My day starts at about 6.15am. I was getting up earlier than this, at 5.50am, before I realised that taking the bus, rather than a combination of the MTR (Hong Kong's metro) and a minibus, would give me an extra 25 precious minutes in bed.
The children begin arriving at Anfield School, the private primary where I work, at about 7.30am, with the day beginning properly half an hour later. I use this time to answer parents' emails and to prepare my lessons for later in the day.
Given that a significant number of pupils come to school by bus, I seldom see parents in person apart from at their child's termly review meeting or a school event. This lack of face-to-face contact can be a challenge, but phone calls, emails and the school's weekly newsletter are an effective substitute. It also means that I always have lots to talk about when I do finally meet them.
The way that planning, preparation and assessment time is allocated is very different to what I was used to back in the UK. Rather than having it in one large block, it is spread out in small pockets across the week. On the plus side this gives me plenty of time to prepare lessons, but it can be tricky to get your teeth into a significant job when you have just 45 minutes to yourself before the children return to the classroom.
I very much enjoy working here. I have lots of creative freedom, a small class of 25 pupils and I have found my first year of teaching children in Primary 1 immensely rewarding. My partner teaches kindergarten, and we inevitably spend part of our evenings talking about the wild and wonderful things our students have said and done. Teaching can be a difficult job and I find that coming home to someone who can relate to the profession's highs and lows helps immeasurably.
Although I have experience of working overseas on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, this is my first proper teaching job in an international setting. The student body is predominantly ethnic Chinese but we have students of all nationalities: Australian, Japanese, Brazilian, German and Indian to name just a few.
It makes the school community a vibrant and exciting place, and the fact that everyone celebrates this diversity makes for a very positive working and learning environment. I find that the children's varied backgrounds frequently enrich classroom experiences, and my class of five- and six-year-olds often inspire me. Many of my pupils are fortunate enough to travel overseas regularly, and so are very open-minded when discussing other countries, people and cultures.
Education is a competitive business in Hong Kong and I am often surprised by the amount of extracurricular activities and classes my pupils attend after school and on weekends.
Navigating and meeting the expectations of high academic achievement, while also wanting to provide play-based, stimulating learning experiences for my class, can sometimes feel like something of a tightrope walk. I have become more skilled at combining these elements in lessons as the year has progressed.
And, of course, the most fun learning experiences are always the most memorable, no matter where you are in the world.
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