Teaching can be enjoyable

A most uplifting Friday morning as I observed an exemplary lesson which made superb use of group work for conducting reading comprehension tasks. This magnificent outcome didn’t just happen by chance. It was the result of sufficient prior group work training for the students, and ingenious planning of the group activities. The students were deeply engaged throughout, learning effectively and joyfully.

Two thoughts came to mind after the lesson. First, for teachers who are able to bring about meaningful learning, teaching is a truly professional job, because they need specialist knowledge and skills, creativity, and judgment. Second, if you’re able to pull off great lessons in the classroom and see that your students are learning eagerly and happily, teaching is one of the most enjoyable activities in the world.

 

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Boy students vs Girl students

我一直以為女教師較喜歡教女學生,因為女孩子較聽話易教,男孩子則較懶散、善忘、restless, 直至最近在不同場合和幾位女教師閒談,發現也有女教師比較喜歡教男生的,我有點詫異,加以追問; 她們便說出一連串男孩子的優點,好教的地方。

有趣的是,作為男性的我,卻沒有察覺學生時代的自己或我的男同學有這樣的優點!聽着她們稱讚男學生,我竟然覺得有點飄飄然,像與有榮焉。當然教男孩子是要多下心思,因他們不像女孩子般聽話,但這也是挑戰。最經典的例當然就是林浣心校長,做了女校校長多年後毅然轉到男校當校長,接受這挑戰。

今年我的pgde班男學員超過三分之一,這以英文組來說是很罕見的,但classroom dynamics 完全不同,課室多了很多笑聲,全組也變得super~energetic, 雖然間中我要花多點氣力把他們冷静下來。

教書vs教人

前兩天談到九月份對教師來說如何難捱,昨天一位教小學的舊學生卻說她每天都渴望回校工作! 她的秘密是什麼?
 
「瘋狂的九月無疑使我很疲累,但和學生關係與日俱僧,教我天天都渴望上班。」
 
「還有,今天學生在聽講座時,突然捉著我的手說:「我喜歡和你吃飯。」」
 
這就是教書和教人的分別。

Teachers and altruism

Over dinner tonight, I asked Principal Lam what gave her all that infinite passion for education. Among her reflection and explication, the following remark stood out:

“When I see that I can make a difference in my students’ lives, it gives me a great sense of reward.”

In a world which is becoming more and more materialistic and individualistic, it is tempting for people, whatever endeavour they embark on, to ask: “What’s in it for me?” But I do believe that education, in its truest sense, requires its practitioners to be altruistic to some extent. We become teachers because we want to do good, however small, to others.

But this is the exact question that has been puzzling me for years. As a teacher educator, besides training education students with the pedagogy, say in my case, TESOL methodology, what can I do to nurture in teachers a spirit of service and commitment? For what is education if we have no intention of making a difference in our students’ lives?

難得的教育契機(teachable moment)

上星期六的教育文憑畢業禮,充滿有趣和有啟發性的故事。先是林浣心校長說了幾段當教師和校長的親身遭遇,到畢業生代表Kacy Lok 致詞時,也說了一個作為新教師她剛經歷的故事,而碰巧這幾個故事都有相同的信息,就是當學生出現異常的舉動時,與其立即責罰,我們如果加點耐性,先嘗試了解學生背後的處境或想法,這些事件可能轉化為難得的教育契機(teachable moment)呢!

以下是Kacy的故事

「… 正如林浣心校長說,學生是一本鮮蹦活跳的書,有時候在學生身上都能夠有新的得著,例如他們天馬行空的創意想法,能刺激我的思考,令我每一天都很享受教與被教的過程。我最近就在孩子身上學習到,在他們犯錯後,不要立刻下判斷,要先了解事情發生的始末。我任職的學校,上星期就發生了一件事。一位女同學在家裡發現了一條壁虎爬到她的食物盒裡,她竟然立刻將蓋子蓋上,然後帶回校,在自己的課室裡釋放,害得同學們不斷大聲尖叫!校長最後找出這位女同學,經深入了解後發現原來同學是有經過思考才將壁虎帶回校,大家猜猜為什麼她要這樣做?
原來我任職的學校位於半山,很多蚊子出沒,同學希望這條壁虎能為學校食蚊,令同學不會經常被蚊叮,但沒有預想會嚇到其他人,她的出發點其實是有愛心的表現,現在她已經知錯,也願意接受應有的懲罰。這件事令我學會不要胡亂下判斷,應用多角度了解事情發生的始末。」

多年的學校生活,學生日後記得的,往往就是這些我們也許以為是瑣碎的「小事」。有一天,他犯了錯,或說了不該說的話, 以為老師會立即加以處罰,但想不到老師卻先譲他說出他的想法,背後的原因……他突然明白,前天晚上當小兒子發脾氣的時候,他為何先問問小兒子是否擔心做不完功課……

Seek first to understand. (Stephen Covey)

對語文的輕率態度

傳媒人方健儀不是以英文為專業,但是今天也在Skypost 慨嘆收到公函中大量的英語錯誤:
– ‘wine tasting’ written as ‘wine testing’;
– ‘late October’ written as ‘last October’:
– “Our client will be invite a artist together with you. If you can offering a special rate to us is good:
– 不懂禮貌的”Can you reply today?”

我覺得除了語文水平,對語文的輕率態度也有關吧。灣仔室內街市入口,左邊的告示是No dogs allowed; 右邊是No dogs allow, 兩者相隔只有數呎,就算不懂得當中的文法,也會注意到兩者不同吧;但是負責人(食環署)就是闊佬懶理。

https://skypost.ulifestyle.com.hk/…/%E5%9A%87%E5%A3%9E%E4%B…

About time to stop ‘teaching’ and start students learning

A teacher shared with me how she used a language awareness approach in guiding her students to learn the regular vs irregular forms of past tense verbs, instead of telling and explaining the rules to the students. I have been advocating this approach for years as (a) this engages students on a deeper level, and (b) this, in the long run, nurtures students as self-directed learners.

But this approach requires that teachers adopt a different role in the classroom. They have to reduce their role as an authority or the source of knowledge, and instead take on the role of a mentor, motivator, supporter, organiser, etc. for students’ learning. Honestly, not every teacher is comfortable with that change of identity.

In the era of information technology, if we simply wish to know the rules for forming past tense verbs, we can find the answer from the Internet in no more than 2 minutes. Gone are the days when teachers are simply providers of knowledge. Teaching needs to take on a different meaning in the 21st century.