Over the past year or so, teachers in Hong Kong, like teachers from around the world, have gone through a lot of changes under the pandemic. To support the teachers in adapting to the ‘New Normal’ in education, we organised a Senior Secondary ELT webinar ‘Beyond the Limits—Skills for success’ on 20 March 2021 to share ideas on how to embrace change.

More than 290 teachers from different secondary schools in Hong Kong joined and met virtually to listen to frontline educators share their experiences and insights on English Language teaching and maintaining students’ exam readiness in the ‘New Normal’. Assistant Principal and Head of English Studies at HKBUS Wong Kam Fai Secondary and Primary School, Ms Jacqui Koo, opened her sharing with a date that probably most teachers in Hong Kong would remember—the day on which in-person class suspension caused by the coronavirus outbreak was announced. Since then, teachers have been conducting more and more online classes and fewer and fewer face-to-face lessons. Students even attended PE lessons at home in front of the camera!

With over 20 years of teaching experience, it is not easy for Ms Koo to change. She struggled to find out how lessons can be conducted using apps and on Zoom—how to share materials, how to use Breakout rooms to conduct group activities, etc., and how assignments could be collected and marked online. After a while, she transformed from being suspicious of whether students were doing anything except for paying attention to her online lessons to being confident that her students were engaged in interesting and interactive lessons with meaningful outcomes. She concluded her sharing with the acronym ‘TECHNOLOGY’—Time, Exposure, Communication & Collaboration, Highlight, Note-taking, Organization, Learning environment, Observation, Good practice sharing, and YOU (teachers themselves). With the word ‘You’, teachers were encouraged to find out what suits them most so that students could benefit from their classes.

Another challenge that teachers and students, especially Senior Secondary students, were facing during the pandemic was how to stay focused and prepared for the high-stakes HKDSE exam. There was no knowing whether the exam would go ahead as planned, be postponed, or even cancelled when class suspension was first announced. During our webinar, Mr Theodore Tam, himself an ‘exam expert’ who scored 5** in all seven subjects he took in the 2014 HKDSE exam, shared how he helped his students develop exam strategies in online lessons. The key to helping students get ready for the exam is to guide students to work out the strategies themselves, rather than instructing them what to do all the time.

As we look ahead to the future, changes are inevitable. There could be a New Normal after another New Normal. Every change is an opportunity, not necessarily a threat. One of the most important missions of educators is to help students learn how to adapt to changes and approach the future wisely. Teachers in Hong Kong have set a very good example for their students by embracing change and demonstrating their problem-solving mindset.

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