My Teaching Experience in Vietnam
When I first began teaching in Vietnam, I was incredibly nervous and unsure of myself. Even though I had taught before, and I had spoken in front of large groups in my career in American business, the thought of speaking to a room full of students in another country made me quite uneasy.
Besides the food, history, and beautiful landscapes, one of the main reasons I wanted to experience Vietnam is the people. Their kindness and spirit of community and generosity precedes them the world over. It was this very spirit and warmth from my colleagues and students that eased those nerves and made me feel welcomed and respected.
Oftentimes my students are shy or hesitant to speak in class because they are insecure about their speaking skills and I really, earnestly relate to those fears. I was an incredibly shy, insecure student, who hated speaking in front of the class. I think this helps me relate and empathize with my students. I talk to them like we’re friends, speaking at a cafe. I (hopefully) ease that tension and let them know that I truly understand what they are feeling. I think that has helped me be a better sounding board for their collective feelings and also helped in being a good listener and communicator overall.
“So many wonderful, organic moments of true learning with my students”
I’ve had so many wonderful, organic moments of true learning with my students over my nearly 2 years here. Those truly rewarding moments when you can see the light go on in their eyes, in real time. As a teacher, you put in the work to best prepare yourself to be able to teach this difficult material; and it is quite difficult. Learning a foreign language, especially one as different from your own as English is (compared to Vietnamese) is incredibly challenging and these students are so dedicated to improving. It’s truly inspiring. And it’s in those moments of real connection and breakthrough that I know it’s all worth it.
Most, if not all, of the students I’ve had the privilege of teaching, display a sincere desire to improve their English as a means to better their lives and, in many cases, their family’s lives. It’s hard to see that sincerity and feel that effort and not try to match it! I feel a duty to show up for every class, well-prepared and ready to teach. And, of course, I’m teaching those students, but I’m also connecting with them through conversation and shared human experiences.
I’ve come to class an hour early to teach a student who is too shy to learn with others in a room, and stayed late to answer every last question a student has about that day’s particular topic. I say that not to show my devotion to teaching, but merely as a mirror that reflects the effort and dedication to learning that these talented students display.
I always aim for my classroom to feel safe and encouraging for my students to speak, laugh, and share experiences. We learn about each other and we learn together!
Anthony Fornado – Teacher at ILP Vietnam