A Year of Teaching

Nearly a whole year has passed since I popped out of my training bubble and was let loose as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher). This will come as a huge relief to the Department of Education, who is in the midst of an epic recruitment crisis.

People simply are not applying to become teachers anymore. And those that do, often leave within a couple of years on the job.

As a physicist, I am on the critically-endangered list of teaching skills. And as such, I was wooed into the profession by grants and bursaries to essentially ease my transition from a well-paid career to a much-less-well-paid career. Interestingly, despite this crisis, which covers all subject areas, a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) still costs £9,000. There are not many other careers that require you to pay for your own job-specific training, certainly not to the value of £9,000!

This poses the first and probably most significant block to aspiring or curious future teachers. Day one, -£9k. Not a great start. If the potential candidates are not already Googling other possible career options, they might go on to find out that teachers salaries in England are well below the OECD average. In fact, we don’t even make it into the top 20 countries.

It gets worse… When you compare the working hours against the salary, we fall even further down the list. A trainee teacher, even one with a £26,000 bursary, can expect that to equate to far less than minimum wage when spread over the year. And that’s before you deduct the £9,000 PGCE fee!

For me, there is also an issue with the leadership. Schools don’t operate like a business. Although with the academy model slowly taking over many schools, they are being financially run like one (money goes to the pockets of CEOs, not to the students). Despite this shift, most of the people I have met in high-level positions at schools have only ever been teachers. They’ve gone to university then gone straight into teaching. Which is great. We need these people, who have always wanted to be a teacher! But… they have zero experience of how the rest of the working world operates. Teachers and schools are in their own little bubble. A bubble which is completely alien to a non-teaching professional. It’s really, really weird. Trust me.

This lack of real-world business and management experience is blindingly apparent to anyone who has worked outside of a school for more than a few months. Schools need to recruit non-teachers to fill some of the management roles. This would massively streamline – everything. Reducing workloads. Cutting down pointless admin, and generally improving workplace morale. Teambuilding doesn’t exist in teaching. Instead its called CPD, which is just a one-way meeting about how great we could all be if we did just a little bit more work.

To make my point. Go to any modern office space. You’ll find great food, comfortable seating, fast (unrestricted WiFi), a premium coffee machine (or even an iPad controlled coffee tap, Google it), booths/pods for private chats or lunches, IT that works, well-designed surroundings and maybe even some interesting art. You might even, if you’re lucky, find people that look comfortable in the clothes they’re wearing! Gosh. Compare this to any staff room in a school. Dull, crappy seating, a half-arsed attempt at a kitchen unit, and a 5kg tub of stale coffee from Costco. If schools cared as much about their teachers as any decent city firm cared about its employees, there would not be a retainment crisis. End of conversation.

My next issue is the level of respect given to teachers. To put it simply, there isn’t any. Students don’t respect teachers, teaching is no longer an aspirational job. Knowledge is not cool. Knowing stuff has no value. Stupidity is a badge of honor. Morons walk the catwalks. They’re on our TVs, they’re on YouTube, they’re in our ruddy parliament, running the country! We, with our multiple degrees, are seen as people who couldn’t get a job elsewhere. We failed to find a ‘cool’ job. We’re stuck in a crumbling 1960’s tower block filled with asbestos, teaching 14-year-olds about specific heat capacity.

With the recruitment crisis getting worse, this grim misconception may turn out to be true. Teachers will continue to leave, only to be replaced by less qualified and undertrained replacements. Soon, you may even be able to teach science with only a degree in Biology! For crying out loud!

I get asked multiple times a week by teachers, students and parents – “Why on earth did you leave your last job to do this?!”. Because I want to teach! I didn’t accidentally quit my job, move continents, enroll in a training programme, complete a PGCE (and pay for it) and then stumble into a teaching role!

Parents don’t respect us. Every parent thinks that you’re not doing enough for their child. Or that because you gave their child a detention for throwing a pork pie at another child, which then became partially lodged in his ear, you are somehow against their child. I’m not, your child is a prat, trust me, I spend more time with him than you do.

Don’t get me started on parenting… It should be put on one of those lists of skills that our society has lost. Like whittling spoons, outdoor survival and voting based on facts in referendums.

The school doesn’t respect teachers (see my point about the staff areas). Schools are 100% designed for the students. Very little effort has gone into making the staff areas adult-friendly, productive or relaxing, which is a shame, as most staff spend up to 10-hours a day on site!

Finally, the government doesn’t respect teachers. Money is being ripped away from schools. The workload is increasing. Teachers are leaving. Government reduces funding further… Enough said about that. And who can forget when our very own secretary of the environment, that glorified sock puppet, Michael Gove said: “We’re fed up of experts”. I could write an entire blog post on that spam-faced wank crumpet. But I won’t. This is about teaching. Teachers are experts! Experts are exactly what this country does need!

All of this reinforces that popular misquote of the teaching recruitment adverts – ‘Those who can’t, teach’. It’s damaging to the profession, and therefore the next generations.

Teaching needs a huge PR overhaul. Money needs to flood back into schools, they need to be updated. Teachers will not stay in schools with rotting tower blocks and equipment that was last serviced as part of the war effort.

Interestingly only teachers that have taught for their entire professional life say it’s the best job in the world… How would they know? They’ve never had another job. Other jobs pay well, other jobs can choose when to go on holiday, other jobs don’t have compulsory unpaid overtime (yes, that’s a real thing – yes, it is in our contracts – yes, it does mean we don’t get paid for a huge amount of work that we do – yes, it is bullshit).

Please don’t sit there and CPD the life out of me telling me that this is the best job in the world. It’s not. Are you insane? Have you not seen the guys at DARPA who are developing running robots? Get a grip.

Despite this. I still want to teach. I love it. Well, I hate a lot of it. But the bit’s I love make me wake up at 06:30 every day and begrudgingly put on a tie.

I love it when a student comes to find me, out of the whole school, to tell me about a problem they have. I love it when they ‘get it’. I love it when they hate my shirts/music/jokes, I love it when they love my shirts/music/jokes, I love it when they tell me about something awesome they found on YouTube and how they understood it because of my 20-minute off-topic rant about black holes. I love it when they come to my room at lunch, just for a chat. I love it when they get their exam results and they’ve done way better than they expected. I love it when they realise that school is just the beginning, a stepping stone onto the next part of their life, and the more they put in, the more they’ll get out.

Still not as good as making a robot that can run. Come on.

London to Bueng Kan

Finally, after what seems like forever, we’ve come back to our Thai home! Our home, which I’ve written about a few times, is in the province of Bueng Kan, Thailand. The province borders the Mekhong river which splits Thailand and Laos. This is where our Thai family are based. It’s also where we’ve built our large family home.

We took a direct flight to Bangkok this time. Normally, to save a bit of cash, we would change in Dubai, Qatar, India or wherever offers the best time/cost saving benefit. Annoyingly, as I’m now a teacher, I have to travel during the school holidays which bumps the price up and reduces the number of cheap options. So, instead of our normally £500-ish return (with a change) ticket from London to Bangkok, we forked out a whopping £750 each on a direct return.

I think it’s the first time we’ve flown with EVA Air, for some reason I’d always assumed they were a carrier from South Africa. Turns out they’re Chinese.

Two points of note from an otherwise unnoteworthy flight. EVA is possibly the only airline I’ve flown with whose in-flight entertainment hardware is even close to acceptable. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was ‘good’. The touch screen was clear with a decent resolution and colour spectrum. The touch capacitance was light, accurate and quick. Unlike most airlines where you require a chisel and a bucket-load of patience to press each button. The only letdown was the content. There simply wasn’t a huge amount of it. Missing a few new release blockbusters. Even the Chinese movies on offer were nearly a year old. Having said that, the content they did have was high resolution with and with good audio.

EVA also has, by far, the best in-flight blankets. So good in fact that, I slipped one into my wife’s carry-on bag. And I fully intend to grab more on the return flight.

As most people do, once we’d landed in Bangkok, we had an immediate desire to leave it. Bangkok, as much as we love it, is not what you want to experience after 14 hours of travelling. It was also monsoon season, which had the benefit of cooling everything down, but also made everything incredibly wet and miserable. We headed directly to Hualamphong train station to pick up our first-class sleeper tickets and get on our train to Udon Thani.

We’ve travelled first class the last few times we’ve been on Thai trains. The price is a bit more than second class, but you get a private cabin, a sink and room service. For two of us in one cabin, we paid about £85. You even get access to the stations first class lounge, which is an air conditioned room with a large CRT television and a selection of pink and beige 1980’s style sofas. There’s also a fridge full of chilled bottles of water. We always take as many as we can carry discreetly. We boarded at 19:30 and arrived in Udon at about 07:30 the following day. The trains have always had toilets and basic showers, but on the older trains, these were often seats with a hole down to the tracks and a hose for a shower. The new first-class carriages, which have been widely admired on Thai national news programmes, are a huge step forward. The toilets feel like those on an aeroplane, the showers are now a wet room with a proper power-shower. The cabins have screens with a live GPS feed of the train’s location, several TV channels and a room-service menu (provided by an onboard 7-Eleven). There are also LED lights and USB charging ports. The in-cabin screens even have a display in the corner showing which bathrooms/shower rooms are currently available. I’ve stayed in worse hotels.

Having showered and slept properly we both woke up nice and early to watch the sun rise out of our window. We ordered a couple of lattes and some Thai/Chinese breakfast items from the in-cabin screen. After carefully choosing what we wanted and submitting the order, we waited. Soon after, a man appeared at the door, with a menu and a notepad. We repeated our order, and it arrived about ten minutes later. Apparently, they have not figured out how to read the orders yet, only that a cabin wants to make an order. The screen-to-mouth 7-Eleven of the future was still clearly in its early stages.

Arriving in Udon Thani we were met at the station by the guy we normally hire our vehicles from. This time we’d gone for an older model Toyota Fortuner (4×4, 3-litre diesel). Although we own a selection of bikes and trucks at our home, we like to hire when we know we’re going to put loads of miles on the clock. And we had over 2,000 planned for the holiday. I’d already paid both the deposit and the full fee through PayPal over the free WiFi on the train. So we just had to sign the paperwork, jump in and drive off. We’ve always had great service with these guys.

From Udon, we headed north towards Nong Khai. This is also the final destination of the train, but we’ve yet to find a good car hire guy there, so we still hire in Udon Thani. As we raced the train north towards the Mekhong river I was reminded of just how mad Thailands roads are. People happily drive on the wrong side of the road, they will plough into roundabouts as if they’ve been invited to a destruction derby. Scooters are everywhere, not a single helmet in sight. The drivers are nervous and incapable yet incredibly confident that they’re right. There are often kids as young as eight driving scooters down major eight-lane highways. The wrong way. Dogs, chickens and more recently cows all scatter the road. Most notably are the ‘Salengs’, these are scooters with a rudimentary sidecar bolted on the side. You’ll often see entire families cruising around in these. I’ve once seen four adults, three children, a dog and two pigs in one. On the main road. At night. The sooner you accept the madness, the sooner you can enjoy it.

Reaching Nong Khai, we head east along the Mekhong river for about 160Km until we arrive in Bueng Kan town. Now it starts to feel like the end of our journey. Once in Bueng Kan, we take highway 212 until we see the familiar temple sign, about 20Km down the road, take a left and follow the dirt track for another twenty minutes until we’re home in Ba Na Kam village. As I write this, they are busily tarmacking the entire road through our tiny village to the main road. It’ll save us money on tires, but it takes away some of the charm.

A few dabs on of the horn, and the family pop out of the house to greet us. My wife’s mum, dad, brother and two of our nieces (daughters of my wife’s youngest sister). The youngest of which, Gor Khao, is seven months old and we’d not met before.

Talking, hugging, drinking and eating started and we immediately felt like we’d never left. Home.

I’m a Teacher

I did it. I passed it all. I graduated, twice. I received my certificates and I got a good grade too. All of the paperwork, logs, documents, folders and general tedium are now over. I am a fully qualified, and employed, physics teacher.

This, of course, means only one thing at this time of year – six weeks of paid holiday. And before you non-teacher types out there start to compile even the earliest semblance of a winge about teacher holidays – Stop. Take a breath and listen.

If you’re lucky (or unlucky) you might have kids. They might be in the 11-16-year-old range that I teach. If so, you’ll probably know that at this point in their life they are discovering who they are, who they want to be, and who the rest of the world thinks they are. If they’re lucky, they will like one or maybe two of these, or they could hate all three. Each of these three will surface at different times, sometimes all together. Occasionally they will set off fireworks in their heads, just to see what will happen.

Most of these kids are simply growing up and their minds and bodies are growing too. For some this is exciting, for others it’s terrifying. They have questions, they have concerns, and they have insecurities. All of these increase with each passing day.

Some of the kids we teach have learning difficulties or special education needs. These can range from having difficulty reading what has been written on the board, to finding it hard to hold a pen, to having a severe panic attack every time they walk onto the school grounds. There are as many variations in mental health and learning ability in a school as there are students.

There are kids who are full-time carers. When they get home from school they will help their family member/s to the toilet, help them pay their bills, pick up their younger siblings from a nursery, make them dinner, bathe and put them to bed, and all kinds of other responsibilities which no 11-16 year old should have the burden of.

There are kids who live in hostels, kids who take a state-provided taxi, there are kids who aren’t fed at home and there first meal of the day is at school in the breakfast club.

We’ve got kids at our school who have been sexually, physically and verbally assaulted. By strangers, parents, friends, or siblings. For some, this might have been a once off, for others, it might have lasted weeks or even years. In some cases, it might still be happening.

There are a few who won’t talk, at all. Some who won’t write. Some who will simply not acknowledge you at all. There’s one who walks out of the room anytime you ask him a question. There are a couple who bring their older brothers spliffs in to sell on the playground. There’s a few who think it’s hilarious to set off the fire-alarms in the middle of important exams.

We, the school, deal with all of this. And we do a damn good job of it too. We’re counsellors, advisors, psychiatrists, friends and often parents. We clean up their mess, fix their ties, give them an ear to moan into and give them any support we can. Oh… and we also give them one of the best educations available in the world.

Six times a day, I get a selection of 30 of the kids listed above come into my classroom. Six times a day I have to decipher what mood they’re in, what problems they might be facing, put out any fires from break, lunch or the night before and get them to consume the content that I’ve spent hours planning. Once they go home, I have to sit with the detainees, I have to mark their books (that’s 180 books per day), I have to mark any exams and assessments, enter their data into SIMS, and then… when I go home I will spend a further few hours planning the following day’s lessons.

If you asked any teacher to take their salary then divide it by the combined hours they actually worked, I can guarantee that figure would be well below the minimum wage. I’d take an educated guess somewhere between £3-5 per hour.

So, the next time you think we’ve got it easy. Try to think about what we actually do, day in, day out, while you’re working in your 9-to-5 with a decent salary. We deserve to be paid properly and we deserve every second of holiday we get.

Now, I’m going to use most of mine back with our Thai family in the land of smiles while I plan my lessons and learn some names for the next year!

And the results are in…

I woke up this morning. Which in itself is quite an achievement as I was watching the election results play out until the early hours. Eventually, however, I surrendered to the duvet. So when I woke up, I grimaced as I swiped my phone to life. BBC News Alert. Oh god, it’s all over, I immediately thought Theresa May has probably won by a landslide in the last hundred seats. She has probably already started hunting foxes, feasting on the new-born babies of every single teenage mother and executing pensioners that don’t sell their house to fund her billionaire chums cocaine habit.

I clicked. I read on. We were safe. The Tory juggernaut had not got the predicted landslide, it appeared to have stalled, backfired and suffocated in its own exhaust fumes. Although it wasn’t all good news, she’d still got the most seats… so despite her losing in just about every other imaginable sense, she had technically won. Just.

Labour, on the other hand, had lost, but they’d also won. They have thrown a spanner of such magnitude into the Tory machine that it’s surely close to being written off. Theresa May is scrabbling around the political dregs of Westminster trying to form an alliance with the DUP. The DUP are essentially the most backwards thinking group of morons imaginable. Some of their ideologies would make KKK members uncomfortable. They have incredibly strong links to terrorism in Northern Ireland. And they are to form a government with Theresa May.

She warned us that there would be a “Coalition of Chaos”, she just didn’t say that she would be leading it. But, I didn’t start writing this to moan about the election. So let’s move on.

So, in addition to the election, a lot has happened since my last blog post. Too much to even begin to mention. You’ll already be fully aware of the disaster that was Brexit, where 17,410,742 people voted to leave the EU. Sounds like a huge number, and it is. But not as huge as 46,500,001 (this was the total number of people eligible to vote in the referendum). A basic analysis of the maths would tell you that only 37% of the public have forced the hand of our confused and bewildered government into triggering Article 50, to start the process of leaving the EU.

You will also, no doubt, know that the even the most satirical and obscene scenario in Private Eye can become a reality. Of course, I am referring to the orange-faced fuck-nugget that is Donald Trump. I simply don’t have the vocabulary to verbalise my feelings on this cretin so I won’t try. He has led a campaign based on hate, idiocy and fear. I have recently visited the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (which is superb, sobering and informative), and I couldn’t help but note the similarities between Trump’s campaign and the earliest actions of the Nazi party. Enough about the small-handed, toupée’d shit-badger. Back to me.

I quit Royal Caribbean. Yes, I know. Why would you leave a position that paid you to travel around the world, on a ship?! Well, two main reasons, like anything, it’s not as great as it seems. And more importantly, I got a better offer. Mos (my wife) and I had been working for Royal Caribbean for a couple of years, and we reached a point where we simply couldn’t deal with the internal politics and red-tape.

But what was this ‘better offer’? Well, I was offered a role at Trickbox TV in London – back in the UK. I would join their small team as the project manager. Taking over the project management responsibilities of the managing director as the company grew. Strangely the studio that I would be working in was one that I had worked in when it was under the management of a different company – Flint London. This is also how I first met the MD of Trickbox – Liam.

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Trickbox was great. The picture above is the view from the studio! I was there for a year. Great team, brilliant location and some interesting projects. Some of which I will blog about separately. But… there was a problem. I wanted something different. I needed a challenge and I didn’t feel that I could progress in that role. More than this, I didn’t feel like I could progress while still working in TV. There is also the huge factor of commuting. When working in TV, you’re tied to London. You either live in London, or you commute into it. Both are expensive. And both are things that I wanted to cut from my life.

Frustratingly, I still haven’t won the Euromillions, so this new challenge had to be something that produced an income. This small but key caveat limited my options drastically. I was essentially looking for a role that would; pay me, challenge me, reward me mentally and financially, and finally… not be linked to London (or ideally any cities in general). It would also be nice for the new role to be something that I could do anywhere in the world.

I had started to see adverts for training to become a teacher. These became more and more targeted and frequent as I searched for roles online. The internet is a wonderful and terrifying thing. It was soon sending me adverts, so specifically tailored to me that I thought about drawing the curtains, locking the door and applying for a restraining order.

The adverts/emails would be something along the lines of this; ‘Looking for a challenge? Receive a bursary of £30,000 to train to teach Physics’. They knew I was looking for a challenge, that’s not difficult – I was searching for ‘dream jobs’, ‘jobs working from home’ and all kinds of other terms. They knew I was looking to be paid for whatever I was going to do next – not a difficult assumption if they knew I was looking for a job.

The next part is where it gets interesting. I have a BSc (Hons) degree, which for those who don’t know, is a Batchelor of Science with Honours degree. But I don’t think this is publically ‘out there’ on the company websites, blogs or staff pages that I’ve appeared on. But, it’s more specific than that. I have always been a huge physics fan. I love reading articles about the latest developments in space exploration, energy, climate science and a whole load more. Google knows this.

So, to cut a long story short, as I am painfully aware that I’m edging closer and closer to 1,200 words in this post… In July 2016 I joined a number of courses with the University of Sussex, Weydon School and the Department for Education. These courses include post-graduate physics, PGCE (PostGraduate Certificate in Education), TSST (Teach Subject Specialism Training) and QTS (which is essentially a license to teach issued by the government).

I am now, at the time of writing this, about 30 hours away from completing my last task for all of the mentioned courses. From that point onward, I will be a fully qualified and licensed teacher of physics. Wish me luck.

 

I’m back!

So, here it is, my first post in what seems like a decade. I know I have a small, but dedicated readership on here, so I apologise for my absence. Sorry. But, I’m back! And I hope to be posting on a far more regular basis than before. I’m sure you’ll understand both why I’ve been inactive for so long, and why that is now going to change, as you read on.

My last post on the 28th May 2013 detailed my first couple of months working on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Enchantment of the Seas. Since then, not much has changed. However I was promoted to Head Broadcast. Which basically means I delegate work rather than actually do it… I’m hoping to base myself on a much larger ship, then I will be able to properly maintain equipment and fix issues.

I did have a short, three-week, holiday back in Thailand. Most of it was spent in airports, on planes, busses and trains. But I did enjoy the remaining time. And of course, seeing Mos again after seven longs months was amazing. We spent every minute of the holiday together. We immediately decided that we’d never be apart for that long again. It’s not fair, it’s not fun, it’s horrible. But, there was light at the end of the tunnel, Mos had been offered a job on my ship. I won’t go into the frankly ridiculous hoops that we had to jump through to get the job offer. But I will say that Royal Caribbean need to take a serious looks at their hiring system. In particular their hiring partner in Thailand. Unhelpful, dishonest and corrupt.

Sadly most of the holiday was spent filling out paperwork and visiting various hospitals, offices and embassies to get Mos’ visa. This is a fairly simple process, but as with everything else the hiring partner (recruitment agency) made it far more difficult and complex than it needed to be. Even so, we enjoyed the hours of taxi rides around Bangkok, we enjoyed the hundreds of BTS train journeys , we even enjoyed a handful of crazy tuk-tuk trips.

In between the two main paperwork periods we managed to escape to our farm and family in Bueng Kan, northern Thailand. It was great to see them again, and our dog Khao San! Who I hadn’t seen since I left Thailand in April 2013. It was also a chance for us to see the new house our family had been building. It is on the same site as their previous house, but far bigger. Mos and I have helped them out with money to get the house built and up to a decent standard. Our family are farmers and happy with the most basic accommodation. Naturally, Mos and I want the best for them, so we’ve helped fund a new kitchen, tiles, equipment and labour to assist the construction. They even built me my own western style bathroom.

As usual out visit was far shorter than we’d have liked. And it was now time for us to head back down to Bangkok to completed the final few tasks to get Mos on her way to Miami! Mos’ contract started a week earlier than mine, so she was going to be flying to Miami, boarding the ship and getting to know people all by herself. I knew she’d be fine, but I was still very nervous for her.

As Mos holds a Thai passport, she was told that she would have to start her career in Royal Caribbean as either a laundry attendant or in room service. She chose room service, which is much less physically demanding, but still has horrific hours. Again, I could talk for hours on the unfairness of this system and what many rightly see as racial profiling, but I won’t. That is the system, it’s been very cleverly set up by the Royal Caribbean legal team and it’s pretty bullet proof from a legal standpoint. Ethically however, it’s disgusting and archaic.

Mos’ role is a mid-level job in the food & beverage department. She works very long hours and answers to a team of supervisors that are tripping over themselves to impress their manager. Sadly, this is normally executed by overworking those under them and pushing the legal working hours to the limit… sometimes exceeding them. This role for Mos is very much a stepping stone to get into the Adventure Ocean team, who look after the babies, toddlers, kids and teens on the ship. As a result, she puts up with far more than she should. There is a light at the end of the tunnel as they say.

Having said that, I have learnt not to trust any information the company gives me. I only believe it if I can see it. There are countless examples I could give, but again, to refrain from this post becoming a rant, I won’t. We’ll just say this, Mos has all the qualifications needed to join the Adventure Ocean team. She has been approved by our Miami office. She has been told by HR that it’s very likely to happen. But, I’ll only believe it when Mos starts her first day in Adventure Ocean.

Even if our next contract does have Mos in Adventure Ocean, we’re not fully sure that we’ll return to the company. There are a few points that are making us look elsewhere. Mos’ biggest factor to leaving ships is the distance from her family. Not so much the geographical distance, but the time delay in information. We often only check our Facebook pages, phone home etc twice a week. So, if anything happens at home, we will hear about it a couple of days late. Meaning it difficult for us to respond to anything urgent. An issue which has affected us and one that I will discuss later.

One of my main issues with our work on ships is the lack of a ‘home’. Sure, we have a cabin on the ship, but it’s not a home. I want a home, that we can own together, that we can furnish, decorate and enjoy. We are also keen to start a family in the next few years, and that is simply impossible on ships, and difficult without a homely home.

Another issue that plagues me throughout this industry is the feeling that nothing I do means anything. I don’t help anyone. Nothing I do matters. Sure I can install a full HD broadcast studio, I can build a stereoscopic camera system from scratch, I can operate a multi-national satellite network. I can do plenty of complicated, difficult and technical things. But at best, all these skills do is enable people to watch TV. It lets people watch a football match live from the other side of the world. That’s it. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change lives.

I don’t save lives, I don’t put out fires, I don’t help people, I don’t serve in the military. And that is something I want. I want to do something that benefits someone else. Someone that needs it. And that is why teaching has caught my eye. And not just any teaching. I am looking at teaching English to children in rural Thailand. Children who’s families can’t afford to send them to the expensive schools, colleges, universities. In Thailand, fluency in English is the holy grail of education. It can open doors to scholarships, jobs, societies and it is a vital skill for any visa application in the west.

As a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher, I could also travel, like I do now. These teachers are in demand across the world. And salaries vary greatly. In Thailand, a TEFL teacher can expect around $1,000 USD per month. Some schools will also provide accommodation, flight and lunches, but not all. A TEFL teacher in South Korea and expect to receive $2,500 USD per month, again some schools will include some added bonuses, some won’t. In addition to this base salary, many TEFL teachers take on private lessons, where they teach students 1-to-1 for an additional fee. Which can be anything between $8-$50 USD per hour.

Both of these salaries will strike anyone from the ‘west’ as low. But you have to take into account the living expenses and quality of life. In Thailand for example, your $1,000 USD salary which equates roughly to 30,000 Thai Baht, would easily allow you to have your own air-conditioned bungalow, run and maintain a motorbike, drink socially and eat every meal in a local cafe and still have 30-50% of your salary to put into savings. The quality of life is also vastly different to that in the UK for example. There is very little stress, you have far more spare time and far less admin work such as paying personal taxes and bills.

Most valuable to me though is the impact I would have on the lives of my students. I would be giving them a skill that they will have for life. A skill that will give them more opportunities that their parents would have had.

To get started on this idea of becoming a TEFL teacher, I have started my certification and training program. It’s with a company in the UK, and I am able to complete the course online with tutors and various bits and pieces at my disposal. I’m currently 36% of the way through the course having completed four exams and having scored an ‘A’ grade on all four. I will have completed this certification before the end of my contract at the end of July.

Also, as if fate has already decided that I am going to become a TEFL teacher, I have been offered a job in a tiny remote rural village in the North East of Thailand. This village has also happens to be home to Mos’ family. Bueng Kan.

So, right now, Mos and I are working away at completing our current contracts. We’ve got 87 days left. I’ve got my certification to complete. We’d both like to start learning Spanish. And we’re also researching ways to invest our money. So lots to be done. Plenty to keep us busy. Who knows, maybe by the next time I update this blog we’ll have a completely different set of plans… That’s what’s so exciting…