In November of 1992, I felt I was a celebrity in Hong Kong. As I walked down a street, people would turn their head and smile; sitting in the MTR, people would point at me and smile; walking into a restaurant, there would be a few people who would nod their head and smile. They had seen me on TV, watching Hong Kong Connection, produced by RTHK. I wonder how many teachers have had this extraordinary experience.
At the beginning of the 1992 school year, I received a phone call from Mr. Kwok of RTHK, who asked when he could come to meet me. He came the next day and said he heard I was teaching Ethics and he would like to know how I did it. I invited him into my next class. He was impressed and asked if he could bring in a filming crew to record what went on in the class! He was to come about twelve times and he recorded 34 hours of tape, of which 23 minutes were broadcast. He was a professional and knew what he wanted- what would appeal to the elderly, to parents, and the general public. He had a foreigner who was a priest teaching Ethics to talented Form Three students, and he got the unbelievable!
Over the years, I have seen the possibilities in what I could do by taking the students out of class. The students are delighted with this. With the support of the school administration, I have had three consecutive periods in the afternoon, which can be extended beyond the end of class time! I use them well. Sometimes I felt I am doing what their parents would have liked to do with their son, but had no time for such activities. But there was something added for the students in that they were not with their parents, but with their peers, which they relish. On my side, I use the time to develop their observation abilities and critical skills. On return to class, they would have to discuss the “outing” and the next day hand in a Thousand Words on their experience. Here they would have to record what they did, their feelings and observations and any application to their lives.
I was to teach Ethics, which is a discussion on how to deal with daily problems and develop the thinking behind our behaviour. I have two periods a week for Ethics. I use the textbook, but I also add videos and discussion, and finally writing, during these periods. But I integrate one of those periods into the eight periods a week of English that I also teach. No other teacher I know has such time or opportunities, which I use to the full.
When finally the video on my teaching came out, even the teachers in Wah Yan shook their heads in disbelief. They did not feel it possible to do the like during class time. But the fact is that I did do what was seen on the screen and what is more, I continue to do it.
What made the programme appealing to the audience was the comments of the students that I taught. They were fourteen years of age and had a range of interesting comments on me and what they did in class. To record this, the producer painstaking and patiently talked to students individually and filmed many hours.
The content of the programme was my methods of teaching in Ethics class, which I describe in another chapter. The video also showed the students writing beautifully and discussing with each other. One scene was of my using was one on Chinese Proverbs by Dr. Ho Man Ooi, whom I knew personally. Then, there were scenes of us when I took them to Tai Po Kau Forest, and also scenes of the students in the Salesian Retreat House in Cheung Chau. Most interesting were the interviews with the students in which they expressed their thinking on gratitude, respect of parents, importance of study and other moral points. This all appealed to the elderly, spoke to parents, interested teachers, and it made me a teacher who had something to show.
Pleased with the wide affects of the programme, I invited the filming group to celebrate with me at a vegetarian meal. It was only then that I found out that the camera man had suggested the programme. His son had been in class with me the previous year, and the camera man was so impressed by what he heard that he proposed a programme on my teaching of Ethics.
There is a deeper meaning to this story, which help many a teacher. Teachers rarely see the effects of their efforts in class. And now I was to see it from this video!
The previous year of 1991 saw me in my sixtieth year. I was due for retirement, but the Principal obtained and extension of teaching as he needed me as Chairman of the Junior Secondary Ethics Panel. But that year saw something terrible. I found it painful to enter my 3W class.
After four weeks of teaching them, I had antagonized a dozen of them. I did just what is not to be done by a teacher in class: I criticized students individually in front of the class! Every teacher knows that one should not do that! Should some one be causing trouble, the teacher should speak to the student privately and politely. What is displeasing and unwanted should be pointed out, with advice on how to improve. Such is good teaching, but after my thirty years in the classroom I was being a bad teacher. Repeatedly telling off a student in front of the whole class is asking for trouble. And the trouble came. The whole class would not cooperate with me. And it lasted for the whole year. About thirteen boys of the class were angry with me and led the rest. My teaching became almost impossible and certainly unpleasant. I approached the Principal and stated that my teaching days were over! I had lost my touch for teaching. The response was a smile and that it would work out all right.
And what was the consequence of that year? A student in that troublesome class spoke so highly of me to his father that this video was made of “The Fourteen Year Old Priest.” I would ardently wish that any teacher, who had trouble in class or with students, would eventually have such a happy outcome as this.
It might be apposite to explain that title. The producer had spent hours with me, asking me why I taught as I did, and why I was interested in teaching. He was always looking for what would have a wide appeal to the public. Asking me why I was teaching, I laughed and recalled that once on holidays in Ireland, I was with relatives and they blurted out:” You are as immature as a fourteen year old!” I then added that I liked teaching Form Three boys because I had their mentality. Or was it that the boys were keeping me as “young “ as they were! So the title of the video: ”Fourteen Year Old Priest” for which I am grateful to the producer.
I recall this story of my failure in teaching a class, as it is unique in my many decades of teaching. Also I feel it has a good meaning for many teachers. But then, a word of caution on our “reputation”.
Your reputation follows you like your shadow. If you seek it, it will run away from you. The art is to be truthful to yourself and to be convinced of your values and beliefs. With my long training as a Jesuit and activities in pastoral work, this was possible for me. What is the difficult is communicating with modern youth. But they are really simple, as they have the same basic needs and aspirations as youth at any time, though complicated by computer games, mobile phone and surfing the Web. And this is what I chose to deal with for the last four decades of teaching fourteen year olds. ( 1375)
一九九二年學期初，香港電台的郭先生打電話給我，問他何時可以來見我，第二天，他來了，他說聽到我是教倫理科的，他想知道我是怎樣教的，我請他跟我上堂，之後他很感動，便問我，他可否帶一隊香港電台攝影隊來拍攝我上堂的情形! 他來了十二次，拍了三十四小時錄影帶播放了二十三分鐘，他很專業，他知道自己想要甚麼 - 就是那些能吸引長者，家長和公眾的題材，他找到一個外國人神父教一班天資聰敏的中三學生，教他們倫理科，多令人難以置信!