Live and let learn

Students and teachers alike have been deeply affected by the pandemic, which has caused nearly six months of school suspensions. The same can also be said for would-be teachers who have yet to start a formal job.

Students who are studying for a bachelor of education or postgraduate diploma in education must complete five to eight weeks of field experience and teaching practicum every academic year.

However, these requirements could not be fulfilled this year due to the suspension of schooling.

Moreover, the closures of schools has resulted in shorter semesters for primary and secondary schools, meaning teachers will be busy catching up with their teaching once school resumes and may not be able to arrange internships for pre-service teachers.

But students from the faculty of education at the University of Hong Kong had a plan.

The Live to Learn, Love to Serve campaign launched by the faculty’s School-University Partnerships Office, has set up an online practicum platform and various activities.

It provides students with teaching opportunities, which are crucial for student teachers to maintain momentum in their learning and to adapt their online teaching to changing contexts, the office said.

In some schools, pre-service teachers were allowed to teach online, assisted by school teachers. But insiders pointed out that there were still gaps between online and face-to-face teaching, such as failing to learn how to manage classroom order and gauge students’ reactions.

HKU student teachers remain positive, however. Through the campaign, teaching practice amid the pandemic has become more than just an experience that prepares them for future jobs – it has also become a way for them to contribute to the community.

The campaign was beneficial to many groups in Hong Kong’s education community, such as teachers from local and international schools, candidates for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination and primary school students.

“The student teachers’ work was widely adopted [in some of our partner schools],” said Promail Leung, director of SUP Office and Teacher Education and Learning Leadership lecturer.

“For example, the Stay Home Science Experiment: Primary School video series was originally developed so primary students could conduct safe and interesting experiments at home and sustain learning,” she said. “It was later adopted by teachers of general studies to help senior primary students learn science at schools.”

The campaign also provided additional teaching opportunities to the faculty’s students, as some principals were impressed by the student teachers’ work.

A local secondary school that participated in the Schools Online Teaching Support Programme, which is part of the campaign, received support from student teachers while preparing online teaching materials.

The school eventually decided to welcome HKU pre-service teachers doing their teaching practicum during the upcoming academic year, instead of only alumni.

The faculty’s student teachers found their participation in the activities rewarding and meaningful, and reported that their teaching skills were strengthened, as well as a sense of satisfaction from helping others.

Many of the student teachers inspired participants in the activities.

For example, after joining the Unleash Your Creativity at Home workshop, a young student was so impressed that he asked the student teachers how to join the faculty and become a teacher when he grew up.

A Lin Goodwin, dean of the faculty of education at HKU, praised the student teachers for demonstrating strength of character and dedication to the profession by serving students and supporting mentor teachers despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am impressed by their enthusiastic embrace of e-learning and the many creative lessons, activities and materials they have developed to enrich the learning of children and youth in Hong Kong,” she said.

Launched in late April, the campaign had more than 170 student teachers participating and nearly 1,400 people benefitting by the time it concluded in late August. Aimed at broadening and deepening its relationships with schools through teaching practice, professional events and activities for mentor-teachers, the SUP office welcomes new partner schools to join.

(This article was published at The Standard on September 15, 2020: Education: Live and let learn )

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