The spring, the unnecessarily verbose ‘16th Parent’s-Also-Appreciate-Teachers Drive’ took place. (One does have to wonder about the use of the word ‘drive’, which suggests that reluctant parents require some degree of coaxing and persuasion to display gratitude towards their children’s long-suffering educators)
[N.B. The controversial element on the front of the postcard is not the fact that the teacher is clearly a freakin’ owl, but rather that he is accepting a gift over the value of HK$50 from a student, an act which is highly illegal in Hong Kong as per strict civil servant contractual anti-corruption guidelines.]
Despite my apparent popularity in the school (which I measure simply by the number of times a child holler ‘MMISSSTTAAH THHOOM‘ in my general direction), I usually receive surprisingly few cards. Indeed, like on Valentine’s Day, the postman delivers only a world of disappointment and rejection – with just a handful of students brave enough to pen their cards in English. Below are this year’s prime specimens…
Fig 1. – “Thank you for teach me English”, says Cherrie. The bitter irony...
The photos and video below are from the government school I work at here in Hong Kong… but it’s far from typical…
My office is set out like a rainforest, with blue neon lights in the ceiling ‘representing’ sunlight, photographic grass on the floor, a Scandinavian countryside scene on the opposite wall, a wooden mock-up of a windmill and a desk fashioned from a log. Most other rooms in the school are decorated like spaceships – the computer room is set out like the Enterprise with monitors embedded in the desks and the school hall comes complete with twinkling UFOs and rivets on the doors. There’s a full-on TV blue-screen studio on the top floor which broadcasts live to every classroom twice daily, and all the teacher’s desks are pimped with UV lights underneath, microphones and desk video cameras. The multicoloured ‘bad-trip’ which is the library features little green men implanted in the centre of each table.
Fittingly, the school mascot is none other than an oversized flying green horse– a 6-foot version of which dominates the playground. Indeed, the building is not a place you’d want to get lost in whilst on acid.
I recall 18-months ago asking a colleague if the children will ever tire of barking my name as I walk around the school. “No, never” was the response – and indeed, dozens of excitable Hong Kong kiddywinks continue to holler ‘MISTA THOOOM’ in my general direction, only to giggle and run away when I enquire as to what they may require of me. ‘Say What You See’ is certainly the order of the day. Every day.
Occasionally, however, an open-ended question will follow and, more often than not, the main concerns are one’s comparatively absurd height or hair colour, or the reasoning behind my surprise appearances in the local press.
I therefore felt it prudent to collate some of these queries and respond to them forthwith!
Mr Tom, why your hair is golden?
Child, the unusual pigmentation of one’s cranial hair follicles is due to the modest concentration of melanin present and a variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (Mc1r gene), which is located on chromosome 4. It features an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance and is characterised by low eumelanin levels. Additionally, phenotypic expression for lighter skin and red hair are interrelated. Thus, in conclusion, Mr Tom’s hair is magic.
Some readers may be familiar the popular nursery rhyme, ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window’, an important commentary on the economics of the pet trade. In the second stanza, the protagonist insists that canine companionship is superior to all other domesticated animals as she, quote, “can’t take a fish for a walk”.
The following exchange then ensued in my P2 class:
Mr Tom: “So children, why can’t you take a fish for a walk?” Brian: “It will go to die because it needs water.” Mr Tom: “Correct, it would die as it needs water.” Purple: “Mr Tom, you CAN take a fish for a walk.” Mr Tom: “No, you can’t.” Purple: “Yes you can, I will show you.”
Yes, her name really is Purple, and here is what she presented me with next day…