English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 28 2014, Friday         
   Study Rooms

I took my Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) in 1965. Education was not yet free or compulsory and HKCEE was still administered by the Education Department. Many girls of my age were working in the textile factories and getting good income to support their families which unlike today were quite big in size with five or more children.

We were a family of eight children crammed in a small flat of less than 300 square feet with one room let out to minimize the rent. So in the evening, there would be ten of us together with the three tenants, a couple and the wife’s brother from Macau in the apartment. Wireless television was not yet introduced though there was already subscription cable television offering several hours of both English language and Chinese language programmes. As the fees were high, not too many families did subscribe. Listening to the radio would be almost the only entertainment! My father had the radio on the whole day! And all we had during the hot summer would be the electric fan! 

The apartment was no place for studying! Luckily, I had discovered a nice and cool place to study not too far away from home - the Kai Tak Airport. I walked from To Kwa Wan to the airport and read my books there for hours. As air traffic was not too busy, I could study undisturbed.
 These days, there are air-conditioned study rooms all over Hong Kong. The Education Bureau is concerned about the provision of “a quiet place for students to study, especially for those residing in crowded and noisy homes”. That would be me!

In 2014, the Education Bureau provides subvention for 41 study rooms with about 5,200 seats in public housing estates. In addition, about 180 study rooms with around 10,600 seats are self-financed or subvented by various government departments as well as non-government organizations. In the 2013-2014 financial year, the funds required for subsidizing study rooms in public housing estates was about $5.2 million. Obviously, this generation has their needs well attended to while our generation had to face adversity on our own. Which generation is more fortunate? Well, with hindsight, I think my generation is – bitterness before sweetness and that makes sweetness even sweeter!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 20 2014, Thursday            

Bar Table Conversation
 Last Sunday morning, I went for hair colour treatment, something I hate but have to undergo every two months. My hair greys quickly and as I am still working, I do want to look not my age!

I made a mistake with the opening hour of the saloon and arrived too early. I was not mad but happy that there was time to treat myself to a full set of breakfast at the McDonald’s which I seldom visit. But the whole restaurant was surprisingly crowded with queues at the counter and all tables occupied. So instead of having a full set, I opted for an egg and sausage muffin and a coffee. I managed to get the last high stool at the bar table. Sitting uncomfortably, I gobbled my food and washed it down with the lukewarm coffee.   

Though clumsily engaged, I couldn’t help noticing what a mother and daughter were doing right in front of me. The girl looked like six or seven years old and she was dressed in a pink tutu ready for ballet class while the mother looked in her thirties. She was writing hurriedly on the flattened cover of the breakfast set while the girl was narrating a school trip.

“Now that I am writing for you, when we are home after class, you only need to copy this into your exercise book! See, you can have composition to submit tomorrow!” 

To this mother, the whole point of doing the writing task is for submission! Doesn’t she know that the process of transferring ideas into writing is a learning experience her daughter has to accumulate? I pray that this mother is only ghostwriting for her daughter once in a blue moon! 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 19 2014, Wednesday 

 Princess Snow White and Cinderella

As a child, I was brought up reading and listening to a lot of fairy tales. Some of these are still the favourites of many children. Two such examples are “Snow White” and “Cinderella”. There are movies, cartoons, picture books and online games telling their stories and a range of products from dress-up dolls to household items bearing their images. Even my grand-daughter, Hayley has a lot of “princess” stuff such as blanket, rug, school-bag, lampshade, chopsticks, lunch box, water bottle etc. Parents and of course, grand-parents are intentionally or unintentionally immersing their children especially girls in this “princess mentality”!

But if we educated adults are actually using our head, we will discover a lot of imbedded biases which as parents, we would not want to instill in the young minds of our children.

As a woman, I detest all the feminine stereotypes depicted in the stories. Physical beauty is associated with virtues while ugliness with evil. Princess Snow White and Cinderella are both beautiful and virtuous while the antagonists, the Queen or the step mother and her daughters are all ugly and therefore, wicked! Also, both heroines await the handsome princes to save them from their misery and then they live happily hereafter! I bet no mothers upon reflection would want their daughters to develop such wrong beliefs or prejudices.

The stories of "Snow White” and “Cinderella” were folk tales known across Europe centuries ago. The Grimm Brothers collected them in Grimms' Fairy Tales, first published in 1812. That was a different time when women’s only career was their marriage and family! So when read by 21st century children, these stories need to be re-interpreted or read under parental guidance.


The one moral we want modern girls to learn is that while it is great to be born beautiful and intelligent, we can still build our future without these traits and that we should not judge people by their looks! 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 18 2014, Tuesday              
Crimean Peninsula

I have not always been an English teacher. I taught both History and English until 2001. Well, actually, my university degree was in History. When my memories went back to those years as a History teacher, the two emotions that I felt strongly then would once again surge through me. The first one was my anger over the humiliation suffered and the loss of territories since the Opium War in 1839. The next was my frustration over the intrigue situation of the Crimea and the Balkans.

For the past few weeks, the Crimean peninsula has caught the limelight for the samehistoric reason – the struggle between Russia and the rest of the western world. The Crimean referendum held on March 16 reminds me so much of what happened in Austria 76 years ago on 12 March 1938. In both situations, people at gun point voted for secession from the ruling sovereignty and be incorporated by the “invaders”, Russia in the case of Crimea and Nazi Germany in the case of Austria.

But it must also be remembered that ethnic Russians account for 58 percent of Crimea's population, while Ukrainians make up 24 percent. Crimean Tatars, who were once deported by Soviet Russia but returned to the peninsula from exile after the fall of the Soviet Union, comprise 12 percent of its population. These are the very people who are now awaiting to see how their fate fares! 

The history of the Crimean peninsula expands more than 2,000 years with many different conquerors throughout time. Some of these included the Greeks, Ottoman Turks, Tatars and the Mongols in its early history. In the 13th century, it was partly controlled by the Venetians and by the Genovese followed by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries, the Russian Empire in the 18th to 20th centuries, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and later the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union. In 1991 it became part of independent Ukraine, as the Autonomous Republic Crimea. The greatest fear in western Europe has always been that Russia, already with the Black Sea fleet based in Sevastopol, Crimea, will continue the process of expanding south in the Black Sea region and will possibly even reach Istanbul - a gateway of immense strategic importance between the Balkans and Asia.

To Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, Crimea would be a dazzling conquest, once Russia's imperial crown jewel, a lush land seized by Catherine the Great in the 18th century. Russia is expected to face strong sanctions from the U.S. and Europe. But by far, the western reaction including that of the USA has been quite feeble. 

Though Hong Kong is nowhere near to Crimea or Ukraine, we have to bear in mind that we are part of this big world and we should not be merely engrossed in our own local matters. The media should also provide the viewers with in-depth analysis of global issues. 


Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 17 2014, Monday           
24 Hours a Day
 God is never fair. Why is she pretty and I'm not? Why was he born with a silver spoon in his mouth and me to a poor family? Why has she got such big eyes and mine are so small? We are always puzzled at how God, or anyone who is looking down from above, makes his decisions. On which cheek is he going to press a dimple etc? But God is absolutely fair in one way - each and every person is granted 24 hours, no more, no less! And yet some people can achieve a lot in a day while others would just sit there wasting their life! A task can be accomplished in an hour while it takes another person double the time. I am not talking about ability. That is again something we can't control. I am talking about focus and commitment and of course, time management.

 I have this habit of planning my day at the very moment I open my eyes and before I leave my desk at the close of day. First things always come first but I don't sacrifice my routines, like my three meals though they can be simple or elaborate depending on the time at my disposal. My three hours of exercise per week and Sunday indulgence are also important but can be given up if really necessary to squeeze more time.

 Once I start, whether writing, marking, designing worksheets or projects, I can dive right into it because I am prepared with the task all mapped out in mind, documents and skill books on the desk and of course, my coffee and water but no snacks. All armed, I can sit and work for at two hours. All these preparations are important to ensure that I don’t have any excuse to get out of my seat. I also set the timer to discipline myself. I don’t feel stressed but actually feel focused and motivated. The sense of accomplishment is truly satisfying. Maybe it is true to say that pressure can be pleasure.

 I never complain I don’t have time for this and that because I manage time and not time manages me.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 11 2014, Tuesday
In recent months, “locusts” as a species of insect has been made known to Hongkongers who are basically urbanite and should never be threatened by locusts which are a kind of grasshoppers that can breed rapidly and can become gregarious and migratory when their populations become dense enough. Locusts form swarms as adults and can rapidly strip fields and greatly damage crops. They are powerful fliers travelling great distances, consuming all plants and crops wherever the swarm settles. They can eat the equivalent of their own weight in a day.

In the biblical book of Exodus, there is the story of The Ten Plagues of Egypt and the eighth plague was locusts. At that time, the Hebrews or the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians. Moses commissioned by God had been asking the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. God had already inflicted upon Egypt plague after plague to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh capitulated after the tenth plague, triggering the Exodus of the Hebrew people. 


The threat of locusts was worded like this:  

Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now. ” (Exodus 10:3–6)

When the Pharaoh refused, God then had Moses stretch his staff over Egypt, and a wind picked up from the east. The wind continued until the following day, when it brought a locust swarm. The swarm covered the sky, casting a shadow over Egypt. It consumed all the remaining Egyptian crops, leaving no tree or plant standing. 


And to these locusts the mainland tourists have been compared and a so-called anti-locust movement has come forth organizing various rallies in Tsimshatsui and Mong Kok. This is just not fair! True, they flood our streets and shops. But just think of all the revenue they have brought to Hong Kong and the workforce in the service industry they are supporting! What we should do is to make our government officials and all the good people involved to brainstorm for ideas to, on the one hand, cater to the needs of these tourists and on the other hand, defuse the frustrations of the locals!  


We should not vent our anger on them! After all, out of the 5.5 million tourists visiting Hong Kong in January 2014, close to 80% (4.4 million) were from mainland!   


Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 8 2014, Saturday      
            Women’s Day

I have always been asked “If you had a choice, would you want to be a woman again in your next life?”

Well, that is a difficult if not absurd question to respond to because I can only use my own experience as a woman in this life and this world as reference when the world in my supposed next life would be entirely different with new social norms, values as well as scientific advances.

Here is my reply – I would still want to be a woman. 


This does not mean that being a woman, I have enjoyed all kinds of privileges. Quite the opposite – I have been posed with embarrassing comments like “Oh, you’re too tough for men to get along with!” or “As a woman, you shouldn’t push for higher education.” The harshest would be “You are strong! You can survive the trauma!”

And like many other women, I do care about my appearance. Men simply have to wear a suit and can attend all events! But women would have to change their shoes, wear the proper outfit and some women would even have their hair set just for a meal etc. As my hair greys, I have to get it tinted. I have to tuck my tummy in for photos etc. I am not complaining because all these add colours to my work life!


As a woman, I have enjoyed the whole process of motherhood. That is the one privilege men are not blessed with. Women have this choice – to be or not to be a mother. I hope no women are forced into being a mother and all women who have decided to be a mother will have their dream come true.