Working with the ACE Program in Vietnam has been a great experience so far. After only a week, I have become friends with an incredible group of American and Vietnamese college students. However, the best part of the trip has been working with the kids.
The above picture shows the American and Vietnamese coaches standing in front of a crowd of our students; this was the first time we were introduced. From here, the students were divided into a color team (Green, Red, Orange, or Yellow). Working with my fellow coaches and the students of the Green Team has been extremely rewarding.
Unfortunately, the beginning of classes was difficult. I was faced with 30 eager kids and had no way to speak to them directly. Virtually all correspondence between the students and myself had to come through one of the Vietnamese coaches. As such, whenever I would try to speak with them, I would always wonder if they understood what I was trying to say. Although my Vietnamese counterparts did a great job being patient with me and translating, I still found myself feeling frustrated with the daily miscommunications. Fortunately, this soon passed. Over meals and through activities, we got to know the Vietnamese coaches pretty well. We would talk about our favorite movies, our hobbies, and our aspirations. As we got to know each other, we started to communicate better and the language barrier became just a small roadblock to teaching the kids.
I have been teaching math and basketball with three other American and Vietnamese coaches. Each night, the entire group huddles into a room to create a new and fun lesson plan for the next day. For math, we write several problems on the blackboard, split the students into two teams, and challenge them to solve as many as they can for their team. For basketball, we come up with fun drills so the kids enjoy practicing their new skills.
Everything the students have learned for the week is put to the test on Friday, also known as Competition Day. The students take an academic test for all four subjects and compete with their team in all four sports. This past Competition Day has been my fondest memory of the program thus far. On Friday morning, before the tests and sports started, we met with the Green Team. We reminded them to be confident, to try their hardest, and to be gracious in both victory and defeat. Though it was fun to watch them compete in each sport, my favorite was watching them play basketball. The Green Team was doing very well and made it to the finals. To win, they would have to score more points after running an obstacle course than the other team. The final match was incredibly close, but we ended up winning! However, the reason this event stood out to be was how the kids were behaving. Whether a teammate did well or did poorly, the kids supported them. After each match, the kids would shake hands regardless of the outcome. It was incredible to see such humility and kindness from young kids.
“Whether a teammate did well or did poorly, the kids supported them. After each match, the kids would shake hands regardless of the outcome. It was incredible to see such humility and kindness from young kids.”
My work here is just getting started. The days may be long and tiresome, but there is nothing I love more than walking into the Green Team classroom, seeing all of the kids’ smiling faces, and hearing several small voices saying “Hello!” After only a week, it has been so rewarding to work with these kids. I have learned so much from seeing these kids interact with each other. I wish to impact them as much as they have impacted me.