Teaching Vietnam-style

Posted by: Rebekha Naim, L&T Group & School of Media and Communication, Design and Social Context College, RMIT.

A bike laden with flowers in Ho Chi Minh City

© Rebekha Naim, 2012

I am teaching professional lighting design and technology to production staff at HTV in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam this week. It is my first experience in a city outside Australia, I cannot understand the language and the culture here is completely foreign to me, however the art of teaching remains the same. As a teacher, I also love learning, so this new experience is, of course, wondrous!

I explain concepts, techniques and the craft of lighting, using diagrams and pictures on Prezi, showing on-line video’s via Clip Grab and using the old-fashioned whiteboard occasionally. I also follow a booklet, which we produced at our client’s request, which has been translated into Vietnamese. I have a very skilled interpreter, so I pause after every few minutes and Kevin repeats my words in Vietnamese. While his English is excellent, he is not a lighting technician and he asks others in the room to help him with industry lingo. The learners have also been asking me many questions via Kevin, which shows their interest and the need for someone like me to train them.

Greg and our Vietnamese interpreter Kevin outside Station HTV9

© Rebekha Naim, 2012

It has also been a real boon having a few lighting TV professionals from HTV in the class with me helping to demonstrate the technology. They efficiently and professionally assist the class to learn about lighting techniques and  also ask me for more detailed information. I am relieved at how easily I am able to teach the basics to some learners and more complex concepts to others at the same time.

The technical HTV staff undertaking this training are not all planning to be lighting technicians. Many are doing the training as they have been asked to by their managers. Their managers are having a break from training and are looking for fresh ideas, approaches and techniques themselves. So I give basic exercises to get beginners up to speed and enjoying themselves, then spend some time with the experienced lighting crew as they show me their equipment and methods and ask for my advice and recommendations. It is a combination of knowledge sharing, analysis and application on a number of levels.

Learners have been patient and supportive of one another and are not as shy as what I was led to believe. If they want to know something, they ask me. If they don’t agree with me, they challenge me. For staff who will never probably touch lighting again, I am teaching them new ideas and concepts, giving them a go at lighting set-ups and an appreciation of lighting techniques, technology and protocol, which will enable them understand the intricacies of lighting for TV, regardless of their role within the company. For the more skilled lighting technicians, I am challenging some of their current methods and approaches, affirming others, and they are networking with colleagues and deepening their knowledge, skills and capabilities.

I am teaching alongside Greg Long, a new teacher and a highly skilled audio consultant and technician (amongst other things). He is teaching the audio aspects of the course. I think he is learning a lot from watching me teach – something that not many new TAFE teachers get the opportunity to do. As I am observing his teaching, it is making me reflect on how I teach and enabling me to offer him some advice too.

Teaching in a foreign country is much easier than I anticipated, as is travelling

Interior shot of one of the studios at HTV9

© Rebekha Naim, 2012

overseas. I found out two weeks ago that I would be here this week so it has been a steep learning curve; luckily I have a wonderful family and superb staff like Shae Allen, who organized my trip; expert advice from well-travelled and supportive colleagues and the support of managers like Simon Embury and Professor Barbara de la Harpe.

The Victorian TAFE system is now operating in dramatically changing seas as we steer our own financial ship with high compliance masts. Stephen Joyce, the Manager of Business Innovation in the TAFE School of Media & Communication, RMIT University and the School’s TAFE Director, Glenn Blair, are actively and very successfully, taking our cutting edge creative media programs to the world. As a 40-year old travel virgin and TAFE teacher, I have taken the challenge to teach overseas and it has been well worth the effort.

The rewards of this venture will be significant, both to HTV and RMIT University. It’s hard to think of a a better fit in terms of alignment to RMIT’s strategic plan of being global, urban and connected.

Well done to Stephen and Glenn for looking beyond our shores and let’s welcome industrious companies from around the world demanding high-level PD for staff company growth and renewal from education experts across the globe.

Share your thoughts about teaching in another culture (or any other aspect of Rebekha’s post) in the comments section below!

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