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Towards the end of our first week teaching 8th and 9th graders in Vietnam, all 10 American coaches and our director met up to reflect on our ACE experience so far. We might have done a bit more laughing than discussing — this is one hilarious group. We mesh so well and really can feed off of each others ideas, opinions, and energy. I love being surrounded by other passionate student athletes because we thrive in the same atmospheres. It’s something special that you get with ACE! However, another thing I noticed was that with all of the new faces, places, and feelings, I hadn’t had time to even begin a reflection on what this week has really meant to me.

So, sitting along side the other coaches, it was a bit overwhelming to try to put into words a quick reflection of this eye opening week. Instead of trying to comprehend this massive intake of new information in just one night, I decided to focus on the word ‘reflection’ itself.

As I left our coaches meeting, I decided that reflection actually had been super relevant all week and not just at the end. Here are a few times where I saw reflection in ways other than looking back on my first week in Vietnam!

– I have absolutely LOVED teaching physics this week. As an engineer at Duke, I am pretty passionate about that kind of stuff! Equations, operators, variables, graphs — they are universal. It’s mind blowing to be able to communicate with the kids one on one without speaking their language. When I write an example, practice problem, or set of equations on the board, it is automatically reflected by the kids in their notebooks without question. They write line by line what I have on the chalk board and are able to process the information and solve the problem subsequently on their own. This has been one of the things that I have enjoyed most so far!

“…the mutual respect the coaches have for each other makes this a partnership full of growth and learning for both parties.”

– In my time here, I have also been teaching dance. These kids are shy but full of spirit when put into the right atmosphere! During a rather exciting lesson (we were learning the Cupid Shuffle!!) it started to downpour. This seems to be common here in the afternoons. Thunder, rain, wind — you name it! Before we had the chance to run inside, they begged us to keep dancing. We ended up splashing our soaked, laughing, and cupid-shuffling reflections in the puddles during the process.

– The other side of the staff is made up of Vietnamese coaches. They speak English unbelievably well, have amazing ideas and insight to what the kids need, and are pretty hilarious alongside ourselves. I couldn’t ask for a better experience making friends from such a different culture and upbringing. They, in a sense, present the kids with a reflection of what I say in class. When I stand up and give my verbal step by step guide to solving a series circuit in a physics lesson, the kids might not receive my exact words and phrasing. It is open to the Vietnamese coaches to interpret my words and consider what the kids need to know as well. They bounce my words back off to the kids rather than the kids hearing it straight from the source. They also add a sort of dynamic where we aren’t just giving the kids one way to solve a problem, but two. I have noticed differences in the way I have learned the material and how they have, so we come from two different sides when giving an explanation or example. This has taken some getting used to, but the mutual respect the coaches have for each other makes this a partnership full of growth and learning for both parties.

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