My First Day Teaching in Hong Kong
Your first-day teaching is one you will surely remember. I know I do. I’ve already touched on my experience briefly in a series of posts with the first one linked here. With September rolling around, I thought it would be nice to share my first day of teaching I did when I landed in Hong Kong some eleven years ago.
Being an eager beaver, I had woken up early and jumped on a bus to school. I remember feeling nervous, wondering what my day would be like. After a short bus ride, I had arrived at my stop. I hopped off the bus and after a brief bit of navigating found my kindergarten. I pressed the bell and was let in by the vice-principal. “Oh, you’re so early,” she said as she politely gestured for me to have a seat and wait until the principal and the other teachers arrived. I sat and soaked in the cool aircon. The walk from the bus had coated me in a fine layer of sweat.
The teachers arrived, offering up a coy good morning as they passed. I was quickly introduced to the principal and she explained to me what I’d be doing. “We always stand by the door and welcome the children when they arrive at school,” she said with a look of bemusement, feeling a little bit unsure as to why she needed to explain this at all. We walked to the front door, and the children started to come in. The parents and students were polite and addressed me as they came in. “Good morning, Mr...?” “Jamie” I interjected. “Good morning, Mr.Jamie. Say good morning to your new teacher” I remember feeling a little sorry for some of the children as their parents were insistent on making a good impression. “It’s okay. Great try.” I replied.
As quick as all the children had arrived at school, they went into their classrooms and re-emerged bag-less with each class passing me by as they headed to the hall. The hall was lined with windows. It almost felt like I was in a zoo being watched from the outside. I heard a loud thump of bass which sent me straight back to the youth clubs of the 90’s in England. All the children began to dance. I asked, “does this happen every morning?” To which one teacher replied “Yes. We like to do a warm-up session with the kids to get them motivated and ready for the day.”
Soon enough, I was awoken from the flashbacks of my youth and was swiftly escorted to a classroom. The teacher hastily told me what I had to do. I’d later learn that there is only one speed in Hong Kong and that’s fast, fast and fast. “Teach the children for 30 minutes. Use this book”. “Alright...” I stammered. As I sat in front of the children, you could see their expressions clearly on their faces. I saw the odd laugh, a few smiles and a little bit of apprehension. “Good morning, everyone” I mumbled... No reply. “I’d like to get to know you. If you can tell me your name, I’ll give you a sticker” It was like a light had been switched on. All the children started to rattle off their names faster than I could pull stickers off of my sticker book. As I was passing stickers out, I looked at the clock and started to worry that only five minutes had passed. My mind began to race, frantically thinking of what I could lead into next. I glanced at the book I was given and saw the song “ten green bottles”. I was safe...at least for another ten minutes.
After singing a song more than I’d ever done in my entire life, I moved onto a story. At this point, twenty minutes deep into my lesson, I began to notice a light bubbling of frustration, boredom and excitement. As I continued my story, the bubbling of mixed emotions from the children intensified until it boiled over and one of the class teachers had to step in. Her voice like a verbal whip, slashing the atmosphere and quelling the dissent that my class had fallen into. “Phew,” I thought. I had been saved. I continued with my story and managed to finish it without any further incidents. I felt relieved and exhausted. After my lesson had ended, I thanked the teacher, and we shared a brief exchange. “Is this the youngest class?” I asked naively. With a look of bemusement, she said: “no, these are the oldest” With that, I realised I was in for a treat. The rest of my day rolled on in much of the same fashion. Thankfully, I had a great bunch of teachers on hand to put out my fires. Surprisingly, I felt a great sense of accomplishment as the day closed. It was a small victory, and it had felt like I had lost more than I had won, but I took it.
I would love to hear how your first day of teaching went! Why not share it in the comments below?