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My first day teaching 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.

Let me tell you about my first day teaching English in Hong Kong. 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 teaching English in Hong Kong, 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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Places to visit in Hong Kong

Have a quality experience in Hong Kong: Knowledge is Power!

The great thing about Hong Kong is that it is one of those places that has the hustle and bustle of big city life and if you need to escape it, a short ferry ride can take care of that for you. From a breathtaking view of Hong Kong’s skyline at Victoria Peak to a tranquil experience when visiting the Big Buddha, you will be spoilt for choice for things to do in Hong Kong. These places are known to many but there are others like the Tai O fishing village and the beautiful beaches of Lamma Island and Sai Kung Town that I enjoyed exploring while teaching English in Hong Long.

Tourist hot spots – get these ticked off ASAP

When you first arrive you will need to have a list of things to tick off your tourist bucket list in Hong Kong. You cannot stay in Hong Kong for longer than a month without having visited the Big Buddha on Lantau Island which you can get to by taking the MTR and a bus or the MTR, a bus and a cable car. I went twice and tried both ways and would suggest taking the cable car because they only seat around 6 people and it’s surrounded by class so the views are spectacular. Everything is easy to access and you will find ticket points at all these places. You will use your octopus card for the MTR, your card or cash for the bus and cash for the cable cars. You can also pre-book tickets online.

After a day visit to see the Big Buddha which also has a temple that you can visit at the same place, you could make your way back to the island and travel vertically on the peak tram to enjoy the stunning views at Victoria Peak. Try to go just before it gets dark so that you get to see the contrasting views of day and night. You may want to carry a selfie stick and a jacket!
Madame Tussauds is also situated in this area so you could try to get a special offer if you buy a ticket combo. The Hong Kong Peak tram experience is also quite cool so make a day of it!
Getting around to all these places will allow you to experience the MTR, buses, the tram, a cable car and if you manage your route well, you could also enjoy the Star Ferry! This is definitely a Hong Kong experience to be had.

Expat social life – so many options and so much time

There are many hotspots to go to for you to enjoy the nightlife in Hong Kong while teach English in Hong Kong and it will vary based on your personality and preference. Lan Kwai Fung is a popular spot for tourists who want to party hard. You will find everything from restaurants creating delicacies from around the world to bars and nightclubs. Don’t be surprised to see students on a budget grab a few beers from 7/11 and enjoy them while jiving to music on the streets.
If being surrounded by tourists is not your thing and you prefer more upmarket spots, you could try walking down the streets in Soho and you will be spoilt for choice with places to settle in for that cheeky cocktail. I recommend Varga Lounge!

Island Life – nobody regrets visiting an Island, right?

Getting rid of that hangover or just a busy work week can be done in the comfort of your apartment yes, but doesn’t it sound so much better to do it on an island, on the beach, while getting your dose of Vitamin D? You can hop on a ferry and make your way over to Lamma Island or Sai Kung and enjoy lunch at an array of restaurants boasting the freshest sea food, a swim in water with the perfect temperature or a snooze on the soft sand. My visits to the beach were so enjoyable and not at all crowded.

Hiking Trails – Enjoy the views and see where the path leads

You will be surrounded by tall buildings and large crowds every day and this can be overwhelming. If you need to recharge and reconnect with nature OR just want to be active and enjoy hikes then there are so many to enjoy in Hong Kong. Some hikes take you to beautiful waterfalls that you can dunk yourself in, viewpoints, or the beach. One of the hikes that I enjoyed was called “Dragons Back”. Once again to get to the starting point, we had to take the MTR and then a bus. Along the hike, there were many beautiful spots to stop at and take in the views of Shek O and Big Wave beaches. We hiked all the way to Big Wave beach and as the hike ended we entered a beautiful little village that had a selection of little shops leading to the beach. One of my friends ran out of water on the hike and all she could think of was holding a Coconut drink in hand…The first shop was well placed as it offered a variety of drinks including a drink in a Coconut or a Coconut drink – mission accomplished! We were parched so we had 2 each…one at the store itself and one at the beach, not before enjoying a well-deserved swim!

These are just a few suggestions of things to do in Hong Kong to balance city life, social life and taking in the beauty that is to be enjoyed all over Hong Kong! As an expat, there will always be little things to miss about home but Hong Kong is so dynamic that you are bound to find a place that fills or comes close to filling those voids. Have fun exploring!

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