And so my contract as a Native English teacher with the wonderful Chinese Catholic girls' school in Wong Tai Sin ended. My last day was ordinary, anti-climactic and sobering. The lesson ended and within a few minutes another teacher came to the classroom. She asked if I had finished because she needed the classroom for a violin lesson. That simple administrate gesture put my life in perspective.
I applied to work at another primary school and my interview went well. The few subjects that I passed in my Bachelor of Education were useful in the interview as I talked to the English teachers about the psychology of learning and the importance of formative assessments which lead to an in-depth discussion about the indicators of functional cognitive ability. I told them I was studying towards my Bachelor of Education but I am not a teacher and that is why I am not registered as a such with the relevant authorities in Hong Kong. There was a long pause. "We will discuss this with the principal and inform you of our decision."
The next day there was a long silence.
Then, late on Friday night, the agency called to tell me that the school would like me to start on Monday and could I please attend a planning meeting at eight o'clock in the morning. I thanked them and assured them "I will be there" with a postscript on how utterly amazed I was at the offer.
The school is about 50km away from where I live. In Hong Kong that means it is also two hours away and requires the crossing of three tunnels, two bridges and a partridge in a pear tree. On Saturday morning, early Saturday morning after dragging my half-unconscious carcass almost to China, I found myself at the planning meeting with the head of the English curriculum and the other English teachers. We talked about the lessons for the next few weeks and I committed to attending the parents and teachers night, the sports day and their upcoming 10th anniversary concert.
The principal talked to me afterwards and asked me at what university did I get my education degree.
It is at this point when I digress to talk about a famous Australian author, Miles Franklin, who wrote a book about her brilliant career. The book is aptly titled My Brilliant Career. She also wrote another less-known sequel called My Career Goes Bung. That is how I would aptly describe what happened next.
The principal casually asked for a copy of my Hong Kong ID card, my work visa and a copy of my first degree. I told the principal that I do not have an education degree or a first degree; and it could be argued, with a high probability of success, that I do not even have an education. "I cannot talk to you anymore, I will contact the agency. Good day." said the principal amid a flurry of apologies but he then took the time to explain to me that he had asked the agency for an English teacher, one who has actually completed a degree, preferably in the English language, about the English language and with the purpose and intent of actually teaching English as a career. Not a telephone technician. The English teacher looked at me silently for a few seconds and then asked me to return her books.
A few minutes later, I was riding my scooter along the long Yuen Long freeway back to Hong Kong. In my mind was the haunting image from a youtube movie showing a scooter accident that occurred on the same stretch of road a few days earlier. The scooter accident represents how quickly life can change.
As of Sunday night, I have not heard from anyone about where to be on Monday morning, so I sent an email to prompt the agency to contact me. It went like this:
I have not heard from the agency
I have not heard from the school
I have not signed a contract
I feel like a fool
I cannot start on Monday
I am not welcome there
If I sit and do nothing
It will not be fair
Everyone was so helpful
It happened so quick
"Please show me your papers"
I can't do such a trick
One minute I worked there
The next I was gone
They want a real teacher
But I just fix phones.
So now in the evening
I plan my next day
Do I go in the morning?
What do you say?
( I really did not mean it to turn into rhyming couplets but I was thinking about a play called the Misanthrope.)
Miles Franklin. My Brilliant Career (1901)
Misanthrope. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Known as Molière (1622-1673)
Scooter Accident in Hong Kong.