News & Events

Spreading Love across Borders – Teaching Team of SL Subject ELC2S02

This article was originally published in Teachers’ Interview of the 6th issue of the Service-Learning Newsletter: http://sl.polyu.edu.hk/download/SLNewsletter_Issue6.pdf.

How can we improve student’s learning? That’s the question every educator asks. Different teachers may have different answers to this question, but to Anna and her team, the answer may lie in Service-Learning (SL).

The Teaching Team
Anna Ho
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  • senior lecturer at the English Language Centre (ELC)
  • has been teaching at PolyU for more than 10 years
  • strong interest and ample experience in teacher education on the Chinese Mainland
  • subject leader of the service-learning (SL) subject “ELC2S02 Serving the Community through Teaching English”*

James Evans
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  • language instructor at ELC
  • has been teaching the SL subject “ELC2S02 Serving the Community through Teaching English”
  • mainly involved in local SL projects

Dawn Gillis
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  • language instructor at ELC
  • recently joined the teaching ream of SL subject “ELC2S02 Serving the Community through Teaching English”
  • mainly involved in Chinese Mainland SL projects 

The Origin of the Service Journey
The story started when Anna was a university student and served as a teacher assistant for her supervisor’s service project, which provided support to English subject teachers in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province. Anna, as a university student, felt that she gained a lot from the experience. She gained greater confidence and has developed better leadership skills and a greater awareness of the development of the Chinese Mainland after serving on this project. “The knowledge learnt from books or lectures is important, but the surprises I encountered, the experience I gained, and the difficulties I overcame, are something I have cherished for my whole life”, said Anna. She promised herself that she would give such learning opportunities to her students when she teaches, and she has succeeded.
This strong belief has driven Anna to organize community services for students for over 10 years at PolyU. Taking the opportunity that PolyU strongly encourages SL, Anna repackaged her service projects into an SL subject “ELC2S01 Advancing English Oral Presentation Skills through Teaching”, which has now been retitled as “ELC2S02 Serving the Community through Teaching English”. The subject was piloted in 2011/12 and was officially offered in 2012/13. The subject has been running for 4 years. It now renders service both in Hong Kong and Chinese Mainland. Every year Anna’s students serve around 100 Hong Kong and 1,000 Chinese Mainland children.

Learning Can Take Place Anywhere Anytime
Anna’s passion has moved her colleagues Dawn and James, who later volunteered to join the teaching team. The three teachers all share the belief that learning can take place anywhere, anytime. Dawn believes that education should not be limited in classroom, whereas James believes that all-round development is important in university education. They all agree that SL can increase students’ understanding of the wider society and foster their personal growth, and they can witness their students’ growth while holding them by the hand to walk through the learning journey.
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Inspiration from the Service – Not to be Served but to Serve
The cultural and environmental differences between Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland encourage students to re-evaluate their lives. Meeting keen young children in rural China craving knowledge despite the environmental hardship, PolyU students instantly feel the responsibility on their shoulders. “I want to be a teacher in the future; the satisfaction and feeling are great!” said a PolyU student. “Our students have expressed more gratitude and appreciation towards teachers after the service project as they realized that teaching requires much consideration and commitment and is not at all an easy task”, said Dawn. Showing empathy to service recipients is one of the core values of SL, and this was revealed throughout the service at the primary school.
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A Moment in Time, an Impact for a Lifetime
“The service has not only fostered our student’s growth, but it also mutually benefited our service recipients. We want both our students and service recipients enjoy the learning process. Learning can be fun.” Anna shared with us an unforgettable “gift” she received when her students rendered service for underprivileged children in Sham Shui Po. It was the last day of the service programme and incidentally also the Mother’s Day. PolyU students, the Sham Shui Po children as well as their parents all gathered at Chiang Chen Studio Theatre to celebrate the end of the programme. A group of children went on stage and sang to dedicate their love to their mothers. After the performance, a father came up to Anna, with hands trembling and tears in his eyes, said, “My kid has never performed in school, not to say performing in English. But just now he sang in a university hall! I don’t know how to express my thanks to you. Thank you!” The encouraging remarks were a precious gift to Anna’s team, and it has strengthened their determination in serving the community.

Spreading Love across Borders
Anna and her devoted team will spread their love and passion to Cambodia in the coming academic year. As a teacher, Anna aspires to provide alternative learning opportunities to students, i.e. to give them the key, lead them to the door and let them walk their path at their own pace. From her eyes and satisfying smiles, it is not difficult to feel a sense of pride, fulfillment and joy, especially when she and her teammates reminisced their service experiences. Anna’s team is heading to a new page and we will definitely learn more touching and inspiring stories.

* “ELC2S01 Advancing English Oral Presentation Skills through Teaching” will be retitled as “ELC2S02 Serving the Community through Teaching English’ starting from Semester Two, 2015/16.

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