sentiments in the classroom

It happened again last night.

In the first semester, during one class session with the MA students who took my CALL course, I couldn’t hold back my tears when I was playing a digital story produced by a former student, Serena Kwok. In the story of the white michelia, Serena talked of how little attention people paid to an old, poor, man quietly selling white michelia in Central, an area which is proliferated with luxury stores and designer labels. Serena called for us to be more caring to the underprivileged in society: “We may not be able to do great things; but we can all do small things, with great love.” When the story came to this line, tears came to my eyes, and when the video finished, I had to take several seconds to compose myself. Afterwards, I reminded myself that I should be more ‘prepared’ when I showed something with emotion again in class in the future.

Last night, for another course, I finished the session by showing the last scene from the movie Music of the Heart, the true story of how a housewife with no teacher training became a dedicated expert teacher after 10 years of teaching underprivileged children. When Roberta started, she had no classroom management skills, and her lessons were in total chaos. But 10 years later, Roberta had mastered all the classroom skills, and her lessons were both substantial and joyful. I told my students before they started viewing: “When there is order and discipline, there will be genuine and meaningful interaction between teacher and students, and the classroom will become one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Then I played that final scene from the movie. I must have viewed it more than 5 times myself before, and yet, last night, when the scene faded out with contemplative music, again I felt a lump in my throat, and I couldn’t speak for the next 10 seconds.

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