English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 31 2013, Tuesday

New Year Resolution

Tomorrow is another day and the beginning of another year. I have this habit of listing my new year resolutions. But this year, I don't have a list. I have one and only one resolution - be good to myself!

Tomorrow, I am going on a trip to Okinawa with my son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter. I will keep writing but I am not too sure about the wifi situation and so may not be able to upload in time.

If I can't, I will do so when I am back on January 5.

Here is wishing you all a fulfilling 2014!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 30 2013, Monday

 Love Story (2)
Here is the second love story.

Winnie and Tommy (not real names, of course) had been dating for ten years since they met at work. Winnie was pretty and Tommy was handsome, a very matching couple. They had their wedding photos taken in 2011 and started planning the wedding in 2012. It is to take place on Valentine’s Day 2014! Hotel reservation was made for a big traditional Chinese wedding banquet hosting over 300 guests.

Then it was announced early December that the wedding would be cancelled and they wanted to be left alone! I am in no position to pry into what has happened. But I have been tagged to their Faceboook uploads and have been watching them going places, enjoying desserts etc. as a couple! I feel heart-broken too.

Here is wishing them peace and bravery as they enter the new year!  

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 29 2013, Sunday

Love Story (1)
I want to share the stories of two young couples, both are children of my friends. The first couple is in their twenties and the other in their thirties; one ending in a wedding and the other ending in the cancellation of an announced wedding on the Facebook. Which one should I write about first? The happy one first before the bitter one!

Mary (not the real name) has just turned 24. She graduated from university in 2011 summer and is therefore in the second year of her advertising career. She announced in September that she would be getting married on New Year Eve and that she is already three-month pregnant.

Though growing up in a single-parent family, she has always been very well looked after by her mother. We all found her a docile, quiet, sweet girl. And as we were worried how she is to hide her big tummy, she said that there is nothing to hide when after all, many of her friends are “doing the same things.”

Times are truly different! We were not brought up to be this open! We could never be this casual! Dating would be limited to holding hands and hugging at most! I am glad for Mary because she will be married! I wish her all the best as she embarks on her married life with a baby girl to come along very soon!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 28 2013, Saturday

Seven Billion Others Project

Today I want to recommend a project that opens my eyes and touches my heart. It reminds me that this Earth of ours is really big and that there are more than 7 billion other people inhabiting the Earth. They speak different languages and hold different beliefs but we all share the same fear and harbor the same hopes.

As I am writing, the world population stands at 7,198,881,680 and is fast growing. 

It is the 7 billion Others project (previously known as 6 billion Others Project). In 2003, after The Earth seen from the Sky, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the famous French photographer together with Sybille d’Orgeval and Baptiste Rouget-Luchaire, launched the 7 billion Others project. A total of 20 directors filmed 6,000 interviews in 84 countries. The Project is one gigantic collage of portraits of humanity.

The interviewees can be a Brazilian fisherman, a Chinese shopkeeper, a German performer or an Afghan farmer. They were all posed with the same questions about their fears, dreams, ordeals and hopes. There were 45 questions in total: What have you learnt from your parents? What do you want to pass on to your children? What does love mean to you?

Here are the words of Yann Arthus-Bertrand explaining why this Project is important to him and to us:

There are more than seven billion of us on Earth, and there will be no sustainable development if we cannot manage to live together. That is why 7 billion Others is so important to me. I believe in it because it concerns all of us and because it encourages us to take action. I hope that each one of us will want to reach out and make these encounters, to listen to other people and to contribute to the life of 7 billion Others by adding our own experiences and expressing our desire to live together.

We can view 7 billion Others project online. Click on the following link to listen to people from some remote corners of the world talking about family.

“Each and every word, spoken or written, matters.” – not a research paper by Pauline CHOW Lo Sai (2008)

Thomas Chai is the Senior Executive Chef of Tung Lok Restaurants in Singapore. He is, in fact, one of the celebrity chefs thronged by the media. In a recent television appearance, Thomas was asked to prepare a banquet with all his signature dishes for a person important to him. Thomas invited his English teacher.

When Thomas first arrived in Singapore from Malaysia, he was not able to communicate in English. He had to attend the in-house evening English classes. But then because of the long work hours, he was always late for class and sleepy during lessons. He felt very embarrassed each time he dozed off. Yet his teacher smiled, patted him on the shoulder and gave him extra lessons when he was free. When it was the last lesson before the examinations, the teacher called the four weakest students to her room and gave each one a card with words “I expect no less than 4As in your examinations” written on it. That meant straight A. And that was what Thomas achieved. Upon getting the result, Thomas ran to the classroom where lessons used to be held to announce it to his teacher. He was disappointed to find out that she had been re-deployed to another centre.

Eleven years passed and so when the teacher and student met at the banquet table covered with bowls and dishes of exquisite food, it was one touching scene. There seated was one elegant elderly lady with a broad smile on her face, then came in the meek soft-spoken student, Thomas. He approached her and they hugged. The next second saw Thomas feeling about his pocket and taking out a card – that very one his teacher gave him. In the gentlest voice, he said, “I got 4As. I thought you would like to know. Thank you for your confidence in me” as he handed the card to the teacher. All eyes were teary.

This summer I was in Singapore. When I was dining with my friend, Mr. Bert Koh, there Thomas was bustling around in the kitchen. Bert got excited and told me his story. We approached him with Bert pointing out that I am an English teacher. We had a photo taken. The next day, Bert gave me the recording of that television program and so I came to know the story of Thomas and his English teacher.

My awakening

One teacher has touched a person and he in turn touches the world. Isn’t this amazing? And I am blessed enough to be in this enviable profession of teaching. But to be honest, I have not always felt like this in the long years of my career.

Too often in the past, when lessons were over, I collapsed into my chair grunting how students were unmotivated and unwilling and that teaching them was a total waste of my time. But with the passage of time, I was enlightened. Perhaps it was the reading of an article or the sharing I had with some guru or a talk I had attended or perhaps I had learnt it the hard way or had tasted the sweet fruits of some successes but trust me I have forgotten when and why I became converted. I have changed.

I no longer engage myself in depressing indictment of students’ hopelessness but instead I have become most critical of myself taking on the blame and the responsibility for their non-performance. I do not indulge in self-deceiving beliefs that my lessons are the best and therefore deserve their full attention, that they are lucky to be in my class and they should render their very best efforts to me, that they should be active learners getting the most from my lessons. These would be thoughts too beautiful to be true. And I know when such “paradise” scenario does not happen in my class, I cannot just conclude that my students are lazy and not worth my efforts and devotion. That could be the easy way out. But what would subsequent lessons degenerate into? Two worlds or more in one classroom – my pathetic cocoon world of profound knowledge and the students’ different worlds of their own? Hours to become days and days to become years? That is not to happen in my classroom. No, I would not allow that.

Biting the bullet
What takes place in an effective classroom is learning not just teaching. Too often there is teaching but no learning. Teachers, who are nervous, frustrated or are engrossed in catching up with the syllabus keep teaching regardless of whether the students are learning. Paying attention to the situation of learning demands adjustment, adaptation and even improvisation. All these may seem too much to ask for but that is exactly our responsibility as teachers – to foster learning. Teachers who are experienced or prepared should know their students well and should have taken every possible situation into consideration when preparing lessons. The crux of the issue is to bite the bullet - be accountable for the failure of learning in the classroom. That requires a lot of painstaking soul-searching. Admitting failure and accepting the blame is only the first difficult step. How to prevent future failure and ensure permanent success is the challenge.

We teachers often blame students for not paying attention to us but do we to them? Do we know what they are doing under the desks? Are they following the lesson or reading a comic book or text-messaging? Reflective teachers would try to decipher all those passive looks or nodding heads or absolute silence. In their little ways, our students are telling us that they are not tuning to our channel or are not even on the same planet as ours. In their various ways, they want us to know they are not learning and yet how often do we attend to all these signs?

“If they don’t understand, why don’t they ask? They just don’t bother!” says the teacher. No, they might not know they have the right. Or they don’t know where to start. Their behaviour is a conglomeration of years of pleasant and unpleasant classroom experiences. They might have been told off once they open their mouths. They might have been warned not to ask stupid questions.

And we have to admit that in many ways, classrooms have basically not changed much though the whole world around us has. Young people who are so used to all the audio and visual sensations would for sure find the traditional classroom one prolonged boring monologue. As teachers, we have to believe or if you don’t, then convince yourselves that all students are willing to learn and can learn, they just cannot endure the way they are taught. If we really want self-motivated students learning in our classroom, we ourselves must first be strongly motivated to learn.


No quick fix and definitely no panacea
Problem students or rather problem behaviour comes in all forms and severity and for all kinds of reasons. Teachers should never nurture the wishful thinking that there exists somewhere in the world a magical potion to cure all ailments. And what works in other classes all the time may instead bring havoc to another. A cocktail recipe might work more effectively than a single shot of a particular serum. We need to be alert, patient and appreciative of improvement however small or insignificant it might be. When it does occur, recognition is due so as to nurture its further growth.

Dosage 1: Individualization

What our students hate most or take advantage of is when we teachers see them as a homogenous mass. Those seeking attention would be so disappointed when they discover to their dismay our eyes never fall on them. On the other hand, some others would feel so comfortable when they successfully remain invisible and anonymous amidst the big crowd. What can be more disastrous to happen than a teacher having to point at students and not being able to name them even by the end of the school year?

Students all want to feel that we are treating them as individuals with their names, character and needs well grasped by us teachers. We should never simply label students according to their performance. They are humans and should be treated as such with respect. Conscientious teachers would assess their students individually and set achievable tailor-made targets for them. Instructions are always specifically tailored to foster and exploit students’ talents. Students want caring teachers who have an eye on them in class, check on them, pat them on the shoulder in recess, jump in to help when hearts are broken, appreciate the slightest effort and regularly design a variety of learning activities and tasks that give them the opportunity to learn in modes that suit their individual needs, styles and levels. All students want to be positively challenged and not depressingly demoralized.

Dosage 2: Honesty, humour and humility

Often enough there are times in class when a teacher simply has to be honest, honest that he is not in control, honest that he has spoken a word too harshly, honest that he has wronged a student, honest that he cannot answer a question posed by the student and honest that he has allowed his own personal emotions to get in the way. Only when teachers are truly honest to themselves and to the classroom situations will they be able to address the problems and put classes into perspective.

There are ways out. Teachers have to be humble and good-humoured and take the bull by the horns. Humble because only the humble are open-minded enough to learn. Good-humoured because a joke or a smile can save face when heat is rising. These are moments when teachers should loosen the iron fist and look at the students with fondness rather than impatience and frustration. Teachers nowadays are all trained professionals armoured with techniques to handle all sorts of difficult situations. As long as they remain calm and not irritated, they do know what best is to be done. A word of apology to the wronged student, words of confirmation to the one who shouts out the answer, a dramatized laughter, a question rephrased for that “dumb” student who has his lips sealed, a promise that you will look up for the answer to that “naughty” student who has asked you a question you should know but cannot answer are all contingent measures you know and can resort to.

Dosage 3: Compassion,commitment and                           conscientiousness

When in the classroom, teachers should see beyond the surface. Hostility can be a mask for fear. Compassionate teachers would respond to such hostility by persuading students to remove the mask and reveal their fear. Teachers should remain composed and restrained. Direct confrontation is a “face” matter and “face” is a big issue not only to the teachers but also to the students. While we want to maintain our dignity, so do the students. We should keep in mind that when we put students down in front of others, the entire class might turn against us. Shouting and screaming would not defuse the situation. The misbehaving students have to be allowed to respectably retreat from the confrontation. But this does not mean the teacher is to let him off. The case must be followed up when everybody is calmer and when contention is clarified.

These days, all teachers and not just those assigned counselling and guidance duties have to learn communication skills and counselling strategies. Adverse situations can happen in any class and anytime. It is not wise to wait for the cavalry to march in to your rescue. A mere command of the subject knowledge is no longer the sole criterion a teacher has to master.

For teachers to be able to “control” the class takes more than a kind heart. It takes strong commitment to the profession and a very conscientious attitude to constantly reflect on their teaching and update When a student is entrusted to us teachers, he becomes our responsibility. We cannot allow student not learning and not achieving though to what extent he does learn varies from student to student. We cannot have a student not being “touched” by us. Changes have to ideally take place intellectually and emotionally.

Booster dosage: Prevention is better than cure

Though there are always ways out of difficult situations, we should in the first place never allow them to happen. There is bound to be casualty whenever adverse situation happens no matter how good you get out of it.

In Hong Kong, teachers’ workload is so heavy and diversified that it is not uncommon for us to become forgetful. We might go back on our own words. We might lose our sense of relativity when we inflict penalty. We might be habitually looking at the same students for the whole lesson while neglecting the rest. We might not see hands raised a dozen times.

We have to make our “house” rules clear and stick to them. We cannot assume students know what we want and how they are to behave. Different teachers have different sets of regulations and hold different levels of tolerance as to what can happen in class. Students are faced with ten if not more teachers every day and they might get confused.

In order for each class to be effective, we have to be in our best physical and mental status all the time. We have to feel good about ourselves and in particular we have to be proud of our profession. Every day we should do all we can to step into the classroom at our best as this pre-determines the success of the lesson. We should be addressing the whole class and yet each of the students is to feel that we are looking at him as an individual person. When we see any breach of our house rules, we have to stop it at the start by a critical look made obvious to the offender and if the misbehaviour continues, we have to stop whatever we are doing and attend to the matter. We can wait for him to become aware of our disapproval. Short of these actions, we are sending the wrong message to our students and in fact we are encouraging more to follow suit.


I have been a teacher for over forty years. I cannot say I enjoy every minute of it. But I can declare that right now at my present position in school, I am at my most cheerful self when I am in front of the students as the English Language teacher and not behind my desk as the Deputy Principal. Teaching is instantly rewarding and it is even more so if you enjoy it. Teaching is tough but as we are touching souls, it cannot be easy.  

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 27 2013, Friday


I love languages but this love stops with only Chinese and English. I can endure the most wordy explanations. I read labels, posters and signs carefully as though I were proofreading documents.

Some words I came across stay in my mind for a long time. I learnt the word "meadow" when I read Heidi at the age of ten. Then there is "negotiate" used to describe how an old man walks up the stairs.

My interest in languages is not limited to text alone. Thanks to Youtube, we can easily re-live those historical moments listening to inspiring speeches.

I  keep reminding my students that language proficiency is not just for university admission but for life and so language practice should not be merely limited to examination drills. Use it and live it - the only way to improve.

And I have a dream - to learn one more language! Which one? Not sure yet!


Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 26 2013, Thursday

Finger Counting
It is close to the end of the year and time for me to count my blessings again! I have started doing so eversince I turned 50.
Life has been full of challenges for me: poverty, betrayal, desertion, office politics etc. And I can always blame my parents for giving me my freckles, the only child among eight with freckles. 
 But why torturing myself with these negative thoughts? Why keep recalling bad memories? I am my own master. I decide how I feel. This awakening brought in my new life!
I am, generally speaking, healthy. I am still a useful person in many ways. At my senior age, I still have my mother. She is diabetic but well taken care of by the public health system. And she is a really good girl controlling her sugar intake. I am not rich but my wants are always satisfied. My son has a loving wife and an adorable daughter. I live in this clean, safe city of Hong Kong.
Everything is relative depending on which way you look - positive or negative. And so will your mood go! Trust me. I have learnt it the hard way!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 25 2013, Wednesday

What makes you smile or better still laugh? How often do you smile? Have you smiled more or less this year than you did last year?

For us ladies, we smile in front of the mirror when we check out our looks before leaving home. That's not a real smile! I mean a genuine smile because you are pleased! The fact is the older we become, the more difficult it is to produce a smile! In other words, we are hard to please! We have too many wants, desires and expectations to satisfy and etiquettes to follow! Look at the children. They can have a good laugh over the silliest things. We have to learn from them. There is no harm in being silly every now and then.

On reflection, I can still recall some recent cases of me smiling. Not when I bought a new coat or had a great meal! Last Thursday, I smiled when recognized by a student I taught forty years ago!

I have this habit of looking up to the sky to watch the clouds. I smile when I see clear  blue sky and cotton whiteclouds. I smile when I see my mother enjoying her food.

Keep smiling. One good smile deserves  another!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 24 2013, Tuesday


I was brought up in a Catholic girl school. The time was the  50s and 60s in the last century. Society was in general poor. Economy was slow. Materialistic Christmas celebrations belonged to the very rich and luxurious consumption was not conspicuous. It was the time before television not to say the internet!

But I rather like the Christmas then. It was less noisy and less flamboyant. It was all about prayers, bible reading, Christmas carol and sermons leaving us time for soul-searching. Of course, there were lights in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. We did exchange gifts but they were nothing expensive.

Oh, times were always better in our memories, maybe our defensive mechanism has filtered out the unpleasant sediments!

Here is wishing you a quiet peaceful Christmas spent in the warm company of your love ones!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 23 2013, Monday


Last Wednesday, when I was tutoring my Secondary 6 students, I told them I had started a blog. I asked them to read my entries and give me their views. Torres, a student very proficient in English, posed me an interesting question: are you not worried that one day you will run out of ideas?

Well, the brain works differently from our physical energy. The more we use our intellect, the more ready we are to deliver!

I am talking from experience.

I usually drive but whenever  I do take public transport, my mind works vigorously! I start examining the passengers around me, describing their looks, guessing their relationship, their occupations and where they are going etc. I actually use them as characters to compose stories. I don't need any paper or pen or tablet computer! All these take place in my mind within a short trip of 20 minutes. 

A tram ride becomes a fulfilling creative journey! I get rich input and create meaningful products. So why do I need to
worry about ideas drying up?

Random Thoughts by Pauline

 December 22 2013, Sunday


Every Sunday I enjoy my four-hour indulgence routine from 9 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon. I am pampered with facial treatment and body massage! I try to keep this ritual to the best I can though it means I have to get up at 8. Regretfully, sometimes duty calls would deprive me of this weekly pleasure!


I am a firm believer of work hard, play or rather relax hard. When at work, I am focused. I am a person of no particular hobbies unless if that four-hour weekly pleasure is to be counted! I don't cycle, sing, swim or play any sports.


When I was at school, my family was so poor that we had ro worry about the next meal! Certainly, there would not be any spare money for interest classes. As far as I can remember, life had always been difficult until late 80s. Every dollar had to be carefully calculated and holidays would only mean a stroll in the park.


I am very contented with my present life thanking whoever is up there every morning when I get up forbeing granted another new day !

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 21 2013, Saturday
It was Secondary 1 Admission interview today. I interviewed around 40 students and had the chance of talking to parents from all walks of life. Some are typical local parents fixing a busy schedule for their children who are not really enjoying all the music and sports courses they are thrust into. Then there are some lucky parents who don’t do anything and yet their children are doing very well in everything including academic studies and sports. Some parents know nothing about our school while of course, there are parents who have done extensive research about our school including site visits and “spying” on our students etc.

To me, all these parents share one thing in common – they want what they think is the best for their children in this highly competitive society of Hong Kong. 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 20 2013, Friday
Dr. Lee Lok-sze
Still about yesterday’s luncheon conference. I was early. As I always say: you can never be punctual. You are punctual because you are early. So there were only very few guests around. I found a seat and started checking my phone. It was then that I saw Dr. Lee Lok-sze seated right next to me. Dr. Lee needs no introduction. She is the world’s first woman explorer to reach the Arctic, Antarctic and Mount Everest. She has made 18 expeditions to the poles and four ventures to Mount Everest. With her photography and writing, she proactively shares her observations and experience. I have so much admiration for her great physique and persistence.

And so I stood up, gave Dr. Lee my name card and started introducing myself. She remembered my school which she visited several times in the past years.

From there we went on sharing our views on a large number of topics. Before we went into the hall for the conference, we both agreed that life can be very simple and the world is for all species not just humans to share.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 19 2013, Thursday

I was at a luncheon conference today. It was a table for ten professionals from two sectors: education and engineering. As a social etiquette, we started off with small talks and an exchange of name cards. When Dr. Ho To-ming, Associate Head of the Department of Economics and Finance of the Faculty of Business of the City University of Hong Kong, received my name card, he looked and with a broad smile, he said,” You were my English teacher. I graduated 1973!” And he proudly presented me to the people around the table. I was so touched!

Oh my goodness! Forty years passed and he could still identify me! Then he asked to be seated next to me so that we could do some catching up. He detailed to me his career path and how happy he is with his current position. He has two daughters, one a doctor and the other still at school.

I told myself that I must have done something good to be so blessed as to be remembered!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 18 2013, Wednesday
My mother has just celebrated her 86th birthday. She is diabetic and has been so since 1980s. But she is still going to her old neighbourhood to play mahjong two to three times in a week. She is concerned about her look. “Oh, my hair is thinning!” “Oh, my skin is so dry!” are among some of her complaints! She is my idol for her resilience.

Brought up in a rich family in Shanghai in the 1920s, she moved to Hong Kong with my father and me as an infant in 1949. With the family financial situation deteriorating and with the number of children growing to eight, she ended up washing and cooking for a family of ten at the time when there were no washing machines.

I can still remember how in the 1960s when there was water shortage and supply was limited to four hours every four days, she was running up and down the stairs bringing buckets of water! She was amazing! And she still is!

Now, my mother is enjoying life cautiously avoiding all the sugar, high potassium foods etc. Though she does not say it, she wants to live. It does not mean that she has no worries. She worries about me being too busy, my sister sleeping too late, the grand children not getting married etc. Her head is so clear that she keeps record of all her mahjong gains and losses. There is so much to write about her that this has to come in two parts.

Today my mother’s only worry is that I am not warm enough when the temperature is so low. She actually called me this afternoon checking on me.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 17 2013, Tuesday
This morning was freezing cold when I went to school. Before leaving home, I saw on TV that it was snowing in Vietnam! The newspapers were also reporting that last week Cairo known for its heat and sandy deserts, was blanketed in thick snow for the first time in 112 years.

Extreme weather conditions such as heavy rains, drought, heat waves, snow storms and super cyclones across the globe have become more common these days. And in the forseeable future, abnormal weather will continue and could get worse overtime if global warming, the culprit of all this abnormality, is not arrested soon.

I am not here to talk about the adverse impact of global warning. We have heard quite a lot about this in recent years. And that is almost all that we have done – talking! Most governments have pledged that they will comply with The Kyoto Protocol to reduce usage of greenhouse gases but the much needed actions are not forthcoming.

Lame as the governments are, we too are not less guilty! We can easily list the “crimes’ we have committed – the relentless printing, the blasting of air-conditioners, leaving the tap running while we brush, the dumping of computers and mobile phones we grow tired of etc. Hong Kong as a society is so rich that we take everything for granted because we do not suffer any scarcity. But if we want our future generations to have the same affluent life, we have to be more prudent in our daily routine – use what we truly need not what we desire! The same message has to be passed on to our children not just by words but by our deeds. We have to practise what we preach!

Here I have attached the photo of a camel in snow! I hope this is enough food for thought!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

December 16 2013, Monday


Nothing is impossible! I bet this is the most quoted motto! We have just had our lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, rolling on the Moon displaying our flag! China is now an equal in space with Soviet Union and the US.

Nothing is impossible when we have all the ingredients right – a strong dose of iron will, attainable goals and lots of patience. Then we have to mix all these regularly and persistently with the humility to learn from mistakes!

Help students to believe in this motto, especially those students who have little faith in themselves. There are always those lost souls in our classrooms, students who believe that they can never master English! Help them start this “plus ONE” project. Appreciate their baby steps! Give them a word of praise! Find a reason to give them a smile!