HEAD NECK CANCER - A learning journey
‘Highest good is like water. Because water excels in benefitting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way…’ (Lau 2001, Lao Tzu , Book 1, VIII, p.11)
This picture is of lotus plants in a central lake on the Sun Yat-sen University Zhuhai campus China that was poisoned and barren 6 months previously…it’s now a beautiful water garden. The flower appears to be holding up a leaf, which acts as an umbrella, protected and protective. Both are mutually supportive; just as teachers and students are interdependent, supporting each other, learning and teaching.
I am a gardener. I like to get my hands dirty and create gardens, with earth and water, sunlight, nature, love and constant vigilance. I am glad to know that in China teachers are regarded as ‘diligent gardeners …caring, self-sacrificing, moral-modelling, and deserving of high-respect ‘and students are the fruits of their labour’ (Hui 2005, p.27).
As a teacher, I aim to ‘lead (students) to the threshold of (their) own mind’, (Gibran 1923, p.99) to encourage them to be curious, adventurous, to explore and to experiment, to question and to apply their skills in a meaningful and relevant way (see Booth and Kennedy nd) and within ethical frameworks.
LEARNING & TEACHING CONTEXT
I have experience as a teacher in private and state institutions of higher education and Sino-British joint ventures in China since 2000, in Australian and German tertiary education and business experience in human resource management. I teach in the ‘fuzzy’ social science arenas of management, organizational behaviour, tourism and events management as well as writing skills for tourism, hospitality and events. I am a practical academic, with experience in leading teaching teams, influencing processes and assuring quality; developing study materials and learning activities, guiding work-based reflective practice for Masters level students, supporting student-led community consultancy projects on tourism development; and co-ordinating individual work-integrated learning projects. With a Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching that deepened my own reflective practice, I am confident to develop and shape effective teaching strategies that include supporting students and colleagues to engage more actively with technology, learning in and from the field, and deepening their own reflective practice (Schön 1983).
My current role is to prepare undergraduate (Bachelor) Chinese students for future study in Australia. The challenge is to shift students from rote learning to reflective learning, active engagement and participation and to challenge assumptions, to ask questions, to know how to read difficult texts and the environment, and how to find appropriate references. Integrating influences of Socratic dialogue with ancient Chinese philosophy of Confucius, Lao Tze and Buddhism, as well as modern greats like Schön (1983) and Harvey (1978), I encourage students and colleagues towards independent and creative learning and to discover new questions. Classes are modified according to qualitative feedback from the students. The learning outcomes of my students are framed explicitly and aligned with assessment and learning activities as recommended by Biggs and Tang (2011). With freedom to ‘play’ and ‘push’ boundaries, results of students are outstanding.
LEARNING AND TEACHING IN PRACTICE
MYTH-BUSTING: ENCOURAGING ACTIVE, ENGAGED STUDENTS
There are many examples of excellence to dispel the myth of the ‘passive, dull, unimaginative’ Chinese student, including the winner of a provincial English speaking contest. Li Fang went on to win a national competition and a scholarship to complete her M. Phil. Linguistics in Cambridge. She is about to complete her PhD at Peking University and translated a bilingual children’s book Shanghai Mouse that I authored in 2010. In 2008, I edited and published an anthology of student writing: ‘Willow and Bamboo: Inside China by Henan students’ (Barnaby James, Sydney). This book showcases the students’ clear and evocative writing that documents social changes in their lifetimes.
In 2009, I led 60 events management students from Shanghai to study at the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire for nine weeks, and in 2014 I led 19 tourism management students on a two week field trip to Singapore, Bali and Lombok. In both cases, students were transformed and brimming with new found confidence from finding their way around places in a foreign language, undertaking focused research and reflecting on their achievements both as travelers, students and potential managers of tourism, hospitality and events.
My five primary values of freedom; autonomy; independence; integrity; and wisdom, developed as a young HRM practitioner and deepened by reading and support from guides and mentors along the way, are integrated in the goal of supporting individuals and groups towards personal and professional growth, meaningful and sustainable livelihoods (see also Booth and Kennedy, nd.). When I see outcomes that result from an integrated approach based on my quintessential values, I am in my ‘element’ (Robinson 2009). Enabling students to blossom and supporting teaching colleagues to develop effective strategies for student engagement and high achievement so that we all flourish is the meaningful livelihood I have been nurturing, and plan to continue to do so, wherever it will lead me.
LIST OF REFERENCES
Biggs, J and Tang, C 2011, Teaching for quality learning at university, McGraw Hill and Open University Press, Maidenhead.
Booth, C and Kennedy, B, nd. ‘Are academics teachers or learners? The new academic as a learner not teacher’, RMIT, www.doc88.com/p-1703926753274 (viewed 17 September 2014)
Chism, N 1998, ‘Developing a philosophy of teaching statement’, in KH Gillespie (ed.) Essays on teaching excellence: toward the best in the Academy (1997-98) POD Network: A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education.
Fallon, F 2010, Shanghai Mouse, trans. Li Fang; illus. Mat Terrett, Barnaby James, Wynyard, Tas.
Fallon, F (ed.) 2008, Willow and bamboo: inside China by Henan students, Barnaby James, Sydney.
Gibran, K 1923 The Prophet and the art of peace, New illustrated edition, Duncan Baird Publishers, London.
Harvey, JB 1978, ‘Learning to not teach’, The Organizational Behaviour Learning Journal, vol. 111, no. 3, pp.11-17, George Washington University.
Hui Leng 2005, ‘Chinese cultural schema of education: implications for communication between Chinese students and Australian educators’, Issues in Educational Research, vol.15, no. 1, pp. 17-36.
Lau, D. (2001 translator). Tao te ching: A bilingual edition. (The way of Tao; sometimes known as ‘The book of five thousand characters’), Chinese University Press, Hong Kong.
Robinson, K 2009, The element: how finding your passion changes everything (with Lou Arona), Viking, New York.
Schön, D 1983, The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in practice. Basic Books, New York.
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,