Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Fire Alarm

For audio click here 
The one thing you don’t want to happen on the first day of a new job is a fire alarm, especially when you are in charge of fourteen Chinese students who have about 6 words of English between them. I looked at them, they looked at me, none of us had a clue what to do next as the siren wailed. It was a horrible sound, more like a foghorn than a fire alarm; a long blast then a second of calm before another whrooooooo.
“Stay here,” I said and opened the classroom door. There was calm outside, no one was running down the stairs or shepherding their students out of the building.
This was all I needed. It had been a shitty enough morning already. I’d almost been late for work on my first day thanks to firstly oversleeping, and then my two-year-old not letting me have my phone. I’d got to work and discovered I’d forgotten my soft ball; no teacher has a first lesson without a soft ball.  So it had not been the most auspicious of starts and it was getting worse.
I knocked on the door of the next door classroom.
“Hi what’s that sound?” I said to the bemused looking teacher.
“Sounds like an alarm,” she said.
State the bleeding obvious, I thought. “Is it the fire alarm?” I asked.
“I dunno, it only started when you came in the room,” the teacher said.
I turned and left her classroom. Still there was no reaction from any of the other teachers. This was weird. The siren was wailing and no one seemed to care. I popped down stairs in to reception.
“What’s that noise?” I said to the receptionist.
“What noise?” she said. “Oh that noise. I dunno, never heard it before.”
I scratched my head. The siren was still blasting, but I suppose if no one else was worrying, I may as well go back to my class and get on with my lesson.

“It strange, teacher,” one of the students said to me.
“Very,” I agreed.
“No, the sound, it go with you.””
“The sound um,” she searched for the word. “disappear when you do.”
“I’m making the sound?”
“Yes, you are the sound.”

I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out my phone. The siren got louder. My son must have played with the alarm when he had my phone this morning., setting it for 14.37 and changing the noise to horrible fire alarm. My students collapsed in laughter, I wanted a hole to open up and swallow me.


  1. Nice. But Chinese students much too polite to laugh at a teacher in my experience. They would have asked for permission first!