self portrait 2018


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Teacher Training at Ky Nguyen

Teacher Training at Ky Nguyen

Teachers Who Train Together Stay on Track Together.

In a center as big as Ky Nguyen, they can hold an in-house training without all of their teachers in attendance and still have a good sized group participating.

I was invited to a training this past January. I am not sure why as I do not teach the young learners Cambridge teaching material. Because they added a new text to some classes, there was a need to show teachers a way to run activities. Two teachers presented their teaching styles. The demonstrations required full participation from the teachers who role-played as students.

Below is a video I put together from images, short video clips and longer video clips I shot with my Iphone:


Who The Training Was For

I was never an obedient student. I rarely saw much value in studying any subject that a teacher was presenting. I was more interested in studying the teacher's style, delivery, and how she was teaching, not what she was teaching. My biggest complaint about teachers was that they never gave me the big picture of where this lesson as actually going.

I looked at this training the same way. I am glad I was there and the topics were valuable. The only thing is that I knew everything they were talking about. I don't need anyone to show me what to do with a textbook with beautiful pictures intended for students to analyze and describe. I know how to move a class out of their seats. I also know how to trouble shoot problems like motivating students to do something new. Surely there are times when I get stuck but as I have become more experienced, those situations seldom happen.

What I saw during the training was that the teachers were having fun. They were completing the activities and playing the language games. They were chatting like friends in a classroom. It was then that I decided that I had to record this. The Live Photo function on the Iphone 6s records a three second video clip in addition to taking a photo. This really captures the feeling and expression of the subject and can then be arranged in iMovie to make a series of interesting clips.

Again, there was nothing on the surface of these games that was fun to me. Maybe I am too old or because I am a native speaker but this training didn't offer me anything that I have not already figured out in my teaching.

As I watched them, I remembered how we teachers all have a need to switch roles every now and again. Training like this help us look at teachers through a critical lens and ask ourselves what we can take from that teacher to make ourselves better teachers. Sure we follow along with the activities but we are also learning methods by observing the teacher.

Recharging the Batteries

We become great educators by watching great educators. The more opportunities we have to do this the better. I recently had that glowing feeling as I was watching a Sesame Street clip on Youtube (Researching for a kindergarten class). One of the puppets, Zoe, introduced a pair of dancing sisters. Although famous in the world of ballet, I had never heard of the Feijoo sisters. Watching them interact with the puppet, as any regular person would, and then take the stage to dance as any extraordinary person could, I felt more interested in their dance. Maybe it was because the adults on Sesame street, talking to puppets and children, are less guarded then when the speak in the adult world. I felt very connected to what I was watching. Of course that is what Sesame Street expertly does for children. A four year old watching this should look at this clip and dream, for a moment, that she could to be a dancer too. And who is to say that any four year old anywhere couldn't become inspired to become a ballerina?

As a teacher, sometimes all I am capable of doing is simply introducing students to something and letting someone else do the hard work. The Feijoo sisters have beauty and grace, which the world needs, but which I cannot myself give to the students. Book work ought to be interrupted so that the students can see another side of life. There are lots of other topics in which all I can do is introduce, ideas like: scientific solutions to global problems; performing arts; and nature. All of these topics can be introduced with a short Youtube video. The students' English may not improve but maybe by sharing beautiful and inspiring things, they will study English with greater purpose. If not, they may just have a better sense that there are different types of wealth in the world. If not, they will have enjoyed an interesting video. If not, we have gotten through class with less suffering and more bright light. I have no control on what they take from it.

Teachers Have To Remember How to be Students

Another big take away from the training was that the teachers sat in the students' desks. Seeing the classroom from the perspective normally reserved for the students does something to change the way a teacher thinks about what they are doing. But this is only a technique for building empathy for students. I need more.

I first got interested in photography in 2009 when I working in Yichang, China. I saw so many beautiful moments at the primary school that I felt that I had to photograph what I could. Buying my first DSLR was a little intimidating because I knew nothing about all of the buttons on the camera. The next seven years up until today has been a great journey of my self-directed education in photography. Over the years I have taken great shots and occasionally have stood in an appreciated roles during weddings, school events, and parties because I have the interest and know how to photograph the event. I have also found a constructive and creative way to occupy my free time with my website. 

To do all of this I have had to seek out information and research. Sometimes I stumbled on information. Other times I bought equipment or software. I have enjoyed struggling to figure out how to do things. I have wished that I had this or that lens. I have realized that I didn't need something I don't have. I have become a better photographer because of this effort. Yet, I still have a lot to learn and a lot to experience.

At some point the learning process has got to be self-guided. As an adult, I have to know what I am interested in. The road of self-guided study has a lot of moments where I am excited because I discover something for myself. And this effects my teaching because I want students to have that feeling too. There is not much learning when the teacher tells students the answers. The teacher needs to let the lesson hang a bit and let the students figure out the answer through guessing and checking. Coming up with the answer this way makes them realize that they are smart. I also have to realize that their English is not really going to get good until they leave the classroom and find themselves in situations where they have to figure out how to use English on their own. Not unlike photography, English is a tool that has to be applied out in the real world.

The Benefit of Training In-House

Photography helps me appreciate the long and non-linear process of learning. There is not one answer for every situation. There are collections of tools that a teacher learns assemble and present to the students. Your experience and judgment come together to make it work in the situation. Lesson planning has has to be directional but flexible, changeable, and relate-able.

While it is great for a group of teachers to come together to train, the benefit of the training will only be seen once the teacher is back in the classroom. But teachers who train together have support. They develop together. These trainings are just as important for the insight into classroom instruction as they are for the teachers themselves.








Ho May Park: A Day Above the City

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Stand By Me: Students Watching a Classic Film Clip

Stand By Me: Students Watching a Classic Film Clip