Here’s an old photo of me aged around 8 with my adoptive sister Ruth when we were two of the Royal Siamese children in a local production of the King and I. How I loved, and still adore that musical, fascinated by the idea of the English governess, Anna Leonowens, sailing all that way to Asia just to teach a load of little children how to speak English. I still sing ‘Getting to Know you’, and ‘Shall we Dance?’ and ‘Whenever I feel afraid’ at every opportunity.
In our performances, the royal children (about 20 of us) were each assigned to one of the royal wives, who as well as being our on stage Mother acted as our chaperone behind the scenes. But I remember crying for Anna, the heroine and the governess, to be MY chaperone. She was as kind as I was precocious, and explained she could not, as she was on stage too often, and in return I told her that when I grew up I was going to be just like her. (whether I meant as a performer or a teacher I am not sure).
But no matter, if it was indeed the latter, maybe dreams do come true, in some small way.
For here I am teaching in HK. No, I’m not working for a King, in a golden palace, but I have got myself a little temporary job at the weekends, teaching English to a lot of children, aged between 6 to 16. I did 4 hours yesterday and 6 today. I am loving every minute of working with children and young people again, and unlike the children I used to work with, most of whom had learning difficulties and behavioural problems, my HK pupils are all super keen, polite and hardworking. It’s like a dream job for me, where I can use a combination of everything I know to help motivate and enable them to flourish. We have a week’s holiday for CNY so I will be able to get to know the syllabus a bit better before my next sessions. And maybe remember the full lyrics to the song Getting to Know You, as singing is encouraged at the centre, even my less than perfect attempts and getting to know each of my 28 pupils quickly is a key target for me.
My favourite part of today was helping 6 giggly teenagers say “my favourite flavour of ice cream is vanilla” and “would you like fish and chips and mushy peas?”
I guess with this as my piece de resistance I’m never going to get a job teaching royal children any time soon, but me and the kids of Shek Lei housing estate are perfectly matched, wouldn’t you agree?