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Meet the Teacher: Lee Falconer

13 October 2017

We are delighted to welcome our new Assistant Head Teacher, Lee Falconer to BIS HCMC.  Before making his way to Ho Chi Minh City Lee taught in the UK, Canada and Hong Kong with specific focus on raising standards of Teaching and Learning in Senior Schools.

I am sure you will join us in welcoming Lee to the BIS HCMC community. To help us all get to know him, Year 12 students, Jamie and Ji Min thought they would take the opportunity to ask him a few questions. 

  • Meet the Teacher: Lee Falconer

Describe your past teaching experiences…

I started teaching 11 years ago now. I was very lucky when I started my PGCE as I had the chance to spend the first 6 months in Quebec; French-Speaking Canada. So as a French teacher it was a fantastic opportunity. I was teaching French and English, to both first and second language learners in a Secondary school just South of Montreal. Then I returned to the UK and finished my teacher training in London.

I then joined the largest co-educational day and boarding sixth form in the UK. It was a very large school offering both A level and IB. It was a fantastic school and I had 6 very happy years there and then the urge to teach overseas became bigger and bigger and that’s when I joined Kellett School in Hong Kong as Head of Faculty. I was there for 4 years and now I’m here at BIS HCMC!

I’ve been very fortunate to work at 3 fantastic schools with fantastic pupils, fantastic parents, great staff and forward-thinking dynamic teams.

What would you say are the differences between students in the UK and BIS students?

I think an average BIS student compared to an average student in the UK is firstly very fortunate because they’re in a fantastic school. There are lots of opportunities at BIS, lots of breadth, ECAs, very dedicated hard-working teachers. I also think in Asia generally there is a great emphasis on the importance of education, perhaps more so than on average in the UK and that creates a culture of success and achievement and wanting to do more.  At BIS, this permeates throughout the whole school community both for teachers and students, regardless of where they come from. It creates a very positive atmosphere. So that for me is the big difference.

Having worked now in Hong Kong and in Vietnam, the school culture is one of success and hard work and not accepting failure but what’s very nice at BIS is that everybody’s achievements are celebrated and there’s something for everybody. Whether it’s academia, music, arts, drama or sport for example. This again I think is a big difference between an average school in the UK and BIS. BIS isn’t an average school, we know that for sure and that’s why I feel very fortunate to be here as a teacher and I know you are very fortunate to be here as students as well. I can see it by the smiles on your face that you’re happy to be here and feel very fortunate to do so.

Are there any traits that you think students should learn during their time at the school?

For me, the biggest challenge facing teachers is encouraging students to problem solve. Students love to have the right answer and they love to have it straight away because rightly-so they are very driven, they have their eyes focused on the next stage in their education whether that’s university, further education or the world of work and to be successful they want to have the best grades possible. So they want to have the answer almost given to them.

As teachers we sometimes fall into the trap of wanting to give students the answer because we also want them to do well but actually when you’re at university or when you’re in the world of work, nobody’s going to give you the answers, you’ve got to find the answers for yourself, you’ve got to problem solve and I think this is something that students need to become increasingly confident and comfortable with.

Your teacher isn’t going to give you the answer straight away, they’ll give you the tools that you’ll need to problem solve so I think one trait that students need to work on is resilience. You won’t get the right answer straight away; you’re going to make lots of mistakes along the way but that’s how you learn. That’s why we have erasers on the top of pencils because you make mistakes and you need to rub them out. There are very few things that I’ve done in life that I got right first time. Think of it as a baby learning to walk. You don’t just get up and walk and then start running. You have to fall over and that’s what the learning process is all about.

The other trait is a simple one: do your homework the night that it’s set. Don’t procrastinate and put off what you can do today. If it’s set on Tuesday and it’s due on Friday, do it on Tuesday don’t do it on Thursday, because you don’t know what you’re going to be set on Thursday right?

That one’s a simple tip, the problem solving is a little bit harder!

Is there anything you have found interesting about Vietnam or are there any words that you have picked up?

I am currently completing a Vietnamese course and as a language teacher I find it very interesting. The thing that confuses me most is that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are the same pronoun, so ‘em’, ‘anh’ and ‘chi’ are all the same. I find that really interesting because it’s the first language that I’m learning that does that. When I was in Hong Kong, I had to read Chinese characters which was a real challenge so I’m also enjoying being able to read words instead. Overall, it’s been very interesting to start learning the language and getting to know the people and the local community.

So, have you ever tried learning Chinese before?

I have. I can speak basic Cantonese and my Mandarin is OK.

What’s the latest TV show that you have watched?

There are two that I have watched recently.  Obviously, Game of Thrones and the other one that I have been watching is The State but Game of Thrones is definitely my favourite. I am three episodes behind though so I can’t say I’m a hardcore fan. Vietnamese class takes precedent over Game of Thrones at the moment!

So recently there has been the release of the iPhone X and it’s pretty expensive at £999.  What do you think of that?

I think that’s a huge amount of money to spend on a phone and I’m seeing that you are both Apple fans there, I hate to say it, but I am an Android geek through and through.  Which means no iOS devices for me, either at home or at school. I do think it’s a really nice looking phone though. I like that the screen goes all the way to the edge, without a besel on the side but I think that it’s way too much money. I’ve got the Nokia 6 and it’s absolutely fine! 

Do you think it’s good that they have implemented the face ID?

I’m not sure you need it.  I think the fingerprint is enough, right?  Because you have already got your hand on the phone and the phone is already in that position ready to send a text or to select an app.  I don’t really think you need face ID and I do wonder about the security of it. I am sure that they have thought about it, but has anyone tried to take a photo of the person who owns the phone and show it to the phone to see if it actually works, or not? 

I tried doing one on my Mum’s Samsung phone and if I put my face on it, it recognises me as my Mum.

Oh, ok. So that’s debateable as well, isn’t it?

I think perhaps iris technology would work better, which some banks in Europe are starting to implement and in businesses in Asia. This is because an iris is unique, like your finger or your thumb print.  But a face?  There are plenty of people that are unfortunate enough to look like me. (chuckles)

This question is controversial.  Do you agree with pineapple on pizza?

Absolutely not.  Pineapple should not be cooked!  I can’t think of anything worse than pineapple on pizza and if I see anyone on my Facebook feed that has Hawaiian pizza, I unfriend them.  No, I’m joking.

That’s interesting because Ms Murphy was a huge fan.  So you will be able to bond over that interesting discussion.

Well if Ms Murphy and I go out for pizza, she might need to sit on a different table to me.

Thank you, so back to more serious topics. 

What wasn’t serious about Hawaiian pizza?

What do you think about Hurricane Irma, after Hurricane Harvey?

I think there are more and more global disasters that are happening at the moment.  There was a typhoon that hit Vietnam, a few weeks ago, which is unusual for this part of the world because we are so far north of the equator and they normally blow out.  I used to live in Hong Kong and there were a number typhoons there as well. 

What I find interesting is Hurricane Irma isn’t necessarily the biggest storm of the last five years, but it has made the media, and it think it’s made the media because it is in America.  And that’s what I find a little bit disappointing. There are typhoons on a regular basis especially in South East Asia. Taiwan and the Philippines in particular are two of the countries that are most hit.  They quite often don’t make the global media, and that’s what has disappointed me the most, that all of a sudden it hits the US and then the media are on the back of it. Of course, people have been displaced from their homes and people have died, but this happens on an increasingly regular basis and what we need to look at is the root cause of these storms. 

For me, it is to do with climate change and I know that climate change in itself is a debateable topic but, to me, that is the root cause and the media have jumped on this hurricane because  of it's location.

If you would like to know more about Lee, perhaps you might like to stop and chat with him at one of our future gatherings.