ESF lessons on nurturing staff
New arrivals in Hong Kong usually find the city an exciting - if occasionally overwhelming - place. This is equally true of international recruits to the teaching staff of the English School Foundation (ESF).
'The first thing we saw was the [Victoria Harbour] light show and we fell in love with it,' says Noelle Du Puy who moved here a month ago with her partner so they could both take up posts at the ESF's Renaissance College. 'Hong Kong's a lot greener place than I imagined. And it's very welcoming to foreigners.'
Maddy Carr, head of French at ESF's South Island School, arrived about four years ago. 'I'd never even been to Asia and it was pretty overwhelming. It was mid-August so it was really, really hot. Things like the tall buildings, the bamboo scaffolding, the busyness, were all new and very exciting. It was great.'
While these teachers have found the cultural differences attractive, Carr highlights one of several challenges. 'This is an easy place to live but for me the most difficult thing was finding somewhere to live.'
However, help was at hand. 'The ESF has an induction programme, as does the school,' Carr says. 'The ESF organises a whole day that helps with the administrative side of living here - giving advice on opening a bank account and finding a flat - and then organises social events so you meet people from different schools.'
American-born Humanities and English teacher Du Puy has worked in Hungary and Vietnam, and she and her partner moved to Hong Kong after a stint in the Japanese educational system. 'We've been genuinely touched at how much the ESF and Renaissance College have done to ensure us settling in.'
Du Puy appreciates the very practical aid they received. 'They gave us financial assistance with security deposits - the massive lump sums you have to come up with,' she says.
According to Charles Caldwell, ESF's director of human resources, 'the orientation process is meticulously planned,' with information provided on everything from where to buy Western groceries to getting a Hong Kong ID card. But in keeping with the ESF's teaching philosophy, there is a fun side to the process.
'We hold a treasure hunt, sending new teachers all around Hong Kong Island and Kowloon,' he explains. 'This gets teachers familiar with using transportation and exposes them to diverse places.'
Caldwell's department also ensures that new teachers have a certain amount of knowledge before they touch down in the city.
'You get a personal mentor and a professional mentor who write to you before you get here, giving you loads of advice and telling you what to expect,' recalls Carr.
For Du Puy, there were factors that made her new employers and new home attractive. 'The ESF is very highly regarded on the international schools circuit,' she says. 'And the professional development opportunities they provide are much greater than at stand-alone schools. Also, we felt there was a culture here we could access, because of the English language, in terms of theatre, comedy and book stores.'
Meanwhile, Carr's job and post in Hong Kong continue to appeal to her. 'I really like the school - I've got great students and colleagues. The workload is higher here but this is offset by everything else being better,' she says.
'I like the fact that Hong Kong is quite small and everyone lives pretty close to each other. You can be right in the middle of the city and within minutes you can be at the beach or in the countryside,' Carr adds.
As the academic year is already underway, the majority of teaching vacancies at the ESF's 21 schools have been filled. 'We are looking for educational assistants plus a handful of teachers to fill a small number of teaching posts in both primary and secondary schools,' says Caldwell.
Those applying as ESF teachers should have special qualities beyond their enjoyment of working with children.
'[Typically,] ESF teachers are able to form an all-around perspective of how the students they teach can and do grow,' says Caldwell. 'What is each child's potential? What world of opportunities can be opened up for each? This requires a flexible outlook.'