Culturally speaking, the school I teach in is predominantly attended by local children: from Hong Kong families. We talk about culture. We talk about local HK culture, we talk about Chinese culture: I talk about Australian culture. We research other cultures as part of our learning. Students identify with a number of different cultures – some of them have never lived in the country they identify their identity with. Our classroom has it’s own culture, our school, our community… so it goes.
Culturally speaking: I was a bit nervous before commencing my contract at this school. People had told me that the families may be intense, the academic demands would be high and that the students would be SO Chinese. Hey, I’ve read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”: I told myself I knew what these families will be like… but, let’s be honest – I was a little nervous about that kind of pressure.
I often ponder these thoughts as I notice various things about our school, and in particular, my class. Sure, there are differences from schools in Australia: from what my friends tell me, anyway. Here’s some examples:
Mrs Davis: “Okay folks, it’s time to get your maths books out”
Mrs Davis: “Okay folks, it’s time for Guided Reading groups”
To be honest, it’s refreshing to be working with 7-year-old students who still have a true and honest love for learning. Each day they teach me small things about their own culture. Each day I am more and more conscious of my Aussie accent, and my “Australianisms”. For example: the following words and sayings are very confusing for my students:
· Get a wriggle on
· Data (pronounced the Aussie way)
There are many others too – things that I don’t even realise that I say… but they sure let me know!
But in so many ways, I have been surprised. It really hit me the other day as I started my yard duty and a young boy came running past me screaming “I’VE GOT SUGAR BISCUITS!!!!!!!!” In so many ways, these students are just the same as any other kids, anywhere in the world. Sure, some of them carry the pressure of feeling their families rely upon the outcome of their academic progress. Sure, some of them fill every moment of every day with extra classes, homework and co-curricular activities that will enrich them as students: but they are still 7-year-old children. They want to laugh and learn and play with their friends. The big difference I have noticed? The attitudes of the families: the parents of most of these students are really on the side of the teacher – not that this is a “battle” or about “taking sides”: but there is something about these local families that says “I am on your side”.
Many friends at other schools around the world have told me of their experiences dealing with some parents who would like to blame the teacher or the school for any problems with behaviour, academic success, attitude or social problems. I feel that the parents here want to side with the teachers to form a sort of “team” to support the progress of the student towards their goals.
Yet, there are still things that surprise me daily, for example:
Mrs Davis: “Okay folks, pack up your things, ready for Chinese…”
Class: “Awwwwwwww, whyyyyyyyyy?”
Culturally speaking, HK is a great place to live and teach. The energy from my class is infectious (not in a chicken pox kind of way) and it’s a joy to be a part of it. It’s refreshing to know that kids are just kids: no matter where they live – and it’s a great energy to be surrounded by each day! Until next time: enjoy your culture – whatever it may be.