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 Jadis Blurton, Head of The Harbour School.
1. Do you have a nickname?
Indeed, the name most people know me by is my nickname: Jadis. My real name is Elizabeth. When I was seven years old I read The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis and was enthralled by the evil queen who was tall, powerful, and beautiful. The fact that she was also evil was a negative, but I figured we could get past that. We moved house shortly after that and I simply told everyone in my new school that my name was Jadis. When I was a teenager, I wrote a short story that explained how Jadis had become good, so that solved that problem.
2. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Washington State, in the Northwest of the United States, but I only lived there for two weeks! When I was two months old we moved to France, where my family lived for about five years, then back to the U.S. My family moved around a lot, and I lived in several different countries, but in the United States I lived mostly in the Southwest – Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas. Cowboy country.
3. Where do you live in the city and why do you love it there?
I live in Pokfulam, and I do love it here. I can walk out my door to the Peak with my border collie on the Pokfulam Reservoir Trail. I have a beautiful view of the ocean, and I can get to many different places quickly, like Central or Southside. I have lived in other places in Hong Kong for short times, but now that I am back in Pokfulam I feel like I came home. It’s also pretty close to the school’s boat, The Black Dolphin.
4. What is in your lunchbox?
Apples and peanut butter. Yum.
1. What or who inspired you to become a headmaster?
I first became a headmaster when I was seven years old and started a school called The Two Horseshoe School. I loved to learn, and even then was distressed that school seemed to turn people off rather than on. I became passionate about alternative approaches to education when I was a teenager – reading John Holt’s How Children Fail and A.S. Neil’s Summerhill, and as a young adult I loved reading Maria Montessori because she has such respect for children. (In fact, I am a certified Montessori teacher.) I have six children myself, and went through the typical parental trials of trying to find schools that inspired, protected and guided my own children. I became a Child Psychologist, and worked with many families, teachers and schools for many years. But at the same time, I attended many workshops and conferences full of excited educators with great ideas – none of which I saw in practice with my own children or with many of the children I was working with professionally. When I was given The Harbour School it was only a month old, and I decided that I would take it only if I could put into practice much of what I had learned from so many brilliant educators. I am extremely proud, but not particularly surprised, that only seven years later our school has gained an international reputation as a place where kids are excited to learn, creative, kind, innovative, socially conscious and experiencing and producing great things.
2. Describe your school in 5 words or less.
Exciting, innovative, challenging, experiential and customized.
1. What is your favorite desktop item?
Pictures of my children, as they remind me of how much fun it was and how hard it was to be a parent.
2. What are your 3 favorite children's books?
Oooh… so hard to limit it to three! The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
1. What is the best way for parents to be involved in their children’s education?
Model your excitement about all aspects of learning: Go to the museum, read and discuss good books, attend plays, construct a robot (even if you don’t know how), and design toys. Show them that some things take perseverence. You have to try again or start over or work through the hard part. Communicate with teachers and recognize that you are your child’s Master Teacher. Do help your child with homework, but do not let homework interfere with your family’s overall mental well-being.
2. Any tips for parents when applying to schools?
Be as honest as possible with the school about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Do not put too much pressure on your child to perform in a certain way and do not allow a situation where the child feels that he or she has failed if a school does not accept him or her. Explain to your child that you and the teachers are trying to find the best school for them, not the other way around. The damage to self-esteem or self-concept can create a self-fulfilling prophecy that lasts far beyond the current dilemma of school choice.
3. What's the best advice a teacher or headmistress ever given to you?
“You can’t major in IQ.” The message was that it’s not good enough to be smart, one actually has to do the necessary work. I also think “Find your passion” was excellent advice.
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