September 23


Learning From My Students

By Odyssa

September 23, 2022

With this new job as a teacher in Vietnam, I find myself  - too many times - lost in the chaos of students bursting in and out of classroom doors, running in hallways, and hearing dozens of voices calling for attention.

Working in a school means following a distinct structure.  There's a timetable, a school calendar, lesson plans, numbered lists...

Despite being part of an organized body, I am caught in the middle of disorder daily. Too many students, too much noise and activity. 

But underneath the rubble are unforgettable pieces of insight.

During their free time, a couple of students drew this on the board. At first, there were only two steps. I asked them to make it five. This is what they made. 

Afraid and unseen

After every class, I spend a few minutes to write my reflections. This helps me remember who's who, what meaningful things happened that day, and prepare for the next meeting.

I also write down anecdotes that arise from interactions with my students. 

One of my Grade 7 students who calls himself Nocoin was about to report for his group. Before he uttered his first word, he knelt on the floor. 

I asked, "Why are you kneeling?"

He replied, "Because I'm scared." It was funny (he was trying to make us laugh) and also, very real. 

When they are afraid of judgment, they change their behavior to make themselves smaller. They'd rather be invisible. 

Isn't that true for all of us?

Wanted: Best Friend

I asked a class to write a descriptive article about their best friend. One of them, Tracy, a self-proclaimed loner, confessed she doesn't have a best friend.

At the end of her essay, she wrote, "I wish that one day, I'll have a best friend I can write about."

It made me sad thinking of students who are out of place during group activities. 

With supportive comments about her well-articulated work, I wrote, "I also wish for this to happen. One day, you will find someone you can write about."

No matter what age we're in, we look for at least one person who can understand and see us for who we are.

My students love watching Oggy!

The lessons I pick up from my students are straightforward and uncomplicated. They're also timeless and universal.  

I now teach for a living. Everyday, I meet my students to discuss, facilitate, and assess their work.  

They may not be aware that their classroom is also MY classroom. That we are educating each other. That they are teaching me in more ways they can imagine. 

Read my latest post about loving our parents better and grieving through the eyes of a woman who lost her husband to cancer

Written at Refresh Cafe, Trung Hoa, Cau Giay, Hanoi.


About the author

Odyssa is a writer from the Philippines. She is the author of Like A New Sun Rising: A Collection of Poems on Love. When not working or writing at home, she's out walking their dogs. She enjoys traveling, practices yoga, gets lost in books and Korean drama. To her, making time for a daily practice or ritual is the best gift to one's self.

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  1. hihi teacher !!! you might recognize me, but a post about our class? IM SO HAPPY !! your writing is so so awesome! i hope you can show me more <3, thank you for teaching us

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