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24 Nov 2020

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone: Moving from Post-Secondary to Primary

Chatteris’ own Patience Ratambwa reflects on her transition from teaching at a post-secondary campus to a primary school.

After two years of teenage students, Patience now teaches the youngest pupils at her school
After two years of teaching teenage students, Patience now teaches the youngest pupils at her school | Image by CBLMC

Changing programmes was inevitable for me. I knew it had to happen sooner or later. Having been a Chatteris Tutor in the post-secondary programme for two years, I had grown fond of spending my days with teenage students. However, as my love for Hong Kong and desire to contribute to its education system grew, I became eager to gain experience teaching young children and those in the foundational stages of learning English. 

The move from post-secondary to primary wasn’t a smooth one. Everything felt different right from the first day. For example, I moved from setting my alarm for 7:40am to starting work at 7:40am. If you know me you’d know how huge a change this is for me; I love my sleep. But would I go back to my old schedule? No, I wouldn’t! I have fallen in love with being 100% productive all morning, and having the late afternoon to myself to reset and catch up with my personal tasks. 

My time management skills have also improved greatly. I am now able to schedule my time so efficiently that I can complete online courses, take up new hobbies, and even rewatch my favourite shows! Who knew that being a morning person had so many perks? Certainly not me. My face is lighting up as I’m describing how my daily schedule has changed yet I haven’t even started talking about my incredible students… 

When I learned that I would be working at Conservative Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School (CBLMC), I was nervous. Will the students like me? Will they be able to pronounce my name? What if they do not understand me at all? What about my co-teachers? Will we work well together? How would I adapt to teaching 6-8 year olds rather than teenagers? All these thoughts raced through my head.

Singing and dancing are much loved components of many lessons led by Chatteris Tutors | Image by CBLMC
Singing and dancing are much loved components of many lessons led by Chatteris Tutors | Image by CBLMC

When the academic year began, I had mixed feelings. I was letting go of the familiar, and getting ready to dive into a new challenge that I knew would demand the very most of me. I felt like a total amateur, but I was quickly comforted when I remembered all the skills and knowledge I gained as a Chatteris Tutor in the post-secondary programme. Besides, they say that no growth happens in your comfort zone, right? This was my chance to delve into the unfamiliar and stretch. I was ready. 

The first two weeks were like a dream; being welcomed by different smiley eyes behind the masks was blissful. I couldn’t see their full faces but I definitely felt their warmth. Teachers whose names I could barely keep up with showered me with tiny gifts and sweet treats. They did all they could to make me feel welcome. 

Decorating the English Room and creating outreach materials was easier than I was used to. Pleasing primary students is a lot less challenging than impressing post-secondary students, who are often very picky about what they consider ‘cool’. Running with themes like ‘Under the Sea’ and ‘Fairy Tales’ made me look forward to conducting extracurricular activities with the students. 

When we were told we wouldn’t be able to do any clubs or events just yet, I was disappointed. I had to put my plans for dance classes and after school activities to rest for a minute because of the pandemic. Still, I am hoping to start them next term. I’m pretty sure they would become the highlight of my year– right behind dressing up as a fairy for our ‘English Fun Bus Ribbon Cutting Ceremony’, of course! Now that was everything. (I have pictures to prove it!) 

Patience and her students celebrate the arrival of a new bus that will be a space for practicing English | Image by CBLMC
Patience and her students celebrate the arrival of a new bus that will be a space for practising English | Image by CBLMC

When the students started coming in, the whole school roared to life. When I finally got introduced to my P1 and P2 students, it was like the stars were aligning; the connection was instant. Seeing the excitement in their faces– even through their masks– would have melted the hardest heart. Hearing shouts of “Good morning, Miss Patience” each time I walked along the corridors was satisfying. Seeing how much students want to speak to you outside class was so rewarding. This was a huge difference coming from post-secondary. It was a breath of fresh air. 

Our relationship has since changed; we are now more like friends. I know their names and remember their faces. We interact more in class. My students are very curious and have such amazing personalities. It’s true what author Walt Streightiff said– “There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” It is my pleasure every day to wake up knowing that I get to impact a small but significant part of their lives.  

My time in the post-secondary programme was awesome; I enjoyed every bit. But I have no regrets about moving to a primary school. This feels like it was meant to be, and I cannot wait to keep pouring myself into it for the rest of the year. 

Looking to inspire and learn from students like Patience? Click here to apply to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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