Principal Profile from Hong Kong

Carine Chan, Principal for 7 years

When and how did you first encounter our organisation?

I was working as a drama specialist for the previous franchise owner in Hong Kong.

Why did you decide to become a Principal in Hong Kong?

When the previous franchisee decided to stop running Helen O’Grady Drama Academy in Hong Kong, my supervisor, Ms Kwok, at the time decided to take over and offered me the chance to run the programme with her and one of our colleagues, Ms Bidegain. The three of us took over 9 years ago with Ms Kwok acting as Principal until she decided to leave Hong Kong and the company 7 years ago.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love being in the classroom, as a teacher or supervisor.

What has been your best moment as a Principal?

The Helen O’Grady Drama Academy conference at Singapore back in 2015. I was not technically the Principal back then as Ms Kwok was still part of the company. I had such a blast leading a segment of the conference that it will forever remain the highlight of my time with Helen O’Grady Drama Academy.

What has been your biggest learning curve as a Principal?

The biggest challenge we’ve had is learning to say no. As business owners, we want to say yes to every project and forget to take some down time. Work life balance is something that we’ve struggled with for quite a while but I’m lucky to be working with Ms Bidegain. We remind each other that our business is important but not more than our personal life and mental health.

What do you love most about our programme?

I love how our programme helps children without pressuring them. Students are under a lot of stress here with interviews and exams at every turn. They even have to go through interviews to enter Kindergarten! Most of our students have their days packed with tutoring and extracurricular classes to improve their academic skills. They are learning, yes, but it is not really enjoyable for them. Our programme allows them to learn while still having fun! Seeing them leave the classroom happy and excited about our next class is the best!

How have you (and your staff) benefited from the training offered through our organisation?

Trainings with Helen O’Grady Drama Academy Asia are always fun. They remind us that we are part of a family. We cannot thank them enough for their support during Covid.

Have any students stood out for you in your time as a Principal, and if so why?

Many students come to mind so I’m going to talk about one of my current student. He first came into my classroom 2 years ago when he was just 3y/o. He was very quiet and did not speak English at all. He spent the past 2 years coming to every class, every camp and is now shining in class. His English level has improved tremendously: he uses only full sentences now and is one of the most talkative students in the class. Last Summer, he came to two 5-day camps AND the Saturday weekly classes so he saw me almost everyday for 2 weeks. When I asked him, “Aren’t you tired of seeing Miss Carine everyday?”, he laughed and said: “No! I love Ms Carine and Drama class!”.

Do you have any top tips for teachers delivering our programme?

Some children need more time to open up and show progress. Do not give up. Trust the process. One thing I tell all my teachers: our classes are fun, not only for students but for us too. Enjoy your teaching time.

Do you have any words of wisdom for a new Principal setting up their business?

Owning a business is hard. You will want to put all your time and energy into it but remember to take care of yourself and your family. Build a strong team that you can trust and rely on. Don’t forget to celebrate your victories, no matter big or small. You will enjoy working even more.

By Carine Chan