Student Spotlight: David Vuong on his USC Rossier – TESOL Experience

This is a guest post by David Vuong. Vuong shares his experience in the USC Rossier Master of Arts in Teaching – TESOL program as well as how he started an English-language school in Taipei.

The first time I stepped foot in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom was in 2006. I was living and working in Fukuoka City, Japan. Up until that point, I had no real classroom teaching experience (aside from a month of training). As a teacher, it was clear that I was overly reliant on textbooks and the one-month training I received. I didn’t know any better, so I thought my lessons were good — this was all compounded by the fact that I was living in a country where students don’t criticize their teachers. Two years later, I left Japan thinking I was a great teacher.

Those thoughts were negated as soon as I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan. After leaving Japan and spending a few months in California, I packed my bags and moved to Taiwan to teach English. I also brought my teaching ideals from Japan and soon found out that my teaching style didn’t translate to a Taiwanese classroom. Students didn’t like my overly structured style of teaching so I had to make serious changes. Teaching in Taiwan taught me that language isn’t always fixed, and therefore shouldn’t be taught in such structured patterns.

After my time in Taiwan, I eventually moved back to California. While there, I taught at an international school for a year where students came from all over the world (China, France, Brazil, Chile, Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc.). While some of my students preferred a traditional lecture-based classroom, other students wanted a more open discussion-based classroom setting. I went into the school with nearly four years of ESL teaching experience, but I never successfully found a balance between the two teaching methods. This ultimately led me to the Master of Arts in Teaching – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MAT – TESOL) program at USC Rossier.

David’s USC Rossier Experience

During my first year in the MAT – TESOL program, I learned about different teaching methods and the effectiveness of each one in the classroom. I had already practiced some of the methods in my own teaching, but the instructors thoroughly explained how to use them effectively, which helped expand my knowledge.

As for my struggle with finding a balance between different teaching methods, one of my professors assigned us a reading that helped shed light on the issue. I will always remember what the author and my professor told me about teaching: “Teaching is about having one foot in and one foot out.” This means that teaching can and should be personalized, but should also rely on a concrete curriculum.

In summary, the USC Rossier program really helped me to crystalize my teaching experiences. Through the program, I’ve learned to find the balance between student and teacher-based learning.

What’s next?

It has been two years since I graduated from the USC Rossier program. I eventually moved back to Taipei, Taiwan. I, along with my business partner, opened an English-language school in Taipei in February 2013. Our school name is AYO English. We have grown rapidly since our opening day, with more than 80 students and nine teachers at the school. We are currently in the midst of opening a second school.

I am also involved in another project that pertains to educational management systems. When I was enrolled in the USC Rossier program, I started working as a consultant to AyoTree, a company that was founded by my brother and cousin. Ayotree works with software engineers to develop an online management system for language schools. This management system allows managers and administrators to run their operations entirely online, including a calendar system, payment system, contact directory, and more.

Additionally, the management system is useful for teachers as it allows teachers to easily share lesson plans with one another, conduct entire lessons online through our virtual classroom, assign homework to their students, etc. Students can also use the management system to access their entire school curriculum online, communicate with teachers and staff, and know when their semester is complete. Although the software is not yet ready for the public, we already have more than 60 language schools in Taiwan and Vietnam testing out the beta version of our software.

My experience in the USC Rossier program was influential in my decision to be a consultant with AyoTree and open a school. Now having been part of the USC Rossier online experience, I feel like schools should be (and are) moving in this direction.

I hope that the software we provide these language schools will allow students and teachers to have the same experience I had as a student of the USC Rossier online program.

Look for us our school at Ayo English, our software tools at www.ayotree.com, and follow us on Facebook. Thank you to everyone at USC Rossier. FIGHT ON!