Perceptions of Special Teachers as Described by Vietnamese Students
Dr. Phuong Le is an ESL teacher educator for over 40 years in various contexts in Vietnam and she is currently working as an IELTS trainer and a lecturer in American Literature. As an ESL researcher, she has produced numerous articles and presentations internationally over the years. Her current research interests focus on developing the learners’ autonomy and creativity. She has been involved in Creative Writing since 2010 and has integrated this skill into her ESL teaching ever since. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
In Vietnam, teaching has generally been considered a popular occupation and teachers are often well respected by society. Vietnam even has a day to celebrate this job yearly on November 20th (Vietnamese Teachers’ Day) when educational institutions have a day off and organise different activities to celebrate the occasion and students both young and old often visit their current and former teachers/lecturers with gifts. In this article I shall report specific qualities and actions Vietnamese school students mention to describe teachers who have left enduring impressions on them.
Before Teachers Day in Vietnam (Nov 20) in 2021, I asked various groups of Vietnamese students, mainly secondary and high school ones from different local schools in a town in Central Vietnam to write about one of their teachers whom they found most memorable. A collection of over 60 writings was returned. A selection of their comments follows:
As can be witnessed in these participants’ comments, such qualities as kindness, gentleness stood out as the teacher’s most significant characteristics that impressed their learners. Apart from this, helpfulness and patience were also cited as marking a profound impression on the children, which had remained in the students’ memory for years.
I thought she was so kind and so gentle. (Quy Vy)
She was active person, a gentle teacher. (Phuong Ngan)
She is the most delightful, patient, and friendly teacher I have ever had. (Minh Phuong)
My Literature teacher was very kind and helped us from day one. She was very patient with us
and helped us adjust gradually. (Dao Nhat Tan)
He is very patient in teaching the students. (Dieu Huyen)
With children in their first years at school, the teacher’s appearance and voice also created a long lasting and positive impact on the pupils.
She is a sweet young lady with a long black hair and big round eyes. When I saw her in the traditional cloth which is ‘Ao Dai’, and she looks like an angel. Her tone of voice is always soft
and I haven’t seen her get mad with students. (Tuyen)
I was impressed by her warm and gentle voice, as well as her enthusiasm so much. (Hai Vy)
The teacher’s warm and friendly personalities also played an essential role in making children feel comfortable (i.e. Tuyen) and special (i.e. An Nhan).
She made me feel so special. (An Nhan)
Apart from these strengths in their characters, the students were also impressed by their teachers’ dedication and passion in their work, in addition to their methods of teaching which they considered new, interesting and engaging.
My Literature teacher in year 9 was extremely dedicated to her students and passionate about her profession. (Hieu Minh)
She is a very kind teacher who finds new and interesting ways to teach students. (Nhu Y)
He also has a unique sense of humor and teaching approaches that make every lesson more engaging and enjoyable. (Thanh Mai)
Some even appreciated the fact that their teachers taught them not only academic knowledge but also life skills or virtues like compassion and generosity or confidence. These were the teachers that the students placed their trust in when they needed help.
My homeroom teacher was very helpful. She is different from other teachers because she also taught us a lot about life skills. (Bao Quynh)
She not only taught me English but also taught me how to be generous and compassionate.
She taught me how to overcome frustration and be confident. (Dieu Linh)
Before the exam, I was under pressure and scared, but he came to me and encourage me. Those things are small but help me to be confident and pass the exam. (Ngoc Tu)
He is a great listener and advisor, who my peers and I usually turn to when in trouble. (Thanh Mai)
As illustrations for their profound love and respect for their teachers, the students narrated numerous memories which highlighted their teachers’ positive characteristics. The following anecdotes provided evidence for students’ affection to their teachers.
The primary school teachers not only did their work in teaching the little children at school, they also voluntarily took the responsibility of taking care of her pupils to help the unlucky parents who were not able to complete their mission in their times of difficulty, as depicted by An Nhan. It was the teacher’s thoughtfulness and commitment that had changed the little boy’s lonely childhood into an enjoyable one.
When I was in Grade 1 teacher, my mother had a very bad illness and she had to be treated far away from our hometown. That time, my father was struggling with his work so my life was very lonely. Then my teacher would bring me home after school and take care of me until dark at her home, she cooked delicious foods for me, spent time talking with me and helped me with my homework. Furthermore, I could play with her daughter and ate tons of snacks together. My teacher was truly a savior of my childhood. (An Nhan)
The great love and dedication of Thao Uyen’s teacher to her students was manifested through her special care in organising small parties to celebrate their birthdays. This explained why she was loved by her students that much.
She remembers everyone's birthday and organizes a small party to celebrate their birthday.
She always do her best for her student, I love her so much. (Thao Uyen)
The teacher’s considerate care for her pupil as witnessed in the little actions narrated below was comparable with the empathy shown by parents.
The cool weather and the difficulty of this subject made me fall asleep in class. She woke me up and told me that I should go out and wash my face. (Khanh Giang)
This love was also repeatedly mentioned in students’ various beautiful memories (Appendix) as in this example.
When I was in grade 9, my friends and I visited my teacher's home on the Teacher's Day. She cooked for us and then we ate and cleaned together. We also sang karaoke and played many things at her home. (L.N. Anh Thu)
Throughout the experiences that these students had with their teachers, it seemed that these instructors had played the role of not only a teacher, but also that of a mother.
The teacher’s willingness to forgive was cited as a feature highly appreciated by the students. It was common for students, being young and immature, to violate the rules or to make mistakes; therefore, this required the teacher to know how to deal with this with their kindness and skill so as to help these students not to repeat their wrongdoings. It was the teacher’s generosity and skill that had left a great impact on the students’ development.
When I was in second grade, I sometimes bullied a classmate. When my teacher knew about it and she made me confessed and I was forgiven. (Phuong Ngan)
Last year, I was a very naughty student so Mr.Lan, my Chemistry teacher punished me by asking me to take the short test alone. I told him that I didn't care in a very impolite manner so, he was very angry. That evening, my mother and I came to his house to apologize but he was not home so the next day, I came to apologize to him at school and luckily he happily forgive me. (Dai Quang)
It was a midterm exam in grade 5, I studied hard but the results were pretty bad. The teacher told us to bring the results home for our parents to sign. I was afraid of my parents so I chose to sign it myself. When I showed the signed report to my teacher, she told me that she knew it was my signature. I just burst into tears and told her everything. My teacher promised that she wouldn't talk to my parents if I got good marks in the final exam next term. (Ha Phuong)
The popular teachers in these incidents also possessed a motherly protective attitude towards their students against the harmful actions which happened to them in various situations, both in and outside school. One of the serious wrongdoings found in many schools was bullying in different forms, which may have left detrimental effects on children, especially on small and mentally or physically weak children if it was not found and ended in time.
When I was in grade four, I was pretty small so I got bullied a lot. I did not dare to tell anyone because I was afraid that they would bully me even more. Fortunately, the teacher teach our class literature showed up and prevent the students from bullying me again. From that day, they did not bully me anymore. (Khanh Ngoc)
When I was in grade 3, I was a shy girl and couldn’t make any friends. One day, some of my classmates came to ask me to leave the class because they hated my personality. I cried. Suddenly, my teacher came and she prohibited them from doing that and she asked them to say sorry to me. I felt very happy and my teacher also asked me not to be afraid of these students. Gradually, I became more confident. (Dieu Hoa)
Another incident showed the importance of the teacher’s necessary intervention in the student’s dangerous situation, without which the student involved could have encountered detrimental consequences.
While I was in primary school, one day a drunk man rode his motorbike towards a group of students, including me. Everyone ran away but I was too scared to run away. The motorbike fell in front of me and the man intended to hit me…My class teacher came over and caught his hand just in time. She faced the man and threatened to call the police. After some time, that man left with a very angry face. That was touching me. (Quynh Nghi)
In the students’ memories, the teacher’s personalities were mentioned more often than their teaching skills or academic knowledge. One of the teacher’s attributes pointed out by the students was dedication. The fact that teachers spent time helping the students learn better or overcome their learning challenges was highlighted and well appreciated.
The literature teacher in 9th grade often tried to teach literature to my class when we had some free time to make sure we understood the lessons. When we had to take an important exam, she tried to teach us the best that she can. (Thao Uyen)
I used to be a person who hated literature but all changed when I met this literature teacher. She made me understand her lessons and my marks were improved after that. Besides, she was the teacher who gave me more confidence so that I could study better not only in literature but also in other subjects. (Quoc Dat)
My 3rd grade homeroom teacher was a young teacher and was very passionate about her profession. She didn't scold us when we made mistakes but gently showed us our mistakes and how to correct them. At that time, I didn't study well. That's why, at the end of each class, she always takes the time to help me. (Mai Trong Hien)
I never forget a very memorable memory with my chess teacher, Mr. Sang. Chess came to me by chance. While I was watching his class, he invited me into class to play with him so I played chess for several hours and forgot the time to go home. When I arrived home, my mother yelled me a lot. But I had a fun and memorable day. (Minh Hoang)
Once, my friends and I prepared to decorate the class for grading. She brought us food and drinks. After that, she stayed to help my group color, collage and measure things for decoration. It was very fun. (Nam Nhut)
The teacher’s friendliness was also a key factor well-liked by these students. The close and relaxing relationship was seen as a favourable condition to endear teachers to their students.
My homeroom teacher in the fifth grade was like a friend to my class. She organized a lot of picnics for the class and she did not put too much emphasis on grades. She was very sympathetic, she was also the one who binds my class together, so my class was very united. She did not scold but encouraged the class a lot. I love her very much. (Huong Quynh)
The memory that I remember the most is the picnic from 9th grade. We played various games, danced, chased, war game together. We took advantage of a puddle of mud and played trick on the teacher. We succeeded in making her favorite clothes filled with mud. Instead of getting mad, she grabbed my hand and pushed me into the mud, and the whole class just jumped in and splashed mud at each other. We all had a good time. (Thanh Lam)
The students considered it important to create innovations in teaching with exciting activities like games, stories to add joys to classroom atmosphere and make lessons easier to understand and digest. The success of the lessons also resulted from the teacher’s sense of humor.
In Ms. Nga’s class, we were always smiling because her games and stories to help us understand the exciting lessons. (Tieu Minh Quan)
My Math teacher when I was in grade 7 was really humorous so her lesson was always attractive and interesting for students. (Ngo Thanh Tam)
Besides, in the role of educators, various teachers in Vietnam won the hearts of their students by teaching them about manners and life skills or values in addition to academic knowledge.
Ms. Ha taught us many lessons about manners and life skills. She tells us how to show our parents how much we love them, such as bringing them a glass of water when they get home from work, and how tiny actions like these make our parents happier and help them forget about the stress of the workplace. (Minh Duy)
I was a perfectionist and I wanted everything I did was greatest but my teacher’s advice to me was ‘Don’t try to perfect at all, try to be valuable’. After that time, I have change, no more perfection, made everything valuable, more confident and to be better (Le Nguyen Khoi)
These teachers did not limit their work inside the classrooms but they expanded the scope of their job to further cover other community activities, such as leading students to participate in voluntary work.
In my 11th grade year, my teacher took us to do charity work and that was also my first time going to charity. We go to hospitals and primary schools to support those in need. We gave gifts and interacted with the children. And we went to a mental hospital to help difficult patients. She taught us characters and qualities that no other school can teach. (Bich Ngọc)
To sum up, the comments from this pool of students has offered us more detailed insights into what actually made a memorable teacher who left profound impact on students. This collection has also reflected the meaningful work done by these teachers who really deserve the respect and recognition from society. Even though some of these teachers may not be experts in their professional expertise or and are rarely praised for their work, they play a paramount role in educating the students, nurturing the best parts in the children and making them mature and well-educated people for the community and society.
1. In grade 1, at first, I felt so scared and so afraid. There were classmates and a teacher that I had never known. …But the teacher came to me, she held my hand kindly and asked what my name was and guided me to my seat. After talking with new friends and singing with the class, I felt happier. (Quy Vy)
2. When I first went to primary school, I felt nervous and scared. I cried so hard that everyone stared at me. Suddenly, a tall, slim woman with long black hair, smiling eyes and a friendly smile came up and comforted me with gentle words, and even gave me a lollipop - my favorite candy back then. (Thuy Tu)
3. On our school camping day, we had to do a lot of things, like decorating the classroom, the board, clean the floor. She always took care a lot of pupils, she brought us water. She was liked a captain, taught what to do and made us feel relaxed. Although we lost some games on that day, she was very proud at us, and after that, she invited all of us to have a BBQ meal. We felt excited and fun. (Thanh Vinh)
4. While studying, many memorable things happened. For example, I could eat the food that she cooked when I studied at her house, or I was taken out by her to eat... That time was really fun. (Quoc Dat)
5. When I was chosen to participate to join in a dance group performance, I refused but my teacher encouraged to join and promised to help me. When we practiced dancing, she cared for me more than others. She guided me about difficult moves. Even though the performance wasn’t success, I was very thankful my teacher’s guidance (Kim Ngan)
6. One week before the exam, I had to suffer a lot of problems relating to physical and mental health: Ending up a relationship with my best friends, losing money, suffering from a gynecological disease, and so on. I was very stressed. Then, this teacher realized my bad emotion and she asked me what happened to me. Then she gave me a lot of encouragement and advice. She also wanted to give me the money I lost. (Nhu Y)
7. I broke my leg in a football game at school and Miss Nga was the first teacher who saw and called my family immediately to tell them about my situation. I was very worried and felt really stressed. But she encourage my spirit. (Tiêu Minh Quân)
8. Unfortunately, before the first day in the new school, I realised that I had forgotten to get the report from old school. I was panic but luckily, Ms Thuong took me to the principal’s office to get the report and I really appreciated her efforts to help me solve the problem. (Ngo Thanh Tam)
9. One day, I sleep on the desk. I heard from friends that she saw me like that but still let me sleep until the end of the hour. At the end of the hour, she came to wake me up and ask about me. So we had a conversation with each other. She asked about my health and encouraged me a lot. I told her everything I felt in my heart. She listened and shared her experiences and gave me a lot of useful advice. (Hieu Minh)
10. When I was in grade 9, and I was preparing for the tenth grade entrance examination. My English was so bad at the time that it was making me nervous. In my hour of need, my ex-English teacher offered to help me with my English. As a result, the English score in the examination was much higher than we expected. (N. Hoang Thao Uyen)
11. Once I had a serious stomachache so didn’t go to school. After school, my teacher took my classmates to my house to visit me and she made a warm ginger tea for me. When I was fully recovered, she told me to stay after school time to taught me again the lesson I had lost. (Ly Gia Dat)
12. I'm bad at math so I was scared of any Math teachers. One day, my parents did not come to take me home after class, my Math teacher took me home and she talked to me in a nice way. This changed my mind about her and made me feel that she was the best teacher I have ever seen. (Hoang Trang)
1. In grade 9, I was the class monitor and was trusted by my home teacher. One day, I played hooky in her class and thought that it was OK because I was her pet student. When she discovered it, I was afraid that she would scold me and told it to my mom. Surprisingly, she just told me to meet her at the end of class and just said that my behaviour was bad and asked me not to do it again. After that day, I thought a lot and it was my memorable lesson in my life. (Quang Tuan)
2. I had a great time in grade 7, I was an anxious student, uncomfortable with change and I rarely raised my hand, offered a suggestion, or asked a question in class. But my teacher, Minh, made me see things about myself that I never realized. She showed that she believed in me and encouraged me to be a vice monitor in class to help my classmate with literature. I was trusted and loved by my teacher and become more confident. (Huynh Ngan)
1. The most memorable thing she had done for me is that during my 8th grade, she always stay back after school to recount the lesson of the day and help me with math problems. I appreciate her efforts to help me improve and don’t see math as a nightmare anymore (Minh Phuong)
2. I think the one who has strongly impressed me is my physics teacher when i was in grade 9. Tracing back at that time I was struggling a lot with physics. I was super scared when being called to solve or do any complicated exercises. Unfortunately, he knew that and he called me every single Physics periods despite the fact that I always did wrong and he had to resolve everything all over again. (Bao Han)
3. My English teacher was such an enthusiastic and caring teacher that he spent all of his 30-minute breaks to tutor me as I didn't have an average command of English grammar. I was so touched by his enthusiasm. (Quynh Anh)
4. My favorite teacher is Mrs. Lan. Her devotion at teaching and her inspiring voice which really encourage me to study History. In secondary school, I did not like studying History because I had to learn by heart so many lessons. But since she started teaching History to our class, I changed and studied History better and became so good at this subject (Nhan Hoa)
5. I am left-handed. But she gently took my hand and wrote with me the first handwriting in my life. When we finished our first class, she gave us some little cute gifts like candies, crayon to encourage us. (Hai Vy)
6. When I was preparing for the national team selection exam, he is the person who give me a lot of knowledge, skill , he also find the exercise for me to do . Before the exam, I was under pressure and scared , but he came to me and encourage me. Those things are small but help me to be confident and pass the exam. (Ngoc Tu)
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