Every day, I ride a motorbike to Nguyen Hoang School where I’m a primary teacher. It takes about 45 minutes and I usually show up at 7am so that I can welcome my students and have breakfast with them. Classes start at 7.30am and we go straight through to lunch at 11am. After lunch, both the students and teachers have a nap. In the afternoon, the students spend time with a specialist English language teachers, and I get time to design my lesson plans for the next day or plan any study projects coming up.
I try to spend around 30 minutes every day learning new things because teaching, in my opinion, is a never-ending journey. Self-study is an important skill and one which I maintain. It’s critical not to get left behind in the ongoing development of society. My pupils see my self-study as encouragement for them to develop these skills for themselves.
I usually go home at around 5.30pm, and exercise before heading to the local orphanage to teach there. My weekends are spent teaching teachers in rural areas modern teaching methods as well as how to use different edtech.
I love my job, but I find it really hard to see the lack of parent concern many have for their children. Sometimes, because of their busy work lives, some parents seem to forget they have children at all. All the responsibility for the education of their children is entrusted to the school, to the teacher or to the servants of their families.
On the first week of this school year, I asked my students to write to their parents to share their dreams and expectations during this school year. I could not hold my tears when one little girl, Thu Trang, shared that her dream was for her parents not to argue anymore. She wished to have a meal with both her parents once because she hadn’t had it for a long time. I gave the letter to her parents and then they took care of her more.
I’m not just a teacher but also a father, brother, friend of the students. There are things they don’t dare to share with their parents but are willing to share with me. Every day, the students themselves make my life more meaningful.
My students face many other challenges. First, their life skills are limited. Adaptation to the changing circumstances of the children is low. Knowledge of the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals is still limited. The lack of self-protection skills is one example. I know of many cases of childhood sexual abuse but the children do not know how to protect themselves. Some of them don’t even realise they’re being abused because the perpetrators of abuse are family members – grandfathers, fathers, brothers. In an attempt to try and raise awareness I created the Five Safe Fingers project which teaches children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.
School violence is also a challenge for students. Many students feel unsafe in their own classroom. I realised that to limit this, they need to know sympathy, living kindly. That's why, in this school year, I organised the Everyday Kindness project with the participation of all my students, my class and my school, and students around the globe (totalling more than 12,000 students). Creating a safe learning environment is also something I am doing for my students.
Previously, teachers’ salaries in public schools in Vietnam were very low and a lot of teachers had to do other work to earn more income. However, in recent years, the government has paid more attention to the regime for teachers, so we are more secure. The government has also become more concerned with integrating living values into teaching. I am very much in favour of these changes so I feel more optimistic about the future of Vietnamese education.
Vietnam is a country of study. We have had the tradition of learning for thousands of years. However, in the past, education in Vietnam was more theoretical. At present, we are keen to have our students connected with students across the globe. We are aiming to teach our students to become global citizens. So, please connect with us so that we can exchange, and share with each other.
Nam Ngo Thanh is a primary school teacher at Nguyen Hoang School, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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