Tet is coming! TET is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. I aligns with most of Asia in their Lunar New Year. This whole continent is celebrating at the same time. But each country has its own unique culture and storyline for this holiday. All sorts of delicious snacks like, bánh chưng (see below) are created for this holiday. Teams of dragon performers run around the city banging on drums. There used to be an awesome display of fireworks, but the government recently put a crack down on that. You can read about it in this english version of Vietnamese news online Tuoitrenews.com or Saigoneer
I've been studying vietnamese for a bit over a year now (on an off). I wish I would have started earlier. It really is a fun language to learn (once you get it). Tonal and complicated, words don't sound like words and the letters all sound different from what you think they sound like. To my ear I'll say a word correctly, but a vietnamese person will have no idea what I mean until I guess the tone a few more times. Know the language or not, the vietnamese people are very curious about us foreigners. Particularly in the country side, vietnamese people will ask you a lot of personal questions. This is just their way of showing they are interested in you. The first 3 questions are almost always: :Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married yet? Even in cities you'll be greeted with a smile by a taxi driving lounging on his motorcyle reading the newspaper while having a coffee and smoke. It's an incredible place to live, and the sights never get old. You may become immune to the #stuffonthebacksofbikes , but its always exciting to face the road and watch.
Recently, I have been studying with VLS. They are very professional, welcoming, accommodating and enthusiastic about teaching. As a teacher myself, I find it nice to be on the other end of the table and have a professional teach (try to teach) me. They run field trips and charity programs. They are passionate about what they do. When they asked me to be in a video to promote their school, as embarrassing as I knew it would be, I knew I was helping them with their business. If it can helps them continue the awesome program they are doing,I'll make a video every week.
We've made some significant improvements since last year. Things are growing! It helps to have a massive rainy season. But with the rain came floods. We had a few emergencies with the drainage on our roof and in our garden beds. With a bit more time on our hands, Mr Tatloack and I have been able to experiment with a few projects. We got some funding to buy plants thanks to our AD Darren. It actually looks like a garden now. Now that rainy season is over we are hoping to get some coverage from the blazing sun soon to keep our plants alive. Plants grow well, vegetables need a lot of care. Take a look at the most recent photo and see how much fun these kids have after school.
Learning2 just took place, in Ho chi Minh City.It was the second L2 I attended. I suggested it for most of my colleagues. Though it was applicable to most of them, you usually get out what you put in. I attended all three days of the event. Last year I came away with hundreds of ideas and I tried to implement all of them at once!. This time around I told myself I was going to try to hone in on one great idea. Well... that didn't work. Though my plans for this school year aren't as grandiose, there are many ways I can have a positive impact on the school. Two major projects I am taking away are: To build our schools technology department so we have a team of tech teachers to integrate technology, Ensure all our students have a blog/ online presence that they can build and take with them when the graduate. This may even be a portfolio for them to keep all their work.I'll try to start this by helping increase student awareness of social media with our school twitter account and twitter beam.
But what I was most proud of was the performance my students made. For about 3 weeks we prepared a presentation to give to teachers from around the world. Three students of the Sunbearsound put together an incredible presentation to show off what they've been doing for the last year. Actually, L2 is where the idea came from. When I was in Manila I saw a group of students present about the Bamboo Telegraph. My principal and colleagues we so impressed by the presentation they give. They even put together their own video for the event. Have a look below
What started off as an idea, quickly morphed into a massive event on March 4, 2017. The strategy to slowly integrate TED talks into our assemblies and homerooms created a "TED culture" in our school. Soon students were looking to create their own TED Ed club. Four months into the school year and the kids are actively helping to organize the event. after a long and tedious audition process, we had to make some difficult decision. we chose the best 12 speakers based on their 3 minute pitch. No buy in from our neighboring school, which is unfortunate because all our speakers are students.
In order to increase buy in for this event I promised to make it happen with very few meetings. And the meetings we did have would not be our traditional agendas. Instead, I cranked AC DC and asked teachers to come for a 20 minute meeting after school. Most of the teachers had other responsibilities that day, but still made it. I hope this was because of our hand delivered invitations. It had that dramatic effect. Teachers were happy to be there and the objective was simple; find out your role. The meeting only lasted 15 minutes, so they all left happy.
Now, with the help of the volunteers and the dedication of the TED Ed club, my coorganizer, Andrew Mathie, and I can focus on accomplishing some tasks. We are thrilled to have such dedicated staff. The first week of speaker coaching has happened. The kids will have over 3 months to put together their presentation and the best part is they'll have a coach along the way. There's so much more to say about this, but in all honesty I don't have a time. Organizing an event of this magnitude is a fulltime job. so I'll update when we've some more information. Below are some students gaining real life experience marketing our event.
The Moon festival of Vietnam, the first major holiday of the school calendar year, came and went already. The kids had been preparing this event since the second week of classes. Its a holiday with folklore and family traditions. I think it sums hope the historical legends of Vietnamese history with a touch of magic. Think of it like a cross between Christmas and Memorial day in the US.
School has been well underway and the fun is in full swing. After schools activities have taken control of the school. Boys basketball and volleyball, gardening club, board games and the Sunbear Sound are all at maximum occupancy.
The start of the new school year was much smoother than last year. We had 150 new students! Our total student number increased by about 60 students. Many students graduated or left to go to school in the US. Its hard to retain these students for their entire high school career, but we wish them the best. Here are a few photos of our Moon Festival
The following is the letter I sent to my students following the completion of their Passion Projects. They worked on this for a few hours each week for 6 months. What they came up with was remarkable and reminds me why I am a teacher.
You all did such and amazing job! I am so unbelievable proud of you. You are the first class I ever did the passion projects with and you far exceeded my expectations. You should feel very accomplished.
Hopefully this project steers you in the right direction, or even changes your mind about your career aspirations. You can consider it, for some of you, a mini internship. I've seen a lot of great projects in my 5 years teaching, but nothing, I mean nothing, comes close to seeing you create something you are passionate about. Some of you sang, while others cooked. Some of you designed and created while a few you traveled. A couple of you pursued philosophical ideas or focused on a unique area of interest like trends around the world. Many of you failed, failed and failed again until one day you succeeded. That moment when your idea became a reality brings me joy. When your smile indicates you found something you loved it brings a tear to my eye and makes me proud to be your teacher.
I know this project was hard, and I know it was long. Several of you emailed me at late hours of the night concerned about the legitimacy or the eligibility of your project. You all figured it out on your own in the end. You managed your own time and broadened your knowledge. Your pursued something inside you, something a standardized tests could never bring out. I want to say thank you for allowing me to be a part of something so great!
Please watch yourselves and leave a comment about one of your classmates! I'd like to see a discussion started and some positive thoughts exchanged about what your classmates did.
Pay attention to your speaking skills and learn what you can improve on."
I kept them off of the school website to maintain your privacy. With your permission I will add them to our school Youtube channel.
Here they are on my personal blog
This is the playlist, if your video is not on there its only because I haven't labeled it yet and well fix it tomorrow.
The event was a huge success. With a lack of rehearsal and last minute videos changes, the students were all a bit nervous. The best part about this whole event was watching the faces of students who are generally quiet light up as their images and videos came on the big screen. The Sunbear Sound Team did an incredible job putting it all together at the last minute. The feedback from teachers was all positive and the kids are already talking about next year. This was such an amazing event to be a part of. I am proud to say I work atISHCMC-American Academy
My latest endeavor at AAVN was not actually my idea. In fact, the film festival idea belonged to my awesome principal, however, he conceded he has no idea how to plan something like that. We were just chit chatting about all the great things we can do at our school and the fun we have doing it . He told me a story about a colleague who once hosted a film festival with other international schools. I thought, "whoa, that's the real deal. Lets do it!" Only we wouldn't start out as grand because we've already got a lot of creative ideas floating up in the air. A few devoted students in our 1x a week meetings would be the ones who really put this together. After all the Sunbear Sound video club was not part of my job description coming into the school, but the club was created because of the video creating passion all the students and I shared.
As we speak, the kids are working on invitations, web design, the logistics of the event, ways to promote, advertisements and trailers to show at the next assembly. Getting them to all work on a common project really united the club. I told them they all have to submit a video for the festival too. They were thrilled about being able to showcase their work in a friendly competition.
As soon as the idea emerged it took on this whole new dimension spun into a partial grammy-like event. The kids want to wear a suit and gown while they walk the red carpet and receive trophies for their work (well see how that goes on a Thursday night after school). I am so thrilled to be leading this initiative. The video culture in our school has kids working on projects for classroom presentations in nearly every class. They love it. The event has given me more duties and responsibility to ensure the event runs smoothly, but its worth it to see so many kids are creating! A few students recently got detention for filming after school unsupervised. And a big thanks to our school marketing team who are going to help us host the event. I cant wait to show off the videos.
Below is the advertisement they came up with!
They also started a news and video segment to inform the student body of upcoming events
What an amazing opportunity it was to be part of something so real and so valuable to other people's lives.
With that said, let me back track. After studying our unit on the world's food supply, students were assigned with a public service campaign as their project. This aligned perfectly with the upcoming TET holiday. Two groups of students from two different classes came up with the idea of a food drive. I had to push them a little bit in the right direction, but most of what was done was completed entirely by them. For two weeks, before and after school, students made announcements to the student body and took turns standing by the gate to collect donations. We gained some support and organization from the Global Issues Network (GIN) in our school.
Gin helped us contact families and friends in desperate need of support during TET. It was originally supposed to feed 7 families, but that number quickly increased to 80 by the end of the first week! We were collected sugar, oil rice and dry food. 80 families living in the countryside revived a large food donation from our students before the holidays. When they asked me to come deliver the food I felt honored.
We took a two hour trip to the countryside and spent the whole day meeting younger kids and their families. The high school students ran fun demo lessons and sang songs with the children. It was such a delight to be part of this. They made me prouder than ever to be their Teacher. The students even spent another weekend delivering remaining food to other families. They truly gained a valuable experience during all of this and one that may change the course of their careers.
Not too long ago we were just some students with a passion for making videos (myself included because I'm a beginner). It was a film shown in the first assembly that grabbed the schools attention. I made a fun infomercial to explain what type of device was approved for class. After that, more and more kids wanted to make videos for our assemblies. The student council had some talented film producers and so did GIN. I grabbed the most talented student and asked her to help build a program. Gradually, we gained some traction and started meeting as a group once a week.
We had 2 cameras and only one of them had a working battery. We had dozens of wires that I still don't know what they're for. Luckily the kids had their own cameras. We discovered it doesn't take much filming to make a great film, We have Adobe premiere pro and effects as our a editing software . The hard part was deciding what to produce. Was it just for fun and games or was it to get an important message out to kids? Either way we had to compete with our neighbor and friendly rival ISHCMC who had a whole program devoted to video production. We settled on the idea that our videos would unite the school and community in an entertaining way.
The professional development I attended in Manila, Learning 2, which is the source of a lot of this years ideas, lead to another development in our group. Three students at the International School of Manila held a cohort for a school news channel. The Bamboo Telegraph is entirely student ran with state of the art of equipment. The Program has been around for 20 years. Those kids were so talented and so confident speaking in front of a room full of teachers (I think they knew they were brighter than us). If I wanted to build our schools group within my two year contract I knew we had to act fast. Upon my return to ISHCMC American Academy I asked the video club to think of a name so we could buy the domain. Behold The Sunbear Sound
We are currently working with the school magazine to develop a fully online platform for appropriate, school related articles and entertainment that is entirely produced by the students.
Here is a taste of what we produce: