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The Freedom of Teaching Overseas

September 18, 2014

What is the best thing about working in the private school sector? For me, it is not having to religiously follow the British curriculum and listen to people with no teaching experience telling me how to run my classroom. Could you imagine walking into surgery and telling the doctor how he could improve on his technique for his latest myocardial infarction patient? It is a ridiculous notion and while a little exaggerated not a million miles away from what teachers in the UK have to deal with everyday.

10628286_367977496688569_8380660437721617922_nI am all for self-improvement and I absolutely welcome criticism from other teachers. I actively seek advice from my peers and despite being apparently classed as an “outstanding” teacher by my previous Head, I don’t consider myself any more than satisfactory.  I doubt myself every single day and look for ways to improve after every lesson. But, if you have not set foot in a classroom before, then please, please, don’t tell me how to do my job.

I have worked in international schools for most of my career and I could not see myself ever returning to the UK to work in a government school. The job isn’t the only reason why I chose to live overseas. I love travelling and seeing new things, however it is the politics of working in UK schools that keeps me from returning. The children that I teach here are from good backgrounds and more often than not have supportive parents. The children at home in the UK often need good quality teachers so much more, but unfortunately the people in charge are driving the best teachers away. More and more people are not just leaving the country to teach elsewhere, but are leaving the teaching profession altogether.

I am lucky enough to be in the private sector overseas and I have always fostered ideas and teaching philosophies that break the norms of how we are taught to teach. I am somewhat of a rebel in this sense, often going against suggested practices for teaching. I like to be provocative and critical of traditional ways. I certainly wouldn’t get on well with the politics involved with teaching in the UK and while I had the respect and trust of my Head teacher in my last school; who allowed me to bend the rules to some extent, I have always wanted to be my own boss and set up a school in my own vision.  I have, for a long time, thought that I could structure a curriculum in a better, more practical way, giving time back to teachers to simply do the job they love doing for the reasons they initially decided to join the profession.

10600472_348618381957814_5372830562639779291_n-1Although Private schools on the whole do offer teaching staff more freedom to teach in the way that they like, slightly removed from the policy makers, they do come with their own pitfalls. I work in Thailand where most of the schools are owned by rich business people rather than educators. Profit making is put above the needs of students and children with special needs don’t exist in the mainstream schools. It is an environment built around a “bums on seats” philosophy. Working abroad can also leave you stuck with Head teachers and other teachers that have become far too accustomed to the easy life and don’t work half as hard as they should. It can become frustrating. Expectations abroad are often not as high as they are in the UK, but at the same time we, as teachers, have a duty to do the best job that we can, helping as many children in our care to achieve their absolute potential in both their academic and social lives. This is obviously not the case in all schools and there are some wonderful teachers around.

Luckily I have a close colleague who is very like-minded. Our teaching philosophies are almost identical and he is a fantastic teacher. I have never seen anyone teach phonics as well as him, even to this day and that is why almost four years ago, I felt confident enough to partner with him to start our own school.  It is a wonderful feeling to be able to follow whatever curriculum we want, to be able to buy whatever resources we want, when we want and to be able to educate young children in the way that we feel is the best way. Our school is only an Early Years institution and we did start on a pretty tight budget, borrowing from our families and scraping together our savings, however being built on the back of our modern and progressive philosophies, it has now blossomed into a school of the very best quality.

10636006_367182820101370_6025925256768325989_n-1Taking children from as young as twelve months in the Nursery and up to six years in Kindergarten 3 (Year 1), by the time children leave our school, they are all able to read and write both in Thai and English and in fact most of the children typically work one year above the national literacy and maths levels set by the UK national curriculum. My highest ability child has just turned five years and has already achieved a 3C in English.

So how did we achieve this? Through pushing the children to their limits? Breaking their personality through gruelling work routines? Surprisingly neither of these methods were used. The key to our success lies in teaching children to love education. We don’t punish children by getting them to read books or practice handwriting, but rather we teach children to love books and reading is a reward for finishing other activities quickly. We learn through playing “party” style games, whereby the children think they are playing when actually they are learning to read and write. As a result of this technique even our lowest ability children finish Reception two terms ahead of the average child in the UK.

Our school is also fully organic; the food as well as the cleaning products. The children will soon be growing their own dinners (part of their dinners) with the aim of encouraging children that do not like certain vegetables. We teach the children about different types of foods; the nutrients; the minerals and the vitamins that are contained within them. They get to juice fruits and vegetables and design their own juice mixes. When asked their favourite foods, the children mostly chose pumpkin or broccoli rather than chocolate and sweets. We also teach the children where their waste ends up and the benefits of recycling. They learn about renewable energy sources. In fact anything that we believe to be of great importance to the children in terms of ethical and healthy living, we educate them about. And we make it fun. This is the key, if you make learning fun enough then children will learn, but it is the fun that has been withdrawn from the curriculum in the UK. Okay some lessons are fun but when teachers have to stay up to 10pm every night marking, how can they be expected to make every lesson a fun interactive one. The emphasis needs to be taken away from the teaching and put firmly onto the learning.

We have recently set up a blog to try to educate others on our methods. I wouldn’t say that our ideas are “ground breaking” but they are a step away from the norm. I am sure there are many teachers and parents that think in the same way, but the problem is that politicians back home like to jump on the latest buzz word or trend, playing it safe to secure the vote at the next election, rather than actually thinking about how to improve education.

I am so happy being able to teach the way I want to teach, knowing that the only people that I am now TRULY answerable to are the only people I would feel remorse in letting down… The children.

This article was written by guest author and International School Community member David Walters. He works at British Early Years Centre in Bangkok (the school’s website can be found here) and also has a very informative blog for both parents and teachers.

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Video Highlight: KIS International School (Bangkok, Thailand)

June 17, 2012

There are so many international schools in Bangkok.  Which ones are good places for international school teachers to work at?  How does the international teaching community view the international schools there?

KIS International School (Bangkok)

The school building looks quite big.  Also, there is a large outdoor swimming pool and a climbing wall.

The outdoor playgrounds appear to have tarps installed on the trees to aid in shading the heat from the sun.

Looks like the students enjoy playing soccer as most students at international schools do during their play time.

The school has the students wearing uniforms appropriate to the tropical climate of the country.

Every shot of a classroom makes it seem as if there is much learning space allotted for the students. It is nice to have a lot of space for students to explore and not be so distracted by others in the room.

The indoor shot of the atrium looks impressive and definitely creates a welcoming feeling as you walk along the hallways of the school.

I noticed a shot of an exercise room on campus.  I still haven’t had the chance to work at an international school that had one of these.  Would be nice to have access to a gym on campus!

Wow their special celebration days look to be quite the spectacular!  There is a great open space outside on the field to hold these types of big events.

There have been 39 comments and information submitted on this international school on our website.  Want to know more about what life is like as a teacher at this international school?  Take a look a their profile page on our website – KIS International School (Bangkok) (39 Comments)

Additionally, you can check out the school’s website here and their employment page here.

Currently on www.internationalschoolcommunity.com we have 24 international schools listed in the city of Bangkok.  The number of comments and information that have been submitted for each school is listed to the right the link to each school.  Here are a just a few of them:

Bangkok Patana School (14 Comments)
Harrow International School (Bangkok) (10 Comments)
International School Bangkok (16 Comments)
St. Stephen’s International School (Bangkok) (8 Comments)
Hampton International School (13 Comments)
Thai-Chinese Int’l School Bangkok (7 Comments)
Berkeley International School (Bangkok) (8 Comments)

If you know about what it is like working at one of these international schools in Bangkok, log-on today and submit your own comments and information.  If you submit more than 30 comments and information, then you can get 1 year of premium access to International School Community for free!

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Great resource: ISAT – International Schools Association of Thailand

February 22, 2012

If you dream is to work at an international school in Thailand, the ISAT website can be a great resource for you.

About ISAT

The International Schools Association of Thailand was established in 1994. Its principal purpose is to act as a link between international schools which are members of ISAT on the one hand and the Ministry of Education, in particular the Office of the Private Education Commission, on the other.

During the past year, ISAT has been extensively involved with the Department of Export Promotion in the joint marketing of international education both in Thailand and overseas.

The issues of new education legislation and educational reforms have also featured high on the agenda over the past year. ISAT has lent its support to this process through assistance in in-service training by arranging placement for Thai teachers and administrators in international schools where they are able to observe modern approaches to teaching and learning first hand.

In addition to disseminating information to its members on educational issues both at home and overseas, its regular meetings provide a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of views and information. The organization of in-service training courses, particularly in the fields of cross-cultural management and Thai language teaching, also features highly on the list of ISAT’s priorities.

The promotion of Thai language and culture in international schools and support for charitable causes are other major aims of the Association as is support for culture and sporting links between international schools in Thailand and abroad and between international schools and Thai educational institutions.

Laws and Regulations about living in Thailand

List of Schools on their website

Currently on International School Community we have 34 international school listed in Thailand.  Many of those school profile pages have comments and information that have been submitted on them by our members.  Check out some of them here:

International School Eastern Seaboard (ISE) (7 Comments)
St. Stephen’s International School (Khao Yai) (12 Comments)
British International School (BIS) Phuket (8 Comments)
Phuket International Academy (3 Comments)
Chaing Mai International School (5 Comments)
Prem Tinsulanonda International School (9 Comments)
Bangkok Patana School (14 Comments)
Bromsgrove International School (7 Comments)
International School Bangkok (7 Comments)
Thai-Chinese Int’l School Bangkok (7 Comments)
St. Stephen’s International School (Bangkok) (8 Comments)
New Sathorn International School (5 Comments)
KIS International School (Bangkok) (4 Comments)

If you currently work at one of these international schools in Thailand, become a member today and submit some comments and information of your own!

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