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Sunday, March 27, 2016

My First Day Volunteering at Chua La Go Vap


I commenced my volunteering stint at the Trung Tam Thien Nhon, a language training school in Go Vap District, last Tuesday. This is the second time that I am teaching English to non-native speakers. However, unlike my first volunteering experience in Dharamshala, India where I was doing informal conversation classes with a only few Tibetan students and monks, I am dealing with more students, ranging from 20 to 30, in a class this time, which makes it much more challenging.

I am really glad that I stumbled upon this free volunteering opportunity from one of the forums in Couchsurfing. Worthy of note here is that the language school is managed by the Chua La Go Vap (Leaf Pagoda), a Buddhist temple. The pagoda provides a number of free foreign language classes such as English, Chinese, Japanese, French, etc. to anyone who is interested in learning but cannot afford the steep fees of private schools in Ho Chi Minh City, making it a popular language school not only in the Go Vap District but the entire city. Yes, students do not pay for anything to be accepted! They can also choose from numerous classes that run in different times of the day. Classes normally start at 9am and end at 9pm. The school is continuosly accepting foreign volunteers and interns, mostly from AIESEC.


My first day teaching at the Speaking and Listening class at the pagoda was a learning experience. I did not know exactly what to expect from my students but I prepared myself for the worst. As suggested by my fellow volunteer, Jenny, I made a short power point presentation about the history and geography of the Philippines, my chosen topic for the lecture, while also introducing new vocabulary words.

Upon the start of my lesson, I immediately realized a huge problem in the class composition. Not every student has the same level of English proficiency. Others are more advanced than the others. As I went on speaking, I could very well see in many of my students' faces that they were lost and clueless. I had to repeat words several times, speak more slowly and clearly, and choose basic and simple words for them to understand what I was talking about. I know there is a learning curve to this and my first day has somehow tested my patience.

Fortunately, most of my students were attentive enough and very eager to learn. Many of them were curious and fond of asking questions about myself and the Philippines. It must admit, though, that communicating with my Vietnamese students was a challenging task because not only am I not used to their accent, I have also never taught in a huge class before. I think I have to devise some innovative ways and easy exercises in the next lecture so everyone is given the chance to speak up. After all, the primary goal is to improve their speaking abilities. I look forward to the succeeding sessions.

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