Is this work meaningful to me?

The other day my daughter asked me to borrow the book “How will you measure your life” from CUHK library for her. I gladly complied with her request. I had actually read the book myself earlier on, and before I met her again and handed the book to her, I flipped through the book again to see if there were any useful reminders for myself. And then without warning I found a short paragraph which is excellent stuff to use with this year’s part-time PGDE (Secondary) students when I meet them again this Thursday.

Some of the people in this group are beginning teachers; others are working as teaching assistants in a secondary school setting. As they start their PGDE, I want them to seriously reflect on these questions:

– Do I really want to become an English teacher?
– In fact, do I really want to become a teacher?
– What are the reasons for me to go into teaching?
– What are my personal values, strengths, attitudes, etc., that will provide me with a good chance of being able to stand up to the stress of teaching today, so that in the end, I will find this job rewarding, and will not regret having entered the teaching profession ten years later?

In this book, Clayton M. Christensen, veteran professor at Harvard Business School, shares his experience in finding happiness and fulfilment in his academic career, and in his relationships with his family and other people. The paragraph I’m going to share with the PGDE students this Thursday comes from Chapter 2, “What makes us tick”, in which he offers a list of questions to help younger people decide whether a job is a good match for them. The questions they need to ask themselves are:

“Is this work meaningful to me? Is this job going to give me a chance to develop? Am I going to learn new things? Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? Am I going to be given responsibility?” Christensen asserts: “These are the things that will truly motivate you. Once you get this right, the more measurable aspects of your job will fade in importance.”



What if we can’t feel proud of ourselves as teachers?

As teachers, we want to be proud of ourselves and our work. But what if for one reason or another, we’re not able to derive that sense of pride from our work?

This is the question posed by one of the teachers at the sharing seminars commemorating the 20th anniversary of CUHK’s undergraduate English Language Education programme yesterday. The teacher was referring to the common scenario today where, even though we will strive to be passionate and professional, given teachers’ huge workload today, we are often unable to do the best job we can. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to still feel proud of ourselves. One example he cited is lesson planning. We know we can deliver an exemplary lesson, given our professional knowledge, experience, and creativity, but time for thorough lesson planning is a luxury that few teachers can afford today. Sometimes, we may walk into the classroom only half prepared. As a result, at the end of the lesson, we know deep down that the lesson was not our best performance. We know we could have done better. We’re unable to feel proud.

It was such a thought-provoking question that I continued to mull over it after the event. Why do we teachers need to feel proud of our work? What should we do if most of the time we’re not able to obtain that sense of pride?

These are deep philosophical and psychological questions to which I don’t have quick answers. But while contemplating the questions, I suddenly thought of those teachers who are working with struggling, low-motivation, at-risk, students day in and day out. Do they, and can they, feel proud of their work?

Then, a thought came to mind: If we’re not able to feel proud because of the result (great lesson after great lesson; students passing exams with flying colours), can we be proud of the effort that we have made in our work? Is this how teachers at low-band schools keep up their passion year after year?

To go back to that seminar, actually the presenting teachers had the following experience to share:

– Accept that we have only 24 hours in a day;
– Accept that we need to rest;
– Accept that we are human beings;
– Accept that we have vulnerable moments.

These are good reminders for teachers who are passionate and professional. We have all heard the advice that as much as we should strive to do our best work, we should also remember to be nice to ourselves. And good teachers particularly need to!

e-Learning and teachers’ lifelong professional development

Although I said I must have been the oldest guy in the room yesterday when I attended the Apple workshop, there were actually quite a few other middle-aged teacher participants. And there were three former students who were also attending the event and they wondered why I was there.

These days, we often talk of lifelong learning. For teachers, e-learning is a fantastic channel for lifelong learning and continuing professional development. The field is developing so speedily that simply catching up is already a colossal challenge. And then the prospects for classroom application are limitless – it’s not the technology, it’s your creative capacity for applying e-learning in your teaching. Because of that, if you’re keen about e-learning, you won’t stagnate as a teacher.

And that’s what I see in teachers who are e-learning fanatics. They are always passionate, creative, energetic, and above all, fun-loving.

Living offline for one day

I had exhausted the mobile data under my current monthly plan, and the new monthly allowance wouldn’t start until the day after tomorrow. So I looked up different ways to top up or buy additional data usage. But then a thought suddenly crossed my mind. “What don’t I try living offline for one day?”

So tomorrow when I’m out and about without Internet connection, what will happen to me? Will I become fidgety? Will I go crazy? Or will I rediscover the meaning of life, and my existence? 

Schools that teachers enjoy working for

What makes a teacher enjoy working for her serving school?
I have a former student who has just finished her second year of teaching. From her FB posts, I could see that she had been quite stretched. Yet, recently when I asked her how she had been coping, she affirmed that she enjoys working for her serving school. Well, honestly, I have not heard many teachers making that claim, so I invited her to list out the factors that made her love working for her serving school. Here is her list:
– I can really teach students here.
– The school really emphasises teaching and learning.
– The teachers care about the students’ needs.
– New teachers are given chances to try new things.
– I feel encouraged and loved.
Food for thought for school leaders.


今天下午偶然在香港電台精靈1點聽到醫護人員講述某護士同事的故事,該護士發現住院身患重病的婆婆總是满懷心事,探問後知道她明白自己來日無多,很掛念正在獄中的兒子。 這護士毋須這樣做,但她卻特別聯絡懲教處,請求他們作出特别安排,讓這兒子可以到醫院探訪重病中的婆婆,懲教處沒有立即答覆。