Teacher Feature: Kieran Hogan
Every month, we like to shine a small spotlight on our teachers here in school so you can learn a little bit more about the people who make Sri Emas more than a school.
This month, we sat down with our very own Kieran Hogan who teaches English in our August intake. Tr. Kieran took the time in his busy schedule - IGs are coming up for his charges very, very soon - to talk a little bit about life, teaching and whatever else makes him tick.
Thank you for taking the time on this cold (by Malaysian standards) January morning to talk shop for a bit. Why don't we start off with who you are, your background and the usual.
My name’s Kieran Hogan, I’m a British citizen but have some Malaysian background on my mother’s side. I moved here with my parents when I was eight years old and have stayed here ever since.
How long have you been a teacher here at Sri Emas and how did that come about in the first place?
I have been here for almost three years now, initially starting out as an assistant teacher. After I graduated from university and was looking for a job, I first took on a role as a facilitator for Seeds Training and their S.E.A.L. camp they run with Sri Emas. It was during that time that I met Principal Melinda and after a few conversations, she invited me for an interview at school.
What exactly do you teach here?
I was working at Dwi Emas first, in the primary school for the first six months but then transferred to Sri. Here I teach English in upper secondary in both intakes.
Mandarin and Spanish outrank English as the most spoken languages, but please talk a little bit about the importance of learning to speak English well.
Regardless of the numbers, English is still the language which opens the door across the board. It might not be the most spoken language but it is still arguably the most important one. If you want to find your way in an internationalized world, English is an absolute must.
Coming to this school, was it a bit of a culture shock at first?
(Laughs) Yes, definitely. Things can get pretty active here at times! There is always some coursework happening in the corridors, kids are dancing, maybe singing. Once I understood the purpose in how things run here though, I really saw the merit in all of it. Students are much more engaged in what they’re working on just by giving them a little more freedom in their learning.
That’s a good point to bring up. There are fewer of the common school formalities here at Sri Emas. What are some of the effects of that on the students?
It works out really well, actually. There isn’t such a big distance between teachers and students, and because of it even the kids who tend to be a bit more shy lose some of their reluctance to be part of things. It goes back to kids trusting you because of the rapport we have. That changes the mindset to wanting to learn rather than being pushed into it, and makes such a big difference in their learning outcomes. The camaraderie the kids build with each other, and the rapport us teacher have with them, it all comes from this environment of respectful informality.
What sets teaching apart from any other profession?
A lot of people feel that it's a noble one, and to an extent I agree with that. You don't really do it for the glory but I feel it's a job where you give a lot back. Here, I teach things the way I would have liked to be taught when I was in school, and that makes a difference. We probably all remember our high school days and wishing things could be a bit more interesting - that's what I get to do now. Also, it's a job where you have the chance to make a real difference in someone's life and that makes it special.
Can you single out a favourite moment as a teacher?
I can actually. It was a new class, where the dynamics weren't great yet and there was little interaction between the students. I had had a lesson plan and it was going to be a lot of writing but I set that all aside and played a game with them. You could see them coming out of their shell and it was entirely worth it. I reshuffled my lesson plan and the work they needed to do for the time being, and focused on getting them to have some fun together. They're not best friends just yet, but the class is a joy to work with now.
What's the hardest thing about being a teacher?
The hardest thing as a teacher is when you reflect back on the lesson you just taught and questioning whether or not you could have done it better. Was I being a good teacher, did I achieve my lesson objectives, were they engaging enough etc. Coming to terms with the fact that maybe you haven't done your best is something which is probably on all teachers' minds. At the same time we get the opportunity to improve.
What makes a good teacher then, in your opinion?
I'd say you have to be passionate about what you teach and take a genuine interest in your students. Obviously, competence is expected in every job but in teaching even more so because it affects your students and you get real-time feedback on everything you do.
So if you hadn't become a teacher, what other profession would you have pursued?
I think I would have worked in marketing, something along the lines of corporate communications, which is what I majored in. Another option for me would have been to pursue something related to fitness, that's one of my passions.
Finally, if there was only one thing you'd want your students to take away from you, what would it be?
I would like my students to understand the merit of working hard as well as working smart but that it's also not only about academic achievements. Life isn't always fair but it's the same for everyone and in that way, life is actually fair. Also, being a decent human being - having basic manners and respect for the people around you.
Thank you very much for your time, Tr. Kieran!