Azen Jaffe: Today is July 12, 2019, and we are at the Tigard Public Library. I am with Lucy Hamill and Garland Joseph.
Loan Ziehl: I am Loan Ziehl.
AJ: We are interviewing Loan Ziehl. Thank you very much for being with us.
LZ: Thank you for making the time. You have been so patient with me and my very hectic schedule.
AJ: Of course. Could you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself?
LZ: Yes my name is Loan Ziehl, and I am a Vietnamese immersion teacher for Portland Public Schools. It is a Vietnamese immersion program, and it is a very new program. Because the Vietnamese population has been increasing so much. We see that the need to learn the Vietnamese language for the new generation is important. So we try to get into the school districts. We just started it five years ago. It has been very successful. I have been teaching for four years at Portland Public Schools. I have two children, two boys, Charlie is fourteen and Kevin is twelve. They both are in Lake Oswego at a Spanish immersion program. They are mixed children. Their dad is from Minnesota and is caucasian. I moved here from Vietnam in 2001. I have been living here for twelve years, in Portland.
AJ: That leads to the next question. I am excited to hear more about the Portland Public Schools. But first I wanted to ask what part of Vietnam are you from?
LZ: I come from the central of Vietnam, It used to be the capital of Vietnam during the Feudal Dynasty, the Nguyen Dynasty. So it is called Hue in the middle of Vietnam.
AJ: What is it again?
LZ: Hue, Hue it is spelled H-U-E.
AJ: Cool thank you. Did you leave twelve years ago?
LZ: I have been here for twelve years. It has been twelve years here, but I have been in the US for nineteen years. I lived in California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
AJ: Why did you move from Vietnam?
LZ: First of all it was because of education. I always wanted to advance my education. So I wanted to come here to study. I was lucky to have met my husband, who went to Vietnam. He was curious about the Vietnam War. Which the Vietnamese would call it the American War, which is very understandable. He came there to visit so we met, and we got married two years after that. I came here because first of all, I wanted to go here for education. Then I met him and we both fell for it. So yeah that is why I am here. I feel like this is my home now, like ever since my son came.
Lucy Hamill: Does any of your family live in the US?
LZ: No I have seven other siblings and they are all still in Vietnam and my folks -- they are in their eighties -- so it is kind of difficult but I am more American now than I am as a Vietnamese person.
AJ: What did you do in Vietnam?
LZ: When I finished school I was trained to be a high school teacher, teaching English. I came here and never got to be a teacher there. I used my skill to work in an environment where I could speak to all different people from all over the world. So that is where I met my husband.
AJ: How did you meet?
LZ: I was the tour guide, taking people on tours. My husband came there and he wanted to go on a tour and we met. So everything started since then. Yeah, so far it has been a very good journey. I really appreciate my life here in America because of all the convenience and the education that I learned. It is such a gift for me.
LH: How has your life here been different from your life in Vietnam?
LZ: It is day and night different. Because in Vietnam it is a communist party country. The government controls everything, and we don't have the right to freedom of speech. Anything we say and they don't like and we can be arrested at any time. So the kind of life that I never appreciated. I wanted to go here because I know we have the freedom and people support you. If you want to learn more, you have more opportunities to do so than what we could do in Vietnam.
AJ: So you said first you moved to Pittsburg?
LZ: Yes first I moved to Pittsburg to go to Duquesne University. Where I got my MA degree in elementary ed. Then after those three years, we moved to California. We had the two children there, but then we raised them up here. We have been here for twelve years. This is our home now.
AJ: Why did you come to Portland?
LZ: First, it was my kids were still very young, and I wanted to take care of them. I wanted to give them the time. So my husband was the main source of our income. So because of his work, we picked up and moved up here. At first, I didn't like it because of the weather it is so different from California. But then after a while, I see that this is so beautiful. Regardless of the rain and the grey, but sometimes it is gorgeous. I started to love this place instead of going back to California.
AJ: What neighborhood do you live in?
LZ: Here in Oregon?
LZ: It is Lake Oswego and it is a very nice neighborhood. We see a lot of children, elementary-aged students. My kids go hang out with them. It is a really fun place. It is very convenient to go here and there.
LH: What was it like to move from Vietnam to the US? Was it difficult? Did you face any challenges?
LZ: At first it was the culture shock. The culture where I come from is we don't worry about safety. Safety is not the first thing on our minds, it is more about survival, because it is a very poor place. People want to, first thing, worry about to make ends meet. So that is the very first thing. So talking about safety was something that was low down on the list. So when I first came here I sat in the car and felt like this a video game. You know we walked around instead or ride a bike, instead of sitting in a car. It was so amazing when I was riding down the highway sitting in the back. I felt like oh am I in a dream. So I tried to wake myself up, no this reality. I wrote it down this is the dream. The video game that I was playing, like playing the car racing, that was the one. We got married and the culture where I come from was that women and men don't have intimate relationships until they get married. That is what I did. So my husband and I met each other six times in Vietnam. But we didn't have anything further -- even a kiss. So that was another difference. I came here and we both came together to live in the same house. That is more of the conflicts that happen. I see things like I would agree with that, but he thinks that is not what he wants. So like every little thing it was such a big challenge. Many times I felt like no I can't survive here. I wanted to go back. That was one and the other thing was going out and I couldn't find the food. Because my husband is white and he wanted to eat all American food. I miss my home countries food. So it was another challenge and I was homesick. I didn't know how to get around. I didn't how to take the bus and everything. At the same time, I had to enroll myself into college. But my husband was working full time. I had to do everything myself and try to figure it out. First time to pick up the phone to call someone, was like oh I have to speak English. Everything was just so different. It was a big shock for me.
AJ: You mentioned that there were some cultural differences that caused problems when you moved in with your husband? What were some of those that could have caused tension?
LZ: First thing was you know he doesn't have any religion, and I am a Buddhist myself. When I left home, we come from a very poor place, he thought I would have a lot of belongings to take with me here. So he brought a lot of big suitcases for me, but then my whole life could fit into one suitcase. That was it. But one thing that was important to me was a little statue of Buddha. So he went to work and I put my Buddha in the family room on the window, that was a glass window. I put it there and I was so respecting to my Buddha. He came home from work and he saw my Buddha there and he didn't say anything. He picked up my Buddha and he went up and stuck it in the window by the stairs in the corner. I didn't even know it and I came back from a store and I walk in. Every time my habit is to come in and bow to my buddha. Gone. It was gone. I went to look around and I found it in that corner. That was the first thing. Because that was his house. You know for me when we first came together I didn't know what to think. I was so sad. This is not my house, he brought me here. So yeah that was the first thing. Later on, similar things happened, but I was afraid to talk to him. I said maybe he doesn't want it. So I picked up my Buddha, and I went and put in the place where I put my books.
So that was one thing, but other things like you know I am talking about safety. Which I understand now, but when someone has a cold you have to cover when you cough. If you have a cold then you have to do that. But in my culture it is okay. We eat together and we share one plate and we all use one chopstick. Which now, I can't do that anymore. But one day I was having a cold, and I went down and I took a glass, I drank water, and I put it back down. He was from upstairs coming down and he grabbed the glass and he put it to one side. I felt so offended at the time I didn't understand that you want to be responsible for the community health as well. I didn't understand that. I had very little knowledge about spreading germs. So I was upset and I cried. I told him you treated me just like I am a leper or something. I felt so bad because in my culture we don't do that, we share. He felt bad as well he said, "Oh no don't do that, no no I am sorry. This is our culture." But as I started to go to school, when I went to college, I noticed everywhere people cough. People said, "Oh don't come close to me." Then I write about that moment and I understood. I felt bad for my husband too. I was mad at him, but that is something you all do naturally. But I was mad. Things like that, a lot of similar things that happened in the first few years of my life here. But then also talking about safety, that I mentioned earlier, I would go out and ride a bike. I see the bike and I ride it, let me try even though I don't care about the bike. He is so much taller and his bike is so tall and I said, "Oh I can ride this." He said, "No you have to get the right size." I said, "I don't care in Vietnam we ride everybody's bike." So I tried to get down from not sitting on the seat, and I tried. I said, "See I can do it." He said, "You don't have a helmet." I said, "Who cares? It is okay we did this in Vietnam we don't need a helmet." My husband didn't want me to do that. I was mad and I said, "Okay you were afraid that I would ruin your bike." He said, "No, no it is for safety." At the time I didn't understand. As I started to live longer here, and I thought oh yeah every single thing we worry about safety. Like if you see that the floor is wet you put the yellow caution thing on out there. In my culture that is nothing, we don't even worry about it.
So we see the opposite. So like I see our name, my Vietnamese name, we see the last name goes first so [Fang Tie Kim Loan 15:49]. Loan is my first name, that is the way Vietnamese goes. Over here you say Loan Kim Tie Fang, and that is the opposite. Or I cut the fruit. You peel the fruit and you use the knife and you go [mimes peeling fruit with knife pointed away from body.] I do it go down. It is just like totally opposite many things. I can name it but everything is upside down to me. But now I have got all of those things. Now I look at new people they come here and they do things. I start to see myself in them. I can't do that anymore because I am so well trained by my husband, and we are still together for nineteen years.
LH: Have you connected with the Vietnamese community since living here in Portland?
LZ: Yes I was very isolated the first few years here because my kids were very young and very little. They were 8 to 9 months and two and a half. I didn't get to go out to see any people. I lived here for three years just staying home and taking care of kids. And I’m a perfectionist. So I wanted my children to like, in the morning, have to finish this much milk, and to take a nap at a certain time. He had to have something and a nap. So I never left home. I would stay with my kids. There were days that I never got out of my pj's, and I got depressed. I never got a friend even or even a neighborhood. I didn't get to see my own race and people. I didn't know anything around. I would start to get depression. Then I didn't know that that was a disease. I didn't know I was depressed. My husband was scared coming home thinking about facing me because I was always mad and everything. But then he told me why don't you try and go see the therapist. I said, "For what?" He said, "I think you need to go and talk to somebody." I didn't understand that depression that was something huge. Until one day I almost tried to kill myself. I called to say goodbye to people that I knew back in Pittsburg. I cried and said goodbye, she senses something that was so bad and she called the cops. The cops showed up in my house. A few minutes later somebody knocked on my door. I answered the door with my child was sitting down on the floor crying. It was very, very difficult.
I didn't see any Vietnamese community. I tried to find it but I didn't have any desire to go because I couldn't leave my kids at home. For some reason, my husband didn't even think of getting a babysitter for me. He didn't even have that concept. So at least to have that babysitter so I could leave for a couple of hours to go out. I never got that. It was not that he was mean but he was just such a guy. He worried about work and came home. As long as we had things, but he didn't even think further like that. So I was depressed. But after everything was done. I was on meds and it was under control. I said that I wanted to go to the gym, and I wanted to go swimming. Then I went and signed up for a sports club to go to the gym. Then from there, I heard about the 24 Hour Fitness. So I tried and joined the team there ten years ago. From there I met one Vietnamese person, and that person taught me that there is a Vietnamese community here up in Portland. You should go. She took me there showing me here and there, and I appreciated it so much.
Ever since I start to be out, and I am a different person. I could connect to the Vietnamese community, and I joined the Vietnamese school, Van Lang. A Vietnamese school to help them with the curriculum. I went to the Buddhist temple and I met a lot of people. I found the foods that are so important. I made some friends, and I feel like my life is so balanced. At the time it was like upside down. Every since maybe three years after I lived here. I moved here in 2007, and then in 2010 I started to connect to the community. I have been helping them going to the Buddhist temple, and helping them out. Trying to help people who first came here, and they didn't know where to register for their children for school. To do all the paperwork for their insurance, and everything else. I help them. I feel like I saw myself in them so yeah. That is how I connect to the whole community.
AJ: That is great. What is the name of the temple you go to?
LZ: There are at least seven to ten temples in Southeast Portland. It is Ngoc Son Temple, [unclear 21:50] temple, [unclear 21:54] temple, Linh Son, Nam Quang a lot of them. I feel like why couldn't I think of this like three years ago. But to be honest I asked that question to myself, but I knew the answer. What is that called? The kind of question you knew the answer to...
LZ: Rhetorical question yeah. Even though at the time I knew that I would not have gone there because I was not ready to leave my kids without a nap. I wouldn't do that then because that is who I am. I put myself in the trap in the house in a corner until I got so depressed. Without knowing that there is a depression. So things like that happen and I now see that. I see people who first come to the US and now a lot of them are still coming. I tried to help them so they don't have to go through the stages I went through.
LH: Are your kids connected to the Vietnamese community at all?
LZ: Yes, to be honest since I help people at the Van Lang school, I have signed them up for school. Because my husband is American, the English is more dominant at home. They spoke a lot of Vietnamese when they were little. They joined me at the Buddhist temple and they understood a lot of things then. But ever since they started to go up to third grade, there Vietnamese started to drop. They don't speak Vietnamese much. They choose to answer me in English instead. I tried to take them back to the Vietnamese temple, they refuse to go. “I would rather be with my friend.” It is just natural. But I still make them go on Chinese New Year day. On those special events of the Buddhist rituals then I make them go. They still understand it. They could speak daily conversation confidently in Vietnamese. But if they have the opportunity to speak English they would rather go with English. But yes they are both trilingual Spanish, Vietnamese, and English.
AJ: Is it important to you that they speak Vietnamese?
LZ: Yes because language is the beginning of everything for you to understand the culture. If they don't speak the language, how do they understand their roots? So I try to make them learn as much as they can. I try to make them say sentences in Vietnamese to answer my questions. So yeah, so far so good.
AJ: Have they been to Vietnam?
LZ: Yes, I try to go there every year with them. Now that they are older they don't want to go as often. Because again it is like if you guys got the chance to go to Vietnam you will see day and night differences. The culture and how life is there is totally different from what you see here. You can't cross the road because the motor scooters go from all different directions. They don't have stop signs. You would stand there for days without crossing unless I held your hand and let's go with me. Because I know that as you keep walking in front of them they will avoid you. My children don't accept that they say, "No it is not safe." They don't want to go over. If I take them to a Vietnamese market, over here we go to a store right, In Vietnam everything is open. Selling from the open little stores and everything. You see them on the street food and I took them there. They sell fish on the little baskets sitting on the ground and mud is everywhere on the street. They didn't want to go they said, "Icky." They said, "I don't want to go to Vietnam." They see crocs and mosquitos everywhere, and they got a lot of mosquitoes bites. They say, "No I don't want to go there it is very dirty, and it is not safe." But I can't blame them, it is very different.
AJ: Was there ever tension either with your husband's family or with your family because it is a mixed marriage?
LZ: You mean the attention we...
AJ: Tension like to...
LZ: Oh yes.
LZ: Yes my husband's family is kind of on the extreme. Like they are very shy so they don't show affection as much. But I love meeting people and I like to make friends. I am all over the place, talking, and sharing. Doing everything I can to make people happy. My husband is the opposite. So when I first came to his family, like after the marriage he went there to get married with me and his brother but his parents didn't come. But then he brought me to go visit his parents, I felt like they were so cold. They weren't very friendly and I felt like maybe they don't want me. I told my husband and he said, "No, no that is who they are." But now I understand that that is who they are. They don't show any affection to their children. Their children don't know, my husband and his brothers, their birthdays. Everything else like we are going to see them on Christmas and I want to buy them a gift. But no no no they don't want anything, we don't do gifts. They will give us a check and that is it. So yeah it is so different from the rest of Americans that I have been with. So for me, it was very stressed. It was stressful for me to go to his parents every time. The culture is already different, but the way they are is on the extreme side compared to the normal American family. I became a real citizen and I got my parents here for a visit. My parents came and stayed with me. We were on the phone with his mom and his mom didn't even ask about like, "Oh your parents are here I am happy to hear that. I am excited to see them." Nothing like that and I felt like okay whatever I am doing they don't care. I am used to it, but you know silly things like that. But yeah that is the way it is. I felt bad for my parents, but again they don't speak the same language anyway. But like sharing, "Oh how are your parents? Like, let's see them or on the phone to say hello." Nothing, so yeah it is very tense.
LH: Have you experienced any discrimination or racism while living in the US?
LZ: Yes, to be honest, I try to say no because for years I would stay home with my kids. I didn't work until 2014 and I came here in 2001. So I went out to see people like you, we would be all friendly and things. But I didn't pick it up until I started working in 2014 at Portland Public School. I am on the Vietnamese side in the same school building as the white teachers. They see me just like seeing air. They walk down the hallway, and I say hello and they walk straight. I feel like oh wow what do I do? That same person is the librarian. I wanted some help. I came to borrow some books because some days when I have a sub then I have to print. We don't have Vietnamese subs so we have to get the regular American teachers in the classroom. Then I have to prepare everything in English. Then I have to get books for them to do reading. I came to borrow a book. First I emailed her like I need your help with some books for first graders to learn and read when I am out. She didn't respond to me. I said okay I will find some. I will let you know and never respond. Then I came to see her in person and she said, "Oh I’m sorry I forgot about it." Then she found it like [flippantly] here here here. But every single time I brought my kids up to her to do readings she doesn't acknowledge that I am there. I am there in front of her and she looks at the kids and says, "Okay, come here." She didn't even have eye contact with me. I don't know what to do. But it is still happening at my school every single day. So that is why I said oh yeah. But for years everybody asks me I say, "No." My husband thought maybe you didn't pick it up. I said, "No people are so nice. How do you call them discriminate against me." But yes now I see that. I don't let that bother me because everybody has a different way of thinking. The way they are and I think that is their loss, I don't worry about it.
AJ: So how did you become involved in Portland Public Schools?
LZ: Five years ago when one teacher, she was a principal and also a boat person from Vietnam, she worked her way up to be a principal. Later on, she became a director of the office of teaching and learning of PPS. So she tried to fight for the Vietnamese language to be taught in schools. That one finally got approved. At the time, because the Vietnamese population here was so huge, every time they had a meeting they always had the three dominant languages Vietnamese, Spanish, and Chinese -- some in the Southeast area. So all the documents had to be translated into those three languages. In school, there is an influx of Vietnamese immigrants here, and no help. In school and teachers like you can't help them. So they started to hire Vietnamese EA in school to help. So just like bridging them with the school and the family and the student as well. Then, later on, they had a meeting that. Vietnamese families tend to stay away from school. They don't speak the language, so they try not to be at school if they can. Even when they have a conference then they would go but they would go very late to be there. So the school decided to have what they call TIS, the Translation and Interpretation Service. To help those in those events. So they send interpreters to school to help teachers. Now they also have a whole Vietnamese EUI to help the students who came and don't speak any English. At the time, I decided to go back to work. I was licensed, but my kids started to be in the fourth and fifth grade. So I decided to go and help with the Vietnamese community. That was time that I had found that there is a Vietnamese community here. So I applied to be a Community Agent for PPS. So I wanted to help out with the community. Then I worked there for two and a half years. Then I heard about the immersion, and I am licensed so I applied for it. That is where I started as a CA and now I have been a teacher.
AJ: Was their resistance to starting an immersion program? Have you heard about when it first started?
LZ: Yes. First of all, for the first four years they didn't have a home school for the Vietnamese program. Because they started it and they said, "Okay we are going to put the program here temporally at this school for this year." But they don't know what to do for next year. The teachers at the school were against it. I understand. It totally makes sense that in the big picture Vietnamese is not important -- compared. Think of the whole United States what language is more important than Vietnamese. But because they don't think of the small pocket of Portland of 50,000 Vietnamese people yes it is big. In the entire country, Vietnamese is a very small percentage. Why spend money on this kind of program for a small number like this? So, I understand why all the teachers and all the schools were against it. They didn't want Vietnamese to be in their school. Even though when we were at the school called Roseway Heights, for two years teachers in the school, they didn't acknowledge the Vietnamese teachers there. They called them with a different name. Like my name is Tina and you are the fourth-grade math teacher you walk down here, and if you want to same something to me you call me someone else instead of Tina. “Oh I am sorry I am not Tina.” [Condescending] “Oh, I am sorry what is your name?” Like that. So it was like that for a few years. Until two and a half years ago we got a new principal. That was the first time he got to be a principal, Jeremy Cohen. He is so nice. He came and he recognized and tried to embrace everybody. Even though the Vietnamese immersion program is not important. But he always recognize us as part of the school. Every event and in the staff meeting he mentions we need to reach across to talk. For the regular class to meet with the immersion class so the kids could you know. Then all the teachers see that this principle is really for the Vietnamese program. I saw that people started to be friendly to us, and trying to come to us. Like, “Oh Loan can we do the reading buddies with your classes?” Oh yes, that is awesome! Things like that and before that they put all the Vietnamese classes in one corner of the building. Which means that nobody walks this way except the Vietnamese, but now he has spread us out everywhere. So yeah. It is like a lot of people didn't want to and this finally the past school year, they finally put Vietnamese immersion at Rose City Park School as the permanent home for them. All the teachers there were so nice trying to come. There were only five classes so far, but there are so many other regular classes. So they co=ame to me and say, "Can we be your buddies?" So, one class like mine would be buddied with two classes. Yes that is important that the leader makes a different dynamic. When they tried to put us at Vestal Elementary School, the parents there, the PTA, didn't want us. They were so against it, and the teachers at Vestal as well. But finally, we get to be at place so we are good now.
AJ: I am glad things have been improving.
LZ: Yeah. And the number of enrollment is very high every year. We see a lot of white kids now in our program as well. People will question us. Why do you put your children in that program? I don't say the good things about Vietnamese myself, but I am talking about immersion in general. If a child is in an immersion program they can pick up language so quickly. Later on, not to mention until now, their pronunciation is like native. Later on as they get higher they can pick up any language so easily because their brain is trained to learn that way. Also, we see that data shows that students that are in immersion, their reading scores are so high as they start third grade. First and second grade and even kindergarten they were average not even high. But then all of a sudden up to third grade they go up like that. Because in the first three years they develop the foundation. As they get to the third grade they get used to it, and they were fluent in reading even though they don't understand the Vietnamese yet. They could read fluently and that helps them with English too. They could read both and the reading goes up this way. Not only with the Vietnamese but we see the data that our principals shared from other languages like Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. The same is true so I see that. Again the Vietnamese are small but you know things just already got put in the program. A lot of white people put their children in that. They say, "Well if nothing else we are working full time and we couldn't drop them off and they had to take the bus and this is their home school. Then why not put them in any immersion that helps them later on?" This is especially a tonal language. Then it also helps them if they started with the tonal language, it is just so much easier for them later on. They learn Spanish, Chinese, and anything else. So that is why we have a lot of diversity in our program.
AJ: I have only heard great things about immersion programs. For your school is it mostly students in the neighborhood or are there students being bussed in as well?
LZ: Most of them are bussed in from everywhere else. Because we only have one school and Vietnamese is still a small group. So they also have open enrollment for out of the district. To enroll if they could translate, they and got permission from their district. Then they get accepted to our school. Also, they have bus, but the bus will only pick them up on a certain route. Like on the main road that the parents have to drop them off there, and the bus will come, pick them up, and take them all to the school. They also take them back to the same place and parents pick them up. It is amazing that a lot of Vietnamese parents are very dedicated. They either stay home to take the kids, because one of them is working, to drop off the kids. They do that for the kids to go to school. So a lot of them are taking the bus from a lot of different places.
AJ: The class is pretty diverse?
LZ: Yeah we have Thai, one Spanish child, Latina, we have a lot of mixed students, and we four or five white students in one class. So you know the number like that, I was surprised to see that. As I talk to parents they say, "Yeah we worked and we can't afford a nanny to drop off. So this just the neighborhood school." Amazingly, the Vietnamese heritage students do not do as well as the white students in my class. I have been teaching four groups already and all the white kids are learning so well. I am wondering if maybe those are just happened to be very smart students. One kid that is Thai, she is off the charts as well in Vietnamese. My Vietnamese students, whose parents both are Vietnamese, they just go in and speak English. They do very low in the class. I do not know why. I still believe that it is because these kids are very smart, the white kids. It is not enough for me to prove that oh maybe they are smart themselves.
AJ: I guess I have two questions and I will start with one. What grade do you teach?
LZ: Last year I taught second grade, the school year before last. The past one I taught first grade. Next school year I am teaching first grade again.
AJ: My second question is how the program works? Do you teach only in Vietnamese?
LZ: Yes, let me share how it works. They call it a fifty, fifty program where you and I are co-teachers. So next year I will have forty-six, so we will divide it, so twenty-three for you and twenty-three for me. You are in charge of the English side and I am in charge of the Vietnamese side. We have the Vietnamese curriculum and you have your regular English like the other neighborhood classes. But the problem is, we both have problems with the time. Because we only have so many hours-a-day. The whole morning group that you have twenty-three kids, you have to make sure that you teach them math, writing, reading, science, social studies, and whatever has to be in there. Number corner, counting, letters, sounds, and whatever you make sure that they have to master that. In the afternoon, I switch my group to you. Then, my group, you will teach them the same material that you did with the morning group. I will do the same with the Vietnamese side; writing, reading, and math. That was done the same in the first four years. We had no way to get it very well. The regular neighboorhood classes have the whole day doing the same thing that you do in just the morning. They have two recesses a day and we can't afford that. So this year we started to do this: the math, I am doing the math -- in the first-grade material we have six units of math for the entire school year. Then you do one and two, I do three, then you do four, and I do five and six. The units okay, so three, four, five, and six are mine, and you are one, two, four. That is what we do, you finish the first two. I say okay Loan at the end of this month then I will be done. Then I started my unit. When I started my unit two you don't teach math. Then you use that time to focus on science. Then vice versus when I am reading. Reading, you do your reading time and we don't share. But the writing this year the Vietnamese have to adopt the writing units, they call it units of studies. There are four units for the first grade. There will be narrative and information. So you are teaching the first unit in English you teach them. Then after you finish the first unit. Then you and I will work together. Okay this is what I taught them, these are the steps, these are the vocabularies that they learned how to write. Then I know what you taught and I used those terms and I introduce them to my kids in Vietnamese. I teach them those terms. Then before I taught the unit two, they have to get familiar with those terms and transfer them into Vietnamese. Then I start to teach my information unit. You talked about small moments, something like that. So I finish unit two then we both brief again. We do the briefing I share with you these things. Then you knew that the kids already knew that from my class. Then continue with unit three. That is how we divide it. Then we have time for us to breath and for the kids to observe. So that is how we divide it.
AJ: Sounds like a lot of work.
LZ: Oh my goodness [sighs.] Next year they make us do the reading as well. I don't know how this is going to work. Reading? Come on. My first grader do not know any Vietnamese words yet. I have to read for the first two months. I have to help them do review trying to get fourty-four Vietnamese letters, and tones. English, we don’t have anything in common. The only thing that is similar to Vietnamese is the alphabetical, that is all. We have tonal. Crazy. So there is nothing that is in common. But we have to share the reading with the curriculum. We adopt the reading, the English reading, curriculum to teach these kids immersion. So I don't know how that is going to work but that is what we are doing next year.
AJ: It sounds like a lot of communication between two teachers.
LZ: Yeah. We have to work tightly together and especially so interesting when it is time for conferences. We have forty-six kids. A regular classroom is twenty-seven. The district only gives us two days for the conferences. We can't get through it. We have to work at night. We have parents come until nine o'clock. Of course, they have to pay us those hours. We don't want to get those hours paid to do that. You know? I am sorry you guys are immersion and that's what we do.
AJ: Do you like it?
LZ: I love teaching and of course I want my language to be there for the young Vietnamese generation. To be able to speak the language and to know about the culture. Because of that, I have the heart for it. But, to be honest, doing this under this kind of stress is very hard.
AJ: It is a lot of work. Are there ways that the district can support you more?
LZ: I don't think so. There is no way. Because we only have those many hours a day. And no way. The only thing that they could support us to give us an EA, but they don't.
AJ: Educational assistant?
LZ: Yes, but they don't. One year I had fifty-seven kids and I didn't have an EA. I had to juggle with all the kids, and I had four special ed kids. He ran around he was kind of mental as well. He went to other kids and grab stuff and run away or tear the paper. I would say, "Sit down or come here." He just didn't listen to me. Or if I leave the class to deal with him, then what? I didn't know what to do. He ran out of the class. I picked up the phone to call the principal office to come down and help him or go catch the student. You know also there all different autistic children as well. They can't learn at the same pace. Then I have to do the diffraction with them, but with so many kids I can't really do it. That is something we all need so badly, but they are not giving us the help. Because the budget is cutting. And also you saw a lot of protests in downtown Portland. Yeah, they haven't given us any EA. The school and PTO also trying to do the auctions and trying to raise some money. To help the school to hire one EA for a nearly higher teacher. Just to help that one teacher, because he is so new. We were not trained to teach immersion. So only that is paid out of the fund from PTO. What if we don't have that funding? Well then good luck.
AJ: Well I am sorry because I feel like there is more I want to ask but I think that we are running out of time. Before we close is there anything else? I would love to maybe speak again at some point because I do feel that there is more to talk about. But right now is there anything you think we should ask or that you want to talk about before we end the interview?
LZ: To be honest it is so vague for me. Yeah I can answer anything that you have in mind. But I, to be honest, I do not know where to start to share more. But I am here and sometimes it is hectic but I appreciate your patience. We have been exchanging emails for many months. I felt so bad about today.
AJ & LH: That is okay.
LZ: Anytime that you would like to have a meeting to ask more I am very happy to come over.
AJ: Thank You so much
AJ: Okay so this has been Azen Jaffe, Garland Joseph, and Lucy Hamill and we are speaking to Loan Ziehl. Did I say that okay?
AJ: Today is July 12th, 2019. Thank you.