For students and teachers alike at Ngoc My commune Primary and Secondary school, Ms. Cao Le Thu is well-known for her dedication in teaching and love for children. Like many other teachers in mountainous areas, she started her teaching career with enthusiasm and high hopes to build a promising future for the students here.
Just as teaching is no easy task, Thu faced many more challenges than she had ever thought of. Since 98% of the students in her class are from Muong ethnic group, they do not communicate in Vietnamese, known as the language of Kinh ethnic people. Besides, most of her students come from very humble families, they know very little about the bigger world outside of their little villages, their hilly mountains and little springs running across their paths to school. Thus, many of the words from textbooks just do not resonate to them at all.
Ms. Thu tried as hard as she could to help her students not only to read but to understand the words and remember them. However, many students could not understand the lecture, frequently make mistakes and were afraid to read in front of the class. Seeing the children’s struggle to learn, Ms. Thu was deeply concerned. She then realized the traditional way of teaching might not be effective to these children from minor ethnic groups living in rural and mountainous areas. Having deep compassion with such kids, she wanted to try so much more but just did not know how.
“Just when I was not sure of what to do, ChildFund implemented the project “Learning for future development” to contribute to ensuring the quality of education for ethnic minority students in 7 project communes of Tan Lac district, Hoa Binh province. The project arrived at the right time and aligned perfectly with the teachers’ need for improvement in education quality – something we have been yearning for”, shared Ms. Thu.
She started participating in a training course on student-centered reading comprehension teaching methods in March 2018. Overcoming her initial anxiety, Ms. Thu enthusiastically participated in training activities and acquired new teaching methods such as individual reading, reading difficult words, difficult sentences, group reading, interpretation, learning lessons, visual exercises…. After finishing the course, Ms. Thu excitedly shared: “With this method of learning, students get to read more, understand the lesson and be more active in all learning activities. Teachers are also provided with visual aids to make lessons more enjoyable and a reading comprehension evaluation toolkit to accurately assess student performance on each topic. I am really interested and excited about this new teaching method!”.
Ms. Thu teaching her grade 2 students on reading – Primary and Secondary school of Ngoc My commune. Photo by Nga Nguyen Thi, The principal of this school in 15/11/2019
In addition to applying new teaching methods during lessons, Ms. Thu also spends time after class to provide additional support for low-performing students. After only one semester, all the students in her class have made remarkable progress. For them, reading lessons are now much more fun and easier to understand. With these encouraging achievements, Ms. Thu was entrusted by the school to build a training program for other teachers at Trung Hoa Primary and Secondary School.
Not stopping there, Ms. Thu also travelled more than 30km to other schools in Trung Hoa, Quyet Chien, Ngo Luong, and Ngoi Hoa communes to support the implementation of new reading comprehension teaching methods. Mr. Hai, a teacher at Trung Hoa primary and secondary school shared: “Miss Thu attended my class and helped teachers at my school design questions for the lesson, I am very happy and grateful to receive guidance from her”.
Ms. Thu receiving the 1st place in the excellent teacher award at the district level, the school year 2020-2021. Photo by Mai Bui Thi, the official of Department of Education & Training (DOET) of Tan Lac district in 09/11/2020
With the knowledge and experience gained, Ms. Thu has written an experiential initiative: “Methods to help students read better in reading comprehension class”. Thanks to the widespread successes achieved at all primary and secondary schools in Ngoc My commune through the implementation of new teaching methods, Ms. Thu was awarded the first prize at a district-level competition for excellent teachers, school year 2020-2021.
From an inexperienced, shy teacher who has just started her first class, after 3 years participating in ChildFund Vietnam’s project “Learning for future development”, Ms. Thu is now a confident teacher whose new teaching methods have inspired many students to learn and encouraged colleagues in the whole commune to progress together.