Interview with Mrs Claire Cheung
Helena Chan and Katherine Wong of the Editorial Subcommittee met with Mrs. Clare Cheung of DGJS on June 23 2005 at KCC.
After a light lunch and while enjoying their cup of coffee or tea in the cozy restaurant, the interview started with Mrs. Cheung's brief account of her career at DGJS so far.
Mrs. Cheung has taught in DGJS for thirty years since she graduated from Sir Robert Black College of Education in 1973. The subjects she taught included Mathematics and English. Currently, she is teaching one subject i.e. Mathematics, and is a Class Teacher of Primary One. During her long career as a Subject Teacher and Class Teacher, she has attended a wide range of in-service training courses and workshops on primary education. She considers the learning process to have been beneficial to her career especially when faced with the ever increasing high expectations on the quality of teaching and education in Hong Kong during the past thirty years.
One of her memorable incidents whilst teaching mathematics to primary school students during the late 70s and in the 80s, was that they liked to count their fingers when doing addition or subtraction. She noticed that this is not the trend nowadays. The primary school students are now more bilingual and can pick up 'English' mathematics very quickly. There are also teaching materials and other computerized teaching aids to facilitate classroom teaching and to build up the learning atmosphere. While talking about this Helena remembers when the primary one students learn shapes and colour factors in the classroom, there used to be a less sophisticated teaching aid, i.e. those blocks of different shapes and colors inside the big gray box which are just as effective to catch the attention of children!).
Other than teaching school subjects, Mrs. Cheung has been a Brownie pack guider for "so long she cannot recall when she started". She has been fully responsible for the pack's activities, and has nurtured it to grow from one Brownie Pack to two (with a total of 48 Brownies). Compared with the Brownies in the past, the girls' nowadays especially enjoy the learning process and the sense of recognition for their achievements during badge assessment. Mrs. Cheung finds that the 'pow-wow' (the ring that Brownies form at the beginning of meetings) is an innovative and fun way to teach the Brownies, and that as a Brownie guider, she is able to teach them skills which enhance their personal growth and independence (such as how to fold socks and wash clothes - things that they may not have the opportunity to do at home).
Compared with students in the past decades, even though the workload is heavier, she finds that primary school students have become more outgoing and are able to take the initiative to approach teachers more directly. She would advise modern day students to raise questions to teachers in class and to take the initiative to do additional tasks during their spare time (i.e. those tasks that are already uploaded in the DGJS intranet).
Given the abundance of variety of after school activities that are being offered to students, how is it possible then to help the children to focus? "Teaching is all about motivation, and then we need to think about the development of the concept." This is something not only teachers, but parents should consider. Children nowadays are capable of excelling in a diversity of tasks, but as parents, we must remember not to make a career out of our children's grades. When in doubt, discuss with teachers - "I am very happy when parents want to see me, and as teachers, we are always available". That is why she considers it vital for parents to have a direct relationship with the teacher, so that they learn about their child's progress from the most accurate source. She expects that DGJS students will learn to be self-confident and independent so that they are equipped with good learning attitude and skills as they move on to secondary school, and beyond their teenage years.
Her long career in DGJS has allowed her to witness many changes, especially the physical appearance of the junior school. She remembers well the old junior hall that was "a beautiful structure on its own, the silhouette appears very different when compared with the new hall that is embedded within the new building; the many trees behind the old servants' quarters, especially the guava trees; the old staff room, and the old chairs that snagged a few pairs of stockings each day, these are all fond memories of the old school ground" (Helena mused that she remembers vividly Mrs. Cheung having been the first to introduce to us Scholl exercise sandals by having worn them to classes, which in fact, started a trend in girls from that era that lingers on till today.)
Having taught in DGJS for such a long time, Mrs. Cheung notices that not only the girls, but also the teachers having a strong sense of belonging (the one disadvantage being the desire to arrive early and leave late). This is especially true when she has past students coming back for a visit, or simply calling out to her on the streets. She has become close friends with other teachers who have also taught in DGJS for a long period of time, and she treasures the moments shared with them, like all girlfriends do..