As Rachel has described in her post , I teach at St. Paul American School in Hanoi. The school is named for the city in Minnesota – not the saint. The physical building is new construction and part of the planned Splendora luxury neighborhood. With its wide streets, gated residence buildings, and cafes, Splendora reminds a visitor of an affluent American suburb. However, the street vendors selling breakfast phở for $1.50 bring you back to where you are.
Because the school is so new, it is still establishing many of its procedures and protocols. Aside from being the school that serves the Korean and Vietnamese business community of Splendora, St. Paul is working to determine its identity as an academic entity. It’s fun to see the constant swirl of new ideas about how to run the school and to help shape some of them.
Teachers are mostly from English-speaking countries, but the staff is all Vietnamese. Most teachers hail from America, but not all. Some have been here for years, but many are new this year just like us.
From the vantage point of my classroom, the cleaning team is the most visible of the staff throughout the day. Firstly, the cleaning women are just that — all women. They arrive before I get to school and leave after I do. Every day they clean the entire school down to the smallest detail. Every railing, window sill, and counter is wiped clean. They do the hard work to make sure my class is ready for students each day.
The reason we have a school at all is the students. They are of a variety of nationalities, though the majority are Korean or Vietnamese. Many of the Koreans are in Vietnam because their fathers (it is almost always the father) work for a Korean company like Samsung or LG. Aside from the differences in nationality and English fluency, they are like high-schoolers anywhere I’ve been: energetic, excited, bored, moody, and eager to jump into the world. They’re a great group of students, and I’m excited learn with them.