Last Saturday (June 30), the seminar on synthetic phonics which had taken me several months to organise finally took place. We were fortunate as the tropical cyclone number 8 was hoisted the night before, and there was a chance that the seminar had to be cancelled because of the typhoon.
When the seminar kicked off at ten o’clock on Saturday morning, the weather was still very fickle. I thanked the attendees by saying: “You have to be quite crazy about phonics to come to this seminar in this ghastly weather, but I’m confident that you won’t regret doing so.”
And indeed, the seminar turned out to be quite well received by the audience, who responded enthusiastically to the various presentations. Besides my introductory talk, there was experience sharing by Adeline Cheung of OUP(China), and teachers from two schools, namely Alliance Primary School (Kowloon Tong), and Buddhist Lam Bing Yim Memorial School (sponsored by the Hong Kong Buddhist Association). The success of the seminar resulted from the thorough preparation by the speakers who, because they had already done massive amounts of work in trying out synthetic phonics teaching, had a lot of special and interesting experience to share.
In the last few years, every time I organised a teachers’ seminar, I would always include a section for experience sharing by teachers. This was to complement the presentations by academics which tend to be theoretical, and more importantly, to inspire other teachers to give the teaching idea in question a try. I also believed that this was valuable professional development for the teachers doing the experience sharing.
This is why I was so elated when after the seminar, Karin Zhoc, one of the sharing teachers at the seminar, talked about how she experienced this experience:
A week ago, I had an experience sharing in teaching synthetic phonics with my colleagues in the seminar “Towards More Effective Phonics Teaching in the Primary School” in the CUHK. It was a fruitful experience which I have reflected upon our way of teaching Phonics and its effectiveness for our students through the preparation of the sharing.The seminar was well-received by the teachers,who responded quite enthusiastically. Once again, a million thanks to Paul for giving me and my colleagues a valuable opportunity to share our passion and satisfaction in teaching Phonics! Many thanks to my colleagues, Beverly, Charlotte and Shona, who have been so willing to contribute greatly to the success of the sharing. Special thanks to all of my supportive colleagues for coming to the seminar. Your presence meant a lot to us and revealed that we were all working together as a team. I am really proud of what our school has been doing in the development of synthetic Phonics teaching! I love APSKT.
I am so glad that on top of benefitting other teachers in Hong Kong, the experience sharing has bonded the teachers at Alliance Primary School (Kowloon Tong) even closer together!
I never give away a chance to give teachers a pat on the back. So I responded:
As I have said before, good teaching does not come from teachers following a formula or recipe. A method may be potentially effective (such as synthetic phonics), but for it to really work, we need teachers who care about good teaching and effective learning so much that they are willing to go the extra mile of planning, experimenting, adapting the method, producing teaching resources, keeping track of students’ learning, …I always say to people: If a method works, it’s because of the teachers. I’m very fortunate to have met a team of dedicated teachers at APSKT who are doing all the above, and a lot more. Their level of professionalism has greatly inspired me. And thank you Karin for your feedback. Organising the event had taken me quite a bit of time, but it’s encouraging to know that it has meant something to you and your colleagues.
When the seminar ended at 12:15 (no one left early although we over-ran!), I stayed in the auditorium to chat with a few teachers who had come to the seminar. And I remember saying to one of them: “When you come to this kind of professional development seminar, the biggest benefit may not be the actual content that you take home with you, but seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of other teachers. And this is enough to keep up your passion for the next several months.”