My first day teaching in Hong Kong

February 01, 2020 | Teach English in Hong Kong

Exciting but Nerve Wrecking First Day at Work

Like any new job, the first day can meet you with a mixed bag of emotions.  It can be a little daunting and nerve wrecking but exciting at the same time. My first day at my school in Hong Kong was no different. I was looking forward to starting this new journey as an English teacher in Hong Kong but there were so many things to digest and people to meet, I had no idea what to expect.

When I first arrived at the center, I was greeted by my warm and friendly manager (known as the Head Teacher). He had a kind smile and after introducing himself, he asked me a few questions about myself. Once we were acquainted, he gave me a tour of the center and introduced me to my fellow teacher colleagues. I felt lucky to be placed at such a big and well-furnished center. From the painting to the furniture, everything looked modern and spacious and every classroom had big windows.

I felt comforted that there were many expats at the center especially because I was new and didn’t know anyone well enough at this point. All Teachers and admin staff were friendly and I would soon learn that I would find some really good friends to share memories with amongst them. At our center, there were Teachers from the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. There were also some Teachers from Hong Kong and who were very fluent in English so getting to know my peers was easy.

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Observation is Important

On my first day, I didn’t have to teach much but rather observe and co-teach with the other teachers. It involved more training and getting familiar with the shared drive and how to access teaching material. Trust me, getting all of this information can make you feel like a sponge where no amount of information is enough. I wondered if I would remember everything. How would I remember how to access the books, the worksheets, the audio and videos for the various levels? How would I remember my student’s names and what the different classes mean? How would I remember the structure of all the different classes with their very own course codes? Every organization has their own structure and way of doing things and it’s important to respect their way even if you’re used to another.  My notebook became my best friend at this point.

I decided to just focus on the classes that I would be teaching and master what I needed to know for those. Once I got familiar with that, I realized that figuring out what was needed for classes you had to cover for other Teachers for example, would be easier. Through my career trajectory I have learned that it is also best to ask as many questions as needed and not be afraid to mention if there is something you need to be clarified. I wasn’t too hard on myself because I knew it would take a couple of weeks to get familiar with all the course content, class structure and students of course!

It Takes Time but It Will Be Worth It

My students are very young and it would take at least a full week before they got comfortable and adjusted to their new Teacher. I took my time with them and tried to create a fun, safe and comfortable environment for them. We also decided to re-decorate our classroom and I got them involved which allowed us to bond and create some classroom rules together. Now, we look forward to seeing each other and I get a warm welcome back whenever I return from my short vacations. My students know all the rules, what’s expected in terms of their class performance and behavior and together we enjoy fun classes.

With 3 hour breaks within our work day (1 hour lunch break and 2 hour planning time that run consecutively), there was enough time and opportunity to get to know my colleagues-turned-friends and familiarize myself with whatever I needed to ensure that the classes that followed were planned and ran smoothly.

I would have to say that my first day was very smooth with the most challenging part being getting acquainted with the kids and figuring the best way to communicate with them and actually garner a response. Kids can be intimidating because they are so innocent and honest. They want to know that they can trust you and will test you so give them and yourself time to adjust. Navigating my way through the lessons, follow the lesson plan and manage a classroom with kids who could not sit still was overwhelming at first; But there were other elements that ran smoothly and I feel grateful to be at a big Center with friendly and helpful colleagues. Any new job will have its moments where you need to adjust and it can certainly feel overwhelming at the beginning. It is important to give ourselves time to get acquainted with everything, to give our students time to get comfortable with us and vice versa and it’s up to us to create an environment that works for us. I am also enjoying learning many lessons and how to enjoy simple pleasures from my little students!

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