Thursday, 21 July 2016

Meeting the Unexpected at the Most Unlikely Place

I took Baby to a dental clinic for her tooth filling today.

After giving Baby's name and appointment time to the receptionist, I sat down to wait with Baby.

Then someone called me by my name. 

I looked up to see a practicum mate I knew from 13 years ago walking towards me!

I was surprised,"C, what are you doing here?"

She replied that she was working there.

I nodded to show that I understood why she left the service, and elaborated,"I am on no-pay leave. If not for the no-pay leaves I have taken, I wouldn't have been able to last so long."

We could not speak for long as Baby was soon called and C had to attend to her work.

From our brief conversation, I knew that C had resigned from teaching since a few years ago.

After Baby and I left the clinic, I thought about the number of years I possibly have in the service. Or more accurately, I wondered how long more I would stay in the service.

Another thing that set me thinking was, a teacher becoming a clinic assistant. 

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying being a clinic assistant is a lousy job or it is inferior to teaching. I was a clinic assistant to different clinics for a few years. But I know just about how much it pays and you only need an N level certificate to be one. Besides her diploma in teaching, my practicum mate had a poly diploma or A level cert. On top of these, she had also quite a few years, possibly at least ten years of teaching experience under her belt. In other words, she is over-qualified to do this job.

I thought it was a waste of her working experience and qualifications. I wondered why she chose to be a clinic assistant. But it occurred to me she probably did not have a Bachelor's degree. The lack of a degree could limit her choices. 

C was not the only ex-colleague I met by chance. I had bumped into another ex-colleague, E, from my first school at a McDonald's outlet during lunch time earlier this year. She called out to me when she saw Coco from afar and recognised her from my Facebook pictures. Like C, E did not have a degree. She felt that her diploma pay did not justify the number of responsibilities she had to shoulder, so she left the service to be a full-time private tutor since five or six years ago.

I knew both girls since their first day in the teaching service. Both were young and fresh when we started out. Now we have all aged, with crow's feet adorning the corners of our eyes when we laughed.

Both are still single, surprisingly. I'd considered both rather attractive in their younger days, with E being her school or class belle during her secondary school days. I recalled that at least C had a boyfriend back in our practicum days but why are they single till now? Both are probably in their mid thirties now. I thought,"What has teaching done to us?" (along the line of 'What has love done to us?') 

Many of my friends and ex-colleagues have left the service, with teaching years ranging from three to 20 years and most of them threw in the towel at their fifth to eighth year, I believe. Almost all of them are exhausted by the demands of the job. Each time someone leaves the job, I would wonder to myself,"How long more can I stay?" and the pragmatic question,"What will I do if I leave the job?"

It's been ten years. I can't say I love the job anymore, but I will always be grateful for the job and the opportunity to fulfil my childhood ambition.

Not everyone gets to fulfil his ambition.

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