As of last week I began a new job, teaching English to 3 – 6 year olds at a local kindergarten here in Hong Kong.
The kindy is in a very ‘local’ part of Hong Kong and I’ve been told that most of the children would have only seen someone of my ‘colouring’ on TV.
In preparation for my first day of school I was given a set of guidelines to adhere to. They include the following:
No clothing that is too bright
No perfume or scented moisturiser
Preferably no makeup
No jewellery, sandals or skirts or shorts. Pants only.
I was told that the level of English spoken by the children (and the teachers) would be very minimal and for this reason I was to keep it simple. Obviously simple was not simple enough.
The days are structured like so:
Morning greeting from 830am – 9am. This involves me standing at the front doors and greeting the children and their parents in english, even though most will respond in Cantonese; “Jo-sun”.
Each child then begins along a production line of teachers, first stop a drenching with anti-bacterial spray. Here, the little ones stand with their hands out and get hosed down, so to speak, with a spray gun of Dettol.
The second stop is a zapping of the forehead with another gun looking thermometer. Any child that does not have a perfect temperature is sent packing, back home with mum or the Amah.
If the child passes the first two stops, the parent is then given an ID card with the child’s information on it – to be handed back in return for the child at the end of the day. The Chinese are so efficient its ridiculous.
What suprised me most about this part of my day, is the lack of emotion or feeling. There are no kisses goodbye, no cuddles, and unlike many Sydney pre-schools the mothers DEFINATELY do not hang around the front for a gossip. Its strictly business. In and out.
The rest of my day consists of 8 classes, where the children arrive at my classroom to sing, dance and play games.
As the first class arrived, the smallest kid I have ever seen in my life, walked past me with her jaw wide open and walked straight into the kid in front of her. The teachers aid told me that the children didn’t quite understand my hair colour and if it was OK with me, would they be allowed to touch it. The next few minutes included a procession of mini people coming up to my chair and stroking my hair. Unbelievable.
We then played a game where you had to pass the ball around the circle and say “Hello, my name is…” Here i was thinking that this would be a great way for me to learn everyone’s name…WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
First cab off the rank; “Hello, my name is Po Lam Kung Gai Wah” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ‘That has got to be a one off’, i thought to myself. Nope. Next kid; ” Hello, my name is Chiu Ting Tzu kan Tong”. I only got lucky ONCE with this kid, his name turned out to be Bobby. Needless to say, Bobby is my mate and he gets a lot of go’s at writing on the board.
Teaching english to a group of children that don’t yet speak it fluently is a tougher gig than i first anticipated. In one of my classes, I caught two boys out of the corner of my eye, brawling. They were pushing and shoving and yelling at each other in Cantonese. The rest of the class decided to take sides and a few kids thought it best to tell me what was going on…in Cantonese. How does one discipline these kids when you have no idea who started or what happened? I was trying my best not to laugh at the sticky situation I was in, and thought it best that they both take 5 and sit alone for a while.
I have slowly worked out that its best to pretend that I understand them when they are talking to me in Chinese, that way they won’t work out that I don’t actually understand a word they are saying and try to pull a swifty on me. The last thing I need are midgets cussing me out or giving me lip and me not even realise it. Ha.
I almost lost them the other day when I think they caught a whiff of my inability to understand them – I quickly nipped that in the bud though. I bent over to pick up a book, one kid said something, very quickly in Chinese, and the rest of them started laughing. I can only assume the pint sized individual was having a stab at my ‘behind’. I pointed directly at him; “Stand up! Come and sit here!” I said pointing at a small cushion facing the wall. Fingers crossed there won’t be any more jokes at my expense.
You know the saying; “There’s always one…”? Well that applies here as well…there is always one kid that is a little strange, a little weird, a little scary. In one of my classes, there is a boy who doesn’t participate, doesn’t interact with the other kids, doesn’t even crack a smile or laugh…hell – this kid barely bats and eyelid.
Except for the other day…the other day, I was reading a story to the class and I catch this particular kid with his hands cocked like a gun, pretending to shoot at me. I swear to you…this kid was sitting in the front row pointing his imaginary pistol at my head and making whisper quiet noises that sounded like “pow, pow!”. If he wasn’t so small, I probably would have cried. Perhaps we have a little Charles Sobhraj in the making here?! (Mr Sobhraj was a Hong Kong man that killed at least 12 Westerners in Asia the 1970’s and I think he has a little fan).
In addition to working out who the class psycho is, I have also worked out who the class tart is. Her name is Bo Bo and I caught her canoodling with not one but TWO boys down the back during story time. They were exchanging kisses on the cheek. She was allowing them a turn each at giving her a kiss and a cuddle and directing them as to when they were permitted to do so. Although it was quite cute and a little bit funny, I put a spanner in her little love nest and separated them all. Mother and Father Bo Bo, you can thank me later.
In conclusion, so far so good. I’m enjoying this role a lot more than my last one, hanging out with kids all day is much more entertaining than what was on offer before…although at times I do miss the human key chain and Bozo just a little. Jokes. I really don’t at all.