Well begun is half done

The fast food restaurant near my home has recently reopened after two months of renovation, and has initiated a new tray return system. (Incidentally, I’m in full support of the tray return system, but in this regard, HK is lagging far behind other major countries in Southeast Asia such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.) From my observation, at the moment, about 30% of the customers are complying with that request. But compared with the previous situation, this rate of tray return is not bad for a start. It is likely that more and more customers will follow suit when they notice the new practice and see other customers doing it.

This reminds me that in the school setting, the beginning of the new academic year is the best timing to introduce routines and regulations, before students’ bad habits set in. Teachers who lay out their expectations, regulations, and requirements clearly and take a bit of time to enforce them, and train the students to act accordingly, will be saving themselves a lot of troubles later.

I remember visiting a primary school a few times for lesson observations and finding the children in all the classes I observed responding to the teachers naturally and spontaneously in English. This is not an English-medium primary school, so I asked the teachers how they accomplished that and they told me their practice. When the new P1 children start their first day at their school in September, the English teachers will conduct their English lessons entirely in English. (This of course requires a high level of teacher competence in modifying their English to suit the students’ level.) They also require the children to respond in English only during English lessons. Of course, initially some children may have difficulty doing that. The teachers will guide and help them tactfully, all the while insisting on English only. It takes less than a month for the students to get fully accustomed to speaking English only during English lessons. For the rest of the P1 year, as well as in all the grade levels from P2 to P6, the teachers never have to take a second to remind, entice, or force, the students to speak English in class.

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