Thomas discusses with Christopher several barriers he faced on his educational journey, from learning difficulties to unfortunately experiencing social isolation amongst friendship groups. Thomas reflects on his experience, shares methods of building resilience and the importance of his faith, that lead him to successfully studying to become a teacher at university. 

Produced by Christopher who adds the following note: “I’m Christopher Vasilevski, 19 years old. Growing up in a Macedonian family, I was sheltered with love and amazing culture. Taking my faith seriously later in my teenage years I have, and continue to see the impact God has over my life, specifically in the media industry through podcasting, filming, etc…”


Please note this transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors.

Christopher Vasilevski : Hi, my name is Christopher and welcome to another episode of Stories of Community Resilience, the podcast by 3ZZZ. In this episode, I’ll be speaking with Thomas and his experience with faith and determination to graduate in his studies. Thanks, Thomas for coming along. Would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Thomas Le : Okay, my name is Thomas. I come from a Catholic upbringing and growing up Catholic since childhood, I was baptized. I come from a background where my family’s from Vietnam, so my parents were refugees. They came to Australia in 1979 and early 80s. Um, born Australian and well, I have two lovely older sisters. Shout out to them and in Annabel they’re working very hard and very excited to be on your show. Thanks for inviting me.

Christopher Vasilevski : So good. Are you the first person in your family to go to uni?

Thomas Le : No. I’m the third.

Christopher Vasilevski : Oh, really?

Thomas Le : So my sisters went to university. My parents, unfortunately didn’t have that privilege because back then you don’t have that luxury and lucrativeness to get the financial support. Early days beyond ends. So it’s really exciting when you pass down your legacy, you see your your children make a difference in society without being. One that. Well ‘victim mentality’ let’s say. So we did our best. There were some moments, especially myself and well like what the word says resilience. That’s a very key pivotal moment. And definitely there’s a lot of definitions up in the air.

Christopher Vasilevski : Would you like to just like, elaborate on why you wanted to come along on the show.

Thomas Le : Well the word resilience is such a powerful word. And I myself come from a background as well, where I was, I would say an interesting upbringing student as well. I was a student where I was struggling with classroom behaviour in terms of concentration, whether that’s a label or not, in terms of dyslexia, ADHD. I’ve yet to find that out, but I was four years behind school combined. If you factor in literacy and numeracy since then I had issues with speech articulation, I had {teaching) aids. There’s a lot of bandaging in terms of. In terms of support and how I can get through schooling and it’s arduous system. So I had support. Throughout my primary school years, from grade four onwards, I had some tutoring for literacy, numeracy. And there was a point in time in year seven where I wasn’t demonstrating the right outcome in terms of achievement and learning and achievement. So that pulled me behind to work twice as hard. Now here I am studying teaching quite a long time since inception. So I’ve been in uni for six years now, so I know my way forward and building that resilience.

Christopher Vasilevski : Well, you’re like you’re fighting the odds. Like, I don’t know, maybe some people spoke into your life saying like, oh, you couldn’t do it. Maybe because of your upbringing, but you’re doing good. Like you’re doing teaching, like you’re doing the thing that probably people think you could have never done. Like, that’s so good. That’s amazing.

Thomas Le : Thanks a lot. I appreciate that. I’m humble enough to say that it’s been a long journey. Like many other journeys, you see, turbulences you feel that? Suffering. In biblical terms, I would say that it’s not as easy for many people, and I think most people should realize that. Not everyone’s going to fit in a box, and some people fail to realize or even don’t see that people have it hard and we should be a bit more empathetic and be more practical. And it’s okay when people don’t have that typical personality charisma to achieve what needs to be achieved. I unfortunately dealt and experienced some people in the teaching industry and in my classes, unfortunately, and I have the greatest respect for those who are smarter than me because I learned from them. That being said, I had an unfortunate experience of some people that think that I myself, as a person with low literacy and numeracy, don’t deserve to be a teacher. And I think that being a teacher is about someone who’s a book smart, who knows a lot of words, who’s very eloquent in speech. I don’t believe in that. I think a teacher who’s humbled to learn and give it a best shot, especially a teacher who has come from an unfortunate background in terms of academia and knows how to get through the system. Sitting the LANTITE (exam) achieving that outcome should be fully recognized. And I think everyone should have a fair crack and a fair go, regardless of whatever outcome they want to be.

Christopher Vasilevski : Do you feel like your like upbringing would have actually and does actually help in your teaching with people say who have similar experiences with you, like when their schooling? Um, do you think that’s an advantage point for you to like, help them grow in whatever career path they want to get into?

Thomas Le : Yeah. I like how you put it out. It’s very reflective question. That one. Yeah, I agree with that. It’s interesting because my background relates to some students at school and it’s definitely not a minority. Even some people very privileged in higher socioeconomic schools don’t have a stable household. You may have parents who neglect their children because they are either entrepreneurs who have a business running shop, meeting deadlines, so they have a nanny employed to look after them. And you have middle class and lower socioeconomic where there’s lots of grit and assiduousness. But that don’t have that parental support, mentorship to get through life, children wise and mentorship wise. So there’s a mixed array of variables up in the air, and not everyone’s perfect. No system is perfect. So in answering your question. I feel that it’s absolutely advantageous because it doesn’t bring a tokenistic view. It brings a practical view. It brings in genuine empathy and realism. I would argue, I would say because it’s a situation that was real. It it happened. I experienced it, I showed concerns and I didn’t play the victimhood card. I still got around. And absolutely I had teachers that gave up on me. And I had teachers that didn’t think I’ll go to university and this is grade three. I didn’t know what that term was really.

Christopher Vasilevski : Second and who like your. Did you have any role models at the time? People who actually like, spoke into your life and like believed in you to go into the teaching like sphere?

Thomas Le : Yeah, it’s interesting question. I’ve never had a role model per se, but I did enjoy. Some teachers though. I had a really good teacher in year seven, Mr. Kelly. Daniel Kelly was one shout out. Shout out to him. He was my year ten history teacher. I always get A’s in his essays, but I don’t get straight A’s in English. Well, Mr. Becker, I don’t know why you grade me so harshly in English (laughter) I hated reading, I absolutely hate it. I. Always enjoyed learning our language though. I love my Japanese teacher. Very academic, although maybe my future class would be a bit different from him, but I would say his legacy when he taught me year 12, I definitely carried that on board because yeah, he’s he’s not a pushover. People say back in year 12, he’s more of that person that is indefatigable, very persistent, wants the best out of every student, although he doesn’t show it. But you can tell from his teachings he wants that achievement and wants the best out of you. Mr. Kinley, who wasn’t a real role model. But I appreciated his humour, his frivolity, his genuineness. I had a priest, Father John. He’s very kind and genuine. Yeah. Who else? I don’t think I have one set role model. I don’t think so.

Christopher Vasilevski : It’s like a collective kind of thing.

Thomas Le : Yeah, it’s a collective. I have family as well. My dad’s also my role model. My mom’s, uh. My sisters too. Like you said, it’s a collective. There’s no one individual. Maybe there is. I’ve thought about it in some of mine.

Christopher Vasilevski : That’s okay.

Thomas Le : And you, do you have a role model?

Christopher Vasilevski : I had a role model. Yes, of course I do. I mean, like, as simple as you, you know, there’s just people that have, like, spoken into my life and I think, um, there’s so many, so much negativity out there. And when you find like that group, whether it’s your family or like your friends – I have my Christian friends that I that lift me up and help me to grow in my speech, specifically because I’m not very eloquent in my speech either. At least that’s what I believed for a long time. I think, like, challenging your perceptions and pressing on to say, “no, I can do it like you can do it.”

Thomas Le : What’s stopping you?

Christopher Vasilevski : What’s stopping you? Is it is it your, um, is what people say that’s stopping you, or is it actually you?

Thomas Le : Is it your mind that’s stopping you? Yeah. It’s interesting. I agree with you. There is a lot of negativity and it breeds into our society where it clouds our thoughts and it blocks our motivation. And no wonder why people lack motivation. Turn to YouTube to find that motivation. The dopamine drop and cheap dopamine. Dopamine for motivation. And yeah, absolutely agree with you on that. It’s a disappointing world. But again resilience comes into play in this part isn’t it. Yeah. Personally.

Christopher Vasilevski: And you just have to like be intentional in seeking out those connections. You know like um the resilience, you know, like to push through the um, the things spoken of you that are not true and pushing you on to listening to truth like you have value, you have worth, and you can do anything like you put your mind to like it’s. Um, something that you need to hear, like, often, and you might forget it. Um, sometimes you need to remind yourself. Sometimes, you know.

Thomas Le : I like that. You build vision, and sometimes your vision gets clouded and sometimes it demystifies you, and sometimes it gets really glossy. You know what your vision is? Reflecting upon this. I remember when people had issues with me. I was in Japan and reflecting back on this three, four years ago before I went to Headspace to vent out because I was in a very moody, very angry like – I was internalizing my anger and that impacted my family. And I say this unapologetically. I may have hurt some people along the way, but when people are not, like you said, not as truthful along the way and say things off the fly inconveniently – it’s almost like, okay, right, there’s an issue. Clearly it happened in your own eyes, but I didn’t see that from my own eyes. And since I’m displaced in terms of the thoughts, critical thinking, examining where it is, I can’t fully see what really happened, given the fact that. I’m doing something else and another milestone in my own life and learning from that. It’s a big smack in the face, like reality check, I’d say, about resilience and different types of people in this world. And obviously the real world is much bigger than our eyes. I believe. Maybe you think differently. That sometimes if friends or whatever mates, they call them mates, if they’re real mates, they’ll speak truth and they don’t sugarcoat themselves. They find time to say things that impact them, in confidence. Privately, they take you out so that they can understand your view but give you time, follow up restore. I just think that at the moment we live a very disposable world and unfortunately friendships are not sustained and developed, nurtured nowadays. What do you think? Do you have the experience?

Christopher Vasilevski : I definitely have, like, throughout my education system, I’ve met a lot of people talked a lot of people had a lot of friendships with a lot of people. You meet a whole bunch and some of them may not be a good influence on you, but I feel like there’s always that path where we have growth. So there’s some people that are let into your life that help you grow to where you need to go next. Some people stay, some people go. But ultimately, like. You will find those people that are for you that not only tell you what you want to hear, but tell you what you need to hear. Sometimes you know.

Thomas Le : Want and need are two contrasting terms.

Christopher Vasilevski : Yeah. It’s so good.

Thomas Le : It’s so real and fascinating. I had my own not selected few, but an experience of my own reality. Your reality may be different from mine, but I’ve made my fair share of people that, yes, that’s they have taught me a lesson, and they can use that against themselves for themselves to say that. Oh, because of my presence, I’ve taught you something. So technically I didn’t do the wrong thing. Well, I mean, it’s just a justification for their misbehavior, ‘being a bad mate’, just put bluntly. And I don’t think that’s right. And. Yeah. One of the things I said was my literacy and numeracy was not up to standard, because the way I write and speak is not the typical teacher in terms of. Now your teacher needs to be expressive, needs to know how to form sentences, not to convolute themselves. Yeah, that’s one of the contents. I had to really look re-look at my post to seek tuition, fork out some money to get the right support. And while I’ve passed more on my numeracy than LANTITE exams that I can get my teaching degree, I’m almost there. I just have one more exam to get my degree and sit placements. I still have to finish all my theories. Yeah, lots of variables on the air. I’ve been at uni for a long time though, so I think it’s my sixth. It’s my sixth year now.

Christopher Vasilevski : Once you get out of uni, what’s like your plan like with teaching what year level and stuff would you like to teach?

Thomas Le : I like to teach year 7 to 12 throughout the year levels, but it depends on the subjects and preferential. So my age range in terms of year level will be year 7 to 9. I would say I want to teach is 7 to 10. History Humanities, and year 7 to 12 Japanese as well, I want to teach.

Christopher Vasilevski : Honestly, I think you will do great. I think you have a lot to offer, especially to some students that might feel outcasted. I guess in a way, because I think you can probably relate to them in some ways with your, numeracy as you’re talking about. I feel like your weaknesses ultimately turn into a victory for someone else down the line.  That’s that’s like a that’s like a broad term. I know a lot of people use it in Christianity, too. But’s it’s so true, though, like, your weaknesses have impact and can relate and can grow other people where they are and grow them to the next level. So, yeah, I do agree with that.

Thomas Le : That is true in Christianity wise. In my view, self righteousness, respect, humility, respect for others. Love thy neighbor. Right. We know that passage. And for sure it gets very biblical. But practically each of the scriptures that have been written has its own themes, right? In terms of friendship, in terms of the group of people. Right. Christian, Christian wise. Because I’m Catholic, I’ve been reading scripture lately as my form of meditation, in addition to reading, Catching Up, Netflix, whatever, when I get the time and all that. But one thing that sticks out, actually is. The story about Peter and the story about Judas, and how Jesus himself has his own disciples. Here’s a group of mates, and it goes to show that each of us will have a group of mates, and there will be a select few. One of them in a large crowd of other groups you hop into that may seek revenge that have some jealousy, envy, pity, other kinds of negativeness. And you hear a lot of people that say. More friendships defined by how they approach your failures, how they see your failures, and how they treat you behind closed doors when you’re not around. So like the story about Peter, he’s a great mate of Jesus.

Thomas Le : Yes, he denied him and he regrets it, but he was a really good friend for him. And it shows that sometimes when friendships get tested, there’ll be times where some friends don’t live up as a mate, but over time they redeem themselves and become a good friend at the end. And you have another mate, right? Like Judas, who completely. Threw himself away under the bus. He decided that friend Jesus’s friendship, his friendship with Jesus, is not as sufficient impactful enough than money, so he opt in for lucrativeness. Then love. Right? And so yeah, going back to the earlier point about those talking behind my back. Right. That was a group of people. I had some mates that tried to reason out with me but didn’t fully tell the truth. That was Peter. I’m not sure that regretting it. That was the Peter Peter vibe. Then you have Judas, where there’s heaps of people that betray you because there’s a misunderstanding. Misconception of you. Yeah, sure. It’s not about money, but I think it’s a metaphor for people opt in for something more worthy or for more value, which is negative negativity then positivity. That makes sense. What’s your view on that?

Christopher Vasilevski : I can I can definitely see where that comes into play. I think it just depends on the group. Like, honestly. Uh, it’s definitely a reality that probably would take place. Um, and it has definitely in a lot of places. Um, but yeah, I would agree with you on that. Like, uh, with that, though, how would you what would you give tips for someone like going through that I guess, like, say they’re being betrayed in a way, or they feel, um, disconnected from one of their friends. How would you like you think, like resilience wise, would you go about dealing with that?

Thomas Le : That’s a good question. Let’s reflect on the recall on that.

Christopher Vasilevski : Say, like with your numeracy and stuff. I remember you talking. Yeah. When people put you down, like, what did you do? What did you do?

Thomas Le : I was hunting for answers. I was immediately after this is in Japan. Immediately after I figured that crap stuff. I was obviously going to classes, meeting new people, getting so much good feedback and then over other side. The end. You have a tsunami coming across with this bush. You have all these issues coming in and it’s a juxtaposition between his good things about you. He’s the good feedback and he’s actually no, there’s the negative feedback. I was confused that time I was. Trying to reason out, especially the person of the figure. This out, they found out. We talked about it. Long story short, the person who told me, told me about this was the person was indeed the person who talked behind me as well. So then questioned my friendship with this person. And since then I saw the people that got involved. I contacted them and I would say back then I responded very emotionally. Which is something people shouldn’t do. And. And even then, after my exchange. I went to Japan for a year, so I had to leave all this stuff about me, the gossips and stuff behind and focus on my exchange after exchange. That’s when I got time to figure out what the issue was. I remember hunting for answers. I was contacting liaising people to figure out what’s going on. Give me a black and white answer. Whereas the people who responded to me were not clear with the answers. They were like being that middle man. They don’t want to get in trouble with their maids snitch. They call it like a lot of teen vibes, right?

Christopher Vasilevski : Yeah, I get you.

Thomas Le : It’s almost like we’re like adults now. We’re 24, 25, whatever age range is due. There’s one person who’s 30. We’re acting like this, and that’s not how adults act. That’s my greatest concern. And again, I had no luck. I didn’t have the right answer. I didn’t get the answer I wanted. So I just found my own truth saying that, look, something happened. People are not as great dealing with it, telling me about it. So I’m just going to find my own truth saying that, okay, if there’s an issue, I’ll work on it in terms of what I saw in the group chat and all that, and continue doing what I can do best and the people support me. I will look on their feedback, take on their feet more than the people that think they know me, because at the end of day, I’m the first information. So in answering your question –  There’s always going to be people who will misunderstand you.

Thomas Le : There’s always going to be people who will rely on second or third hand information, like, for example, someone who hears things about you from another group of might as opposed to your own group that knows. You? Yeah. And in contrast, there’s always going to be people or teachers that have a different point of view. There’s always going to be people who have a different relationship role play in your life. So what you can do and what you can control is what you know about yourself at that point in time. Contact the people who have misunderstood you and ask them, hey, I’ve noticed there is some chats about me, not you don’t have to be too formal. Yeah you don’t what to say regarding don’t be formal. Like, yeah, this is like the work world because I’m so used to work world. Um, casually, I’ll just say, hey, mate, I’ve heard some conversations about me. About. Relationship with my ex. Relationships with. Another person person A or about my general welfare, how I speak, maybe my writing if that’s the subject. And you can say I’m quite concerned, the level of the conversations and the misinterpretation of it. Can you tell me? “What’s the what’s the situation?” Is there an issue between us? Do you know if there’s an issue between whatever people write and whatever answer you get? Take that as what you can control. And. And if people just give you a wishy washy answer. Now look, it’s okay to get frustrated, but don’t get too frustrated. Try and be a bit more assertive in terms of the the point of what’s misunderstood about you. And if they’re just being wishy washy again, you can just say that, well, I’m not getting a clear answer here. I’m just a bit concerned that our conversations about me behind my back and I don’t appreciate it. And whatever they say, whatever. And you see a lot of things unveiling a lot of people behind your back, which goes to show they’re not your mates. And if you call them right in the act and they block you, they delete you. It goes to show they’re not their mates.  I had a person I confronted and said, “look, I don’t appreciate this” The lesson to learn is not to be very personal because I was very angry back then. He just gave me a paragraph saying that I should look at the mirror. Et cetera and just block me. After that, I didn’t have my own turn to follow up. Right. This is sad. Especially when you build your own social empire, but social group over many years. And then to find out all those years dedicated went over the board above and beyond turns of going to the party. You know, the typical uni life. Yeah, yeah. Um, wash down the drain. It’s disappointing at a period where I was alone, and that’s why I went to Headspace and I volunteered. Now they’ve definitely saved me.

Thomas Le : There was a point where I did question whether I should live or not. There’s that level of ideation. I think my faith saved me and that right now people like you giving me opportunities to speak out, giving tips, and people from my faith community. Yeah, people from Tilney, which is a Scouts group at my local church. They malabang it’s a Vietnamese Catholic community church in Keyzie Southeast and by the priest really gave out that positivity. Even my local parish in the southeast is really great as well, but Headspace did help me in finding my true potential. The program particularly is the Work and Study program. So I had lots of career support that got me into the teaching role I am in at the moment, which is a Numeracy Tutor (given the whole Covid fuss and all that) It’s a new role where there’s a blended role being a teacher, aide and a teacher. If you’re a registered teacher, you can take over the class and teach them. Part of the role as a tutor is to support students learning and build on their learning post Covid wise, to make sure they’re up to date and all that. And giving them my final year as well. I mean, the school industry, it’s really a long journey.

Christopher Vasilevski : And it shows your resilience, like you’ve gotten, like, far like even though you had struggles. And we all have struggles like, you push through that and you and you weren’t afraid to like, say like, oh, yeah, I needed help. It’s okay. It’s totally fine. Like, we all need help from time to time. And yeah, I think like having that, um, vulnerability to be like, oh, I need help. We’ll get you on the right path as, like you’ve had from your church and from headspace. Um, whatever community, uh, the viewers might be listening to, I’m sure you can reach out to someone if it’s headspace or your local church or what it might be. Um, yeah, I think you can. You can definitely find growth and restoration from just being open to say, I need something to help me, like I need support. So I definitely.

Thomas Le : It’s absolutely okay to find reasonable time and absolutely it’s going to be hard. At first I didn’t know what what Headspace was. I did a simple Google search and there was a list of different psychologists and psychiatrists, and Headspace popped up in my search bar and it said, “free services for youth”. So I thought, it’s too good to be true. But then I went to the website and had a chat with them and to go around the roundabout to get a referral. And the GP back then thought that Headspace is not an ideal space to get some support, whereas it’s actually an ideal space for some youths like myself who are faithful, to get that extra support for the LANTITE exam, and teachers have to demonstrate good literacy and numeracy skills, which is fine and all and absolutely, absolutely. We need to have standards for learning and teaching, but it doesn’t suggest that those who are very good at literacy and numeracy can teach students, especially those who have come from very unfortunate sides of things. You got kids who are on court orders. You got kids who are. Sexually abused and had my fair share of experience in that, in reading court orders of men, women combined going through domestic abuse, emotional abuse. It’s tragic and you have to deal with parents. Sure, you need to have good literacy and numeracy, but you have professional development.As a teacher. You have to be a leader of learning. You got to be humble in my own view. The test itself and the people that had their own opinions about my literacy numeracy because I shared my vulnerability to them and they used against me. Where I failed my literacy, numeracy and it’s like year nine standard, you know NAPLAN. So it should be easy for you on that. Not necessarily mate. You got people like myself who are behind school and perhaps had some speech impediment. The fact that you don’t factor that in goes to show you don’t know your students. So how can you factor students who are four years behind because they’re bilingual learners like myself? I’m bilingual, I spoke English at home and I couldn’t speak in other languages. I couldn’t switch code. How are you as a teacher going to differentiate learning? So to make learning different for each person so that it suits their needs. A lot of factors and obviously the test itself is just half the battle won. So as a teacher, I firmly believe that you are a leader of learning. You’re not a leader of pompousness arrogance. You’re not a leader of building building learners to be arrogant. Yeah, not at all. Because you don’t know anything.

Christopher Vasilevski : Thank you, Thomas, for coming along, for sharing all this. It’s just so amazing. I’m so glad that you came along. Your story is just very impactful, and I know it’s going to impact a lot of people who listen. Thank you.

Thomas Le : Can I add one more thing? To those who sit in the LANTITE exam and especially those like myself who are getting extra support, there’s lots of support measures out there. There’s definitely Facebook pages to get support. Tuition is also there. I suggest to get some tuition, and it’s okay if you fail the test. It’s like going through year 12 again and as teachers, we’ve got to be leaders of learning and we’ve got to be learners for life. So at the end of the day, keep up with learning and be a lifelong learner because it’s going to test you and it’s going to test a lot of arrogance, especially in arrogant people along the way.

Christopher Vasilevski : Amazing. Thank you.

[End Transcript]

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