What should you expect when you become a teacher at an international school?
Teaching in an international school is a wonderful opportunity on both a professional and a personal level but finding the right work-life balance is essential.
There are several reasons why experienced teachers decide that they wish to work in an international school. For some, it is the challenge of working overseas, in an unfamiliar environment where they will learn new skills which will help them to grow as individuals as well as professionally. For others, it may be the excitement of working abroad, not just from a professional point of view from but also a social one. Indeed, this is something which we would encourage. However, you are not going on a holiday, so finding the right work-life balance is essential.
As one of the leading international schools in Bangkok, there is undoubtedly an element of prestige in working at our establishment, and most teachers feel immense pride to be associated with us. We believe in helping our teachers grow as well as our pupils and, as a teacher, you will find that you have a great support network around you. The opportunities and the facilities are often far better than what you would expect in any state school in the UK, and this will certainly make your job easier.
However, there are several other things that you will need to consider before embarking on your journey, and many points are covered below:
1. Students come to school wanting to learn
While many students do enjoy their education in the UK, in an international school, there does seem a genuine desire to learn. Students do appear to recognise that they are in a fortunate position and grasp the opportunity with both hands. Friendship groups within expat communities do tend to be stronger and more diverse. The close bond between students enhances the learning environment and acts as a positive influence. Of course, this makes the role or the teacher easier and more enjoyable.
2. The climate and facilities assist with learning
Waking up on a cold, dark November morning in the UK does little motivate anyone, and that goes for both teachers and students alike, but in a country such as Thailand, you wake up warm and to sunlight. In addition, it is far easier to do outdoor activities which may form part of your lesson. It makes a pleasant change from classroom teaching, and the variation seems to improve student’s attention spans. As we have already touched upon, the incredible facilities which we are lucky enough to be afforded, also facilitate greater learning.
3. Smaller classes and great backup teams
At any international school, you can expect the class sizes to be significantly smaller than those that you would be used to back in the UK. On top of this, you also have a superb support network of teaching assistants, meaning that each student gets more attention. The extra attention means that any students who may be falling behind are helped at the earliest opportunity. In contrast, stronger students can be encouraged to progress by being given extra or more challenging exercises. While this support is available in the UK, in state schools, it is not to the same degree.
4. Opportunities for career progression
Many teachers in international schools stay for several years but equally, there is relatively high staff turnover in comparison to the UK. This is for various reasons, but it does open the door for those with long-term ambitions to further their careers. Teaching in a school that has superb facilities and willing students tends to improve teaching standards with almost all teachers commenting that they are a better teacher for the overall experience. It means that should you wish to move on or return to the UK; you are perfectly positioned to apply for more senior posts.
5. The parents
Often when you read stories about parents of students at international schools, they tend to be quite negative with claims that parents are too demanding. While parents do naturally want the best for their children, on the whole, most parents are very supportive and play an active role in their child’s education. From a teacher’s perspective, this is incredibly helpful that you have the support and backup of parents. It helps if a child is struggling or encountering problems, with parents often very comfortable discussing concerns with teachers.
6. Cultural differences
When you start teaching overseas, especially if you come to a new continent, you will find that the culture is very different. Many of our children are mixed race, come from other countries and in some cases, English isn’t their first language. At first, this can take some adjusting to, but after a few weeks, it is something that you learn to enjoy and relish rather than be fearful of. It is an experience that you will also encounter in your social life with different foods, religions and ways of life that needs to be experienced to, sometimes, be believed!
7. The social aspect
As we said at the very beginning, being a teacher at an international school is also about achieving the right work-life balance. In Thailand, you can lead a wonderful social life with some of the region’s top restaurants and bars in Bangkok. Close by; there are beach resorts and cheap internal flights, making weekend trips to other areas of the country extremely feasible. If you enjoy water sports or golf, you will be well catered for, and the strong expat community spirit welcomes newcomers making settling in incredibly easy.
Finally, we do have to stress once again, that this isn’t a holiday and just like in the UK, you are here to do a job. You must retain your focus and be aware that there are plenty of distractions out there which could negatively impact on your career. Should you feel you are struggling or need some support, you will always have that available within the school and shouldn’t be ashamed to ask.
Teaching in an international school is a wonderful opportunity on both a professional and a personal level. It will improve your teachings skills and make you broader minded which have a positive impact on every aspect of your life. If it is something you are considering, we would certainly advise you to go for it!