A Day in the Life with Chatteris by Augusta Anthony

Wake up in the morning feel like Ms. Norbury.  Grab my glasses, out the door, imma form those young minds.  Or something like that, anyway...

It is said that teaching is one of few professions where no two days are the same and that is certainly true for Chatteris and Hong Kong.  There really is no ‘typical’ day in the life of a CNET (Chatteris Native-speaking English Teacher).  Searching for the common denominator, however, I realised that all of us, whether in the Primary, Secondary or Post-Secondary programme, are united by the fact that you have an impact on the young lives around you.  You’re in your very own Tina Fey movie, every day.

I work in a local secondary school on Hong Kong Island where all lessons are taught in English.  This means students not only have to deal with me coaching them on discussion and presentation skills but also face the rigorous task of sitting their Maths, Science et al. lessons in a foreign language.  The Hong Kong education system is academically tough and exam heavy.  If you thought a dissertation took your life away, wait until you see a Form Six student during their mock exams.

A working day balances this pressure with a, hopefully, more relevant brand of English teaching.  My role is twofold: to help my students pass their speaking assessments but, more importantly, to provide light relief and boost confidence in their English speaking abilities. This is done by bringing in more humorous topics to their average English lessons.

This week, I’m showing my Form Three (year 10) students the joys of West End Musicals.  In the past, we’ve done a murder mystery whodunit (“your class killed the CNET at the school picnic”), sixty second Shakespeare plays and debated, to much hilarity, who would win in a fight: the school principal or Mr. Bean.  

Lessons aside, a huge part of my job is to encourage English activities outside the curriculum.  This week, we’re decorating Valentine’s Day biscuits but other examples include a Pumpkin Pie workshop, Christmas party (complete with karaoke) and an Easter Egg scavenger hunt that I’ve secretly been plotting hiding places for all year.

My average day runs from 9 to 5 and I teach for about half of this.  In true teacher fashion, I print what feels like 100 worksheets a week, staple, photocopy, run around losing pens and make endless PowerPoints - a skill I now cherish.  I plan and run activities, try my hand at teaching drama and check in with Chatteris.  I coordinate with local teachers and it’s been a real privilege to be treated so generously by my school’s staff.  Many in the English department have become my friends and are unique gateways to Hong Kong culture.  I was even lucky enough to be invited to one teacher’s wedding last month.

Wherever you are in Chatteris, the fact that you are young, different and probably quite excited, entices the students to talk to you.  Some of my most rewarding, ‘breakthrough’ moments have been in the school canteen.  Perhaps it’s hearing the kid who doesn’t say a word in class talk about Manchester United for fifteen minutes.  Or asking the girls about the Fifth Harmony concert they’re going to and reliving my pre-teen days of seeing Busted at Hammersmith Apollo.  Working with teenagers is routinely hilarious and, cliches aside, it can be genuinely gratifying.


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