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What if my students didn’t like me? What if my students were too loud and rowdy and I couldn’t calm them down? What if my students didn’t talk and didn’t want to be interactive throughout the class?

I had decided to sign up for the 9th graders, thinking this would be good practice to see if I actually wanted to teach high school post undergrad. The next day was going to set the tone and expectations for the rest of the time here, and provide insight into what could potentially be my future job.

For our first day, my roommate Ngoc and I planned to just spend the day on introductions and give out a questionnaire that would allow us to understand a bit more about each of the students: what they were interested in learning and expected from this class. We were told we could have anywhere from 10-30 students, which made planning activities and printing rather difficult, so we decided to print 30, just to be safe.

The first day went by pretty seamlessly. There was little talking, but each of the 11 students could answer any question I asked them and seemed to all have a pretty similar baseline in terms of their English-speaking abilities. I was able to see that I could skip over much of the elementary parts of learning a new language, such as greetings and basic verb conjugation and go straight into interesting content.

After the first day, Ngoc and I decided to spend the rest of the week on American culture as a way to ease into the weeks to come and keep the first week fun.

The next day, Ngoc (who now goes by “The Queen” in class), and I taught about basic American foods. We received a lot of laughs and were able to hold the attention of all our students. At the end of our session, I told my students that the next day was going to be all about music in American culture and asked each person to request a song for me to play the next day so they could perform.

The next day, I taught my lesson for the first part of class and told them that after the break, we would have the performances. Reminder: this is a group of 14- and 15-year-olds who are like most 14- and 15-year-olds in this world; they are very aware of themselves and how they are perceived by others.

The break ended, and the students returned to their seats. I played the first requested song, “Sugar” by Maroon 5, and two boys came up to the front, stood there for about three and a half minutes, and then sat back down. The next song was “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran, when the only two girls in my class came up and sang so quietly, I don’t think even they could hear themselves.

“Five More Hours” by Chris Brown?

Immediately, one of the boys who sits in the back of my classroom came to the front of the room and struck a pose. Shocked, I said all right, let’s go and hit play. The next thing that happened was the most amazing thing I have seen yet in Vietnam — and I’ve seen some really amazing things here. This incredible boy stood in front of all his peers and then performed a perfectly choreographed dance to the song — and everyone watched with smiles and positivity and encouragement.

It was smooth. It was beautiful. It was special.

His dancing changed the dynamic of the class for the better. The next boy came up and serenaded the whole class to the song “Let Her Go” by Passenger and by the end, I had tears in my eyes. After that boy danced, students started to ask for songs and to want to come to the front of the classroom and dance and sing and be silly and be passionate. Since that boy danced, I have had students ask questions and open up about themselves to me, but more importantly to their peers. Since that boy danced, the students in my class have appeared happier and more comfortable with who they are and are now excited to get to the front of the class, raise their hands, and share a part of themselves.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with an incredible group of people five days a week and teach them more about my world. However, the best part is that in the coming weeks, I will have the opportunity to learn more about each of them and their own respective worlds.