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Life Beyond Chatteris: Teaching in Hong Kong

Chatteris’ own Grace Baxendine chats to Tom Robertshaw, whose career as a Native-speaking English Teacher in Hong Kong begun with his role as a Chatteris Tutor.

The Chatteris Educational Foundation offers a great way into teaching in Hong Kong. Chatteris Tutors are able to professionally develop through their placement and many continue on to fantastic teaching opportunities in Hong Kong and beyond. 

In his role as an EDB NET, Tom currently works alongside two current Chatteris Tutors.
In his role as an EDB NET, Tom currently works alongside two Chatteris Tutors | Image by Emily Brazier

Tom Robertshaw began his teaching career with Chatteris back in 2009. He is now an Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) through the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) at Conservative Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School. 

I sat down with Tom to talk about his past experience as a Chatteris Tutor and his journey to becoming an EDB NET in Hong Kong today. 

When did you join the Chatteris International Graduate Programme? How long did you work as a Chatteris Tutor? 

I started working with Chatteris back in 2009 as a Chatteris Tutor at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Shatin. I also returned to work with Chatteris again at the same school in 2011 to establish the co-teaching programme there.

Was it always your intention to come to Hong Kong after university and pursue teaching? Why did you come out here to join Chatteris?

I was lucky to have travelled to some different countries before and after going to university. Hong Kong was home to some of my university friends and so I came here to visit them. After returning to the UK, I decided that I actually wanted to, not just travel, but to have the experience of what it meant to live and work in another country. After a lot of research, I found Chatteris International Graduate Programme online and thought it would be a good way to find out if ESL teaching was a career path I really wanted to follow.

What are some of your most prominent memories of working for Chatteris?

My strongest memories whilst working for Chatteris definitely came from working with the students at my school and forming strong bonds with local teacher colleagues. There was always a healthy cultural exchange between us and we have remained friends! I also remember that there was a strong sense of community in working for Chatteris and the Chatteris Tutors were there to help and support each other.

The skills learnt as a Chatteris Tutor provide a good foundation for the professional development involved in becoming an EDB NET.
The skills learnt as a Chatteris Tutor provide a good foundation for those wishing to become an EDB NET | Image by Emily Brazier

What do you feel you gained most from Chatteris?

Chatteris always gave us good support, not just in doing our jobs but helping all the tutors establish themselves during their time in Hong Kong. This support also extended after my contract and I could tell that Chatteris wanted their tutors to really pursue what they were interested in and their longer-term career goals. I probably wouldn’t have heard so much about the EDB NET scheme without the input and guidance from the team at Chatteris.

How did you find the EDB NET scheme process? Is it something you would recommend? 

The actual process of entering the NET scheme is relatively simple. It takes time to process some transcripts and documents so patience is a virtue. Familiarising yourself with the scheme and ensuring you have the right documents will help the process go as smoothly as possible. One thing that is worth mentioning is that getting into the EDB pool of NETs does not mean you automatically get a position at a school, so be prepared to be proactive in looking for positions and preparing/sending your CV to different schools.

What are some of the highlights of being a NET in Hong Kong?

As a primary school teacher, Tom currently teaches students up to 12 years old.
As a primary school teacher, Tom currently teaches students up to 12 years old | Image by Jessica Stuart

It goes without saying that Hong Kong is a vibrant and exciting place to live. There is a sensory overload when you first arrive and the more time you have to get beneath the surface and understand this city, its people and the culture, the more you begin to understand yourself. Almost every NET contract lasts for two years. That time really gives you more opportunities to get to know your students and help them develop their language skills. Many NETs stay at their school for a long time and this really allows you to form strong bonds with both students and colleagues. With the EDB NET scheme, the support from your advisory teacher, the professional development courses and also the opportunities for further study give you the chance to enhance and develop your pedagogy throughout your time as a NET.

Looking back now, how formative was your time at Chatteris? How did it help you with your professional and personal development?

My time working for Chatteris was a really happy one that I am always grateful for. I understood more of what it meant to be an ESL teacher and ultimately the experience paved the way for me to become an EDB NET. Being a CNET is a great experience but as a NET teacher you are also able to have more time to feel and understand the living and working rewards/challenges in Hong Kong. To me, that kind of experience is priceless, and has helped open my eyes and shape who I am today.

What would you advise to any Chatteris Tutors who are interested in the EDB NET scheme or continuing to teach in Hong Kong?

Preparing all your documents and familiarising yourself with the EDB NET scheme are very important and will help aid your application. The scheme is not for everyone and it’s important to understand what your role as a Native-speaking English Teacher is at a specific school. Wherever you teach, it’s good to bear in mind that different schools (or learning centres) may have very different programmes, teaching materials and approaches and so you need to be open-minded and flexible. With this mindset, you are far more likely to enjoy a great rapport with both your students and colleagues and really reap the professional and personal rewards of life as a NET in Hong Kong!  Stay positive and enjoy the experiences that being a NET brings!

Looking to begin your career as an English teacher in Hong Kong like Tom? Apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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