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!

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