Imagine working at a school where you rarely have to use your disciplinary skills, the students are motivated to succeed and lead well-rounded lives by participating in sporting and creative activities. Even better, imagine a parent-teacher conference where the parents respect you and your profession and, your professional development is of concern to the school’s administration. These are the kind of benefits I have reaped from my move into an international teaching career.
Prior to securing my position as an international teacher in Thailand, I worked for more than three years in the United Kingdom. While I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot from my colleagues, there were parts of the job I didn’t like, and at times found a little soul destroying. That’s one of the reasons I now teach at an international school.
When I was teaching in England, I often found that I spent a considerable portion of my time on discipline. This was time that was taken away from my role as an educator and affected the chances of my students excelling. In my role as an international educator, I don’t have half or even a quarter of the discipline issues I had when I was teaching in England. It’s not because I teach less students, I still teach classes International School Singapore of 23 to 25 students. The reason I spend less time on discipline is because teaching is a respected profession in Thailand and therefore teachers are treated very well by the whole community.
Here in Thailand the majority of students are motivated to succeed academically. The whole school has a culture of rewarding success; academic successes, sporting successes and creative successes. This is in part because we are in Thailand, but it is also an integral component of the educational philosophy in the International Baccalaureate Organization’s (IBO) curriculum. In the UK I was constantly giving of myself to keep my students motivated and believing that they could achieve well if they put in the effort. After a while this became draining. Now I can concentrate on delivering content and opening my students’ eyes to the wider world around them because they are so motivated to learn.
I really feel that I am part of the community of my international school. My students greet me when I walk into school in the morning and they will greet me and stop to have a conversation with me whenever they see me on the street. There is a strong parents’ association that I can call upon for assistance if I am running an event or need extra adult supervision for an activity. The majority of my students have aspirant parents who support them in their studies, sporting and creative activities. In the UK parental support was not always forthcoming and nor were the students always polite.
One of the keys to being a great teacher is continuing to invest in your own education and development. That’s why many of us have professional development guidelines written into our contracts. From the school I taught at in the UK I received two days training that was aimed specifically at me or my subject area in over three years of teaching there. While this wasn’t the only professional development I received in that time I can honestly say that the only other training that was specifically targeted to meet my needs were courses that I found and paid for myself. Teaching abroad, I now have a professional development budget in excess of $US300 per year. Last year I attended a 3 day workshop in Singapore on the IBO curriculum, and this year I have attended a 4 day summit. Should I choose to do a Master’s degree, my school will pay part of the cost, and give me a salary increase once I have completed it.