“I remember the days when my students and I would come to class to comfort each other and cry together. Many families prefer their children start work early as they only consider drawing a temporary hobby with no future career prospects. I have to reassure them to just try and finish 12th grade, and I will support them with university preparations”.   

It’s been almost 25 years since fate brought Ms Thuy to Thang Long school as a drawing teacher. She currently manages the Fine Arts and Design department at University of Theatre and Cinema Ho Chi Minh; and although she spends most of her time at this main job, Ms Thuy also consistently spends a few hours every Saturday afternoon to spread her love of art to children. 

In the first few years of teaching, it was hard to avoid the difficulties that naturally come with the job. Many students in grade 5-6 at that time had spent 6 long years to become the first group to enter university, but some had to take time off midway to make a living instead. “I always strongly advise my students that no matter what, you have to finish your education, get your degree (after graduating 12th grade) and then you can work as much as you want”. 

Over time, the little kids Ms Thuy guided have grown into mature young adults. Some continue to follow the arts, working in architecture or graphic designing careers, whilst others have chosen different career paths – but every one of them have found success. Now, even though they can seldom see each other, Ms Thuy and her students still keep in touch to share stories about their work and life.

Over the generations, the age of students participating in the class have become more diverse, ranging even to elementary school students. Therefore, more than ever, teachers need patience and flexibility to support their students. “The little ones are innocent and simple, they have a different way of looking at things, choosing different layouts and ways to structure their drawings compared to the older kids. But, seeing the different levels of drawing makes me feel really relaxed. Perhaps at each stage, because of the different ways of thinking, each individual drawing is different and interesting in its own way, expressing each child’s age and perspective”.

For many years now Ms Thuy has been interested in giving her students more observational drawing experience. “In a classroom, students can only look at a printed photograph and draw their interpretation of that, so creating real emotions can be extremely difficult because it is already influenced by the photographer’s point of view. Organising drawing trips can really help children develop their observational skills, allow them more freedom in composition choices, as well as evoke more emotions, breathing more life into their art”. For younger children, Ms Thuy will choose simpler subjects, whereas older students or students with more experience will require higher levels of complexity. 

When asked why she has chosen to accompany Thang Long for such a long time, Ms Thuy shares: “I consider teaching my small contribution to society. Instead of finding some special way to help disadvantaged children, I’ll focus on utilising my professional specialty which is teaching. I see it as giving the children a playground for the weekend – maybe it will spark inspiration for their future careers”. 

After all these years, Ms Thuy continues to teach, spreading the flame of inspiration and lighting up passion for the arts in children who love and may desire to pursue this path.