The professional and personal rewards to be gained from teaching at an international school
Deciding to take a leap into the unknown and teach at an international school is undoubtedly a big step for any teacher.
You will be leaving behind many things that you know and people that you love in pursuit of a new challenge both personally and professionally. You will inevitably encounter some obstacles along the way, but for the most part, most teachers find it rewarding on many different levels.
Personally, it was something that I had thought about for a while, but I had never seen an opportunity that sparked action rather than just thoughts. However, one evening, by chance, I saw an opening at an international school in Bangkok. It had a close affiliation with a respected school in the UK, had superb facilities and, on the face of it, teachers and students who genuinely seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. After lengthy discussions with my wife, friends and family, I decided to apply, more in hope than expectation. Fortunately, I got the post and wanted to share some of the professional and personal rewards that I have gained.
Although it may sound like I am stating the obvious, and to a degree I am, but the entire experience has been immensely rewarding on so many different levels. I have learned things about myself, stepped out of my comfort zone and tasted a new culture and way of life. It has undoubtedly made me a better teacher as well as a more rounded individual. I feel every aspect of my life has been enhanced by making the switch and that I will still be reaping the rewards should I choose to return to the UK or even another country.
Students are keen to learn
Another incredibly satisfying aspect of teaching in an international school is the willingness of students to learn. In the UK, pupils often appear to take schooling for granted and often view lessons as a chore rather than something to enjoy and relish. Admittedly, this is something more apparent in some schools compared with others. Still, my experiences in Bangkok have been incredibly positive to a far greater extent than I had envisaged before embarking on this journey. The majority of students seem to genuinely enjoy school, and this alone is incredibly rewarding.
Well funded schools
Initially, I was unsure whether to include this on my list, but I feel that it is an important aspect of the teaching experience. The top international schools are far better funded compared to state schools in the UK, and with it, this brings opportunities from both a professional and personal perspective. Teaching pupils with state-of-the-art equipment and in a positive environment makes a teacher’s job far easier as well as heightening the students’ learning experience. Having access to everything you need without having to ‘make do’ eases stress and helps to build rapport with colleagues and pupils.
Strong support network
In the UK, I always felt like I had the support of fellow teachers, but I feel this to an even greater extent here. The teaching assistants, teachers and even friends are always on hand to offer help and advice. One of my biggest fears of moving abroad was of being isolated, but in reality, it is the complete opposite. While not lacking ‘back home’, I feel support here is incredible and made the transition to working in an international school and living in another country straightforward and one that family and friends in the UK are astonished by.
Again, it is a subject that I was tempted to avoid but felt that it was something that shouldn’t be overlooked. The parents of all my pupils are so supportive of the school, our activities and everything that we do and are keen to be actively involved. While this was the case with some parents in the UK, it definitely wasn’t the majority, let alone all, with parents often becoming obstacles to overcome rather than assisting with their child’s learning. Although it is not something I can confidently explain, it is an experience that most other teachers at international schools are familiar with.
Working in a new culture
Working in a different culture does present challenges, but the rewards far outweigh any negatives. Learning to adjust and adapt has made me more patient and understanding, not only professionally but in my personal life. For most expats, teachers and those working in other industries, the change of culture has broadened their horizons in every respect. Some things are certainly frustrating, and this shouldn’t be overlooked. Still, for the most part, the new culture, while not always being ideal does help you have a greater appreciation of people and demographics – something that is essential in teaching.
Teaching different nationalities
For most teachers in the UK, teaching children from different countries and backgrounds is nothing new. However, it is something that is taken to a new level when you work in a cosmopolitan city such as Bangkok. Tied in with the point above, it is something that stretches you professionally and encourages you to address weaknesses in your teaching, which perhaps wouldn’t have been quite so evident with native English pupils. From a personal point of view, I believe that this has helped me to be a better teacher and better appreciate the needs of students.
Personal opportunities and social life
Working abroad presents so many opportunities for any expat, and that is no different for teachers. Travel within Thailand and to neighbouring countries is both inexpensive and easy and the mixing with expats, including teachers and those working in other industries, is on a level that you wouldn’t generally experience in the UK. For those who enjoy golf, water sports or merely just travelling locally, it is an excellent opportunity.
Visiting temples, trying different food and just making new friends means that my wife and I have gained so much from the whole experience. My new skills, increased tolerance and greater understanding will stand me in good stead throughout the rest of my life. Teaching in an international school has many rewards and would be a step I would recommend you consider.