'Happy school' impossible if we hold teachers back

September 4, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
Tran Hung Thien Businessman
When I went to pick up my children from school last week, I was nervous seeing the teacher standing there, holding my middle daughter's hand, as if waiting to tell me some bad news.

"She must have hit a friend or disobeyed the teacher again," I thought.

But it turned out she wanted to tell me some good news. She wanted to invite me to the school's weekend assembly, where my daughter Lam would be honored in front of the whole school for "having a high sense of responsibility in helping her teacher and classmates."

I was really moved, because I knew that my daughter would never have won a school honor if only academic performance was counted.

We moved from Vietnam to Australia earlier this year and my daughter just started primary school here a couple of months ago.

A week earlier, the teacher had told me that Lam was "progressing slowly," that she had not managed to do this and that.

Apparently, I was wearing such a sad face that she kept apologizing, and then trying to console me: "You haven't seen any child coming to a completely strange country and doing well at school right away, have you? Just give Lam some time. I will try along with her and I'm sure she will also be trying."

"With Lam, is there anything I should be worried about?" I asked the teacher.

She shrugged, and with a carefree face, she said there's nothing I should be worried about, that I should just be as I have been.

But I was still worried, and the teacher was aware of that, so she was extra excited when she told me Lam would be honored.

I asked my daughter later what she was being honored for, and she said she had helped a falling friend stand up, besides other small things.

"My teacher kept complimenting me," she said proudly.

Then I realized how my daughter has been getting along so well here.

Her teacher had been patient in explaining to her anything she doesn't understand. She'd helped Lam make friends, and helped her to be confident by focusing on what she is good at.

I'm happy seeing my daughter being happy at school, and I feel certain that her teachers make her happy every day.

A kindergarten teacher plays with his students at a school in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

A kindergarten teacher plays with his students at a school in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Education, unlike other kinds of business, does not just operate on mutual agreements. The teachers should get the freedom to perform their sacred duties, without parents' intervention.

The concept of a happy school is thus very near and yet very far. It's near because it's what everyone wants, and it's far because different sides are not willing to join hands to realize it.

Like in Vietnam, when sometimes parents have too much power.

Vietnam's education ministry is working with the labor ministry to classify kindergarten teachers' job as "arduous, dangerous labor."

As a parent, I felt a bit hurt learning about that news, as if working with my innocent children would be hard and dangerous.

But the ministries have their logic, based on the fact that teachers have suffered insults and brutal attacks in many places.

Not everyone has due respect for the strangers taking care of their children. Not everyone accepts that their children might fall or get into a fight with friends at school. Not everyone accepts toeing the line and letting schools handle things in their area.

The love for the children can make us aggressive against each other.

And that makes the happy school a far-fetched dream.

Happy teachers will make a happy school, and will spread magical emotions to the children.

We should make sure that teachers are protected, are encouraged to do their job right. Criticism and punishment will not make happy teachers.

*Tran Hung Thien is a Vietnamese businessman living in Australia.

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