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 Julie Lam, the founder of Highgate House School.
1. Where were you born and where did you grow up? I was born and raised near Manchester, England, and came to Hong Kong 31 years ago! As a young child I lived in a village and spent all my playtime outdoors. I value the memories of playing in the fields and going for long walks. There is something very special about having this close contact with the natural world as a child, and I think this is what drew me firstly to Montessori and then to Waldorf Education. I trained and qualified in both philosophies.
2. Where do you live in the city and why do you love it there? We recently moved back to Stanley, having last lived there when my children were very young. I think I’ve just about lived everywhere in Hong Kong but Stanley will always be special to us. We love the cleaner air, friendly community and village feel, and the fact we can walk to the sea with our three dogs. We also recently opened our new classroom in Redhill, Tai Tam and it’s very handy being so close by!
3.What's in your lunchbox? My lunches tend to feature a lot of avocados! I feel very lucky to be able to eat outside on the school’s big terrace with the open sea and mountain views.
1. What or who inspired you to found Highgate House School ? It was actually my own children who inspired me to found Highgate House School back in 1992 together with two other families. Eventually, the other families moved on, and I introduced the Steiner Waldorf philosophy in 2000. We moved from Repulse Bay to our current premises on the Peak in 2001. Having previously worked in several kindergartens in Hong Kong, I recognized the importance of respectful care for the young child; I wanted to provide children a strong foundation with a lifelong love of learning. I had two little ones at the time, and couldn’t find anywhere that offered what I was looking for. I believe that a good start in life happens when children feel accepted and understood by the adults involved in their care and education. All four of my own children eventually went through Highgate, and have gone on to thrive at excellent schools and universities. My eldest Laura was actually one of the first children to attend Highgate, and recently gave up her legal career to return to work with us at the school, which is very meaningful and very special!
2. Describe your school in 5 words or less! Nurturing healthy foundations, inspiring growth.
1. What's your favorite thing on your desk and why? I try to be at the desk as little as possible as I prefer to be out and about either in the classrooms, the kitchen testing our organic sourdough bread (which we bake with the children!), or chatting with parents. When at the desk I need a limitless supply of dark chocolate on hand!
2. What are your 3 favorite children's books? I love the rhythmical language of Julia Donaldson, with “Room on the Broom” and “The Magic Paintbrush” being two of my favorites. Rhythm and rhyme are the tools to inspire children with a love of language. I also love the tale of “The Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell, as it is such a comforting and therapeutic story for children who are starting school or transitioning in life and gives gentle support for separation anxiety.
1. What is the best way for parents to be involved in their children’s education? If parents can develop a trusting relationship with their child’s teachers then it is more likely that their child will feel happy and secure in school. Never be afraid to ask questions and try to share any tips about your child to link home and school. A good preschool education means teachers who deeply understand young children’s developmental needs and work hard to provide for these needs.
2. Any tips for parents when applying for schools? Visit a variety of schools and go with what you feel is right for your child and complements your own family values. Be aware that even if the most expensively equipped facilities are showcased, your child may not necessarily receive the best care and education. Don’t be intimidated - if you do feel pressured and anxious, then ask, is the school really the right place for you and your family? Never be afraid to ask questions and try to share any tips about your child to link home and school. When parents show a genuine interest in what their children are doing in school then children will feel more motivated to try new things.
3. What's the best advice a teacher or mentor ever gave you? You teach who you are – as the adult, around young children, you are the child’s ‘curriculum’. Children under 7 absorb every aspect of their environment and the people in it.
Highgate House School
100 Peak Road, The Peak Hong Kong.
+852 2849 6336