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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

Reflections from My Fulbright Experience in Vietnam

As my Vietnam Fulbright experience is about to wrap up after three-weeks of collaborating, providing professional development for teachers, delivering demo-lessons, observing and evaluating lessons, running mini-workshops for members of Huu Nghi and the University, as well as leading a very popular parent workshop; I am struck with the similarities and like mindedness of dedicated, passionate people.

During my years of teaching, I have gone from considering myself as a teacher to an educator, and more recently, I have begun to consider myself a practitioner. This title of educational practitioner embodies the realization that we are involved in a practice of education, every day, with every child. To practice one's craft is to continually look for improvements, understandings, and connections. When faced with struggles or difficulties in a practice, one must dig deeper to find solutions and alternatives rather than focus only on problems.

I knew I was in a place with kindred spirits after meeting Professor Nghi and hearing him speak about his desires and passions for delivering a comprehensive and diverse educational experience rich with the appreciation of art, music and creativity. Providing differentiated, hands-on, minds-on learning will strengthen much needed 21st century skills of innovation, creativity, collaboration, communication, persistence and critical thinking. These life skills are essential in our fast-paced, technologically enhanced yet dependent world.

We have decided that this collaboration is just the beginning of our work together. With plans for creating a sister-school model, we will develop and implement interactive STEM lessons in both schools: Columbus Elementary and Huu Nghi School. This will allow us to continue our collegial conversations about lesson development and delivery, teaching strategies, assessment and differentiation.

So, even though I will be on my way home in a few more days, I feel this joint venture is just starting. As I’ve said, “I am only a phone call or Skype call away!” Thank you Huu Nghi and Dr. Nga. Thank you Hai Phong Private University and Professor Nghi for this wonderful opportunity.

I have a quote by Nelson Henderson that helps me sum up teaching and life: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

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