I'm so excited about this weeks Teacher Abroad post that features Melissa, who teaches the cutest little munchkins in Hong Kong, China. I really respect her for teaching such a young age (2-3 year olds) - I studied to teach Grades K-3 and had to do my practical in a kindergarten class where I nearly went insane! I love the younger children but anything below Grade 1 is too busy for me. It takes a special kind of person to work with so many little people at once. Check out Melissa's Instagram account to see more of her life in Hong Kong.
1. Tell us about yourself - who you are, how old you are, where are you from, where are you currently living, your teaching experience and what are you currently teaching?
Hello, my name is Melissa Teixeira. I am 24 years old and from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Currently, I am teaching in Hong Kong, China, as a pre nursery teacher for ages 2-3 years. This is my first official year as a teacher but I have worked with children of very diverse backgrounds for eight years. I am a graduate of the Early Childhood Education program at Ryerson University. Its a great program if you do the combined collage and university stream.
2. What made you decide to teach abroad?
I have always wanted to teach abroad since I first heard about it in college. It seemed liked an amazing experience to be away for a year and immerse yourself into a different culture. In my final year of university I did not know what I wanted to do, whether to go onto teachers college or to stick with my degree. That is when I began to look online for teaching positions in other countries. It was extremely hard at first because I was unsure of how the process was done but once I had gotten into the flow of things it became. I chose to teach abroad and not work in Canada simply for the experience and the opportunity to travel.
3. What’s it like living in your current country?
Hong Kong is one insane city. Crowds, busy city streets and a lot of asians in areas at all times. I have to say moving from a city to another bigger crowded city is quite challenging as social norms are so different. Despite it being a very busy city, it is an exceptionally safe and very well run. The transportation in Hong Kong is flawless, streets are clean and safety is their number one priority. English is very well spoken here in Hong Kong and quite popular amongst most locals. The older people do not know much but they are always trying. Hong Kong is the city of parties, eating out, drinking and having a good time. Most people do not cook in HK and generally eat out most nights. If you are a foodie, this is the city for you. There is such an amazing fusion of all different types of cuisines in Hong Kong.
4. What do you love most about teaching where you are?
The kids. These little children are the best part about my job. One of the main reasons why I enjoy teaching abroad is they value education much more then they do in Canada, which I respect. Education should be valued and sometimes North America forgets that it is not always offered in other countries. I also love being able to learn another language, the children really enjoy it when I sit in on their Mandarin lessons and try to learn the words with them.
5. What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in your current country?
Firstly, the expectations held on children are very high. Hong Kong has exceedingly high expectations on their children. Children must always have an interview to get into different levels of education and this begins at the young age of 2. Parents will eagerly apply to many primary schools in hope's their child will get into a good one, to secure their child's positions into other schools. This is an extremely stressful process on the children, parents and teachers. Children are consistently enrolled in extra curricular programs such as dance, another language, sports or art.
Secondly, working hours can be quite intense in HK. Many people work way past their required scheduled time and as a teacher this is quite often. This is not my favorite part of the job but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
6. What advice do you have for others wanting to teach and travel abroad?
Read as much as you can about the country and the learning expectations for children. This will really help you determine if the country is for you. Also, be prepared to live away from home, friends and family for real. Meet some great friends here who can help you deal with home sickness, which is very hard to deal with on your own. Do your research to see how much teachers are being paid and determine whether the country values education or not. When looking into schools know that private schools generally pay more but expect a lot from teachers. Government schools pay less but there are lower expectations on the teachers.
7. How can I teach where you are?
I went through an online website for the job posting. But, you can also apply directly to many school websites here in Hong Kong. I work for Learning Habitat Kindergarten which has four campuses and a fifth one opening up very soon.
Thank you so much for sharing a small part of your life teaching in Hong Kong, Melissa! Hong Kong sounds like an amazing place to live if you're into food and I would definitely visit for that exact reason - I'm craving anything but curry at the moment. My husband is currently away for a month on a photography assignment and I see now how important it is to have friends around you, especially when living abroad. I totally identify with Melissa's advice on making friends to fight homesickness and feel its really important if you want to stay happy in a new place. Thanks again, Melissa! If you are currently teaching abroad and would like to be a part of my Teachers Abroad Series, get in touch - I'd love to hear from you!