“Grasp the Opportunities to Learn”: Mr. Chan Serves Up Advice for Students

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By Minh Han Dam

With the massive influx of new teachers this year, there is certainly a lot to know about each of them. After all, each of them have their fair share of stories to tell. I was fortunate enough to meet up with Mr. Raphael Chan to let him tell me his, and I was impressed by what he had to say.

Having received his undergraduate degree and his training as a math teacher in Hong Kong, Mr. Chan has also studied in a graduate school in Australia, where he dabbled in philosophy. He studied a humanities programme as well, but he is exclusively teaching mathematics in our school right now.

Because of his interest in tennis, Mr. Chan has taken on the role of teacher-in-charge of the tennis team and the tennis interest group. He is a long-time player, and was even ranked 30th in Hong Kong some time ago. He’s proof that we should never underestimate what teachers are capable of!

Being a teacher wasn’t part of Mr. Chan’s original lifeplan. “To be honest, this wasn’t the dream job I wanted to get in my secondary years,” he explained rather sheepishly, “but being a teacher isn’t half bad.” However, he is just as passionate about education as any other teacher. “I get to interact with and educate the next generation, and this keeps me young in a way.

“Besides, education is definitely important, and not just to individuals. It’s how humans have been passing on their wisdom and knowledge to the next generation for several thousand years.” He smiled and continued, “Students don’t learn math just to be a mathematician, but also to appreciate the result of several millennia of work on numbers and logic.”

Mr. Chan believes that students of all year levels need to try hard to succeed at math. When asked how to cope with math and the difficulties that come with it, he explained: “You won’t get everything correct for the first few trials, so you’ll have to expect failure at the start, but it’s part of the learning process.”

He continued: “To me, math is like sports. When I tried out tennis for the first time, I couldn’t hold the racket well or hit the ball with complete accuracy. I mean, it was impossible!” he exclaimed. “However, after continuous trial and error, I corrected my mistakes and improved over time.”

For Mr. Chan, it’s the same with math. “You’ll make some progress eventually, and this applies to everyone.”

Mr Chan also expressed his surprise over the differences between HKUGA College and other schools. “The classroom setting here is quite different from other schools in Hong Kong, where tables are arranged in rows, so it’s pretty special,” he explained. “I think it helps students learn more by providing a better learning experiences through more opportunities in organising group activities.”

Mr. Chan was also surprised by the amount of homeroom time the school offers. “Of course, this takes a bit of time for a teacher who’s new to this school like me to get used to, but I don’t mind. Teachers get to have more chances to get to know about their students and vice versa.”

“From what I’ve seen so far, students here are quite active and dedicated. Most students have many after-school activities and are occupied for the whole week. They leave school late almost everyday, but they can still manage their studies well.” He grinned. “That’s pretty impressive to me.”

When asked about what advice to give students, Mr. Chan paused. “Honestly, my biggest advice to you all is to grasp the opportunities to learn.” He paused for a moment. “Subject content is clearly important, but keep in mind to be around other people more to widen your social circle as well. Do take time to interact with other people in the same class, but if you want to take it up a notch, you can apply for leadership roles from S3 onwards. There are also many different kinds of sports and cultural activities available to students, and there are actually a lot more than other schools.”

As our school motto suggests, we should strive to be virtuous in all aspects of our lives, and be dedicated to a quest for truth and knowledge. Mr. Chan’s parting advice really coincides with this ideal. “With so many gates open to you all,” he said, “be sure to make good use of them. Just make the most out of the six years of your secondary school life, and you’ll definitely benefit in return.”