I sit in my classroom surrounded by relative peace and quiet; the only sounds come from the twittering birds outside the window, and the ubiquitous hum of the air conditioner. With the exhausting scramble of finals week and exam marking behind me, I reflect on another school year's completion. I am surprised by how swiftly it has passed. Now ensconced in my own classroom, I still worry about the mental state of the incoming science faculty member who has been tabbed as next year's "floater." It appears that there may be a silver lining, a result of my "diplomatic aggressiveness" in advocating for an end to such unprofessional practice: Talk is that rooms have been secured for the incoming teachers who would otherwise have arrived full of hope and excitement before being blindsided by what others have gone through for many years. We'll see.
So, what have I learned this past year? Well, the thought that comes immediately to mind is how fabulous the students here are. They are cheerful, bright, creative, and for the most part, mature. They work hard to complete assignments, and think nothing of giving up weekends to study for tests, despite my pleas to enjoy themselves. I now know that I never have to worry about students being prepared for our discussions or presentations; with few exceptions, they are often better prepared than I am. The faculty is, as in most international schools, a delightfully diverse group of talented educators. I am continuously impressed with the quality of education that students receive here. Oh, sure, there are those who are here for other reasons, but that is true everywhere. I enjoy the banter and intellectual discussions, as well as the ongoing clever practical jokes that they play on one another. More intimately, the science department is wonderful. A mix of educators from four countries (five next year), my colleagues are collaborative and supportive. It is by far the most colleagial group of teachers I've had the pleasure to work with, much like my recent consulting job. My biggest regret is that in an international school, each year a fairly large proportion move on to other places around the globe. Of course, that means that an interesting batch of "newbies" arrives, all with a unique story to tell.
The staff are incredible. Anything that needs doing they lend a hand, and with a smile. Always a smile. I am not surprised, as I have come to embrace the Thais as some of the friendliest people on the planet. I am often amazed at how a person working in another building will greet me by name. I feel fortunate to be working here, despite the relatively traditional approach to education. Although concerned about falling behind ongoing research into best practice, I am supported by the high school administration to implement those practices that support student learning effectively. One can stand in a boat without rocking it, if care is taken.
Finally, I have to say that I love not spending half the year trying to keep warm. I don't mind the snowy climes one bit, but I'd rather take them in smaller chunks. Although many people here complain about the heat and humidity (frequently the young Thais), when I consider the alternative, sweat isn't all that bad.
So now I ease into the mindset of rest, of reflection and preparation for next semester. It is sometimes difficult not feeling guilty on a weekday, or feel that I just have to DO something instead of read a book or take a walk. I know that I need to decompress and refresh. I don't mind having a job that pays me for only ten months out of the year. It is unfortunate that others do not have that option. Of course, I couldn't just let it go. I have to stop now: My summer school class begins in a few minutes.