My path to becoming the best teacher I can be

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During the exchange semester, Monica (centre) joined a tour to northern Finland.

When choosing an academic programme to enrol in, most people seek advice from teachers, guidance counsellors, parents and friends. However, it is also important to take due account of their individual interests, what they most enjoy doing, and what they want to know more about. On the path of self-discovery, some find their greatest interest and passion is to pass on the knowledge they have acquired to others by becoming a teacher.

Monica Wong Yin-ping recently completed her Bachelor of Education (Honours) (English Language) degree at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK). She is both excited and nervous about starting her new job as a secondary school teacher, but she is also well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead

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Overseas teaching and learning experience

Throughout her studies at EdUHK, Monica had many opportunities to observe experienced teachers, prepare lessons, and run her own classes. As a teacher-to-be, she also worked hard to achieve a high level of language proficiency and learn the skills needed to transfer that knowledge to her pupils.  

During her programme’s required overseas immersion element, Monica had the opportunity to live with a Canadian family, attend classes at York University in Toronto, and teach ESL students in a secondary school.  Being immersed in Canadian culture, she also learned the various classroom management strategies needed to handle different disciplinary issues.

In addition, she did an optional exchange programme in Finland during Year 2, giving her exposure to a culture that not many Hongkongers have a chance to experience. 

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Basic education in Finland entails compulsory and optional languages, with nearly 80 per cent of students learning two languages. According to statistics by the Finnish National Agency for Education, English is the most common compulsory language.

“Finland’s educational system is world-renowned, and I wanted to go to a country where English is taught as a foreign language,” Monica says. “The classes I attended were conducted in small groups, so each of us had opportunities to speak and share our thoughts and opinions.”

Thanks to these experiences, Monica was able to develop new ways of looking at things and noticed both differences and similarities with the teaching practices in Hong Kong. 

“Many people believe the best way to learn English is to create an environment in which the mother-tongue language is prohibited,” she says. “I thought that as well because that’s the way I learnt English. However, this way of learning sometimes disappointed me because I couldn’t really connect with the teachers in the English lessons.” 

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“However, teachers in Finland believe children can master another language better if they use Finnish as the language of instruction during lessons. In a primary English lesson I observed, the teachers gave pupils a revision task which was a translation exercise.” 

“Even though students’ exposure to English can be maximised in an ‘English only’ environment, we should not neglect the fact that students are actually bilingual. This inspired me to look for effective ways to use the students’ mother tongue to assist learning.” 

Inspiration from learning

During her teaching practice at a couple of secondary schools in Hong Kong, Monica encouraged class participation by incorporating special topics of interest, such as news about Korean pop stars, into her lessons. Drawing on her experience in Finland, she also encouraged students to use English more in their daily lives by reading signs, menus and magazines, and watching news and films on TV. 

Monica has begun teaching full-time at a secondary school this term and is confident that her studies at EdUHK have prepared her well for her career. The coursework has provided a strong foundation, while her experiences in Canada, Finland and during teaching practice have helped in developing her own style of teaching. 

“All students are different, so I am always looking for different ways to help them learn,” she says. “That means I am always learning too.”

Edited by John Cremer