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Teaching English in Hong Kong

19th October 2012

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From primary-school age, students are being told to ‘consider the future’, and to treat their education as a way of broadening their thinking as well as an eventual means to finding a job.

With the news that graduate jobs are becoming harder to come by, and an average of 73 students applying for vacancies according to a recent article in the Telegraph, is there anything we students can do to improve job prospects as well as enjoying long summers while we still can?

Having spent three weeks teaching at an English camp in Hong Kong, I was able to combine working and enhancing my qualifications with an amazing chance of a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. The camp was split into two parts, so the teaching took place in the last two weeks, and the first week of the camp was spent getting to know the other teaching volunteers, of which there were ten in total.

We visited Macau and Cheng Chao Island, and had our very first night out on the town Hong Kong-style. All of this soon came to an end as we prepared to welcome the students and got involved in planning our part for the camp’s opening ceremony – our take on ‘Cinderella’. When we finally had the logistics sorted, with yours truly in the starring role of Chief Mouse and Chief Coach Horse, the preparations got underway. Thanks to the script and a cannily placed photo of Wills and Kate after their fairytale wedding, we exited the stage with a flourish amid rapturous applause from our budding Disney enthusiasts and royalists.

Our first day of teaching got off to an inauspicious start, as we entered the classrooms bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, only to find that the air-conditioning in several classrooms had broken down. Emergency fans were brought in by the camp counsellors to cool our mutinous charges, and I began the unenviable - and lengthy - task of learning my students’ names in the first of the two classes that I would be responsible for during the camp. Two lessons on the Olympics later, we had to start the extra-curricular activities (ECAs) with the children; I had put my name down for drama games, which I would run with another volunteer. Together we put on our most cheerful voices and tried to co-erce a room full of overexcited children into a game of ‘Grandmother’s Footsteps’.

The bliss of having the children occupied soon came to an end, as our next group of discerning customers entered. They declared ‘Grandmother’s Footsteps’ to be ‘boring’ after just two games, leaving us to propose the solution of ‘Fruit Bowl’. This entails everyone putting their chairs into a circle and the ‘teacher’ giving each player the name of a fruit. When the game is underway, the organisers shout ‘Melon!’ or ‘Pineapple!’, and there is a mad scramble as they leave their chairs to stake a claim for a new place in the circle. The last one to get a chair is out, leaving us with several instances where one of us would resume the game while the other would have to dole out sweets as consolation prizes and comfort all of the bereft mangoes and coconuts, catatonic that their hopes at being declared ‘Fruit Bowl’ champion were dashed.

The camp seemed to fly by, as we rushed from the ECAs to dinner and then to preparation for evening activities. These included a disco, a scavenger hunt and a talent show, where each of the groups would perform dance routine or play of their choice. My group was made up of several very lively characters, and I was able to see the beginnings of diva behaviour for the first time in my life from a pre-pubescent boy. The root of his grievance was an ardent desire to perform a freestyle routine to the Black Eyed Peas, and to dance surrounded by a circle of admirers - can an eleven-year-old really have an entourage? – before throwing his hoodie into the audience to ‘screaming girls’. His words, not mine. Needless to say, the crowd lapped it up, and to this day, I am sure you can still see Conrad’s self-choreographed masterpiece on Youtube.

The trip ended with a chance to sample the chocolate afternoon tea at the Ritz (bye bye, student loan) and to look at the street markets before my flight home. After three tiring weeks, I brought several suitcases full of souvenirs back with me, as well as plenty of memories about a summer that I will definitely remember for a very long time. 


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