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Nine-year-old teacher is wizard with words

Update: June, 05/2012 - 18:46


Small order: Students attend one of Gioi's private classes, which begin at 5pm (sharp!). Gioi (bespectacled) began teaching his peers (grades two and five) last September. — VNS Photos Khanh Hoan
Third-grader Tran Le Huu Gioi could read Vietnamese at the age of two. Now, seven years later, the pint-sized "professor" teaches English to other children, many his senior by two to three years. An Vu and Khanh Hoan report.

With his thick pair of glasses, Tran Le Huu Gioi has something similar to J K Rowling's Harry Porter. But instead of a fictional character, he is a living and breathing third grader, as well as a private teacher.

Gioi's private class is located on the third floor of his grandmother's house on Pham Huy Street of Vinh City, the central province of Nghe An. On late afternoons, a group of students routinely shows up at his place to attend his special class. Some students are two or three years his senior, but they surprisingly call Gioi "teacher" and he replies, "Good afternoon! Students!" in an equally polite way.

The class, which was opened by Gioi's family last September, starts at 5pm everyday with 11 students between grades two and five. The "teacher", wearing a thick pair of glasses which fall to the top of his nose, opens his lesson plan and starts examining his students.

Like a real professional, he calls out the names of each student to check their homework, asking them to repeat some English vocabulary of countries' name in the world.

"Now we start a new lesson. Today we will learn about pronouns," he says loudly while climbing on a chair and writing down the month and date.

Since the age of two, Gioi has been able to read Vietnamese newspapers and books, and appeared to show interest in and a quick acquisition of English just one year later. At nine, he could read English textbooks like Streamline and Headway. No sooner, some students in Gioi's class asked for his assistance.

"At first, I thought that it was only a teacher-student game of the kids and it would distract Gioi from his studies. So I asked his parents not to let him teach anymore. He cried a lot. A few days after, a man came to enrol for his son into Gioi's class. The whole family was too surprised to utter a word. It turned out that he taught the kids for real," says Gioi's grandmother Chu Thi Thanh Ha, a former English teacher at Vinh University of Pedagogy and Technology.


As if by magic: Nine-year-old Gioi' is easy to recognise with his thick Harry Potter-like glasses.
Ha also says that the "lesson plan" that Gioi gave her was methodical like a regular school hour and since the boy insisted to be allowed to teach again, the whole family eventually let him.

Thus, the few number of students from the start has since risen to ten.

"During class, I play some simple games with my students so I do not feel tired and bored. Besides, I really do love to teach," Gioi says with his innocent and vivacious voice.

However, his caring grandmother does not want this to be a pressure on him.

"Although my grandson loves to teach English, I have already told the parents not to pressure him too much, keeping in mind they are kids. They happily accept it. But over the past few days, some other parents called wanting their children to be enrolled in his class. I had to refuse since there were not enough furniture for their children, beside too many students could be beyond his capacity," she honestly says.

Nevertheless, a number of students want to learn with Gioi.

Tran Thi Quynh Anh, a fifth grader, reveals that she enjoys studying with her "smaller master". "His lectures are very easy to understand. Moreover, it is fun to learn here as I feel no pressure studying with Gioi. It is different from the times I am in class with adults," she says.

Gioi seems to always be in a good mood in his class. "I have memorised many lectures in my mind and all I do is write them down. I also give my lesson plans to grandma and mum to check for me before every class hour. I think the students like my class because they feel a friendly and fun atmosphere here. They are also my age so I can explain to them easier than our teachers do," he adds.

After class time, Gioi loves to read books and learn English online. Like many children of his age, he is absorbed by classic novels as Tup leu bac Tom (Uncle Tom's cabin), Khong gia dinh (Without Family), and Nhung cuoc phieu luu cua Tom Sawyer (The adventures of Tom Sawyer) written in English.

"When I grow up, I want to be an English teacher. All the people in my family teach and I wish to follow their footsteps," the innocent boy says. — VNS

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