Our very own slice of jungle in Phuket

Another house hunting success!  Check out our new humble abode…

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Not so humble some may say, with three bedrooms and a garden that exceeds 150m in length (it goes waaaay behind the house too), boasting banana, papaya and mango trees.  This picture is from before we moved in so it all looks a bit sparse – more pics to come once we are all settled in.

When we moved from Hat Yai to Phuket one thing that I have always missed is our house – surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, swinging on a hammock… I just didn’t think that it would be possible unless we were willing/able to pay a premium for a beachfront property – not on my pay packet!

But after almost a year living in our little town house, situated close to my school and Phuket Town, it was time to find somewhere with a bit more space, more privacy and more jungle goodness.  And we found it!  Once again this house was not listed on any online letting sites (although you can check out DDproperty for some good options online) or any of the facebook property groups – T just happened to drive past while house hunting and saw a little sign on the gate, rang the number up (being able to talk Thai is a must in these situations) and hey presto, the house was perfect for us and we snapped it up.

It’s a bit of a hike in rent, and it’s actually 3x what we paid back in Hat Yai, but a) things are generally more expensive here on the island of Phuket, and were generally much cheaper in the deep south of HY, b) my salary is more than it ever was back in HY and c) it is so worth it for the quality of living – I have jungle in my back garden!  My very own fruit trees!

We are very much back to the same lifestyle that we had before – chilling in the garden, falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and cicadas (it surely beats any Sounds of the Jungle relaxation CD!) and waking up with the sun (and the rather vocal cockerels that roam around the jungle…) – it is bliss!

So once again we have proven that with a bit of perseverance and some local knowledge you can find the perfect home for yourself – don’t be tied down to the condominiums that so many expats feel are the only option – your perfect house is out there too!

From TEFL… to TA… to…

Head of Pastoral Support Department!

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Another year in Thailand, another job…

I came to Thailand with the intentions that many have – get a TEFL, teach for a few months, travel around and go back home.  I managed to tick off most of the things on my list… apart from the going home bit which just hasn’t happened (sorry mum!).

I did the TEFL, I got a relatively good TEFL job at a Thai government school (I could have been on my own in the jungle, at least I ended up in a city) and I taught for a few months.  Which became a few more.  And then 18 months down the line I found myself at a crossroads that many an expat come across all too often – should I stay or should I go?

We all know the answer to that question (had I gone home I doubt I would be sat here right now overlooking my own banana trees in a tie dye dress in the middle of February…) – and so I relocated to Phuket, dazzled by the call of bright lights and seedy back streets (and the beaches, it’s all about the beaches now).  I took a job as a teaching assistant, not because it was my dream to be a TA but it was something I could do and it got my foot in the door of an international school (AKA higher salary, better job prospects and basically not in the Thai education system).

For the past year I have been a TA and it has been good but I never kept it a secret that it wasn’t my dream job or my long term career goal.  There are sides to being a TA that are great – no lesson planning, no parent-teacher conferences, far fewer responsibilities – but if it isn’t your career intention to be a TA for life (and there are some amazing people out there for whom it is, and I by no means think that there is anything wrong with that) then it can be so frustrating to be in a classroom (but it’s not your classroom) with a class of children (but they aren’t your class) helping to teach a lesson (but it’s not your lesson)… do you see what I mean?

And so another crossroads presented itself to me – do I sign another 2 year contract for a job that I enjoy but find frustrating?  Do I enroll on the distance learning PGCEi and qualify as a teacher (but only be able to use this qualification outside of my home country)?

Honestly, I didn’t really want either of those options.

Luckily for me, a third option appeared, and it couldn’t have been more perfect for me.

I am blessed to work at a school that recognises the strengths of its employees, is supportive in career development and isn’t afraid to be creative and take a leap of faith every now and then.  All too often when working in Thailand I have been met with “Cannot!” when something has threatened to be out of the ordinary.  As a TEFL teacher in a Thai school you are employed to that one job (and be a foreign face for the school to show off at token events, of course) and there is no route for progression, there is all to often no opportunity for promotion or pay rise or an increase in responsibilities – frankly they don’t expect you to hang around too long, with the average length of stay for a TEFLer being only 9 months (I’m sure I read that somewhere, but perhaps I am making it up…).  It has been really refreshing to be encouraged to try out something new and exciting and something that I never expected I would be able to do in Thailand.

And so, aware that I wanted to stay but wouldn’t be entirely happy remaining in the same position as TA, my school have asked me to develop and lead a brand new school department of Pastoral Support.  Hopefully this will make use of all of my skills from my work as a youth worker back in the UK while still enabling me to work within the school environment.  I have always swung back and forth from wanting to be a teacher to not – hopefully this may be the happy medium that I have been looking for.

For those of you wondering what on earth pastoral support is, I have a blog post planned and I will put a little linky in here when it’s done.  But put simply, it is working with children to overcome any barriers that may be stopping them from reaching their full potential be it personal, social, emotional or academic.  A bit like a school counsellor, only I’m not a therapist quite yet…

I am going to be working with the children individually, in small groups and as a whole school.  I’m currently juggling this between completing my current post as a TA (which I’m seeing out to the end of the school year) so I’m am pretty busy most days – I didn’t realise how un-busy I had been until I started this new role too… it has been non stop every day since I came back from Christmas break – the only reason I am able to write this now is because it is half term – and I have never been more in need of this break, although I spent last night trawling pinterest for ideas for work…

Expect to see lots more pastoral support/school counseling posts here soon.  I am yet to decide if I should make a separate blog or just let this one morph into whatever it will become – a bit like me I guess!

Mixed up Mixtape: back to school

It’s that time of year again.  Summer is drawing to a close and it’s time to go back to school.  As a teacher, I get to relive those back to school feelings every year.  Be it excitement to see friends again, anxiety of upcoming tests, the pure agony of those early, early mornings or sadness at the end of another summer; these are some of the tracks that will be helping me ease myself back into school life.

The Cure – Last Day of Summer

Time to mourn the end of the summer holidays, wave goodbye to late mornings and lazy days.  It’s term time baby.  Set that 6am alarm and don’t press snooze.  OK, you can press snooze but only once.

Boomtown Rats – I Don’t Like Mondays

Actually, this song is pretty much applicable throughout the year.  Monday mornings are the hardest.  I have to drag myself out of bed and I’m still not awake after a shower or coffee.  Usually by Monday lunchtime I’m starting to become human, until then it’s Zombie Teacher survival mode.

Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

It’s not only the early mornings, the start of term sees the to-do list multiply with planning and printing and laminating and cutting and, and, and… sometimes I just have to remind myself in full Gloria Gaynor karaoke style that I CAN and WILL do it.

Jack Black – School of Rock

We can all dream of being that life changing teacher who manages to bring together the students to overcome life’s barriers.  Aaaand we can keep dreaming.  It’s nice though, and for the first few weeks, or maybe even months, the cloud of positivity remains around my head until it starts to drift away…

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)

Because lets face it, what can we really achieve when we are all part of a system?  We’re just cogs in the machine…  OK so I’m definitely not that pessimistic at all but I had to squeeze this song in, obviously.

Usually I only choose five songs but I just had to get this last one in as a bonus track;

The Replacements – F*ck School

For those harder, more challenging days.  Thrash it out!  And sing along at full volume!  Best save this one for when you get home though….

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As usual I am inviting you to share your mixtape within this week’s theme.  Make sure you put a link back to this post so I can see it, and use the tag: mixed up mixtape.  And a special thanks to those who contributed last week!

Missed last week’s mixtape?  Listen to it here.

7 ways to be an exceptionally mediocre TEFL teacher

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Do you have what it takes to be a really bad TEFL teacher?  Time and time again TEFL teachers are referred to as backpacker layabouts with no dedication, and every school can relay a tale of a certain TEFLer who left them in the lurch and now wary of every other foreign teacher who comes along.  Follow this advice and you will most definitely succeed at being yet another mediocre TEFL teacher giving the rest a bad name.

  1. Firstly, start from the viewpoint that anyone can do the job.  Don’t worry about considering your English skills or if you are suited to working with children – anyone can be a TEFL teacher.  In fact, don’t even bother with any sort of certification, so many schools will be simply falling over themselves in desperation for you, there will be plenty of job offers and you will have your pick of the establishments across the length and breadth of your country of choice.  The world, and its children, are your oyster.
  2. On the subject of your country of choice, you should most definitely make your decision based on the number of beaches, the level of debauchery to be found in the nightlife and how easy it will be to hide away from the problems you have at home.  Don’t consider the culture, the food or the way of life that you will be invading – you won’t be throwing yourself in to deep anyway.
  3. But then again, you probably won’t be sticking around in one place too long anyway.  That’s what this TEFL malarkey is all about anyway, floating from country to country doing half-term stints at any school that will take you with no consideration of actually immersing yourself into the way of life or making any meaningful relationships.  Always have your eye on the next destination, the next place that you can use to impress the next travelers that you meet.
  4. Of course, don’t make friends with the locals.  You should only mix with other ex-pats and feed off their bitterness for the job, the country and the people.  Better still if you become that grumpy old man as quickly as possible, to blend in with the others and be better equipped to join in on the conversations about how this country needs to change x, y and z to make things better for you – the coveted and most highly-revered foreigner gracing your presence on this inferior country.
  5. When it comes to inside the classroom (where you will of course spend the bare minimum required amount of time), make sure you are uninspiring, and use the least amount of enthusiasm and energy possible.  Don’t take the time to get to know your students.  Dish out pointless worksheets that you will never look at, let alone mark.  Then again you could just sit at the front of the class and wait for the hour to be over – everyone in the room is more than aware that this is just a means to a paycheck at the end of the month, why waste anyone’s time any further by actually attempting to impart any knowledge?
  6. Don’t bother planning for your lessons, certainly not beyond a cursory glace at the next page in the workbook and most definitely not in the comfort of your own home.  Who needs a range of learning tools and stimuli anyway?  There are a few old flashcards in the bottom of that teacher’s desk – the one that never came back from the last long weekend – that you could probably use if you had to.
  7. Finally, when it’s your turn to disappear, don’t worry about informing your employer or the students.  Don’t concern yourself with grading those tests or planning for the first few weeks of your absence.  Just fly off, ready to grace your presence on the next unsuspecting country on your list.

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes?

 

Confessions of an office fetishist

I don’t know what it is. It could be the smell of hot, melting plastic. It could be the way the final product emerges, all shiny and colourful or the fact that it will stay pristine for years to come.

Whatever it is, it’s time to confess;

I love to laminate.

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Does anyone else out there have any strange office fetishes? Perhaps the paper guillotine tickles your fancy?