If you’ve found this blog you’ve either found the hyperlink in the blog, Starting a Book Club, or you’ve found this passage through some other means. If it’s the latter, then go and read Starting a Book Club. It will help you get to grips with my ideas behind this blog.
The story I started to tell in Starting a Children’s Book Club was about a time when I almost lit alight my flat whilst creating materials for my book club. I was sat on the wooden floor of my apartment typing and printing comprehension questions to accompany the book, Stardragon. But before laminating the questions I had a stroke of creativity and decided to cover the paper in glitter before putting it into the plastic laminating wallet. Aha! Genius! I was ready and waiting with my paper, glitter, and plastic laminating wallet, ready to post it through the tiny opening in the melting machine. I inserted the plastic with no problems, it seemed to go in smoothly. I waited for the paper wrapped in glitter and plastic to emerge from the output. I waited a little longer, but still no sign of any plastic. I waited for this wave of creativity to work, but it would seem that my genius plan had not succeeded. Something was definitely wrong. Hmmm! A flicker of smoke crept out of the output and I picked up the laminator to find a folded mess of melted plastic and glitter stuck to the heated rollers inside. I jumped from the floor and flew over to the socket to turn off the laminator and I realised that I very nearly, probably, set my tiny Hong Kong flat on fire.
Lesson 1: Don’t put glitter in the laminator.
From this thought, I burst into laughter at the memory of all of the holidays and festivals held at my previous school, Keenmind Kindergarten (KM). At KM, creativity was a must. It really should have been emphasised as a key factor during the interview. Working at KM taught me that to be an artist you need time, not that that was ever unclear. In Hong Kong schools, events are flashy and creative. I remember trying to stick a giant sheet of red paper to a painted concrete wall and then sellotaping a supersize spider’s web on top - this was Halloween of course. Easter was even flashier, with pastel-coloured eggs sewn all over the school gate, and Christmas ...well, how would you feel after making several thousand paper roses? Each event set a standard for the next, and each event helped me understand the significance schools place on parent days. They matter. If a parent can only visit a school on five opportune days throughout the academic year, then of course the school wants to set a good example - even if it is at the expense of the teachers social lives (joking, but not really).
My fondest and strongest memory at KM has to be graduation. I was experiencing a class graduation for the first time. It really was lavish. Perhaps an elaborated description would help you understand the size of it, but i’ll keep the description short and sweet. Basically, it was hosted at Disneyland. Flashy AF! Now I know you’re picturing Micky Mouse up on stage handing out graduate certificates to five-year-olds (signed by Goofy) with a personalised cap-throwing picture for every participant… and if that’s the picture you’re thinking of well… you’re spot on.
It was that ridiculous. Lesson 2: Do it for the kids!
But let’s go back. Before graduation, my colleagues and I, helped choreograph a theatre production. I use the term theatre production, rather than “play”, because it was closer in appearance to Broadway than to an amateur school show. The production, The Wizard of Oz, was perfectly practised and rehearsed by our K3 graduates. Who knew that four and five-year-olds could be so rhythmically in tune? The teachers, my colleagues, worked tirelessly to design and create the backdrop for each scene in the show. Materials were ordered (thanks amazon), props were purchased, and costumes were made or bought by each of the hard-working parents. The latter point, has to be one of the most uniquely hilarious experiences of my time at Keenmind. I believe this experience is worth explaining!
The event is of course a show, and in shows, costumes are the opposite of basic. The parents searched high and low for phenomenal, cutesy, unique, stand-out outfits. I recall one day day in particular, I was sat at the red table in my classroom waiting for the afternoon class to arrive when in comes a young girl who’s part in the show was a flower (she was the part of the choir and all members were a different type of flower). Now unfortunately for schools, there are often too many students to fit the story line and so half of the class become the choir, props or backing dancers, etc. The young girl, nearly six in age, drops her rucksack onto the table and starts unzipping her school bag. I could have sworn I had seen a beam of light appear or perhaps a yellow laser. Anyway, she reached her hand into her rucksack and pulled out the first puff of a yellow material. Nearly matching her own height in size, she tugs on the material and out pops Mary Poppin’s monstrous volume of luminous fabric, an amount that would be better measured in hectare rather than yard. This material was so gigantic that when I went to inspect it I discovered hand-sewn golden sequins, flowers in layer after layer of fabric, and eventually the top half of the dress. It was as if my little K3 student had turned into a magician, transforming me into the character of my old drama teacher at middle school and my classroom into the stage. The dress her mother had chosen for her looked like it had been whipped into shape by a fairground candy floss machine and was brighter than a florescent berol highlighter.
It was FABULOUS, it was ‘My Big Fat Gypsie Wedding’, it was probably shipped in from Shenzhen, and it was 100% not going to be accepted by the head of school.
Needless to say, her parents hoped she might stand out. We sent it back.
Lesson 3: Do not underestimate the passion behind the Hong Kong parents!