Pull the football away one more time, I dare you.

NOTE: This will be one of my rant-y posts. I try to keep them to a minimum, but sometimes I just have to let it all out and complain in English. Skip this one if it’s not your cup of tea!

First of all, what is a Demo Lesson?

An ESL Demo Lesson is a lot of things, but none of them efficient, or even very useful, that I could see. This is the basic takeaway I have from my first (hopefully only, ever again) Demo Lesson. It was a series of hoops, like many things in Education, but some of them were ablaze, and some got pulled away at the last minute, like Lucy pulling away Charlie Brown’s football. I made it through successfully, but it wasn’t without unnecessary frustration pitfalls.
It could be me. It could be Vietnam. It could be this company or my contact. It’s probably a mixture of all of them. Who really knows? I’m still having trouble communicating with the company, though, which is completely frustrating bullshit. Even calling yields less than ideal results, and that’s basically the next best thing to showing up in person (which I have done).
For instance. This Demo. Initially I was supposed to do it on a Monday morning a couple weeks ago. I’ve already explained how it’s apparently a thing to only send emails and never respond to the emails you get – if you need something here, you have to call them. (Although my VN tutor has said that this is NOT cultural, and my contact is just not very good at her job. Which makes more sense to me.)

I’d been asking my contact all week for time allotted, ages, topic, materials supplied, and all that jazz to try and prepare. Hearing nothing, I blindly drew up a lesson plan (a pronunciation lesson for intermediate speakers), bought props, and practiced it. Finally, I called my contact at the company on Sunday, on her mobile, to find out when and where I was going to be teaching the next day, since she’s still never returned my calls or emails.

There was no crying, but there was gnashing
of teeth and cursing aplenty, to be sure.

She had apparently forgotten to email me on Friday, telling me that the demo was moved to the
following Friday at 3:30. No big deal, I guess. Now she would also be sending me some ‘materials.’ It took another two days, several emails (I wasn’t ready to give up on them quite yet! …I’m ready now), and another call to get her to email me the materials, which ended up being out of a primary school textbook on a lesson called Lunchtime. 

Thanking her for the information, and with no other instruction, I set to work making a grammar lesson that culminated in some fun writing and play-acting for this new target: primary school kids.
On Thursday, I set about looking for a place I could print from my computer. I call my contact for suggestions. She graciously extends the invitation to print my lesson plans at the office, if I just arrive a little early on Friday. She then tells me that I should be making a lesson plan with only listening and speaking, and no reading and writing. And also with lots of activities. You’re telling me this now? Are you serious?
I’m fuming at this point, because I’ve created a FULL grammar/practice lesson, teaching the grammar through speaking, listening, writing, and reading. I go home and re-write the thing (again) to leave out the reading and writing. I didn’t really understand how I was going to effectively teach grammar, but nothing else makes sense so I didn’t really demand sense of this project.
I should have. It turns out that in the public schools here I will co-teach with a Vietnamese teacher, who will teach all the grammar and writing. I am only here for listening and speaking activities. Of course, my contact left that part out, and I got through two sections of my lesson plan in the Demo before they cut me off. They’d asked for 35 minutes of teaching, but then the boss showed up 10 minutes late, and cut it 10 minutes early. So it actually ended up being 15 minutes of no activities, not a lot of speaking, and a lot of listening. Which was frustrating, but still, it was nice to stretch my teaching legs, even for a bunch of adults pretending to be 9 year old children.
After a 20 minute lecture on how I had to only teach speaking and listening, and no grammar, and how my lesson plan was too long, I finally got to leave. I got the job, but I’m not happy about how it went down. I could have done so much more if I’d been actually prepared with the necessary information. I get to go observe a teacher (MAYBE Thursday?? [Update: Nope.] WHO KNOW!!) and see how exactly they handle lesson plan formation and executing it with 40-50 “little devil angels” (as an acquaintance later that night would refer to vietnamese students as). That should be very helpful!
BUT AT WHAT COST?? At any rate, it should be
a fascinating and instructional school year.

I can only assume that they were looking for attitude, clarity, and enthusiasm, and that they’ll direct me to do whatever they need. I’ve learned to be much more flexible with people here than I used to be. It’s like waiting for the CTA – it happens when it happens, and you just have to be as zen as possible about it and try to keep your mind off how crazy everything is making you.

I left rapidly, unwrapping the other banh mi sandwich I’d brought as a prop but wasn’t able to use, as I strolled toward home before remembering my next date: my hotel owner’s sons wedding.
I’d done the mysterious Demo Lesson. I got my contract to review. I was on my way to an evening full of people I’d never seen before and couldn’t communicate with.

Clearly, it called for rejuvenating post-lesson ice cream!
With a sweaty bounce in my walk, happy to finally have some direction at work, I made my way to Bud’s Ice Cream of San Fransisco and a relaxing break. The Demo Lesson ended up not being TOO hard, but it will be prudent of me to have several things completely prepared for any future lessons I have to give – given the changing variables in this one, I can only imagine what the next will be like.