Teachers’ Day, A National Holiday

I’ve been hearing about Vietnam Teachers’ Day ever since I arrived here, so I knew it was a big deal.  In fact, it was the only national holiday between Independence Day (Sept. 2) and Tet, the lunar new year celebration in January.  As my colleagues at home enjoyed three-day weekends for Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, and soon Thanksgiving, I have been toiling away in Vietnam without the usual cycle of holidays.  (Except for my brief trip to Malaysia, of course!)

In fact, I was told that I had better return from Malaysia in time for the Teacher’s Day celebration at Nguyễn Tất Thành School.  It was that important.  Teacher’s Day fell on a Sunday this year (so there wasn’t even a day off from school), but the celebration was held on a Saturday night.  After experiencing Halloween at NTT, I knew it would not be a small celebration.  

The evening began with student performances.  The students prepared the entertainment for the evening in honor of their teachers.  I was so impressed with the quality of each show.  There was dance, guitar, traditional music and singing.  

There were also speeches honoring teachers from the school, past and present, and recognizing the visiting teachers.  Tonight I was welcomed along with a head of a school in Singapore and a teacher from The Philippines.  A representative from the parent group also spoke.  There was a very moving speech given by one of the students.  Each person spoke from the heart and expressed their sincere gratitude for the school’s teachers.   

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The same courtyard that is used for assemblies and P.E. classes had been transformed into a banquet hall for the evening.  There were at least four long tables filled with many of Vietnam’s delicacies for us to enjoy.  Waiters came around to each table and filled our wine glasses, and many toasts were made.  A video made by students played in the background as everyone enjoyed dinner.
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After dinner, there was a sort of talent show.  It was amazing to see teachers of chemistry, math, English, P.E. and other subjects get up on stage and sing karaoke.  Their voices were incredible!  The students in attendance cheered for their teachers as the performances continued.  
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In Vietnam, students will often visit their teachers’ homes with gifts on this special holiday.  They will even visit the homes of teachers from previous years.  Teachers’ Day really is a big deal here, but after spending the evening at NTT, I realized it is not about the celebration, the flowers and the gifts.  It is about students’ real love and appreciation for their teachers.  It is a reflection of how highly regarded teachers are in this society.  

This tree was decorated with cards for teachers.

This tree was decorated with cards for teachers.

As I walked home through the market that evening with yet another bouquet of flowers, I received the usual smiles from strangers.  From some, however, I heard the word “giáo viên,” teacher.  They knew I must be a teacher if I had flowers on this special day.  Teachers are respected and honored throughout the country.  It was a refreshing and uplifting experience to celebrate Teachers’ Day in Vietnam.  
A media company (NGỌC TRÍ MEDIA) was hired to film the evening.  Here’s their video and some of my photos.

Ms. Thu Anh Nguyen, principal of NTT

Ms. Thu Anh Nguyen, principal of NTT

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Comments (18):

  1. Lori

    November 22, 2016 at 11:52

    How wonderful, Tim!!!! Glad you were able to enjoy a special day all about YOU!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:44

      Yes, it was very nice and worth coming back from Malaysia for.

      Reply
  2. Linda Wight

    November 22, 2016 at 12:45

    Congratulations to all the teachers and you Tim. Will you have a Thanksgiving and Christmas or only the New Year celebration?

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:46

      Thank you, Linda. The Fulbrighters and others are meeting at the home of an Embassy official who has invited us to a Thanksgiving meal. Other than that, Thanksgiving and Christmas are normal work days here. The only sign of the holidays I’ve seen so far are the red and white snowflake cups at Starbucks. They look very out of place in this hot climate.

      Reply
  3. Paula Agins

    November 22, 2016 at 13:43

    What a great event for all teachers!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:47

      I was very impressed.

      Reply
    • Gail

      November 28, 2016 at 11:05

      What an uplifting experience!
      Also…
      I’m glad to hear you are able to get your Starbucks fix 😉

      Reply
      • Tim Flanagan

        December 1, 2016 at 21:03

        Yes, every now and then I need a dose of home, or something like it.

        Reply
  4. Betsy Flanagan

    November 22, 2016 at 20:22

    What an amazing and well deserved celebration. Congratulations to all! It’s good to see you in the video too

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:47

      Thanks, Betsy!

      Reply
  5. Ruby

    November 22, 2016 at 21:59

    Go Tim!!! Happy Teacher’s Day. You truly deserve the honor you and the other teachers there were given! Great posts! xoxo Ruby

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 23, 2016 at 01:48

      Happy Teachers’ Day to you, too!

      Reply
  6. Sharon

    November 25, 2016 at 10:58

    Very Impressive!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 28, 2016 at 06:16

      Yes, it was!

      Reply
  7. Monica Schnee

    November 28, 2016 at 06:09

    So amazing and such talented kids! Glad you had Thanksgiving at the Embassy – here, in Seoul, a group of Fulbrighters met for dinner on Sunday. It was nice to chat with other researchers and have a taste of a semblance of Thanksgiving food – they do better with their delicious kalbi, jong, and all the other great foods!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      November 28, 2016 at 06:22

      Glad you had something of a Thanksgiving. It is odd to celebrate such an American holiday over here.

      Reply
  8. Marika Heughins

    December 14, 2016 at 19:30

    What a wonderful tradition. It would be amazing to have a national holiday for teachers in America. Not because I want to be recognized, but because it puts teachers importance in society at a higher level, and gaining respect. By the way, have you seen how well Vietnam did on the PISA. They must be very proud. http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38212070

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      December 16, 2016 at 06:42

      Funny that teachers here seem unaware of PISA. I’ve shown them how well they are doing and they are surprised.

      Reply

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