Fort Collins, mỗi ngày trước mắt tôi – If you had fun, you won

When I was a high school girl, I used to listen to Linkin Park, Firehouse, Green Day, etc. And one of my favorite songs was “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. The impression was so strong that almost everytime I come across the word “boulevard”, I think of “broken dreams” as an association to this song. But yesterday, I walked on many, many boulevards, felt neither sad nor broken, but very happy, with a singing heart.

Yes, I was wandering in a small “city” with lovely boulevards and avenues. If you want to visit a city where you can walk on “Creativity Boulevard”, “Curiosity Boulevard”, “Independence Avenue”, “Enthusiasm Boulevard” of “Empathy Avenue”, just ask me, and I will show you where to go. It is McGraw elementary school in Fort Collins, the small city with corridors named as boulevards and avenues. That’s where I could walk on the boulevards which I call the boulevards of singing hearts.

Hey, look at the sign!

Each and every kid must be very happy to be there. Not only the kids benefit from a school which is beautifully decorated, well-equiped and facilitated by enthusiastic staff but also are exposed to positive thinking and attitude towards life, which I really, really appreciate.

a classroom

in the ceiling

They are, somehow, taught, but in a very subtle way that everybody seems not to recognize that the kids are taught such things. In Vietnam, kids have “Moral Course”, in which they study how to be a good person, how to behave in a nice way through stories. It’s meaningful. But have Vietnamese kids ever been taught how to value and appreciate themselves? Have they ever been taught to be unique, to be curious, to be special as such amazing things are intrinsic motivation lying deep inside the heart and mind of each of them?

Along the Creativity Boulevard are tens of beautiful pictures, tens of “masterpieces” created by the kids themselves. They are portraits drawn in a Picaso-esque style. “Who are we?” is the question hanging among all these pictures. It seems to remind them of what they think about themselves, how they describe and perceive themselves in their OWN way. And, more apparently, displaying these pictures in this kind of a special exhibition absolutely makes kids proud of their creation. They must be proud of what they make. And that people appreciate them. What a beautiful meaning!

portraits along Creativity Boulevard

The kids do not only know that people appreciate and love them in the fact that they appreciate what they do, but they also see these sayings which I assume evey kid would love to hear.

“Children are…

Amazing, acknowledge them

Believable, trust them

Childlike, allow them

Divine, honor them


Moreover, everywhere they go, everything they do, there always seem to be reminders of how great they are, of the true meaning of what they do, how they should face the world and what they should do to be better.

Going though the door into the hall, I could see 2 cute signs. One says “Through this door go the best students”. The other says: “Did you do your best today? Will you do your best tomorrow?”

When they play games, they know that there is really no competition in sports. The true nature of it is to appreciate yourself:

(the sign says “If you had fun… you won”)

In their classrooms, they are reminded that the attitude is what counts. It’s not necessarily aptitude… I bet I will never ever forget how terrible I felt during all my school years although I was almost always the student with the highest score in the class, or even the whole school intake. I will never forget I cried almost every night because of pressure. And even though I was very small, my wish was not a doll, a trip around the world or anything imaginative. My wish was simple: that my mom would not expect too much from me. That’s all. Then you might have a sense of how these words touched me… “Show me your attitude”

And of course, they have a lot of books to travel into the world of knowledge, adventure and imagination:

in the media room

And they have “Global night” too, which is a simulation around-the-world trip for all the kids. Each of them has a passport like this:

this is Sage’s passport

When they join a presentation of a country, they will have a stamp in their passport to remark that they already travel to that country. That’s an awesome idea. I want a passport too. But the teachers in McGraw didn’t give me one. What? How come? They only treat their kids nice? 😦

The most impressive thing to me is actually not anything “physical”, tangible as I tell above. It’s the kids’ attitude and their behaviors. No where have I met such independent, confident kids. A little girl came to us as soon as we arrived to welcome us and told us: “After you finish setting up, I will take you to the hall for dinner.” And when we stood in the line, waiting for our turns to get food, another little “lady” in black long dress approached us, pointing her arms to the first positions of the line and said: “Are you presenters? Then you have the priority to get food first. Follow me.” They made me feel like I’m not talking to a kid, but it’s either we all kids talking to each other or we all adults doing the business in a proper, professional way.

And they’re cute too. When I finished my presentation, usually some kids would come to me, look at me in a sincere way (yes, I mean sincere) and say to me: “Thanks for your presentation” then come back to their parents who were standing several steps behind them, watching them doing such nice conduct. I almost wanted to go to their parents to thank them for giving their children the chance to be very independent. No, not hand in hand with mom or dad. You come to her and say thank to her for showing you amazing things about her country, for taking you to a far, far-away country. That’s the way it is.

Obviously, the global night Jan 27, 2012 is one of the most memorable events of mine during the days living in Fort Collins. I don’t think that I will forget them, the nice host treating me like a distinguished guest. I dont think I will forget them, the smiles on their faces, their steps on the boulevards – the boulevards of singing hearts.

Jan 28, 2012

Hai Le

welcome to Vietnam 😀

me and Sage

Vietnam presentation area

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