“In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice, there is.” - Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut. We understood that in order to learn something, or get better at it, we need to practice many times. Especially, to be a successful future teacher, practice and experience are the most important. Fortunately, I had a chance to widen my perspectives on a field trip to UK English Center. It is a part of the Teaching English for Young Learners course at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education.
We were excited to know that we would have an opportunity to demonstrate a teaching activity in a real classroom at UK English Center. We had two weeks to plan and prepare for our field trip. Our class members were divided into four groups and then each group chose a class to experience. Everyone planned carefully for the trial session. Our team designed a funny game in which students had to race and draw the pictures. The winner would be awarded candies. We all hoped that our game would attract the children and we would have a good time together. This was my first time experiencing at a language center so I was looking forward to this trip.
The important day finally came. At 14 o’clock on Sunday December 29th, 2020, we were all present at the HCMUTE campus. Fifteen minutes later, we got on the bus and moved to UK English Center, at 100 D2 Street, Tang Nhon Phu A Ward, District 9. My first impression when arriving at the UK Center was that we were warmly welcomed by the dedicated staff. We watched a video and listened to a detailed speech about the UK Center's facilities and training programs. We were surprised that the Center, which has been founded for only 3 years, has gained remarkable achievements. The center cooperates with the British Council to organize exams and award Cambridge certificates to students. They also regularly organize competitions and support their students to participate in international English exams. Besides learning foreign language competence, students’ soft skills are trained through courses in public speaking and modeling as well as outdoor extracurricular activities. We were even more surprised to know that the MC of the meeting was also a student of the Center. Although she was in 10th grade, she was confident and spoke English fluently. The director was also enthusiastic to answer our questions and gave us some advice. His words not only satisfied us but also oriented our future and gave us the motivation to achieve success. What impressed me the most was that the computer room was equipped with modern devices for students to practice and take listening tests.
After the introduction phase, we split into small groups to observe and experience teaching real classes. In contrast to what I expected, paper and crayons scattering on the floor of the classroom where my team was assigned to teach, and children were running around while the teacher was yelling to get them back to their seats. I wondered whether the girl was a teacher or just a teaching assistant as she was too young and amateur, but there was no one else in the class to teach the kids. Nevertheless, she well assisted us in managing activities when needed.
The children were obedient and actively engaged in activities, but an unexpected problem occurred. We had designed an activity for 20 children as informed by the director of UK Center. However, there were only 5 students present that day. We were a bit confused at first and quickly rolled out plan B. Luckily, everything was fine. When the game nearly came to the end, a staff entered the room and asked us to move to another Kid class, which was out of our plan. In the second class, the children were not stubborn, and they always co-operated with us in the game. The only thing that annoyed me was that the teacher of this class always glared at the children and commanded them in a fierce voice when they made noise instead of gently asking them to keep quiet, as I have learned that an important thing that makes teaching young learners difficult is teachers’ patience and ability to control temper. Thus, I did not think the teachers here were very well-trained and wished to observe more classes to confirm my belief. In addition, I hoped to observe a lesson taught by native teacher, but it was a pity that I had no chance on that day.
After the field trip to UK International English Center, I was a bit disappointed due to my experiences in two Kid classes and the limited time for observing real classes. Nevertheless, I am grateful to UK Center for their hospitality and their support so that we had a meaningful field trip. Surely, I learnt from the trip much more than from theory. I now know that managing a real classroom is far more difficult than I thought. Our team also learnt how to solve problems flexibly in specific contexts. Teaching is never an easy job as it requires many skills, great efforts and intense passion. Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Ms. Van Anh, Ms. Thanh Hang and the UK English Center for this memorable field trip.
Nguyen Thi Nhi Hien
(TESOL Student - Cohort 2018)