Saturday, July 16, 2011

Beginning Work

May this blog post begin with an epitaph for my first real beard. It began over a year ago and by request of my new employers, met its end this week. Asian men don’t usually grow beards and hence, some little children are frightened of them. It’s kind of ironic that the beard began right after I bought an electric razor and ended right after I bought a beard trimmer. Alas. The facial hair will be back one day.

I’m coming to realize that with the crazy new stuff I’m experiencing all the time, I won’t be able to fit it into a single post every week. We’ve got culture shifting, teaching, being a tourist, starting a new life, making friends in Hong Kong and even more. This week, I began training for my job so it seems logical for that to be the focus here. This week, I began training at the Braemar Hill campus in North Point on Hong Kong Island, though I’ll be teaching at in Kowloon Tong. Now it’s Saturday and I’ve completed my first 49.5-hour workweek. Sounds like a lot? It is. But fortunately for me, I’ve discovered that I like teaching little kids. Not to say that I don’t expect this job to be exhausting.

My classes will be almost all toddlers, AKA kids from ages one to two. I also have a couple infant classes, which I'll describe when I know anything about them. At Braemar Hill, I shadowed Russell, the guy who has my job at that campus. On Monday, I acted as an assistant teacher during Russell’s six 45-minute classes by singing along with his songs and interacting with the kids. Starting out, it was a bit awkward since I haven’t been around a whole lot of toddlers in my life. But eventually, I got the hang of it and started talking to them, even though I was usually met with very suspicious looks. Like people of any age, toddlers prefer to feel safe and when they see a new face, especially one with a beard (I shaved midweek), they aren’t always trusting.

Along with the classroom observation, I got lots of training from the center director. This center director is from the great state of Arizona and taught me all that I could possibly want to know about this job. That’s everything from hand washing technique to monthly reports to the positive reinforcement method. And of course, she gave me a forest’s worth of paper about all this. In many ways, this wasn’t too different from a most jobs with the employee handbook, clocking in clocking out, and so on. But in this case, the clients getting our service are rather diminutive.

Russell was a great model for me. A 6’5” teddy bear of a man, Russell is gifted at connecting with the kids and finding that middle ground between pampering and disciplining. The kids genuinely like and respect him and hearing him talk about individual students made me look forward to a few weeks down the road when I’ll really get to observe the individual personalities of these kids. During “circle time,” Russell began by saying “Good morning everyone!” and greeting each child by name. We’d sing lots of songs and then he’d read a story before demonstrating the day’s activities to help their motor, cognitive and artistic skills. Again, just watching his teaching and lesson planning for a week really helped me a lot in understanding what this is all about. I took over during some of his classes later in the week and found out that I can actually do this myself! At the risk of sounding corny, it’s all worth it to see them smile, laugh or hug you at the end of the class.

My first day of teaching at Kowloon Tong was supposed to be Monday the 18th, but because of some misunderstanding with the teacher I’m replacing, I got called in today after about half an hour at Braemar Hill. Despite being forced to learn trial by fire in a new place, I felt that I did okay. I think the most nerve-wracking part is over but now I just have to get used to the long-hour schedule. Free time is truly precious!

On an unrelated note, the blue sky left this week and was replaced by a classic PNW gray with a bit of smog. At least it's down to a cooler temperature. Also, my first movie theater experience in Hong Kong was the last Harry Potter film. Glorious. What an accomplishment by all those involved in the series. I can't wait to watch the movies with my kids one day (after they read the books of course).

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