Reflections from a Former School of Education Student

eslvietnameseHello, I am Kieu Nguyen, a former student in the School of Education at the University of San Diego. Welcome to my culture. I would like to share with you some important aspects of our culture that typically apply to a Vietnamese person. These aspects may change depending on how long the individual has lived in the United States or how assimilated he/she is into mainstream American culture. Keep in mind that the things that I am saying may not apply to every Vietnamese person.

Respect for the elders is one of the important aspects of our culture. We can never talk back to an adult whether they are right or wrong. You always have to greet the elders by folding your arms and bowing to them. When eating you need to wait until the elders eat first then you may eat. Parents expect their children to do good in school, but they are not involved with their children school activities like attending PTA meetings, being a parent helper and etc.

When talking to a teacher or anyone of higher status, one does not look into the other person’s eyes instead one would look down. It is frown upon children who use their left hand; once a parent sees that their child is using a left hand they often make the child change hand. Sometimes the parents would punish their child for using their left hand whether to write or eat. In the Vietnamese culture boys are favored over girls. More restrictions are put on the daughters than on sons. The daughters are expected to take care of their house (clean) and look after their younger siblings. Girls are not allow to stay over a friends house, but it is okay if a boy spends a night at his friend’s house.

Now I would like to share with you my experience growing up in America. As a Vietnamese child I found that school was very difficult because I did not have the home support that I needed. My parents hardly speak English at the time I was attending elementary school and so they are unable to help me with my schoolwork. I was the oldest child so I did not have any older siblings to help me as well. So I could only depend on my teacher and my friends. I was intimidated by my teacher for some reason because I was afraid to talk to my teacher. Even though I needed help I was reluctant to come to my teacher to help me. I think that many Vietnamese children are intimidated and are scared of their teachers and that is why we rarely speak up and we appear to be shy. I was a shy girl so I did not make a lot of friends. Unfortunately, I was unable to look towards my friend to help me with my schoolwork. I remember in six grade I asked my friend to help me do an outline on a topic I was doing a research paper. She snapped at me because I kept asking her to explain to me every step of the outline. From that point on I never asked for any help from anyone else. She made me feel so stupid. Beginning middle school and during high school I worked very hard to get straight A’s. I did not seek for help from anyone, because I felt like the only person I can depend on is myself. Luckily I had the determination and motivation to do good in school and that is why I was able to be successful both in high school and college.

It is very important that when working with English learners, you have to make them feel comfortable and let them know that it is okay to seek for help. I hope that teachers today do not ignore ELL kids and show the students they are approachable. Teachers must provide a lot of support with their schoolwork because some children may not have the help at home.