Ms. Nonette Tsang has been teaching at Pathways for 12 years. She enjoys teaching as it is an exceptional opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life, and moreover she considers it as learning process for herself, too.
“Every child is unique. One has to think of the best way to teach every child,” said Ms. Nonette.
She holds this view that students with dyslexia should be regarded as “different learner”, or “differently-abled”. Given good opportunities and a suitable environment, they can be motivated to learn.
Some kids can have a bad day in school, so Ms. Nonette will observe their mood first. If they are not ready, she would talk to them about their day or have games to make them relax, in order to get them engaged in the lesson.
“In the teaching-learning process, everyone around the child counts to make that child feel confident and motivated,” Ms. Nonette emphasized the importance of creating good learning atmosphere.
Fifteen-year-old Alex Hoeflich is one of her former students. When Alex first came to Pathways in 2011, he only knew five letter sounds. Also, his writing showed inversions in some numbers and letters. With efforts given by Ms. Nonette and in partnership with Alex’s mother, the young boy is now a confident learner. In 2018, he won the Hong Kong Young Writers Award in fiction, and his poem was published in the book “New Journeys to the West.” Alex is now studying in a boarding school in the United Kingdom.
“Parental support is crucial to the success of a child,” said Ms. Nonette, “Parents should totally accept their child’s condition and be that child’s number one fan.”
She also admired the mother of another student Lucas, who came to Pathways when he was seven years old. Lucas’ mother always finds the best support for him so that he can unleash his potential, helping him to become a confident boy. “She believes in her son’s talents and capacities, even if he struggles in the area of language. She always makes sure Lucas gets the best resources and support available, even though it means he has to change schools a number of times,” she added.
Teachers at Pathways have always regarded the building of trust with students and parents as top priority. Ms. Nonette appreciates the parents who are involved in their children’s learning. She also enjoys working with people who share the same passion and love for children, and values the regular training opportunities that allow her to interact with experts in special education.
“Teaching at Pathways is both challenging and rewarding. I believe there is still so much more to know about children with dyslexia.” Ms. Nonette concluded.
Alex (first from left) was excited to receive the Hong Kong Young Writers Award on stage.
Ms. Crystal Chan joined Pathways as Chinese subject teacher in September 2017. Before then, she had taught Chinese at a secondary school for eight years, and was also the SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) in the school. Ms. Chan felt that the move from a conventional school to a non-profit organization gave her greater opportunity to apply the theoretic principles she learned to actual practice.
“Working within a school, I had to make sure that the students can keep up with the curriculum. Yet it was difficult for me to closely follow up with each individual student who had learning difficulty, and I could not fully utilize what I have learned to help them due to resource limitations,” said Ms. Chan. Incidentally, Ms. Chan came across an opportunity to know about Pathways, and realized that Pathways was an organization that specializes in supporting students with dyslexia, led by experienced professionals in the medical and education fields. Hence she decided to join the Pathways team.
From her teaching experience at Pathways, Ms. Chan is pleased to find that she can attend to the individual needs of her students within the small group setting of two to three students. Teachers can also design various learning activities to rekindle students’ learning interest and build their confidence. In addition, under the guidance of Professor Cheng Pui-Wan, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Psychology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Pathways teaching team constantly shared insights in teaching to help students with dyslexia bridge the learning gap.
Ms. Chan was most impressed by one Primary 5 student who had very good memory. He was able to remember Ms. Chan’s explanation on how to understand a character by separating its different parts, and then apply the technique to learn new characters on his own. His significant improvement was also the result of his mother’s effort in cooperating with the teacher. As the child was not very talkative, Ms. Chan suggested the mother to share with her son each other’s happy and unhappy events every day through the use of mobile phone recordings. After practicing this for more than a year, the child showed improvement in his ability to organize his speech, while also scoring better grades at school. Moreover, this helped to strengthen the mother-child relationship.
“At Pathways we always focus on communicating with parents because we firmly believe that the support from parents at home is essential. The teacher offers support and guidance, yet eventually it is the parents who can provide continuous training to their child. As their teacher, I can see my students making improvement in learning while developing a better relationship with their parents. This brings me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that is hard to find in a conventional school environment,’’ said Ms. Chan.
Ms. Chan also added that children with dyslexia is like a“mini computer” with limited memory capacity. Hence their learning should be guided in simple and systematic ways, while teaching them to apply the knowledge to other situations. This way they can memorize less, and avoid jamming up the memory space in their “mini computers”.