Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teaching and some interesting potential cultural faux pas...

As part of my volunteering stint in Laos, I have to (as in required to) teach these private night classes. The children that go to the night lessons come from wealthier families than those that go to the day government-run school. To be honest, I think the parents use the night school as a babysitter agency. Most of the children do not want to be there, and the teachers find ways to send them home early, but the parents continue to send their kids there. As long as the parents pay (by term), the 3 teachers that teach that night school are more than willing. For teaching extra 2 hours (but really 1 hour due to delay and sending the kids home early), these Laotian teachers basically double their salary (from the paltry 1200 to 2500 a year). I have to admit that the night classes are my least favorite time of the day.

During the day, I teach Secondary 7/1 and 7/3. Secondary 7 is our 12th grade. 1 denotes the top students. There are 18 Secondary 7 classes (7/1 to 7/18). So 7/1 students are basically the best of the province and surrouding provinces. There are a few schools that are as big as Luang Prabang School. So, in essence the kids that belong to 7/1 are probably the top 100 highschool seniors of the country. Teaching them you do see why. They are extremely sharp. They have those eyes that shine, that tells you, "we will be leaders of our country one day". As a reward for being the best, they get to live in a dormitory on school's ground, for free. They get a stipend, free food, and all of their school supplies are provided for. 7/3 students, despite being only 2 levels lower than 7/1 are vastly different. They are still the smart students but you can notice the difference. Regardless, teaching 7/1 and 7/3 are fun as you can see that they want to learn. The night class kids, oh bundle of hair-pulling joy.

I am also learning the little cultural differences that can cause little misunderstands. One man's version of being friendly and accommodating may be taken by a woman (in a pretty conservative culture such as Laos) as a sign of romantic interest. I did not know that invitation to help someone with her English could be taken as more. Finally, I am finding that Asian women can be pretty finicky, or may be it is because I am just inept at reading Asian women. I know some one at work (I also volunteer at the library on the school grounds) and after speaking one day where she was extremely warm and friendly, I would get 2-3 days of total coldness and aloofness. Sometimes I wondered to myself, "hmm did I do something wrong to offend her?" Then a few days later, the warm front would move back in. I give up. So, I tell myself, just be friendly, you are here to help. Well, that kind of backfired because my friendliness may have given someone else (not the same person from the library) the idea that it is more. I never had a jealous, non-established-relationship (because we barely know each other) barrage of textes before. That was interesting yet a little unnerving. But, I guess I will just continue to be friendly and just be myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment