The Moonshine

By Huy Phung

Five years ago, when I was young and naive, I worked at a Vietnamese college where I was asked to train a group of intermediate school English language teachers in devising effective lessons for adolescent learners. The training program was a part of “The Grand Project” to make radical changes in English education across the country.

Most of the participants were teachers who were older and had more classroom experience than I had. How would they ever listen to me? I was young and naive! How was I expected to train them or teach them? Why would they ever listen to me? I was in a dilemma.

If I chose not to accept this task, I would have no rice to eat. If I accepted it, I would need to come up with a relevant plan! Eventually, I came up with an idea…but, would it work?

I asked these senior, seasoned professionals to reflect on their most effective lessons and techniques, to classify and organize those techniques in a logical way, and then share them in a kind of “show and tell” with the entire class of teachers. I made tea and cake for the occasion. I waited and hoped for success.

It worked!

Later that year I was invited by one of the participants in my training class to a workshop he/she had organized for local teachers of several schools in the area.

After the workshop, we had a party. What fun!

Not only did I have rice to eat, but I also had a lot of rice to drink: Vietnamese moonshine (actually a ‘senior’ form of rice). ! That experience changed my perspective on professional development.

Five years later, I am not so young, but still naive, but have come to believe in the power of moonshine. Wait…no….uh…the power of being part of a small, close-knit, and context-relevant community of practice. A little moonshine, helps, however!

Vo! (“Cheers!” in Vietnamese)