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by Tamara Bingham
20.7.18: Sense of Belonging and Rediscovering Myself Again
This week was the first week (July 16-18) of my organization:Thao Danh. For the first two days I observed during the time I was there. The first three days I had to observe the previous teacher, Daniel, and the kid’s abilities and attitudes. On the very first day of class the kids were scared of me because they thought I was from Africa. I really had to ignore this because I had to understand that the kids were oblivious of things outside of Vietnam. This inspired me to write about my experiences of being biracial abroad.
With that happening, this actually brought back memories from kindergarten and my first semester of college of which I had a huge identity crisis of being biracial. Coming to Vietnam, I prayed that I could learn more about Southeast Asian culture to see how it is similar to my Filipino Culture. Or better yet, since I have a hard time in America feeling that I am Filipino, I just hope I could have a stronger connection and feel welcome here. I know from this moment on that being in Vietnam will be much more than teaching kids English but also rediscovering myself again in a more profound matter.
Sense of belonging is something that everyone wants to achieve. When I was very young I always felt different and excluded from others because I had “Asian eyes,” and silky,wavy hair. Looking back at that time I felt as if i didn’t who I was, I was empty. As I grew older, I started to learn more about the Philippines and my passion to learn more about the Philippines, grew. However, I still didn’t feel complete because I didn’t know anything about Tagalog, National language of the Philippines. My mother spoke Spanish to us more than Tagalog to me and my siblings(just only Filipino expressions). I would always hear my mom talk on the phone with my grandma and I had a sense of what was being said. However, about 10 years later who would’ve known that I would take the language my freshman year of college. I still struggle with the language because I grew up with Spanish more but for the most part I can make simple convos with my mom and other Filipinos. For instance, before coming to Vietnam I went to Kuala Lumpur. Malays and Filipinos have well connected backgrounds so I decided to search up some Filipino restaurants nearby. Once I found one I was literally the happiest person on Earth! My group of friends and I went and while I was there I had the chance to speak my language and also sing a karaoke song in Tagalog called Bakit Pa by Jessa Zaragoza. The waitress there said I have great Tagalog and I literally felt like I belong. Everyone was shocked that I knew Tagalog and I could sing the song very well. Moreover, one of the goals of studying in Vietnam is just to explore other cultures than the ones that I’m familiar that I am already familiar with while still learning more about myself.
27.7.18: Leadership and Life as a English teacher
This week was probably one of the best weeks of my life. Just seeing your progress makes you feel so great about yourself. The first day I taught the kids I was so drained. Bui and I really struggled with getting the kids’ attention and staying engaged. For the first week, we were so down about everything but I knew I had to stay positive. I couldn’t let this obstacle block me from reaching my goal. I actually talked to my mom about this. My mom was an English teacher when she was in the Philippines. I told her that the kids don’t pay attention to me or my co partner. The kids needed to be guided in certain things such as learning how to respect when the instructor is talking. I asked my mom “How do I get them to pay attention?” She gave me the idea of giving them -a surprise if they behave well. I introduced this to Bui and so the very next day we tried it. I would say it worked but the kids kept begging for more. I didn’t want to give out all the candy at once so I tried to conserve it. I hope didn’t seem mean to the kids but I just want them to learn how to do things without always being awarded. There was this one specific boy who begged for candy everytime he got an answer right. I ended up not giving it to him once and for the remaining of the class he kept asking. I think he didn’t understand that I wanted him to be fair because there were others who didn’t have candy. He rolled on the floor and pouted. I encouraged him to get up off the floor but he remained. I eventually did give him the candy when he got back up and did his work. He was very respectful and said thank you. I also told my mom about the kid and she opened my eyes. She told me that “Maybe they are poor and they never tasted candy before and also that they don’t have parents that love him.” That was so true. Every single kid has a different story and background. I knew this before but just having my mom telling me this made me more humble and knew how to approach the kids.
After realizing that the kids have different backgrounds and different mindsets, Bui and I decided to change up roles. There was a lecture that the GIEU students had by the LIN Community Center. This lecture inspired me so much. It’s a new week you know? I teach tomorrow and I just obtained very important information about nonprofit organizations. The main message I received from the lecture was that, A lot of communities need developing or are developing structure wise, so there is a lack of structure and support. This touched me because I connected what my mom told me and what I experienced already. Sometimes when you realize certain things you step up and do what you have to do so you can accomplish what you have in mind. I wanted to lead the kids, but I had to do something or of my comfort zone. Within that moment, I felt as if a start i needed to start speaking up and end my timid ways in public speaking and leadership. I had to be a role model not only for myself but for the kids I taught. All my life I’ve just been a quiet person but from after that lecture, something clicked and I was really motivated. Another part I could relate to was, having a support system. My high school wasn’t really the best experience but I made it through. There wasn’t much support for my school being an International Baccalaureate School so this really affected me. Also, parental support was a factor in how I could relate to them. After realizing all of this I had to learn I had to be patient with myself and the kids. I wanted to change how I deliver the lesson plans. I had a plan on working on my leadership skills and the kids’ futures. I had my eyes on the prize…
Bui and I, figured out that the kids would listen to me more than him. I think it was because the kids were focusing on trying to communicate with him in Vietnamese all the time but when I was the head of the class, english would be the main focus. So he thought it would be best if I taught the class and he would be the facilitator. When he brought that idea up, I said it was okay but deep down I was really scared. I wasn’t used to stepping up to things. Or if I did, I’m just not confident as I should be. He kind of put pressure on me but it was good pressure, not forceful but like encouraging me to step up. I didn’t think I could do it. However, the lesson plan for the next day was teaching kids future tense because they already knew past and present. While I was in the Grab (aka Uber in the US) to my internship, something snapped. I knew what we were doing wrong. We didn’t incorporate any Vietnamese while teaching them English. I know how it feels to have a language thrown at you, I’m learning a third language right now, Tagalog. What if my Filipino instructor threw the language at me? I would for sure wouldn’t understand so I had to take that into consideration while teaching. While I was in the car I scrambled to find the paper I had the lesson plan on and search up “Future Tense in Vietnamese.” I learned the sē means “it will.” I used Vietnamese sentences that had “sē,” into English. However, I got that far teaching that to the class because everyone except two kids had to go to math class. There was a boy Khang and a girl Chang, ( was very close to both) who I taught and they understood very well. I was so proud that we were making progress and they were too.
2.8.18 : My Overall Growth and Finding My Purpose
Today is the last day of my internship and I do not want to think about this. It’s really bittersweet because I grew a connection with the kids and I honestly feel like I made a change in their lives. The students that I taught have a bright future ahead of them. It’s really humbling of how much, we (Bui and I ) made so much progress with these kids. Like I said in my previous entry, patience is key. You have to maintain a positive attitude at all times, no matter how tough the road is getting. I also, had to understand that every kid in Thao Danh comes from a different background, I could see that and this inspired me to find my purpose.
My purpose in life is Asian Studies and Public Health. There is so much I could do with these pathways. In Vietnam, I noticed a lot of public health issues not just in environmental standards but in educational and community development. I could relate to those kids. On our last day of teaching, my partner, Bui plans were changed. We were invited to go to the third floor and attend an hospitality class. One girl went up and spoke about what she expects to get out of this class, while two of my students went up to sing and rap. At this moment, I realized a lot about my kids. They all are bright and talented they’re just not motivated and confident. Those two students are one of my most sociable students so I was shocked but yet proud of them for going out of their comfort zone. They were marvelous!!!! Despite the language barrier I could tell that with every word they rapped, they meant it. One actually cried, I wonder if it was because he was nervous or just genuine? Most likely both. I know those kids have a dream but they feel like they can’t accomplish it because of major setbacks in their lives. No one is there as a support system, I could relate I know what that feels like. However, I really thank God that I could’ve been their support system for the time I was there. Eventually I saw both of them again, I told them they did a great job and I’m proud along with a high-five. You should’ve seen their smile I hope I made their day that day. You never know what little thing you can do to help someone bring their confidence. Be kind but genuine you never know what someone is going through. Lift each other up then the world will be a better place for love and better mindsets.
This is my passion, helping kids or anyone who feels like they can’t go on but in reality they can. I didn’t know I had the potential to change these kids lives just like they changed mine. All in all I learned that, Sometimes you really just don’t know your own strength, until it is tested. Moreover, I learned a lot about myself and what it truly means to be humble.