These connections are possible, because we are teachers

Yesterday morning while I was presenting certificates and awards to the graduating students at Bishop Ford Memorial School on the stage, Miss Winnie was watching intently from among the audience. She had been their teacher and was content to see her students reach this milestone of their education.

About 2 months ago on April 29, I attended Miss Winnie’s wedding at Chung Chi Chapel on CUHK campus. I had been Miss Winnie’s PGDE teacher, and was content to see her reach this milestone of her life.

Back in 2003, one day while I was thumbing through the timetables of the teachers on the PGDE programme, in preparation for the upcoming Teaching Practice visits, I saw that Miss Winnie was a teacher at Bishop Ford Memorial School, the school that I went to as a primary kid.

The next week, when I saw Miss Winnie in class, I said proudly to her, “Winnie, did you know that I went to Bishop Ford Memorial School as a student many years ago?”

Miss Winnie replied, even more proudly, “Paul, did you know that I also went to this school as a student some years ago?”

All these miraculous connections are made possible, because we are teachers.

 

Character and passion for teaching

Yesterday, I met up for lunch with a former education student, Jenny. Jenny was as exuberant as ever. When I asked her how she managed to keep up her passion for teaching after all these years, she replied, without a moment of thought, “As long as it is something that students will benefit from, I will totally pour myself into it.”

Jenny has taught for some years already, but she is even more zesty than a first-year teacher. She has inexhaustible energy for her work. She possesses a wide array of professional competencies, and has taken on a variety of curriculum leadership roles, but she will jump at the first opportunity to try something new. On top of serving her own school, she is now part of a Hong Kong University’s project providing school-based support for teachers teaching non-Chinese-speaking students.

When I probed further and asked her what gave her all that drive, she attributed it to her own character. I was not totally content with this answer, which is a purely innate quality. I wanted to look for some generalisable factors that can be applied in other work contexts and across people whatever their character. So I pushed Jenny to think harder. At last, Jenny came up with this example. If after going through some school-based planning with teachers, she sees that the teaching design works well in the classroom so that the students learn happily and effectively, this will give her a great sense of satisfaction.

This indirectly supports the current view of many writers on motivation who highlight 3 external factors that give people drive: autonomy (having the space to decide on how to go about one’s work); mastery (the possibility to get better and better at what one is doing); and purpose (being able to see the meaning of one’s work). For me, Jenny’s example is saying that if on top of these factors, you also have the right character – that will give you the lifelong passion.