Building lasting relationships in education – the teaching journey of Professor Eva Man
28 Mar 2022
"Education is about relationships," says Professor Eva Man, Chair Professor in Humanities and Director of the Academy of Film, as she looks back on her life as a teacher at HKBU over the past three decades. "It is most rewarding to have established a relationship with my students - a life-long one."
Professor Man has served in various roles since joining the University in 1991, but it is teaching that gives her the greatest pleasure. There is a quote about teaching that she agrees with: teacher is a person who gives you not only knowledge but also inspiration to live. "The student-faculty ratio here is good. Although the campus is relatively small, it helps us build a close relationship with the students, and these relationships continue even after their graduation," she says.
Establishing bonds in the humanities
The Humanities programme, founded in 1990, was where Professor Man started her journey at HKBU. As a teacher of Philosophy, Comparative Cultural and Gender Studies, she had lots of discussions and even debates on different topics with her students. Yet such intellectual exchanges improved their mutual understanding, which in turn, helped to lay a strong foundation for their relationships. "I have better relationships with the first few classes of graduates, because I was only a few years older than them and I was experiencing the life issues which they would come across soon, such as struggling with my career, issues with marriage and family," she says.
For 14 years in a row, Professor Man led students to take part in a summer exchange studies programme in Beijing for two weeks, and she witnessed their salad days. Even after graduation, they remain as close as a family. Every year they have a spring gathering at her home, and they never forget to celebrate her birthday.
To this day, the former students love to share their joy and sorrow with her. She recalls that three students who got married within the same period of time held a joint bridal shower at her home; a student who quit her job at the apex of her media career returned to the campus to study special education for her son who has special educational needs.
The relationships also very much extend both ways, as Professor Man says she feels sad when she thinks about one of her students who endured the loss of her husband to cancer with strength and optimism. All these shared experiences have drawn her closer to the students. "They all have their own stories, and I am delighted that they are all willing to share and learn from each other," says Professor Man.
Life as a resident master
Professor Man took on the role of the Resident Master of C.L. Soong Hall in 2010. As a resident master, she lived with the hall residents and oversaw their personal growth. As a result, she established an extraordinary relationship with them during her seven-and-a-half-year tenure. Some residents got even closer with her than their teachers in their respective departments. "Sometimes the residents came and had dinner at my place, and we would chat till late at night. When they felt upset, they would come to me for help and comfort. I also needed to handle all kinds of unusual cases, but those days have really given me some wonderful memories," she says.
Professor Man also became good friends with a group of hall tutors, who are resident leaders who assist the resident masters in enriching hall life. Having experienced a lot of incidents together, including the Umbrella Movement in 2014, they fostered a close relationship. Some hall tutors even treat her like a mother, and they are still closely connected with her, sharing every important occasion in their lives even years after graduation.
Gaining intellectual satisfaction
Apart from undergraduates, Professor Man also teaches postgraduate students, and she was the Executive Associate Dean of the Graduate School. She reckons that she has more academic discussions and exchanges more knowledge with the postgraduate students, which brings her intellectual satisfaction.
"My research focuses on gender studies. In the subject 'Gender and sexuality in the media', I had discussion with students of different nationalities about the nature of sexuality and gender, and I learned a lot. Their experiences may challenge some widely accepted theories, providing room and basis for further refining the theories," she says.
Seeing ambition in the youth
In 2017, Professor Man became the Director of the Academy of Film, and she initiated the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in Acting for Global Screen. To her, the casting of students is most memorable, and she was impressed by the students' devotedness and enthusiasm for acting. "I see each student coming for the casting as a piece of uncarved jade. They were all extraordinary! It doesn't matter how they look. It is their ambition that makes them shine."
Acting is no easy job, and students need to have the courage to cope with the occasionally harsh comments. Professor Man feels content when she sees how they keep on improving themselves in terms of how they walk, speak and play the roles.
With most of the classes going online during the pandemic, teachers and students can only meet in the virtual space and their relationships may not be as close. Nevertheless, Professor Man believes that as long as you spend time with them, you will find out how splendid they are. "Today, I still meet with my students who graduated years ago. Our relationship really lets me feel the significance of being a teacher, and it has left me with no regrets in my teaching career of over three decades at HKBU," says Professor Man.