Monday, 14 March 2011

Final thoughts

What started as a team of five two weeks ago ended with just Seb and I teaching the final day of workshops on Saturday. Despite running the same workshop 18 times over the course of the trip, the engaging and keen students made even the very last of these sessions interesting and enjoyable. As we left the final school on Saturday evening, we reflected with some pride on having taught nearly 500 students and100 teachers, which we hope will have had some kind of positive impact on debating and education more generally in Hong Kong.

Our final few days saw a few more sight seeing opportunities - a partic
ular highlight was on our final teaching day, when our friend from the Education Bureau took us to lunch and to visit a local temple near one of the schools. The Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the most famous shrines in Hong Kong, and is famed for answered prayers. It was, like the one in Macau, very beautiful, and it was extremely interesting to observe some of the Taoist traditions - including fortune telling from broken sticks, and throwing coins onto the back of a tortoise for good luck (an observation process enhanced by the presence of our guide who could offer both cultural and linguistic translations!). We enjoyed the temple's lovely gardens which, like everywhere else in Hong Kong, were nestled between tall buildings and mountain

Our lunch was also extremely interesting in itself. As it was near the temple, many of the visitors like to abstain from meat after visiting the holy site, and so the the restaurant was vegetarian. What was especially impressive though, was the extent to which they managed to imitate meat - our "chicken" and "shark fins" dishes were incredibly similar to the real thing, to the extent we had to double and triple check that we didn't have different understandings of the word 'vegetarian', to be sure Seb could partake! I'm not sure I want to know how they made such meat-like vegetarian dishes, but it tasted pretty good!

I also got to take the time after we had finished teaching to make a final few tourists stops - including Lantau Island's very impressive Big Buddah, offering great views of the Island, and a relaxing afternoon in Chi Lin Nunnery and gardens. Hong Kong is a wonderfully diverse, exciting and beautiful place, and I feel lucky to have got to spend some time exploring it.

The trip has been a great experiences - many thanks to the rest of the delegation, HK Education Bureau, ESU London and ESU HK (with particular thanks to Verner, Gillian and Venni for their excellent welcome).


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A reflection upon leaving

Unfortunately due to work commitments I needed to fly home early, leaving what once was 5 depleted to 3!

My 10 or so days in Hong Kong were fantastic - the city, the kids, the teachers and the great company. This week saw us back to teaching and encountering such a variety in the classes we met. However one thing was true across the board, everyone we met were extremely nice and could not be more helpful.

While enjoying all of the classes, I really liked the teachers classes as they were slightly different to the rest. We not only had to explain and teach debating but try and convey the best method by which to teach. I certainly learned a lot and and I hope they did too.

Teaching the same lesson plan every day I thought would get frustrating, however with the wide range of abilities and strengths that we met each class was like new. That was so refreshing and kept us on our feet.

As for our social time - we had great fun, seeing the sights, visiting Macau and eating out! Im not the easiest to go for dinner with so I appreciate the others putting up with me. Our hosts at the ESU Hong Kong, particularly Verner, could not have done more for us, including taking us out twice for dinner. It was very much appreciated.

It can be nerve racking going to a foreign place with no one you know well for nearly two weeks, but not so with this group of coaches. I learned so much from them all and I think not only did we work great as a team in the classroom - I think we really got on well, which was great. Id happily spend another 2 weeks teaching with them! So thanks, Roopi, Jagdish, Seb and Mary (the boss!).

So farewell Hong Kong. Until next time!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Days 6, 7 & 8

Our week continued with more workshops for both students and teacher. We're all learning a lot from each other,having now seen each other teach lots of times, which is great. The biggest challenge can often be the wide range of English ability in any given group of students - each session has students of different ages and from different schools. Only a limited number of schools in Hong Kong teach primarily in the medium of English. We've quickly learnt to alter our session according to the group, and they have all been able to deliver a speech in the debate we do with them at the end which is great to see.

We had full days teaching on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was our free day, a
nd we used it to head to Macau. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a 'special administrative region' of China, and is about an hour away on the Ferry. We headed first to the Ruins of St Paul's, the ruins of a 16th Century Cathedral and College. On top of a hill overlooking Macau, and packed with tourists, both the view and atmosphere were great. After trying some Portuguese egg tarts (highly recommended!) we headed through the bustling of the town centre. Up until 1999 Macau was a Portuguese Colony, and the squares and streets feel very European in style. We then headed to the A-Ma Temple, one of the oldest Taoist temples in Macau, built in 1488, dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fisherman. It was extremely beautiful, and with numerous shrines and incense it also smelt very nice! Our final stop - in contrast to the spiritual, beautiful and calm temple - was one of the many Casinos in Macau. It was, as expected, large opulent and busy!

After getting the ferry back to Hong Kong, we had an Indian meal in a local restaurant - Jagdish was able to provide excellent advice, which proved very successful! We ended what had been a very good day with a reflexology foot massage from one of the numerous and cheap massage salons around the Soho/Mid-levels area. We are all now relaxed, rested, and ready for another week of teaching!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Days 4 & 5

On Wednesday, we had the first of our four workshops with teachers. It seemed to go really well and we got some very positive feedback. It was fun getting the chance to pass on techniques that hopefully will be used long after we leave Hong Kong as well as having the opportunity to learn tons from the teachers there about cultural and educational differences between classrooms in the UK and HK.

In the afternoon, we went to the New Territories to teach students there. We followed this up with a trip to a Korean burger place in Tsim Sha Tsui (leaving the Irish restaurant we passed for another night).

We had Thursday morning free and Eoin, Mary,
Roopi and Jagdish were able to go and see the peak. In the afternoon, we taught another lesson - I think we're really getting into a good rhythm. After the lesson, we saw "A Symphony of Lights" which really is a must see for anyone visiting HK - picture the entire skyline flashing in neon colors to some cool tunes. We top
ped this off with dinner in a night market before getting to bed for an early start tomorrow!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Days 2 & 3

Day 2 and 3 saw us teaching our first class along with adventures around the MTR subway system.

Mary had done a lot of the prep work in preparing the lesson plan and we had spent a good deal of time chatting about it and modifying it and now we just had to see if it work work in front of a class.

Being honest, I was quite nervous before the first class. The squad were still getting to know each other and I had no idea about how the students would respond to us. It was difficult to know if we were getting through to our first group as they seamed unwilling to answer and participate. As I spoke to them and asked questions of them, I was thinking to myself "Have we gotten too complicated?" or "did we explain this right?" However whatever shyness the students had at engaging in questions was lost when it came to a debate about school uniforms. They all seamed to relish the opportunity to speak their minds themselves and the group I had specifically really had seamed to grasp ideas such as correct definitions and statement, explanation, example. They were also well adept at picking out rebuttal and trying to prove that their classmates were wrong!

It was a real relief to know that we had in many ways communicated effectively (after all thats what we are here to teach!) and a quick revision of the lesson plan I think helped us emphasize more important aspects in the time allowed. This reflected better on our Day 3 class - who engaged more and gave us even better speeches in the final debate.

Tomorrow we attempt to show teachers how useful debate is in the classroom. Trying to teach people who teach for a living should be interesting!


Sunday, 27 February 2011

Arrival weekend

After a fairly long flight overnight for the British contingent, and much shorter one for the ESU Malaysian contingent, we all arrived safely in Hong Kong late afternoon on Saturday. After crashing for a while, we headed out to check out the local area. We had a dinner in a nice Thai restaurant, and then wandered around the Mid-levels/Central area that is close to our hotel. Our walk down the steep hills of Hong Kong was much easier on the way back thanks to the Central-Mid-levels escalators, the largest outdoor covered escalator system in the world (covering over 800 meters of hilly Hong Kong Island). It was an exciting and vibrant area, and Hong Kong already seems to have so much to offer!

Sunday saw us meet Verner, our contact at ESU HK and the trip. We took a ferry with him out to Discovery Bay, an area of Lantau Island (the largest Island in Hong Kong). Discovery Bay is a beautiful area, set amongst the striking Hills of the Island, and with a view to nearby Islands out to sea. It is also all the very peaceful due to the ban on private cars in the area, with only golf buggys and the extensive bus network allowed on the roads. We went for a great meal with Verner and his wife Gillian at a beautiful club on the Island, overlooking
the sea. This gave us a chance to talk through our workshop programme with Verner. We are going to be teaching groups of students from different schools across Hong Kong every evening, and some mornings will also be taking groups of teachers through a workshop on how to use debating in the classroom. After prepping together back at the hotel, we're looking forward to getting stuck in to our first session tomorrow afternoon!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Welcome to the blog!

Welcome to the blog for ESU's Hong Kong delegation!

The tour will run from 25 February to 13 March 2011, and is run in conjunction with the ESU HK and the Hong Kong Education Bureau. We will be teaching school students across Hong Kong, as well as running sessions aimed at teachers.

Tour members for the 2011 squad will be Eoin Kilkenny, Sebastian Osbourn and Mary Nugent, along with Jagdish Bhain and Roopi Lakhiani from ESU Malaysia. We'll try to update this regularly with our exciting experiences!