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Teacher comes home to share love of English

Published on Thursday, 31 May 2012
Nina Foo
Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Nina Foo, English and test preparation instructor at The Edge Learning Center, says she loves her job because it offers her the chance not only to help students achieve their academic goals, but also to encourage and nurture in them an interest in English literature and language. Having left Hong Kong to study overseas after finishing Grade 12 in international school, she returned to the city to work because this is her home. She talks to Wong Yat-hei

What’s your academic background?
I graduated with an English literature major from Tufts University, in Boston, and then moved to the UK to continue my studies at University College London, where I obtained my master’s in medieval English literature
How do you start your day?
The most important thing for me is to be well prepared, so I usually start by looking over my student progress book, seeing what we covered in the last lesson, and making sure I have the relevant materials or lesson plans.

I check my schedule several days in advance, but I like to double-check each morning in case last-minute changes are needed. The rest of my morning I spend either working on content-development assignments or preparing materials for future lessons. Teaching begins at roughly 4pm, when students are let out of school, and continues to the end of the day.

What does your job entail?
My teaching responsibilities are split between test preparation and English tutoring. Test preparation is for students planning to take standardised tests, such as the SAT, AP, GCSE or IB exam papers. The process involves assessing students’ strengths and weaknesses, identifying areas that need improvement, and working with the students to master the necessary fundamental knowledge to attain their desired test results. English tutoring ranges from basic grammar and vocabulary building, which develops reading and writing skills, to more advanced literary analysis. I am also responsible for contributing material to course books that are in development.

What are the major challenges you’ve encountered so far?
Adapting as quickly as possible to the individual needs of each student has probably been my hardest challenge. Some students require more discipline, while some prefer to shoulder the responsibility themselves. Some prefer the teacher to lecture, while others like a more interactive discussion. As a teacher, finding the right balance of discipline and style is crucial to building rapport with the students and helping them reach their goals, so I try to do that as early on as I can, especially for short-term students.

What have you learned about your chosen career? What are your plans?
In the short term, I hope to continue helping students reach their goals and develop a higher understanding of and greater appreciation for English literature. In the long term, I would like to return to university to continue my studies further, and perhaps embark on a career in academia.

What’s your advice for interns?
Be flexible, patient, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your subject. It is important to recognise that all students are different, and to take those differences into account when teaching.

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