All change!

It’s the end of an era! I’ve spent nearly five years with the same language school (British Council) here in Thailand, which is a pretty long stint.

Overall, it’s been a good experience. I mentioned before that the pay and conditions were good at our centre in Bangkok, and that probably kept me there slightly longer than expected. It wasn’t easy as a materials writer being a full-time teacher too, and I’ve had to turn down some good writing opportunities over the years. But hey, teaching is always my priority.

As with any job, there are highs and lows. The highlights of my time in the job included…

… working in a close-knit team. We have five centres here in Bangkok, and when I first arrived I was placed in the ‘main office’. It was a regional hub which I found a bit anonymous to be honest. Most of the important managers hung out there, making it easy to bug them so they couldn’t hide behind their emails. But apart from that it was a bit… soulless? So, I took the opportunity to move out to a smaller branch. We had a team of only 7 or 8 teachers over the years, and everyone got on well. I had some great managers at that branch, loved my classes, really enjoyed working with the students and engaging with parents. Awesome, I’ll miss it.

… upskilling. I had quite a lot of opportunities to upskill over the years, many of which were funded. The organisation paid for my CELTA YL extension and for some of my MA. I challenged myself to learn more about some of the approaches we were taking with our in-house products. My line managers were supportive on this front and I felt that for the most part my contributions were valued. The best opportunity I was offered by the school was to line manage some teachers. It was awesome to act as a mentor for some of my colleagues and to witness their development. Probably my top experience.

… freedom. I spent a lot of time experimenting with different approaches/techniques during my time there. I received some really useful feedback from colleagues, managers and mostly from learners which really shaped (and I feel enhanced) my practice – very grateful for all that.

Lowlights… there weren’t many. Most amount to standard work-related grumbles. Mind you, there were certainly things that were ‘aaaaargh!’ moments during my five years though…

That time when management chose to introduce performance-related pay for teachers. I’ll be honest, that was the single worst decision I’ve encountered in my TEFL career to date. I just… I just couldn’t believe that *facepalm*. It’s such a divisive approach to take in education. Two weeks before I left they decided to scrap it. They saw sense!

The year I spent in junior management. I did a year running some of our adult courses a few years ago. As I said, I loved the line management side of that role. However, most of my time was spent in meetings which went on too long with nothing much happening. Plus, all the academic staff in our management team were male which just felt a bit weird. It felt like I was back at my all-boys high school at times…

It wasn’t that bad really, just a bit boring. Lots of agreeing with people above me – if I didn’t then the meetings would drag on even more! I enjoyed having reduced teaching hours as a ‘manager’ – it meant I could shift my day around and play football three times a week! I needed to fill my time as there wasn’t really much to do. However, it also meant I saw the students less and talked about profits more – not really my bag. Better work-life balance though.

My first couple of years with the organisation gave me more confidence as a teacher and helped me branch out into writing. I felt a bit disappointed that the opportunities for materials writing at the British Council were so limited. I thought that with so many in-house products, websites, etc that there would be plenty of scope to get involved in writing. However, materials writing work was often outsourced, centralised in a certain region, or just unavailable. If I could change anything about the company, I’d probably say that more varied opportunities for career development would have been nice. It often felt like it was ‘go into management or stay teaching’, but there’s so much more to do in ELT. Still, in the end it didn’t matter. I gained the confidence to find writing work elsewhere, it just would have been nice to have written more of the in-house products given my own learners were using them.

Regrets…

  • There weren’t many opportunities to get into teacher training, I imagine that would be enjoyable. I’ll pick this up down the line – maybe with BC again, who knows!
  • I wish I could have said goodbye to my students! Coronavirus scuppered that.
  • I wish online learning/teaching had come along earlier (and voluntarily!), as I’d have loved the chance to help develop this. I think it could be a big (positive) development for the company. Who knows though.
  • I arrived at the company during a period of change. Loads of cool colleagues and good managers left in my two years there. I wish I’d had more chance to work alongside some people. That’s life, I guess.

Anyhow, an interesting phase. I’d certainly recommend the organisation and the school itself.

What’s next? A career change of sorts. I’ve moved into EAL at an international school which I’m really excited about. Will update soon!

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

4 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about working with the British Council. I wish you luck with your future career and hopefully you get more involved within teacher training. I would love to be involved in teacher training, possibly at post-graduate level in a University setting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing these experiences Peter.

    It’s interesting that the British Council is so limited in its view of teacher development and progression. Do either ‘Management or Teaching’ when there are so many other possibilities, as you say.
    The BC is well-placed (and well thought of) in the world to branch into materials, online development, training and development of teachers locally and the sharing of good practice. It could do more work with schools in rural areas to support local teachers but maybe I’m taking too big a step here. The BC is a business and not V.S.O. But opportunities lost non-the-less.

    Also very sad that the BC is still so ‘male at the top’ but not surprising. Those endless meetings when nothing much changes, is the experience of many.

    I hope you manage to move into teacher training now, in some way. This isn’t a great time to do it but the rewards are huge. I hope we meet through this side of things. Are you moving back to the UK?
    I hope this blog continues in the same way. I have recommended it to EVERY trainee on EVERY CELTA that I’ve trained on.
    Good luck and see you soon!

    Like

    1. Hey Nicky! Good to hear from you.
      Eeek, maybe I should have added a disclaimer to my comments about materials writing as they could be misleading.
      BC in general offer excellent cpd opportunities. There are opportunities for things like teacher training, but I was not eligible for those as you already needed teacher training experience. BC do a lot to offer training and support at local levels but this is kind of separate to my role working in a teaching centre.
      As for materials writing, that’s just my experience. And a blessing in disguise as it gave me the nudge needed to start writing for publishers.

      Overall, a good company for sure. Yes, the management context I worked in was male-dominated which was a shame. I don’t know what it’s like in other contexts though.

      Hope to see you in teacher training down the line! Who knows when… I’m looking more at building my EAL experience now, very excited about it! Hope everything ok with you 🙂

      Like

      1. Another lesson in interpretation here Peter! I got the wrong end of a complicated stick!
        I’m so glad you feel excited and ready for change. Keep in touch, won’t you?

        Will you be maintaining this blog? Starting a new one?

        Like

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