There is a forum of Native English Teachers (NET) in Hong Kong talking about our role in the Education system. One of the commentators broke the NET teachers into two possible roles: a “cute puppy mascot (doesn’t know much but awfully fun to play with), or like a work colleague with a respected skill set that they utilize to the best of their ability.”
In some ways, I fit in the ‘cute puppy’ area. Students learn best when they want to learn either by having fun or having what they are learning relates to how they live. Most of my lessons have lots of different activities to make the time move. They have games, role-playing, group work and other things to engage the students. The local teacher is either helping me, handling the discipline and a few have no purpose in the room. Where the difference comes is outside the classroom.
A lot of Hong Kong students don’t have the chance to talk enough in class, and there isn’t a lot of time outside of my lessons. I try to fill the gaps during the recesses, lunch breaks and after school where possible. Generally speaking, the lower form kids, loved it. The older kids hate it since their speaking is weaker as they don’t speak as much in class. They are more afraid of making mistakes.
I want my students to get better in every way. The Hong Kong Education system is about passing tests/exams to get into a better school. It meant moving away from the ‘cute puppy’ role and into the role of an educator, but it has been tough as the kids see me as fun. They have a hard time switching when I switch to the ‘educator role.’ It is where I need to maintain discipline and bring some focus where the students struggle. It is also where I get frustrated.
The activities are still task-based and try to engage the student’s interests. Keeping them on task when doing group and paired work is tough since they are not used to it in their other classes. Some teachers understand the value. They help guide this, but others can’t see the value in it and do it without the same enthusiasm.
I want the things we teach were more focused on helping students be more creative than testing them on knowledge. I wish they help the students be more reflective and more compassionate for the future. Some teachers understand this. It is where I become more of a colleague. When we co-plan, we plan ways to build these into the students and try to help the students go beyond the task.
For other teachers, it is all about getting the students to the next grade if they know the knowledge or not. This is usually done in a more disciplinary role and is challenging when I want the kids to be happy.