When Ms Magdalene Ho was appointed Senior Teacher for Mathematics in 2018, it offered her the opportunity to work with her colleagues to do what she had always been passionate about ̶ to help her students appreciate the role of Mathematics in their daily life.
“My personal belief is that all students can learn and achieve some form of academic success. Having the right classroom climate and culture is necessary for effective teaching and learning to take place. This includes establishing a respectful, safe and trusting environment to give all learners a feeling of acceptance and a place to grow at their own pace.”
Helping students own their learning
To motivate her students to want to learn Mathematics, Ms Ho finds out where her students are in terms of their prior knowledge so that she can pitch her teaching at the appropriate entry point and help them connect big ideas in order to bring them to the next level of learning. At the same time, she maintains high expectations for what her students can achieve.
Formative assessment strategies, which are strategies to monitor students’ learning closely and to give them ongoing feedback on how they can improve, are used in Ms Ho’s daily lessons. At the start of each lesson, she lays out the “success criteria” on the board so that they can track their own learning towards their learning “destination”. She creates her own Mathematics posters to consolidate key concepts. At the end of the lesson, she uses an “exit pass” to check that her students have indeed learnt.
It is no wonder that her students are full of appreciation for her. One of her students said, “Thank you for helping me when I have any doubts and misunderstandings and for helping me to get through my Math Prelims.”
Ms Ho regularly uses the Student Learning Space (SLS), an online platform that empowers students to drive their own learning to help them become responsible future-ready learners. For example, when she was teaching a lesson on ratio, she asked her students to watch a video on ratio, then complete a quiz on SLS. She monitored her students’ “live” responses and provided immediate feedback and clarification. She assigned homework on SLS for students to practise and reinforce what they had learnt. The SLS lesson packages which Ms Ho has created are shared with other teachers in the school.
Growing the education fraternity
As a Senior Teacher, Ms Ho mentors and coaches other Mathematics teachers. She provides support to Beginning Teachers to help them quickly pick up and apply the skills of classroom teaching. This year, she also led a Professional Learning Team to look into the use of note-taking to help students remember mathematical concepts.
Beyond the school, Ms Ho contributes to the professional growth of other educators. She shared on the use of SLS during the ICT CrADLe’s 6th Digital Age Learning Conference 2019 and her presentation was very well-received. In July this year, she opened up her classroom to a group of visiting teachers from Hainan. She conducted a Primary 6 lesson on nets of a cube. The Hainan teachers shared that they had gleaned useful ideas from her on how to harness technology to enhance teaching and learning.
Building strong relationships with students and parents
Not only is Ms Ho a passionate Mathematics teacher, she is also a caring teacher who makes it a point to get to know her students beyond the classroom so that she can connect with and relate better to them. She maintains close communication with parents as she believes that a close partnership will lead to success for the child.
“I had a student whom many perceived to have challenging behaviours. I tried to show him care and concern, especially when he was ill. It took me some time to really understand him. After some time, I discovered his strengths and his limits. Even when he appeared to be disengaged, he was actually listening. One day, I managed to sit down and talk with him. He opened up to me and shared about his family situation. It was a real breakthrough! He even came back to visit me after he had graduated from primary school.”
Ms Ho’s strong relationship with her students is evident from the many notes she receives from students and parents every Teachers’ Day. One student has this to say to her, “Thank you for teaching us Math. You have worked hard to plan lessons for us. Your effort makes a difference!”
A parent wrote, “I really appreciate your effort and time spent in guiding my child.”
Just as her students are thankful for her, Ms Ho says, “I’m thankful to my students and their parents for motivating me to give of my best as an educator.”