Wayne Furlong, a Sai Kung veteran of Hong Kong’s NET scheme for native English-speaking teachers, is launching a memoir of his 40-year career with local book signings over the next few weeks.
‘Buddha is a Punk Skater….An ordinary teacher’s search for truth’ is a collection of witty and mesmerising anecdotes and reflections on what the former Tai Wan villager has experienced and learned along the way – from Australia to Inner Mongolia, South China and Hong Kong.
With disarming honesty and a lot of soul-searching thrown-in, his short stories pay homage to the surprising and the frustrating; the amusing and confusing; and the enlightening and liberating elements of the essentially human endeavour of teaching.
It’s a candid confession of sorts, along with no-holds-barred criticism of what he believes is frankly just plain wrong; like ‘The Good, the Bad and The Ugly’ of his chosen calling, along with grateful homage paid to the colourful, inspiring and delightful characters he has encountered.
As the cover blurb notes: “In 1977, fresh from university, Wayne finds himself in a job for which he is not equipped – English teacher in a tough, all-boys secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. He has no learning theory, no confidence and no understanding of the people he is about to teach. He faces a world of binge drinkers and dope smokers, of old school thugs and hippies, of loud music and violence. And that’s just the staffroom!”
For the 40 years he is “slowly dragged to competence by a range of characters, minority and majority, indigenous and foreign, gay and straight, violent and kind, criminal and law-abiding. They are variously abled. They are funny and sad, spiritual and materialistic.”
And as he bluntly confesses at one point: “Why am I writing this? I don’t think that teaching, though special, is more special than a thousand other jobs and I do not think I was the best teacher ever….although I was alright. I wrote it because nobody told me the things I learned as a teacher and I think it would have helped me to know them 40 years ago. Maybe this can help others.”
And there was another reason: “I wrote it because I believe in schools. Like life, they are messy and sometimes dangerous, but they are mostly kind places…and now we need them more than ever because our institutions are rotten, many of our politicians are owned, we are ruled by corporations and we live in an oligarchy.”
In short, it’s a sincere, thought-provoking collection of amusing tales, trials, tribulations, joys, disappointments and philosophies that are not only essential reading for educators and teachers following in his footsteps – but anyone who cares about education and those who teach it.
‘Buddha is a Punk Skater’ makes you think about the true purposes of schooling and what teachers can and should do. As one critic has already noted: “His humorous takes on himself, colleagues and students are powerful, educational and inspirational.”
Sai Kung book signings launch at Cena on Thursday, 29 November, 7:00 -9:00 pm, with a free drink for every purchase; and continue at Kidnapped on Friday, 14 December, 5:00 – 7:00 pm with wine and nibbles. More local signings may be arranged, with updates in due course.
‘Buddha is a Punk Skater…. An ordinary teacher’s search for truth’ by Wayne Furlong is published by Proverse Hong Kong (proversepublishing.com). Available at ‘Kidnapped’, Sai Kung and other Hong Kong bookshops, priced HK$158; and online at amazon.com.