Viet Nam News
By Nguyên Hương
Teacher Minh had a fever.
The first day his voice cracked, but he still was able to teach.
The second day, he had to stop and clear his throat occasionally. The third day, he was coughing badly.
“Are you ill, teacher?” his students asked him.
“No, it’s nothing,” teacher Minh replied.
The fourth day, he could not teach, he gave his students work to do in their books. He laid his head down on the desk; sweat covering his hair and face.
He was hospitalised that afternoon.
As Minh was the only teacher in school who could read and write Braille, the visually-impaired students were unable to study. The school’s accountant Hà was asked by the headmistress to read a test to the class. But when the students handed in their tests, the teachers clearly hadn’t understood. The headmistress declared:
“I will double the salary for anyone who learns Braille”
Hà eloquently replied:
“I’ll cook soup and bring it to Minh so he will teach me Braille soon. I’m fed up being an accountant.”
After eating Hà’s soup, teacher Minh recovered quickly. He asked:
“Do you really want to learn Braille, Hà?”
One day, a donor presented visually-impaired students ten computers and a printer. Teacher Minh spent weeks learning the software for the students. Soon, the students started to use the computers. At first they fumbled about the keyboard. Teacher Minh guided each student how to handle the keyboard with great patience.
Hà passed by the class and teased teacher Minh:
“Oh, my God! Is there a nest of woodpeckers in here?”
Later, the students kept quiet until they heard the teacher’s steps on the veranda, then they all started playing with the keyboards just to see what would happen. When teacher Minh got into the class, all the computers had broken.
“Why have you done this? All the computers have broken!” Teacher Minh shouted angrily.
Out of the blue, one of the computers played a love song saying: “Oh, my God, how can I find the right words to say that I love her.”
The whole class broke out into laughter. Teacher Minh tried to contain himself from laughing. He only smiled. After all, there were students older than eighteen in the class.
A few days later, teacher Minh phoned the computer company to come and fix the computers. He decided to take a computer course so that he could fix technical problems for the class. He found that the students were still clumsy handling the keyboard. So he said:
“If any of you can type a whole page with only one or two errors, I will give you a prize!”
“What prize, teacher?” the students asked.
“Anything you like!” Teacher Minh smiled.
“What about green bean compote?”
The students typed their tests on the keyboard and printed them out. Everybody could read and mark the tests using the answer sheet. Teacher Minh felt more comfortable and if he needed to, he could take more time off sick.
The students were taught up to fifth grade in teacher Minh’s class before entering the sixth grade in a boarding school school, which was unable to teach them.
As he taught the visually-impaired students for five years, teacher Minh became their tutor at the boarding school to help them up with the other students. When they came back to the boarding house after school, teacher Minh helped them get a better grip of their lessons.
He taught them everything but English, which he couldn’t teach. Consequently, the visually-impaired students got bad marks in English. When the first term ended, they brought home their results and asked teacher Minh to read the results to them. All the remarks were: “Good result”, “good learning spirit”, except in English.
When Ms Hà went past the class, the students asked her to explain why the remarks were so short. She was about to answer when teacher Minh showed her the English results and the remark: “Poor result”.
“Do you want to learn English so that you can help them?” Ms Hà asked him.
“I did go to an English centre, but I could not learn it,” Teacher Minh said.
After eight years of studying hard, many of the visually-impaired students still ended up dropping out of school and went to sell lottery tickets or did odd jobs to make a living.
Teacher Minh had done his utmost to help them carry on their education. One day they asked:
“Teacher, what have we studied for?”
It was not an easy question to answer. Even teacher Minh could not see the point of all their efforts. He turned to Ms Hà:
“Do you think we should go on struggling down this path?”
Ms Hà hesitated. Working in the office was much more comfortable than teaching, especially this class. She had a certificate for English from when she was a student. But she had dropped it a long time ago and forgotten a lot.
Day in and day out, she felt sorry for the students and for teacher Minh. She tossed and turned many nights, thinking about teacher Minh who had devoted all his energy and efforts to these students, and now only because of their poor performance in English, they were not considered intelligent.
One day, out of the blue, the headmistress came to class and announced that volunteer students would teach English twice a week. The students suddenly became boisterous and excited. The volunteer students even wanted to help teach the visually-impaired students other subjects. This would allow teacher Minh to relax a bit.
But when the exam season came, all the volunteers left. So, teacher Minh had to become the tutor again. There were more and more drops-out. As a result, there were now only five sixth graders, four seventh graders and two eighth graders left in the class. Teacher Minh made up his mind not to let any more drop-out. However, when he taught the eighth graders chemistry he couldn’t explain how some acid turns from purple to red. He was in great despair. Right then, Ms Hà came and said:
“Let me help you teach them English.”
Teacher Minh was greatly moved.
Ms Hà blushed, saying:
“I’m only doing it for the students!”.
Translated by Mạnh Chương