From October 2018 until January 2019, I went to Vietnam to cooperate with the organization Coins for Change Vietnam and particularly their project Teach for Change. During that time, I lived and worked in the province of Nam Dinh. Five days a week, I went to different public schools in the province and taught English to the children. Although I enjoyed the teaching itself and the work with the children very much, the other volunteers and I sometimes got the impression that our work was not fully appreciated. Since we were a little bit short on volunteers, we had to work a lot of extra hours which we were not informed about beforehand. Consequently, oftentimes, we had to be quite spontaneous about planning our lessons and did not feel very prepared since none of us was a professional teacher or had the necessary skills and expertise.
Nevertheless, the experiences I made were quite impressive. Seeing the happy faces of the children always made up for everything. It’s so nice to see how excited the children get. Many children were very shy when I first came to the class but after seeing them regularly once a week, even the quietest children engaged in the class and games. From what I’ve also heard from other volunteers, those happy faces and the children’s excitement was everyone’s motivation. Even though we did not feel good all the time, we always continued for the children’s sake and I am so glad I took on this challenge.
Teaching in a country where English is still quite rare, it is a logical consequence that communication issues due to language barriers arise. Whether it’s explaining a game to children who do not understand you or talking with supervisors or other teachers of the school, it is always a challenge. However, one learns quite quickly how to get one’s way even if one needs to use hands and feet to explain something simple. Therefore, while helping children regarding their English education, everyone will have the possibility to grow and flourish. As I said, not everything was always easy and we experienced several communication problems but every single one of us had the chance to develop as a person.
In addition, I conducted a field study as part of my Psychology program at my university. For this research, I compared the quality of education in private and public classes. Since I mainly taught in public schools, I had to rely on interviews with other volunteers who did teach private classes. All volunteers were very helpful and helped me out whenever I needed information since it was unfortunately not possible for me to get another work schedule due to the shortage of volunteers. In general, living and working with the other expats was very nice. Together, we had a lot of fun, drank a lot of beer, planned trips for the weekend and supported each other whenever support was needed. All in all, I am extremely glad I went to Vietnam and took on this challenge and I can highly recommend it to everyone who is still in doubt!
Celine Pfeiffer, Teach for Change Volunteer 2018-2019