Welcome to a new chapter of “The Open Book”, a special column for parents and students to learn more about the individual experience and personality of the teaching staff at Dulwich International High School Zhuhai. In this new chapter, we are going to introduce:
Head of Mathematics and Child Protection Officier
Ms Yeung has 15 years of teaching experience and has taught in local and international schools in Oxford and Beijing, with students ranging from Year 6 all the way to university foundation level. She is experienced in both students’ pastoral care and academic support; and has served in various positions in ‘the education sector including Head of Department, Housemistress, University Counsellor and Edexcel International A-Level Further Maths examiner. In addition, she is also a trained debate adjudicator for the World Scholar’s Cup and a qualified public speaking coach for LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).
Growing up in Hong Kong, Ms Yeung had lived in England for 22 years before she moved back to China. After completing an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Statistics and a postgraduate degree in Actuarial Science, Ms Yeung worked for the UK’s biggest insurance company in London as an Actuarial Analyst for seven years before she became a teacher.
What do you find most rewarding about being a teacher?
I like being with the students in every progress they make. Every time where a student realises a connection to something previously learned, brings a different perspective to a topic, finds a way to link my content to another subject, gets excited for getting an answer right, questions what they did wrong and asks how they can do better next time, will all be the moments that I enjoy and cherish. Sometimes my students and I would have conversations about confusing technical concepts. I felt very impressed when the light bulb goes off, and there is a spark of understanding in their eyes, then their exclamations: I get it now! That makes sense! This is so much easier than I thought!
I just love this crazy profession. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I love the thrill of discovery my students share; I love when they challenge me with questions that I am not sure about. Every day is a new challenge and every day I get to learn something from my students. The most rewarding of all is knowing that my Year 13 students leave with a sense of wonder, curiosity and appreciation of learning Maths, but more appreciative of life lessons learned.
What research are you currently pursuing regarding teaching pedagogy?
As part of the Professional Learning Community and Action Research Group, I have been involved in developing a Learning Skills Framework for students at DHZH. The framework identifies the dispositions and skills to learning that students need to develop if they are to be self-regulated, independent and successful learners. It is in our plan to see the framework to be used as a common ground for all stakeholders and untilised in different ways:
- By students who would be able to reflect and evaluate their own performance and understand what progression they need to make and what they need to do, in order to progress across the continuum.
- By teachers who would be able to review and assess students’ performance as part of reporting or target setting process.
- By parents who would be able to understand what the school is expecting of our students, and see how they can support their children at home. Teachers would also be able to communicate with parents using the framework so parents can understand how their children would be able to progress across the continuum.
How is this research affecting your in-class pedagogy?
The abilities to think critically and creatively, innovate and adapt to change, to work independently and in a team, and to be a reflective learner are prerequisites for life and for the workplace in the 21st century.
By providing a well-managed environment and mutually respected learning atmosphere where students are comfortable and trust is fostered, I can start building that confidence and motivation. I refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Critical Thought and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences when I am creating lesson plans to assure that I teach to a variety of learning styles. I also tend to make use of higher-order questions to promote analytical and evaluative thinking, affirm students’ self- perceptions as learners, and support students’ view of themselves as knowledge producers rather than knowledge consumers. Ultimately, the emphasis in my classroom is that success is probable and that achievements are celebrated.
What advice would you give to students to succeed in Mathematics?
I am going to give them three pieces of advice:
- Maths is not just a long list of random formulas that someone invented out of nowhere. Maths works because it is true – there is a reason for every step, every rule, and every part of every formula. Do not just memorise the formulas and the rules. Finding out where they came from, why they work, and what they mean, may sound like more work to do, but if you try it, you will quickly find that understanding the reasons and the meaning actually makes everything easier.
- If you want to be good at anything, you have to stick with it, even when you feel like quitting. You gain the most when you finally figure out a problem after a long struggle. That is how you improve in Maths. Athletes know that working, fighting against something that is hard makes you stronger. The same goes for your brain–getting the right answer quickly won’t make you smarter; but fighting with a hard problem for a long time will.
- Maths is extremely important and useful as we all know, but at the same time you need to appreciate its beauty! It is so fascinating as it connects lots of different ideas into one. It explains important things that cannot be understood in any other way. When you finally get it, it is exciting to see how things fit together, why things work, how it all makes sense. Please enjoy the experience of opening your mind instead of just aiming to pass the exam!
You have always been one of the active teacher singers in the school concerts. Are you a big fan of music?
Music, just like Mathematics, is the universal language. From the rich complexity of the Bach fugues to the catchy songs of the Beatles, Music and Mathematics overlap in all kinds of intriguing ways. When I was younger, I used to play the Cello in the orchestra and sing in the choir, and I wish I could find more time to enjoy those activities more often nowadays. I also wish I was more up to date with my pop music collection but unfortunately it has been frozen in time – forever in the cheesy 90s! If you are brave enough, check out the soundtrack of Derry Girls and you will find all my favourite tunes (I am not proud of it)!
What else do you like to do in your leisure time?
Books give us the opportunity to live a thousand lives and visit places we have never been, and I simply adore reading.
Being able to read a book is a luxury that quite often many people take for granted. Just to pick one up and unleash all that the cover holds within is amazing. It is an escape from the real world, if only for a moment, in the palms of your hands that one may look forward to. One of my favourite books of all time is the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. The beautifully written book is about the persistent tensions and powerful bonds between mother and daughter, histories and Chinese cultures.
A focus on reading for meaning rather than simply decoding is an essential skill to just about everything in life – from cooking to swimming and driving, and this is particularly important for our EAL students (English as Additional Language). Extensive reading develops learning autonomy, enhances language competence; consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth and helps improve writing. Educational researchers have even suggested that there is a strong correlation between reading and academic success, and that reading can increase levels of all three major categories of intelligence in the American psychologist Robert J. Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence. So do try to fall and stay in love with reading!
Apart from reading, I am also a keen hiker and regular runner, though I still consider myself as a very much of a novice. There is just something special about wandering through the forests, connecting with nature and taking the time to feel at peace. I couldn’t be more grateful to live in Zhuhai with such great weather, easy access to many beautiful trails and lots of interesting outdoor communities!
Above is the Head of Mathematics who continuously encourages and inspires Dulwich Zhuhai students in maths and in life, by being a teacher and a life mentor to all. We look forward to bringing you another teacher profile in the next chapter of the Open Book. Stay tuned!