Technology and online teaching have been a hot topic amongst teachers. Are teachers ready to become influencers with the epidemic? PTU Executive Committee member Wong Mo-Yee has been teaching at primary schools for more than ten years. Rather than technology, she is concerned with her relationship with students. In these bleak times, she must care for her students more than ever. She sent hand-written letters along with disinfectant towels to the 29 students in her class, showing them her well wish.
Even the best online class would prove challenging for primary school students to watch for a long period of time at home. She understands that students are bored during class suspension and that it is important for them to know that their teacher still cares and thus listen to her. The epidemic is a test of the relationship between her and her students. As the old saying goes: one second on stage requires ten years of hard work off-stage. Wong has started early in building trust with her students.
Schools Unite to Fight Epidemic
Wong has only started her career when SARS broke out. The education sector was ill prepared for class suspension. She reminisces that students only had paper masks back then, which was not much help. It was easy to spot who was chitchatting in class by the look of damp masks. She is much better prepared this time. She had expected class would not resume on 3rd February even before the Chinese New Year holiday, so she asked students to take a few more books home from the library. She has also always habitually purchased and placed disinfectants in the classroom for students’ use.
It is no secret that schools lack masks, which is a major challenge for class resumption. When the principal handed each teacher a few masks, cheers filled the teachers’ room. After the Chinese New Year holiday, Wong distributed disinfectant towels to her colleagues in the office when she was on duty. Her colleagues responded by saying it made them even happier than receiving red packets.
She appraised the school for being very humane and understanding in the arrangement of work. Teachers take turns to be on duty. Other colleagues from the office and the IT department can also take turns to work from home.
Learning on Their Own is Challenging for Primary School Students
Does class suspension leave everyone a lot of free time? Wong says, “Of course not. Class suspends, but teaching does not. The learning mode nowadays is student-oriented. Teachers supplement teaching with activities, but class suspension makes any activities impossible.”
“We cannot assume students have learnt if we just upload videos online. Usually we are able to observe whether students understand in class, but now it has become one-sided.” She says that it takes a lot of effort for students to become self-disciplined in learning on their own. Some parents have even asked her to record voice messages to encourage students to go learn online and tick off their to-do lists one by one.
Support from parents is more needed than ever during class suspension. She has also extended her classroom reward scheme to encourage students who excel. Parents now replace her as the judge, so students can stay motivated.
In her opinion, the Education Bureau has provided too little support for online learning. “The government only shares links. Just like everyone else.” Primary school students are different from secondary school students. They do not have accounts on platforms like Google Classroom. Teachers’ options are very limited. She makes use of online teaching platforms for students to read, watch videos, and take tests. She holds that, “the focus of online teaching is students, not catching up with the syllabus. I am worried that students would be bored and lose their focus.” She has always recommended online platforms such as National Geographic Kids and Storyline Online to students to aid them in writing stories and reading in English. They have come in handy during class suspension.
Lessons are usually packed. Wong makes use of this chance to help students learn knowledge other than only those in books. She encourages students to express themselves using creative forms such as poems, comics, and riddles. Although she cannot meet with her students in person, she manages to infuse life into education by sharing with students the difficulties she faced when she purchased disinfectant products and masks.
Arrangement for Class Resumption
Wong has already got a head start in preparing for class resumption. She agrees with the PTU that TSA should be cancelled, as the progress of this year is different from the past. The data collected from TSA this year would have no value as reference. Moreover, she has proposed cancelling all other examinations than the internal assessment for Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) for Primary 5 students. This way, teachers can spend more time and efforts to help students to catch up with their learning instead of merely catching up with the syllabus for the sake of examinations. She has also contributed to the production of the RTHK programme for online homework help, which is currently broadcasting on RTHK31 at 4pm from Monday to Friday, in the hope of extending her help to other primary schools students during class suspension.