What do we do ?

John Martin's experience of teaching rural children in Chau Son village

 I am a university professor with extensive experience teaching and engaging in educational research in a number of countries. I am currently living and working in Vietnam.  On Friday, December 21, I was invited by the NGO Better Life Vietnam (BLV) to visit the Chau Son primary school in the rural area near Hanoi. One of BLV’s projects is to give books to such schools and the purpose of this visit was to provide the children with these books and teach them English. As a university professor I have had very little experience interacting with primary grade children so that I was a little apprehensive about my role.

When we arrived at the school I found some 300 children and the school principal and teachers were eagerly awaiting our visit. The children were all neatly dressed and sitting on small chairs in the school courtyard. After a brief discussion with the principal we went out to meet the students. I was asked to speak to them in English and ask them to answer some questions, such as, “What is your name?” and How old are you?”.

 All the students I spoke with were able to answer these questions quite well and even more difficult ones. I gave the children a small sun sticker as a reward for speaking English and they were very happy.  BLV team explained that this sun sticker is a "symbol of hope" to encourage the students to study harder for a better future.  

We then played a game, Simon Says, in which the children had to either do a movement if I said Simon Says or not do it if I did not say these words. The students did quite well in this game and clearly could follow directions that were given in English. 

The children then gave some singing and dancing performances that were quite good.  We then passed out the books to the children who were eager to receive them. 

Finally we met again with the principal and English teacher and discussed the idea of my returning to the school on another day to train the English teachers of this school. 

This experience was quite wonderful for me. The students were eager to meet me, shake my hand and have their picture taken with me. Most importantly, it was clear to me that they enjoyed learning at this school. My experience in the 13 countries that I have worked in is that students often do not like school. By contrast these students clearly enjoyed being at this school and wanted to learn. Getting a book was a great present for them. I have studied and taught at some of the best universities and schools in the world, but nowhere have I found a better learning environment that at the Chau Son school. I encourage anyone who is interested in teaching and learning to visit this school and support the work of Better Life Vietnam.