Is there anything you find interesting about Vietnam or something that you’ve discovered recently that surprised you?
I lived and taught here previously from 2009 to 2012 before coming back to Ho Chi Minh and the BIS History Department in August this year. I have to say, both the school and the city have really changed since I was last here. Everytime I go out I discover something new that I hadn’t seen before. I’ve also come back with a one-year old so I see the city in a different way now compared to when I was here by myself.
So could you tell us a bit about your background and the schools you have taught in?
I started teaching in my home county of Shropshire in the UK before I made the move to Ho Chi Minh City in 2009. After I moved here, I then moved to Brazil and then to Bermuda before arriving back here. All the schools I have taught in have been very similar to BIS: international schools teaching the IB curriculum.
So are there any cities that you prefer in particular?
I really like Ho Chi Minh City as a place which is why I’ve come back here. However, every place that I’ve lived has its own benefits; Sao Paolo has got a lot of concerts and sports whereas Bermuda is such a beautiful place. The sea is crystal clear, the sand is pink, it’s really beautiful but at the same time there’s not that much going on. So that’s why I like a big city like Ho Chi Minh but I didn’t know that until I moved somewhere quieter.
Are there any educational philosophies that you stick to or something that you expect from students in particular?
I just want students to enjoy History so that when I tell people that I’m a History teacher, they then say that they either love History or they hate it. One thing that I would like to do is if somebody comes in at the start of the year thinking that they don’t like the subject, I can try to help them to enjoy it a bit more. I’d like to use different ideas in teaching so that when students come in they don’t have to do the same thing every lesson.
Do you think that History is a subject that is hard for some students to approach?
I think it is, especially when it has a reputation of being a lot of essays. During the options evenings a lot of students say “how many essays do we do a week?” and that’s not what History means to me. I’d like to do more trips so that people can see that History is everywhere and get out of the classroom a little bit more but that’s something that will maybe come in time.
Do you find the propaganda in Vietnam interesting as a Historian?
The issue is that I’m only just learning Vietnamese so sometimes I’ll see something but I don’t understand what it says. I see the pictures, but I don’t necessarily understand the message so that’s something that I would like to learn - more Vietnamese. With the museums, I go to visit them and before I moved here I would teach about the conflict here, but when you’re actually here and you meet people that have lived through it, you see it differently, it’s not just something in a book. As a Historian you learn to recognise whether something contradicts what you’ve heard somewhere else so it's good to look at it with the eyes of a History student.
How are students in Vietnam and South America different?
Students in South America and the Caribbean are very opinionated and love the discussion work, whereas students here are more quiet. I am trying to encourage students at BIS to share their opinions more and not be afraid of making mistakes.
Do you agree with pineapple on pizza?
I used to have a real problem with it, but I don’t mind it now. I think people need to give it a try. People can always pick it off!
Jamie and Ji Min, Year 12 students