We continue the Little Steps Talking Heads series, where parents can meet, greet, and get tips from Hong Kong’s Heads Of Schools. Get personal with these fabulous personalities and find out what makes them tick, their advice for parents navigating the schooling scene, and their favorite things about life in the city.
In this edition, we say hello to Brenda Cook, Principal of Glenealy School in Hong Kong.
1. Do you have a nickname? Being the youngest of 4 girls I was nicknamed Bubs! Funnily enough, now in my late 40s most of my family still call me that!
2. Where were you born and where did you grow up? I grew up on a sheep farm in the North Island of New Zealand. My sisters and I went to a school with 28 kids in it! It was a great upbringing. We were all expected to help out on the farm and in the home and we spent most of our time playing outside, shooting netball goals or riding our bikes.
3. Where do you live in the city and why do you love it there? We live in Causeway Bay and love it most of the time! Our teenage boys find it really handy as everything is at our doorstep. It’s a great blend of modern and local and has great dim sum restaurants.
4. What's in your lunchbox? Rather boring I'd have to say as I tend to have the same lunch most days. Greek salad, pita bread, yoghurt and fruit! On Fridays at school we have a huge snack provided by groups of staff. This is called ‘Fat Friday’ and is the highlight of the week in terms of food for all of us!
1. What or who inspired you to become a Principal? I worked with a Principal in NZ who was a great role model for all the staff. She was an inspirational leader who was child centered, people orientated, strategic, innovative and visionary. We worked in a very difficult area in South Auckland but it was some of my most exciting and challenging years of my career. I always thought that if I got the chance to be a Principal, I'd want to lead learning in a similar way.
2. Describe your school in 5 words or less! A small school with a big heart! Actually one of our students coined this phrase a few years back and we all think it describes us well, so we use it in all of our marketing.
1. What's your favorite thing on your desk and why? I love my Mac Book Air and iPhone (also my family photos)!
2. What are your 3 favorite children's books? The Whale Rider, Matilda, Press Here.
1. What is the best way for parents to be involved in their children’s education? Be encouraging with your child and believe in them, even if they are having difficulties or find school work hard. It’s not helpful or encouraging to compare your child’s work with other students in the class. Support them but don’t do their homework or projects for them. They need to learn independence and to try and learn from their mistakes. Interact postively and honestly with the school and your child’s teachers. Think of it as a partnership, with your child at the center. We are all there to support them and to enable them to flourish and to be happy and successful. Think carefully before you enroll your child in a lot of tutoring and after school acitivites. Consider whether they are having enough time to just be themselves and to play in an informal setting with their friends and siblings?
2. Any tips for parents when applying for schools? Do your research to make sure the school is offering what you want for your child. Are you looking for purely academics, IB, English curriculum, a broad-based curriculum, bi-lingual, a school with amazing facilities, a community based school etc? It’s important to think about your priorities for your child, as there are many good schools offering a variety of different things. Stick to timeframes and get applications in on time. Get a ‘feel’ for the school by talking to children who go there. Students describe their school really well and they will be able to tell you about their teachers, their learning and the school’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll often get a sense of the climate or culture in the school when you enter the school gate. Does this match what you are looking for?
3. What's the best advice a teacher or headmistress ever gave you? Believe in yourself.