What do we do ?

School Report - John Martin

I am a university professor with extensive experience teaching and engaging in educational research in several 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. BLV is a  social enterprise in Vietnam focusing on primary education, with one of their main projects being the donation of books to rural schools; the purpose of this visit was to provide the children with these books. As a university professor, I have had very little experience interacting with primary grade children so that made me a little apprehensive about my role.

When we arrived at the school, I was greeted by 300 children, the school principal and the school teachers who were eagerly awaiting our visit. The children were 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 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 challenging ones. I gave the children a small badge as a reward for speaking English and they were very happy. 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 well in this game and could follow directions that were given in English. The children then gave some singing and dancing performances that were great. We then passed out the books to the children who were eager to receive them. Finally, we met with the principal and the English teacher and discussed the idea of my returning to the school on another day.

This experience was 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 enjoyed attending this school and wanted to learn. Getting a children’s book was a valuable 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 than at the Chau Son school. I encourage anyone interested in teaching and learning to visit this school and support the work of Better Life Vietnam.