Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ruminations on Avian Flu, Day One

Wonder if any teacher in HK has anything else to say today other than the big news that the schools are starting to close down, in a big way, due to bird flue scares. My phone has been blowing up, with texts from gloating primary teachers to mass updates about the situation from my mobile operator (in Chinese).

Check it out:

As the article says, all primary schools in the city have closed down effective today through until after the Easter Holiday - next day scheduled for classes is March 31.

However, while our primary colleagues "suffer" in meetings and are busy drinking coffee until March 31, us secondary teachers soldier on with our students. The rationale is that secondary students are more mature / responsible and able to be more hygienic than younger students, thus reducing the likelihood of an infection spreading.

My initial reaction is that I feel cheated - every teacher loves snow days (or in HK typhoon days). Growing up in the Ohio I still remember the thrill of listening to the radio announce school closings, the excitement building until it got to the C's - "Columbus Public, all classes all schools, canceled!" It feels like there's a selective snow day going on here, like the typhoon number 8 signal is raised for primary but secondary is stuck at number 3.

That being said, it would NOT be good news to find out that secondary schools are ALSO closing.

For one, secondary students and teachers would simply be expected to "go virtual" - that's a contingency that my school is in the process of preparing for...a new project that I'm needed to work on, I found out a few hours ago via email. Give me 24 hours, I could get that wikispace back up into shape, and we're good to go. And then...I'm working HARDER to deliver the same 70 minutes of classroom learning per day. I'm getting cramps in my hands from typing a ton, my back and ass are killing me from sitting in front of a compy all day. I get paid the same. I work harder.

AND, while I'm sitting at home or in an empty classroom virtually teaching, the city of HK would go into lockdown mode. I wasn't here for SARS, but sounds like the city became a ghost town. Think investors might think the place is unlucky and shy away for a bit? Think the economy might go into a slide? That's the other reason I'm hoping that secondary schools don't close, because the idea of an avian flu outbreak scares the @#$)(* out of me.

The front page of the paper over the past week has carried the heartbreaking story of a young primary student who caught a flu, went to the hospital, all of a sudden went critical and had to be put on life support, and lastly was taken off of life support two days ago. Sounds like this little guy was a superstar: a real leader, polite and sharp. Every story had a photo of his father and a heroic quote about how the family was "holding out hope" and then later "unable to believe what has happened". I can't imagine how on earth that man is able to face the press. How awful to be front page news like that...

So really, here's hoping that the death toll of this outbreak stays at three. Here's a hope for the status quo to continue.

I'll keep anybody reading posted as events develop.