REI-Vietnam News

The Synergy of English Training and Social Work

by REI-Vietnam |

Image: The Synergy of English Training and Social Work
Presley McFadden at Tea Talk English

Presley McFadden, REI’s resident staff team leader in Hanoi, has taught English at three prominent universities in Hanoi (Hanoi University, Academy of Finance, and National Economic University) over the past 6 years. Last year he decided it was time for a change. Presley was already working closely with Michael Ong at Tea Talk through volunteering at a number of workshops and English clubs. Could Tea Talk become a place for full-up English courses? The answer: YES!

As Presley began teaching English to CoRE and Tea Talk staff, the staff had an opportunity to give back: secure a work permit for Presley, sponsored by CoRE! (You may remember that CoRE, the Center for Counseling, Research and Empowerment, is the domestic non-profit organization launched by Tea Talk.) This was resource exchange at its finest.

After several months of effort, the staff was able obtain the work permit in June 2015. The very next month, Presley was gifted his own little classroom on Tea Talk’s 4th floor and a week later, on July 14th, began teaching his first course.

Since then, Tea Talk English has steadily grown, having already offered three more courses for students at various levels of ability, with two more planned to launch by April. In addition, Tea Talk English will be reintroducing the popular “Fun Club” in mid-March.

But if you know Resource Exchange International, you know that at the end of the day, we place more value on people than on programs. Presley would not want to be doing this on his own, a professional trying to contribute, yet working in isolation. Others shared the vision with him.

From the very beginning, Presley has received the enthusiastic support of fellow CoRE colleagues. Some have participated in his classes, while others have helped to market and invite friends. There is a real sense of partnership enjoyed by Presley and the staff.

And this makes perfect sense, when the overarching vision is for more people to be drawn to walk through the doors of Tea Talk, to see what the caring and capable staff are themselves offering to the community. Presley shares with students about CoRE’s activities in the same way that CoRE introduces friends to Tea Talk English.

There have been other people involved as well. After his first official class, Presley began a new course for beginners with the help of two friends, Oanh and Hoa. This added more value to Tea Talk English. Not only could Tea Talk English offer small class sizes (giving more direct feedback for students) and an engaging, qualified and native-speaking teacher (that’s Presley!), but Tea Talk English would now offer TWO teachers in the classroom. The students would receive more personal attention and help through having multiple teachers that were sensitive to their needs.

Presley saw this particularly when Oanh and Hoa became the primary teachers of the beginners’ class. They were able to see things the students needed that Presley couldn’t. They had been in the same shoes – at the same desks, if you will – as the students they were teaching, and came alongside Presley in helping him to see what methods of his were working and which ones might not be as effective (i.e. what was a waste of time!) Yet after teaching, they would still be eager to learn from Presley how they themselves could improve. Presley remembers vividly how Hoa asked him several questions long after class had ended one evening. After several short answers to her questions, Hoa finally said, “Please give more feedback! Let me know how I can improve. If you can, send me some more notes and tips! This is what you wanted, right? To train?” Presley was taken aback a bit. He had not recognized that this was in fact what was happening, as he was focused on learning from Hoa and Oanh. He began putting more effort into their training as English teachers, answering with more in-depth details and sharing techniques. Oanh, Hoa and Presley then examined how those methods could be better adapted for today’s Vietnamese students and for the particular students in the class. This is resource exchange: the building up of one another to learn and grow and improve the product for the next time around, the ultimate goal being to build the students’ capacity with the language, to develop their communication skills and ability to share ideas. To BUILD PEOPLE. And in the process, we see that we ourselves, as REI staff, are being built too.

But how did Presley meet Oanh and Hoa in the first place? Where did they come from? Where does the staff of CoRE come from? With all of these relationships we see the importance of long-lasting ties with other REI staff. Presley knows Oanh because of the relationship that former resident staff Will and Coli Cole-French had with her in their English classes in Thai Nguyen. Presley knows Hoa because of current stateside staff Bob and Ginny Motsay’s befriending of this young woman working (working and studying hard!) behind the counter of her mom’s small shop. And of course, Presley knows the CoRE staff because of Michael Ong’s investment in friendships with those at the University of Labor and Social Affairs and his current work that includes recruiting and networking at Tea Talk. The work of REI-VN and the relationships built among staff has come together at Tea Talk English.

Now, as the Lunar New Year celebrations have ended, Tea Talk English aims to begin two new courses by April and launch anew the Fun Club. Working together with Presley? Hoa should return in April, after she works on getting an official English teaching certificate in March. A new teacher named Nhài, who is coming alongside Presley for a new Business English course, was introduced to him by a former CoRE staff, Bùi Duy Thành. It’s exciting for Presley to see an REI-VN friend who shares the same vision of ‘building people’ and is looking to invite more people into the mix. He now looks to pass on the vision further, to two of his former students who are now working with him to plan and faciliate the coming Fun Clubs. Let’s see what happens next!

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