Teachers with the growth mindset

小學老師Daisy 上學年暑假時知道新學年要當一年级班主任,有一點擔憂,因她從無教一年级的經驗;但擔憂之餘,她也看作是專業學習的機會。

學期開始,發覺班上一位男生經常不願上學,和家長溝通後,知道小男孩喜歡跑步,先前的幼稚園是happy school, 完全不會禁止他四處跑,但現時小學卻禁止跑步。

Daisy 於是想辦法處理這問題,最後她造了一張跑步證给學生,囑咐他每逢當日想跑步,便帶跑步證回校,Daisy 並指派另一名同學,專門陪伴他往學校跑步區。小男孩從此解開了心結,不再抗拒上學。一

每次聽Daisy 談她的教學計策,都令我想起Stanford 心理學教授Carol Dweck 就教師mindset 的研究。她發現有fixed mindset的教師遇上教學困難或問題學生時,會傾向覺得無能為力。想反,擁有growth mindset 的教師,會堅信問題學生可以變好,並認定自己的教學效能可以日益進步,所以遇到問題時會努力想辦法解決。前者的教師教學水平二十年如一日; 而後者教師的專業效能一日千里。

而這正是我看見的Daisy, 由一個初出茅蘆,三兩年間變成一個滿身板斧的老師。而昨天她也肯定地說: 我會成會一個出色的老師。

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困獸鬥

教學的點子往往不經意地在腦中彈出;昨天我想到在這星期六的工作坊中,用classdojo 內的random grouping 的功能,使参加的澳門老師能認識其他學員。今早睡醒時,突然想到可以設計一個活動,讓他們利用Flipgrid 去作一分鐘的自我介紹。

這也是為什麼我希望學校能盡量減少教師的非教學工作,和機械性的批改。教師能多一點時間備課,多發掘教學點子,不但自己會教得更好更投入,學生也會因此學得更好,更喜歡學習。否則只能以大量的功課、無盡的操練,頻密的測驗考試迫使學生讀書。課室,就變成只是困獸鬥的地方。

這學生從此記着,而且一記就是27 年!

今早在Facebook上看見一位1990/91年的學生的外遊照片,照片中她穿着旅行途中買到的T~shirt, 上面寫着Seize the day; 照片tag了我,看見這張照片,我感動之餘,也為當教師的影響力,再次感到戰戰兢兢。

1989年荷理活出了一齣廣受教師和學生愛戴的電影Dead Poets’ Society, 片中由Robin Williams飾演的Mr Keating, 是一個很有啟發能力的高中老師,有一天,他教授英國詩人Robert Herrick 的詩To the virgins, to make much of time, 他向學生解釋詩的精神就是carpe diem, 亦即Seize the day。Robin Williams 演繹得非常好,學生大為振奮,而這一堂課,亦是電影中經典的一幕。

1990/91年,我是這4B 班的班主任,兩年後他們便要面對中學會考,為了鼓勵他們努力,我找了機會把Seize the day 這語句和意念介紹給他們。其實當時的詳細情景,例如我是否把電影中這片段在堂上播放,我已經忘記了,但原來Seize the day 這句說話,這學生從此記着,而且一記就是27 年!

今天她在Facebook 上post 這張照片,好讓老師知道她一直記得當年老師在課堂說過的一句話。

我們當教師的,一年復一年的從事教學,有時也許會忘記某年對學生說過的一句說話,或做過的某件事,但原來有時候學生不會忘記。我們的一句話、一個眼神、一個舉動,原來都足以make or break 另外一個生命。就讓我們以更專業的態度對待我們的工作,為學生的生命make a difference.

As educators we can only stay hopeful

A FB friend asks how we can teach our students to be hopeful, when we are living in a system of exploitation, elitism, and utilitarianism.

These are the same questions that occupied my mind in my younger days. “What’s the point of trying hard while so many unjust and evil things are going on in society, day in and day out? What hope is there that I can change the world even in the smallest way? In fact, why bother about living a meaningful life when so many other people are hurting humanity in one way or another, and there is nothing I can do about it?”

There was a time when I was living in the doldrums – I had little interest in anything, and would just go through the motions day after day. But I was fortunate as for some unknown reason, this period of despair finally ran its course.

Here are my thoughts at the present stage of my life: The perfect world where there is only love and equality will never come. And it’s not even a battle between us (the good people) and them (the bad people). As long as there are human beings, there will be exploitation, hatred, inequality ..The problem lies in every one of us – our dark side, our ego, our prejudices …Remember “The Life of Pi”, “Animal Farm”…? And of course I myself am not exempt from that.

Under the circumstances, what can we do? We can wait until the world becomes perfect so that our effort will then become worthwhile. Or we can acknowledge the world’s endless imperfections, stay hopeful, and try our best.

As Jeff Bezos said: “In the end, we are our choices.”0429 Bezos

“The information below” vs “The below information”

I used to think that only Hong Kong people would say ‘the below information’, ‘the below form’, etc. (as opposed to ‘the information below’, ‘the form below’), until I saw ‘the below reference request’ in an email from an organisation in Britain two days ago. I studied the remainder of the email, and it was in perfect English. Hence, I could only conclude that even Brits (or at least this one) are beginning to use ‘below’ as an attributive adjective. I then googled the ‘below-before-noun’ usage. The result? Some native speakers can accept it. The majority still frown on it.

Well, if we can say both ‘the information above’ and ‘the above information’, then by logic, there is no reason why we can’t say ‘the below reference request’. We don’t even have to refer to how dictionaries label the word class of ‘below’ (e.g., preposition, adverb), as the word class of a word can always be extended as a result of popular use.

For now, I can only say that expressions like ‘the below reference’, ‘the below information’, ‘the below form’, etc., still sound unnatural to me. And then the dilemma for ESL teachers who see something like that in their students’ writing is: To correct or not to correct. ..

讚賞的威力

一位教師和我分享了家長的感謝信,她班中本來有一名學生英文聽力一般,經她鼓勵後,最近分數躍進,她趁機讚賞他,並請全班學生為他鼓掌;學生的母親後來知道了,寫了一封感謝信給她,而我這名學生也高興得和我分享。

這位家長也很有意思,今天每人都忙個不休,拿起筆來寫一封感謝信也是不簡單的工夫;況且,也會有家長認為這是教師的份內事,毋須道謝。但由這教師讚賞她的學生,以及家長讚賞這教師,都可以看到讚賞的威力。

中國人傳統吝嗇讃賞,什至有「不要讚壞了」的觀念,或者覺得人們應份如此。其實對人多加讚賞,不但令別人更努力,世界更美麗,而自己也會更快樂呢!