Day 20: Temporary Posts

After working at Qhakaza for nine years, I had to leave the school. It was no longer receiving funding and had to close down. It was a sad day when I said good-bye. My experience had been a positive and fulfilling one – and was one I would not experience at another school. I left the halls of the community school and entered the buildings of the Gauteng Education Department.

My experience at the government schools were were all temporary because South African school boards at that time were not hiring permanent staff (in this way they saved on benefits). My experience at these schools were stifling and, because the high schools were so large, I did not interact with all the teachers working at the school.  I was expected to follow many rules and fulfil expectations that had not been asked of me before. In addition, I was told what material to teach by the Head of the English Department. This did not sit well with me. I was used to planning my own lessons and doing group work with the children.

I worked in the South African government schools for a total of 18 months. After working at a post in a primary school, I married, had children, then became a stay-at-home mom.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: temporary)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

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Day 11: Reason for Rest

“Being a teacher is so easy. And you get so many holidays.” These are words that I have often heard over the years. I have learned not to get upset by comments such as these as I have realised that they come from a position of ignorance.

Working with children is draining. Plenty of energy is given each day to guiding them, reminding them how to behave, encouraging them to work on their activities. Teachers spend most of the day talking and giving of themselves. The day often ends with a sigh, the week with a smile at the sleep-in on Saturday. By the time the term ends, teachers do need the break and the chance to rest as fatigue has set in. The school holidays are a chance for us to recharge our batteries so that we can continue with our daily work.

My response to those who comment on how many holidays teachers get? Do my job for a week, and you will see why we need them.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: rest)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 1: A Calling

I believe I was meant to be a teacher. One of my earliest memories is playing “teacher” with my sisters: I recall standing in front of the blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand instucting my younger siblings. While growing up I did think of taking teaching up as a career but the subject was just a passing thought. During my final years of high school, I was focused on becoming a pediatrician. Those dreams turned to dust when I was not accepted into medical school.

My first year of university began with the decision to follow the path of teaching.  Other options lay before me: Law, Accounting, a simple BA or BSc. My interest, however, was captured and held by my course subjects – especially Education. At the beginning of my second year, I attended a nearby school to observe for two weeks and I thought “I could do this”. In my final year during my practicum, I decided I had made the right choice. My first year of teaching, I knew I had.

Teaching has definitely been a calling for me. I have tried to move away from it on occasion, but I always find myself in the classroom again. I thrive when I am in the right environment – and I love to see the progression of the children I work with. Teaching has become more than just a calling for me. It has become my passion.

photo (52)© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt: calling)

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

31 Days of FMF in October 2015

An entire year has passed since I accepted Kate Motaung‘s challenge to write for five minutes every day on the same topic. Last year I wrote the series titled Migrating North in which I described my experience moving from the southern hemisphere to another country in the northern hemisphere with my young family. I enjoyed the writing experience and was pleased that I had been able to keep up with the challenge.

photo (52)This year I wish to participate again and this time I will be reflecting on my teaching experience both in Johannesburg, South Africa as well as in Toronto, Canada. I will see where the prompts lead me and what memories I will uncover in this series I have titled Blackboard Scribbles. As I did last year, I have created a button which will be used for these posts. I will use this button as well as when I link up to the 31 Days challenge on Kate Motaung’s blog.

I hope you enjoy reading a little of my memoirs as I will enjoy writing them.

(If you have not read my Migrating North posts, feel free to read them by clicking on the link or on the dropdown menu found under my header)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2015

Missed a post? Click here to read all my memoirs for the series titled Blackboard Scribbles.

Day 19: Canadian Citizenship

The day we became Canadian citizens dawned like ever other day. The sun was shining outside and the breeze was a little cool. Many years had passed before this day; days that had been filled with hope, despair, and plenty of determination. On this particular morning, my family and I took our time dressing in our best clothes. We believed the ceremony to be a milestone of our stay in Toronto and wished to honour it well dressed.

The building in which the ceremony took place is like any other in Toronto: tall and faceless. We entered it and took the elevator up to the designated floor where we found the room easily. People were milling around the corridors waiting for the event to begin. Some were alone while others were chatting quietly with family members. When it was time, we all took our seats and listened to the judge that addressed us. He stressed the honour that was being given to us; and shared with us his own experience of becoming Canadian. I remember the ceremony ending with us all swearing allegiance to the Queen and then singing “O Canada” for the first time as Canadian citizens. We pinned the small Canadian flag we received onto our jackets and went to celebrate this milestone in an adjoining room with our new fellow Canadians.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: honour)

Day 18: Tastes and Flavours of Home

I did not realize when I left home that I would miss the tastes and flavours of South Africa. I took for granted the salty taste of biltong, the sweetness of a mango, the creamy sweetness of the Eat Sum More shortbread I could easily buy at the supermarket. I never thought there would be a time when I wouldn’t be able to eat a slice of wholewheat Albany bread spread with Koo apricot jam, or a slice of hot toast slathered with butter and anchovy paste. Packets of Simba chips were taken for granted as well as glasses of Liqui Fruit – with no sugar and preservatives added. I did not realize that I would be unable to buy guavas when they are in season, or sip a cup of pure rooibos tea while eating a sticky koeksuster.

Moving North I have had to forgo the tastes and flavours of my childhood and adapt to new ones. I have tried many (such as pumpkin pie) and found that I do not enjoy it. Turkey I eat when offered, but it is not a meat that I shop for. I have enjoyed blueberries and often sweeten my porridge with maple syrup. Dried cranberries have become a delightful addition to salads. My experience of Canadian tastes, though, is that they are much sweeter than what I am used to. Biscuits (cookies), cakes and muffins are sweeter as are soft serve ice-creams and juices. Sugars seem to be hidden everywhere and, if not vigilant, one can unexpectedly bite into something that has been heavily sweetened.

I have adjusted to the Canadian tastes and no longer wish for South African tastes everyday. However, whenever we visit home I make sure that I enjoy some of the tastes of my past.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: taste)

Day 17: Longing for Home

As I have adjusted to life in a large North American city, days are lived as in any other part of the world. We go to work, eat together, watch television, and go out as we would if we were living in South Africa. There are times, though, that I long for home and the family we have who still resides there.

Often these moments occur during times of celebration. Christmas has always been for me a time of family and, even though I spend a wonderful time with my husband and children, I do think of those that are living in Africa: siblings, parents, nephews and nieces. I think of everyone getting together and sometimes wish that we could join them. Even though Christmas brings out the fiercest longing, I do think of those back home when Easter comes around, when our birthdays are celebrated, and when the children graduate to the next stage of their schooling career. I think of my mom often and wish she could join us when the children participate in a concert, or when we celebrate an eventful occasion in our lives.

I realise that this longing will be something that I will always have within me. And, with this acceptance, I am able to enjoy the moment and to be content with the family that I do have around me in Toronto.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: long)

Day 16: Adjusting to the Cold

One of the hardest things to adjust to since my move north has been the temperatures. I grew up and lived most of my life on the South African highveld. Winters are short and relatively mild. I remember attending school wearing bobby socks and a skirt. Our legs were cold, but we managed. Winter nights were spent cuddled under blankets and wearing flannel pyjamas. We used to use heaters for a few weeks to keep us warm and, in a very short time, we used to do without any sort of heating.

Winters in Toronto are much longer. Cool days begin in October with the changing of the leaves. Our first year here, we felt that winter had already arrived and it was only October! We soon learned that those temperatures were only the beginning of the cold days ahead, discovering that temperatures below zero are commonplace during the winter. We quickly found out that they right type of clothing is needed in order to be comfortable. Our first winter here we went boot shopping and coat shopping – as well as shopping for gloves, hats and scarves.

My children adjusted quickly to the cold and I am now able to withstand colder temperatures better than I used to. I still do not enjoy the cold, however, and in the coldest winter months still long for the warm winter days I experienced as a child growing up in the Southern Hemisphere.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: adjust)

Day 15: Life Changes

My life changed even more than in the preceding years when I migrated north. There were times when I felt I was still adjusting to being a wife, a stepmother, and a mom. Changing countries added yet another dimension to the changes I was experiencing. I had accepted these changes when I agreed to marriage, and then to relocating. My acceptance of them, however, did not make them any easier to bear.

I have mentioned already that the move made me more self reliant and resilient. Becoming a mom without any outside support brought about changes as well. I slowly came to be more demonstrative (I certainly could not help hugging my children) and more creative with my time (cooking was often done on the fly while keeping an eye on two toddlers). I quickly learned to be less strict about the neatness of my home – the children seemed to bring with them a little chaos and I did not have a servant to help me clean up. I definitely learned to go with the flow as young children cannot be rushed to eat, to wake up, or even get ready to go out.

Moving north altered my marriage too. I believe the move made our marriage stronger. We learned to rely on another, to trust in one another, and to get comfort from one another. My husband and I have spent much time together talking together as friends. We have planned things together, steadied one another during rough patches, and laughed together.

My life did change when I migrated north. And it is a life, with all of its ups and downs, that has been lived for each moment.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: life)

Day 14: Returning for a Visit

We had been away from South Africa for about five years when we returned for the first time. What struck me as we entered Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg was not the alterations and additions that had been done to the building, but the friendliness of the people who greeted us. It was like a breath of fresh air in comparison to the often distant people we come into contact with at the Canadian airport and in Toronto.

We loved being back home after being away for so long. We fit right in and at moments it felt like we had not been away at all. We savoured the moments spent with family, snacked on South African treats such as Biltong and Nik Naks, enjoyed the warmth of the sun. And of course braaied boerewors.

We did notice some changes though. New buildings had gone up, the service at some places had improved while at others it had deteriorated. And even though changes had occurred, there were some things that stayed the same. A person still had to be vigilant when entering a property, cars still had to be locked when left in roads or parking lots. Pedestrians and shoppers still had to keep their handbags close to their bodies.

Leaving at the end of our vacation was difficult. The reasons we had left South Africa had not disappeared and yet our hearts still resonated with the country. As we were leaving and saying goodbye to our family, we looked forward to the time when we would visit again.

photo (10)If you have missed any of my Migrating North posts, head on over here

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2014

(This post was written for the FMF 31 day challenge hosted by Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: away)