onte as well. We’ll see how lucky I get. I hope you feel better this weekend. Go rest by the pool!


  3. Sounds like you are adjusting very well. Glad you have a lot of nice people to hang out with. Saw you family last night, hope they didn’t give me any of their sickness. Grant had swollen glands and Megan a sore throat.


  4. I knew you’d do great your first week, and every week following this one! I haven’t finished my classroom yet and I go back on Monday. I agree with Sherri, don’t feel bad about the helper, I’m just jealous 🙂 It’s a good thing I didn’t hang out with Megan and Dani this week! And look on the bright side, you don’t have the Black Plaque!!! Enjoy your 2nd week.


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