Sunday, 16 March 2014

One step forward, two steps back

The past week has not entirely gone to plan for me.  Having said that neither has the past year and I am getting used to taking one step forward and two steps back.  On Monday I started a new job in an international pre-school.  During the interview I was seduced by the passion of the owner of the school, a very warm Cantonese woman who had given up a career in the Hong Kong police force to set up her own school.  I was interviewed in the school on a Sunday, so the school owner and I were the only people there.  The school was light and bright and very clean and colourful - a far cry from the dark, drab, grey, airless office I had previously worked in.  It was based in Causeway Bay, a very easy commute from our home and conveniently close to the yacht club.  I could picture myself working happily in such a welcoming environment.  The interview went very well and I was offered the job on the spot.

This week it quickly became clear that in my excitement at being offered my first full-time teaching job, I had naively brushed over some of the details - for example exactly what teaching 'pre-school' would entail!  Day one was an eye-opener and with a sinking heart, I realised what I had signed-up to.  From 8.45am a steady stream of wailing two year olds arrived at the school and I was ordered to greet them with a smile, observe them from a distance, and not hold eye contact for too long in case I scared them! From 9am to 12pm I was imprisoned in a classroom with the toddlers (along with two other teachers).  I was asked to sit on a child-sized chair behind two of the most unruly children and jam my feet behind their chairs so they were pinned in place at their desks and unable to escape.  I witnessed one of the little boys sneeze producing a thick green trail of snot from his nose to his hand, and then retched as I had to wipe up the mess he had made.  One little girl cried for the entire 3 hours, asking for her mum - I felt like joining in.  I felt sad that at the age of two, the children were sitting in a classroom, around desks, learning, rather than learning through play.  It didn't feel right to me, yet this is the Hong Kong way, and this is what I had agreed to facilitate.

I found the afternoons more rewarding as I was tasked with teaching four year olds one-to-one lessons and felt I was able to make a difference, hold the children's interest and teach something.  Each morning though I was back in a classroom with tearaway toddlers, fighting over musical instruments, hitting each other when they thought no one was looking, and struggling to stay focused on the lessons.  On Saturday I hit a new low when I was asked to assist in a class teaching 8 month old babies English!  Being stuck in a room with one baby and one set of cooing parents wears on my nerves.  Times that by seven and I was trapped in purgatory for the longest hour of my life.  Fortunately, I had already assessed that I am not cut-out for teaching such young children and had prepared my letter of resignation which I handed over on Saturday afternoon with an immense feeling of relief.  There was not a shred of doubt that I had made a decision I would regret later.

When I Facetimed my parents later in the day to let them know that I had resigned already, I was greeted by a cry of "Oh, for f**k's sake!" by my father.  A sentiment I reflected on realising, for the second time since arriving in Hong Kong, I had secured the wrong job for me!  I suppose the course of changing career is never going to run smoothly and you are going to make mistakes, and all you can do is learn from those mistakes.  I know now that I do not want to teach children younger than 3/4 years old.    I know to ask more searching questions during the interview process and not rush into taking the first thing that is offered to me.  I am also considering whether I would be better suited to being my own boss and building my own business tutoring.  I have really enjoyed tutoring since I started in February and I have quickly seen the difference I have made through my teaching.  Perhaps this is the route I should follow, particularly as it would offer me more flexibility and the chance to get back to writing my literary masterpiece (!) which has been on hold since December.

While I spend the next week working my notice and clearing up endless trails of thick, green snot, I will be trying to work out how to start going forward... yet again!  Today I feel very disheartened to be back to square one, but sooner or later everything has to slot into place for me here.

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