This Monday Motivation goes to my parents. Since my mom’s birthday is July 25 and my dad’s is August 15, I figured it’s right to dedicate a blog post to them in between their birthdays.
My Dad – My dad was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. He is the oldest of 7 brothers and sisters. He said he was an average student, but he had to stop education in 8th grade because his parents couldn’t afford education for all the siblings. He would recount when his teacher would call out the names of students who didn’t pay tuition to the entire class Embarrassed, my dad dropped out at around 12 years old and worked for my mom’s dad, who owned a rice factory until he got drafted to the Vietnam War at the age of 17.
My Mom – My mom loved school. In Vietnam, they ranked each student and in a class of about 100, she was always #1 and would be sad if she dropped anything lower than that. However, she had to quit school in 4th grade because she kept getting sick and the teacher basically kicked her out. After she was kicked out of school, she was studying to be a monk.
When the south lost the Vietnam War, my parents escaped on a cramped boat in the late 1970s and went 10 days with hardly anything to sustain them. Pirates would come on their boat to take jewelry. After 10 days, they landed in Thailand where they were in refugee camp for one year, where even then, only had one bowl of rice a day.
After they were accepted to come to the United States and they have chosen their English names, they made money washing dishes at a restaurant until my mom’s dad opened up his own restaurant, where my dad would become a cook and my mom would become a waitress. My mom told me that she cried so much because she didn’t know English, and one of the first english phrases she learned was “HOT MUSTARD” because a customer would shout it at her, hoping that she would understand what it meant.
A couple years pass, and it was time to send my sister and I to public school. We lived in a poor neighborhood in Hanford, where the elementary school closest to us wasn’t that great, so even though 1. We were poor and 2. We aren’t Catholic, my parents sent us to a Catholic school because they wanted to provide us a good education and they didn’t think we’d get beat up there.
Now here we are in the present, where my sister is a microbiologist for Tulare County and I am a math instructor at Fresno State. I’d say that my parents were extremely successful in raising their kids. They literally came here not knowing the language, with no money, yet somehow made it work.
How they inspire me to become a better educator
They showed me that “being educated” has different meanings. No, they did not have any high school education, but they know 4 languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and English)! That is something I wish we appreciated a little more. I said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d give up my math degree to be fluent in multiple languages. I now try to look for multiple intelligences in my students because of this. There’s not just one way to be “smart.”
My mom taught me to be patient and kind, my dad taught me that love comes in different forms. It’s not always the explicit “I love you” but things like, “Hey, let me wash your car for you” or making sure that bills were being paid while I was growing up, and I wish I appreciated that a little more while growing up. Their lives are an example of what it means to be selfless and I try to model that selflessness to my students.
Lastly, they showed me perseverance. If we try hard enough, we can get out of our situation. My dad fighting in the Vietnam War, both parents being on a boat for 10 days, 1 year of being refugees, coming to a new country with no money and needing to learn a new language, they still pushed through. They showed me that I can do anything that I put my mind to.
Thanks for being my motivation mom and dad.
Thanks for reading.