Thursday, March 13, 2008

0803132100 - I keep telling you, I'm not a teacher

I first heard about a far off mystical land called Hong Kong when I was in primary school in Koo-Wee-Rup during the 70's, I was told a gruesome story about a flu that was so severe it could actually kill people. The teacher would tell my class stories like this to emphasise how lucky we were not to live in a land where simply being alive could be fatal. This week, in a far off mystical land not far from my house, there was an outbreak of flu and as a result I have two weeks holiday from teaching in a Chinese Catholic Girls school. As a precaution the local government has closed all the primary schools - apparently, high school kids are immune. Wearing a surgical mask is not common in Australia, unless you are a surgeon and have a patient etherised upon the table, but in Hong Kong it is almost a fashion accessory. Bus drivers wear them and a lot of kids at school wear them which oddly enough, makes it difficult to understand what they are saying despite the fact that they are speaking in a different language. The Mass Transit Railway in Hong Kong has posted some etiquette rules about when to wear a surgical mask - the person with the cold has to wear the mask to protect everyone else. Coughing on the MTR will attract unwanted attention and you may be asked to get off the train.

I have been offered a job at the school for another year. It seems that they are not too fussy about the fact that I am not a teacher. I worked for Telstra for fifteen years as an engineer without actually being one - so I suppose I can work as a teacher for the Chinese Catholic Girls school with only a few experiences as an army instructor, a scout leader and volunteer work at church. It seems that my personal approach to education is welcome in China which is fairly simple - don't stuff it up and try to not make a fool of myself. I have planned out every lesson in advance for the rest of the year - other teachers interpret this behaviour as being "organised". I have to explain this with another story: One afternoon in Brisbane I was running to catch a train - Brisbane trains run to a set timetable and leave regularly every half-hour or so - as I ran up the steps at Roma Street station, the platform guard blew his whistle and waved the train off. I ran onto the platform to see the doors close and the train start its journey without me. I had missed the train. The guard said that he was sorry for letting the train go. I told the guard that I have carried a copy of the train timetable since 1998 so technically and legally, I knew in six years ago that the train was going to leave on that day at exactly 4:32pm. I should have planned ahead for it. This is how I feel about lesson planning - I know that on 11:05 on Wednesday 17th of April 2008 about 30 Chinese Catholic girls will expect a lesson on how to use personal pronouns. As they say in the Boy Scouts - Be Prepared.

I have to amuse myself during the lessons so I have made a few comprehension exercises - here is an example of some comprehension questions for a book called "One of the Oldest Women in Hong Kong". The kids really like getting a stamp that says "Good Work".

Hong Kong was not a safe place to live in when Cheung Yee Mui was young. There was a lot of crime and only a few policemen, There were a lot of diseases too and doctors and hospitals were too expensive for the people in her village. She remembers being very ill when she was seven years old. “I had a fever for six days. I couldn’t get out of bed. My parents thought I might die but I was lucky and got well again” she said. Today Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world. “I am lucky now. When I don’t feel well, I can see a doctor, The hospitals are clean and modern. Nobody is afraid of living in Hong Kong,” she said.
Health and safety are so important. Hong Kong has grown strong through all the years and Hong Kong people too.”

How does Cheung Yee Mui describe Hong Kong in the old days?
Tick the correct answers
1. She was not lucky to be in a safe.
2. Nobody is afraid of living in Hong Kong.
Nobody is afraid of an expensive policeman.
4. A policeman had a fever for six days and stayed in bed for seven years.
5. She said “When I don’t feel well, I can see a doctor with a disease.”
6. She was lucky and got well again.
7. She was lucky, an expensive doctor got her out of bed in six days.
8. She was lucky, an expensive policeman got her to the village.
9. She was lucky, an expensive doctor took her to a clean hospital.
10. The people in the village had a disease and couldn’t get out of bed.
11. There was a lot of crime and only two policemen.
12. She was ill for seven years and six days.
13. Two doctors thought that they too might die in the safest city in the world.
14. Hong Kong was not a safe place to live when Cheung Yee Mui was young.
15. It was not safe to live in a safe for six days.
16. It was not safe to live in a hospital for seven years.
17. Hong Kong people live for seven years.
18. A strong policeman lived in Hong Kong for six days, he was lucky.
19. Cheung Yee Mui went to modern hospital for six days.
20. Cheung Yee Mui went to a safe policeman and was too ill to be safe.
21. Cheung Yee Mui said “When I don’t feel well, I can see a doctor.”

I am no longer surprised by some of the answers.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

The job at the Chinese Catholic Girls' School may be the best job ever.

My new job at the Chinese Catholic Girls' School may be the best job ever.

A sudden realisation occurred to me when I finished work for the week on Thursday afternoon - my new job at the Chinese Catholic Girls' school may be the best job I have ever had.
When I hated working in an office at Telstra, I used to turn up on some days at eleven o'clock. That is to say, on the days that I did go to work, I would arrive at the office at eleven. I hated being watched and I hated being asked what I was doing.

A brief comparison:
Telstra - Constant supervision - being constantly asked how was a project progressing.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - The principal at the Chinese Catholic Girls school watched me for a few minutes on the first day and left me to do the job.

Telstra - for years I had to be at work at 7:30am - two hours before my supervisor arrived.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - I start at 11:00am and I leave at four.

Telstra - Required specialised knowledge of electronic equipment. And the worst thing about that was when my specialised knowledge was made redundant by an even newer technology.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - Requires the ability to speak in monosyllabic sentences.

Telstra - 5 day week.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - Every Friday off.

Tesltra - My supervisor was an idiot.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - My supervisor is a kind lovely Nun.

Telstra - I had to sit in a desk all day, (even though I didn't) with no view, outside my supervisor's office as if I was his personal assistant.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - I get a whole classroom with a view of the old airport site in Hong Kong. A kind Chinese lady brings me cold water regularly.

Telstra - When I walked into a meeting, someone from Vodafone or Optus would not be happy to see me.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - When I walk into a classroom, everyone smiles, stands up and says good morning. Sometimes they sing a strange Chinese welcome song.

Telstra - I had to be quiet. One of my supervisors said that my loud voice was "aggressive"
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - Not only an I allowed, but I am encouraged to be loud.

Telstra - Everything I said, I needed a reference.
Chinese Catholic Girls' school - Everything I say, the kids write it down and say it back to me later. An entire generation of Chinese Catholic Girls will use the phrase "Press your palms to your cheeks!" as an exclaimation when something goes wrong.

I landed the job through an agency that understandably takes a fee for their services. The school principal, Sister Maria, asked me if I would like to work directly for the school and not through an agency. It makes sense that the school would save some money by not paying the agency and would also pay me slightly more. How wrong could I have been? It seems that the agency charges the school twice what the agency pays me. The agency takes half of what I earn. I won't be signing on with that agency again. My contract ends in June.

Rachel Ruby is on a school excursion to India. We were very concerned because Rachel Ruby was not feeling at all well a few days before she left. We did get a call on Sunday afternoon from Rachel Ruby and she said that she has made a full recovery and is having a great time helping orphans learn to speak English.

I have been asked to speak at the Asian Women's Conference on the subject of internet safety and the organising committee sent me a form letter asking for my personal biography. The form had places to fill in information about how many degrees the speaker has and to give the membership details for all the many humane and dignified charitable organisations to which one belongs. This is what I said:
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION FOR ASIA WOMEN’S CONFERENCE(Please replace the bolded information in parenthesis with your personal information)
David Nightingale serves as the District Clerk for the Hong Kong China District and a Sunday School Teacher for the 14 – 15 year-old youth in the Victoria 1 Branch. Prior to this call he served as the Stake Technology Specialist for the Logan Australia Stake. He has received no educational degrees from any institution and has worked professionally in Australia as a telecommunications technician, a project manager for construction and maintenance of telecommunications exchanges, a radio design engineer for cellular networks, computer technician specialising in the integration of cell phone test equipment and global positioning systems, a soldier in the Australian Army as a radio technician and weapons instructor, other odd jobs include kitchen hand, repairing pinball machines, personal fitness trainer and a brief stint as an Avon lady. He belongs to no professional organisations – ask Groucho Marx why. He was born in Australia to goodly enough parents. He is married to Carolyn Nightingale. They are the parents of three wonderful children.