Heineken or Leo? Bursting the (expat) bubble.

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Koh Lipe in the deep south of Thailand, just off the Malaysian border

It has taken me 15 years to discover beer Leo, one of the three top selling beers in Thailand. I tried beer Singha and Chang on numerous occasions but always reverted back to the comfort zone of Heineken. I have always ranked Leo as number 3 if having to choose from the local Thai brews with no particular reason why other than it was the beer that the gappies drank! These are our gap students or as we prefer to call them the gap staff – on a learning and work placement between school and university (I will blog in more detail about the power of a gap staff programme in the near future).

Dan and Smiley - gappies who make a difference

Dan and Smiley – gappies who make a difference

My wife has always challenged me that I am reluctant or not good with change.
I resisted sushi for many years for example but now place it as one of my top five foods.

It is ironic that that after 15 years of living and working in Thailand that only on our final Thai adventures and through lack of choice in the deep south of Thailand that I discover Beer Leo to be both refreshing and non-hangover inducing as incorrectly perceived. Imagine how much money I could have saved – but that is not the point.

Who is teaching who?  Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children's Centre in Pattaya

Who is teaching who? Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre in Pattaya

This is not a blog about beer the best beer though, both Heineken and Leo are a pleasure to drink when the time is right, this is about trying new things and having a go. It is vitally important in an international school setting to engage with the local community and to collaborate with the amazing local (Thai) teachers and support staff.  Bringing them into the curriculum at all opportunities and making external learning connections to create a culturally stimulating and relevant curriculum and bursting the stereotypical westernised bubble that many international schools I have visited find themselves in.  In my experience parents really appreciate this approach as well and can see the value in having the school that their children learn in as a gateway into a community and culture that, to be honest, most people are not sure how to approach and therefore revert to their comfort zones and what they know and are used to.  Community partnerships and service learning equip students with so many skills and values and also the confidence to use them appropriately, not just for academic success but more importantly for life success – helping our young (and older) people to become genuine citizens of the world.

Break away from the norm and don’t follow the crowd – be prepared to leave your comfort zone and try the local beer! #gooycz

Process not content (not teaching to predetermined outcomes)

Round Square alumni learning with Baan Huay Sapad School in Chiang Mai

Round Square alumni learning with Baan Huay Sapad School in Chiang Mai

I do not believe in subject teachers, somebody that teaches Math or Geography, I believe that teachers teach people not content and have a passion and love for learning and sharing their knowledge and ideas with young people and helping them to become the best they can be for a life of learning and success beyond school and tertiary education.  Although formal assessment and examinations are important indicators and benchmarks I believe that the real indicators of a successful and dynamic education is the feedback a school collects from their alumni and what they are doing now (in other words measuring the distance their educational impact has travelled).  A school’s alumni are the people that have been equipped with the education that a school is ultimately delivering and are the best case studies or the legacy of the impact that a learning programme has had or is having on society – because surely education must be for the better good and not solely about predetermined outcomes and league tables.

I love this letter (link below) that has become a social media sensation, written to the students and parents of a Year 6 cohort in a primary school in the UK to accompany their end of year summative assessment results.  To me it sums up everything education should be about and how a school and its community should approach learning.  I would love to send my three children to this school knowing the commitment that they have to holistic learning and the amount of care given to nurturing confident young people to discover everything about themselves and the world around them – hats off to them!

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-lancashire-28319907

A (democratic) family adventure…

Deciding on a six month sabbatical is an exciting and also daunting family decision but one that we have decided to do together and with joint ownership.  We are confident that our three children will gain much from the following months of adventure, travel and community engagement as will both my wife and I.  We have started by choosing our favourite aspects of Thailand that we want to re-visit before moving on permanently and also those places that we never got the chance to experience over the last few years.  Below is an image of our kitchen blackboard and our top five choices that we are working through over the next couple of months:

blackboard

As part of the sabbatical we are also challenging ourselves to be reflective learners and to become more effective digital global citizens.  One of my personal and professional targets is to increase my own digital profile and to challenge myself to utilise social media and online resources to become a better learner and educator.  Developing this blog (and the future potential of it) is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone #goomcz.  Creating a Twitter account has also been a big step for me but something I definitely see the benefit of having and being able to connect and collaborate with inspiring educators and leaders throughout the world.  I hope that I can connect my Twitter account and blog effectively in the near future… watch this space!

As ever, teaching and learning is all about role modelling and as a family we are all sharing our learning experiences.  Jonah, our oldest, has created his first ever Weebly, and I have to say is a lot better than me at this – as are most young learners growing up in this digital age and a significant reason why we must embrace this change and not resist it or be afraid of it.  You can follow his blog here:

http://jonahcrouch.weebly.com/

My other two kids are writing (and drawing) learning journals and I am sure that between Jonah and myself we will post a number of entries and images from their journals at different times in the future.

 

Community Partnerships – Service Learning in Pattaya, Thailand

http://www.nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/pattaya/article/2014/4/2/living-in-pattaya-how-to-connect-with-the-local-community

One of our aims at Regents International School Pattaya is to engage with our local community as much as possible and to learn through them and with them. Thailand is our host country and it is only right that we celebrate the unique culture and customs of the people who live and work with us. Below, Paul Crouch, Assistant Principal at Regents, mentions just some of the ways our students and staff connect with the community.

One of Kurt Hahn’s (the founder of Round Square, an education organisation of which the school is a leading member) Laws of Salem is:
‘Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from enervating sense of privilege.’

With this in mind we believe it is vital as a Round Square school on the outskirts of Pattaya to burst the ‘bubble’ that many international schools can find themselves trapped in and seek not only cultural but also social diversity.  Our Community Partner Programme has been implemented across the school for over 10 years now and we are fortunate to have over 50 different partnerships with local schools, NGO’s and individuals that do amazing things in our area.

The following are some of my favourite ways that our children and staff connect with the Pattaya community on a regular basis and I would recommend you to do the same if you find yourself living, working or visiting the area:

The Father Ray Foundation

Located on Sukhumvit Road, the Father Ray Foundation is welcoming and friendly. There is plenty to see and do at the Foundation, including visiting the Day Care Centre, the Vocational School for the Disabled, the Redemptorist Centre (you can stay the night!), the North Star Library, the café and possibly the most elaborately decorated church in Pattaya – see if you can spot the plates!  If you have any electrical items that need fixing, like a TV or a fan, then the amazing students at the Vocational School have a workshop where you can take your appliances to be fixed by feet only!  The Father Ray Foundation is also a great place to spend the festival of Loy Krathong, joining the community around their small lake to float your krathongs with the residents.

The Fountain of Life Children’s Home

One of the longest established foundations for educating street children in Pattaya, the Fountain of Life is run by the Good Shepherd Sisters and financially supported by the charity Jester’s Care for Kids. Located just off Third Road and near to North Road, the centre is open every day of the week and welcomes visitors to come and learn and play with the children. They especially love to sing songs and engage in art and craft activities. Kru Wannee is the Head teacher and can tell you all you need to know about the centre and the children. Make sure you also find Sister Joan and have a good old Irish chat with her.

Our Home

Founded by Khun Tiew, an icon of community spirit and support work in the Pattaya and Rayong area, Our Home is a project that looks after women and gives them the skills to make a living for themselves through embroidery and cooking. The Home is located on the Green Valley road to Ban Chang and you can call in any time to order some amazing needlework, tasty baking or fresh fruit and vegetables. Look out for the Our Home ladies selling their cakes and pies outside Regents’ main gates every day after school.

Karanyawet Disabled Ladies Home

If you have a free hour any morning during the week grab your nail polish kit, spare hair ties and bands, your favourite CD of pop songs and head down to the Ladies Home just off Sukhumvit Road in Banglamung.  The ladies just love getting their nails painted and their hair made up and if you have time they would love to sing karaoke and have a dance with you.  I doubt you will see bigger smiles anywhere else in Pattaya!

Bang Phra Wildlife Conservation Centre

A good 45 minutes’ drive north of Pattaya towards Bangkok and opposite Khao Kheow Zoo you will find the Bang Phra Wildlife Conservation Centre.  Supported by one of the school’s long standing community partners, Love Wildlife Thailand, the centre takes in animals that have been illegally traded or mistreated across the country.  When I was last at the centre with students, five suitcases arrived from the airport that had over 400 turtles in them and had been abandoned on the luggage carousel.  Regents has also sponsored and helped construct an education facility at the centre and groups are always welcome to visit and volunteer there.

The Mechai Patana School

Founded by the inspiring Khun Mechai himself, the Mechai Patana School in Jomtien is part of the Bamboo School located in Buriram Province. This is no normal Thai school as it embraces experiential learning, entrepreneurship and sustainable development in everything that it does. Learn how to make over 350,000 Thai Baht on one rai of land by planting fruit and vegetables. The students also form the largest ukulele band in Thailand and are always happy to play a few songs for their visitors. The school is right next to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant and both must be visited when in Pattaya.

The Good Child Foundation

Search for the Thai Tims on Youtube and you will be spoilt for choice for famous Celtic songs sung by the most enthusiastic Thai children. ‘You Just Can’t Get Enough’ is a favourite of ours at Regents and if you get the chance to visit the Good Child Foundation in Chantaburi you must ask the Thai Tims to sing this one for you. The Foundation is the only Thai school in Thailand to take in down-syndrome children and give them a normal education.  Paul and Khun Pun, the creators of the Thai Tims, have dedicated their lives to supporting these amazing young children and teaching English to all the other kids at the school.  This is the place to visit if you are a Celtic supporter – you will be blown away!

Tamar Centre

The Tamar Centre is on Third Road just before it meets Pattaya South Road.  It has a café on the ground floor and sells the best cinnamon swirls you will find in Thailand. The centre supports women who want to learn new skills and helps them find reputable work and employment. You can also buy some amazing craft products from the Tamar Centre including original handmade jewellery for those special occasions.

Kate’s Project Trust

Kate’s Project is a small but big-hearted community partner that makes a real difference to the poorest of people living in the slum areas of Pattaya that we often forget about as we go about our daily routines. Joining Khun Noi on one of her daily trips to visit the people that have literally nothing is an eye-opener for anyone. If you have any second-hand clothes, toys, blankets, toiletries, packaged food or free time – then spend the morning with Kate’s Project and learn what life is really about when living in the slums.

The Hand to Hand Foundation

This small but impactful foundation is located behind Big C in South Pattaya and is passionately coordinated by Margie and Khun Pai. TheHand to Hand is a day care centre for young Thai children and they have loads of fun learning and playing together every day in the busy and colourful classroom. The staff are always welcoming and the children love visitors, especially if you turn up with balloons, bubbles or snacks!

The Pattaya Orphanage and Soptana School for the Deaf

Located on Sukhumvit Road and passionately led by Khun Toy, who welcomes visitors at all times to the centre, the Orphanage is a must visit to play with the little babies in the playroom or to kick a football around outside with the bigger kids. Regents does a half-termly clothes, toys and food collection and drop through our boarding community and our students always look forward to a game of football when they visit. You must also pop into the Deaf School at the same location and learn how to sign language from the children who live and study there.  If you want to meet amazing teachers who are dedicated to their work and inspire young people on a daily basis then the staff at the Deaf School are about the best that I have had the privilege to meet and work with – go see for yourself!

GOING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – PAUL CROUCH’S FAREWELL TO REGENTS AFTER 15 YEARS

With #kroojit at Baan Huay Sapad School in Chiang Mai

His ability to create meaningful and sustainable community partnerships, his success in encouraging students and others to actively engage with their community and his drive to empower students to confidently reach beyond their ‘comfort zone’ is one of a kind. Paul Crouch will be dearly missed by our students and alumni, our staff and community partners.

We have asked Paul Crouch to share with us what he believes makes Regents so special:

Initially, I had only planned to come out to Thailand for two years, but instead it ended up being fifteen years and I will be leaving with a loving wife (10 years of marriage this year) and three children who mean the world to me.  Regents International School Pattaya has been such a huge and significant part of my life and I will always be grateful for the time I have had at the school and living and working in this amazing community.  I am glad that I have grabbed every opportunity and put my maximum effort, commitment and passion into everything I have aimed for and been asked to achieve. 

From teaching ICT to the whole Primary School, to being the Head of the Geography Department, to hosting International Round Square Conferences and now being an Assistant Principal, it has truly been a fantastic journey of self-discovery and professional learning. The phrase “going out of your comfort zone” seems to have become attributed to me at Regents (probably because I say it too much); but it is this physical, mental and emotional concept of trying something new and challenging yourself and learning from it, that makes a Regents’ truly holistic education so inspiring – as Kurt Hahn, the father of Round Square said: “there is more in you than you think”. 

Looking back on the last fifteen years, I suddenly realise the importance of that decision to leave the UK for Thailand – to go out into the unknown and to discover what education and life-long learning is really about and to grab it and make the most of it.

This time, as I try to walk the talk, and go out of my comfort zone for a second time, I am not doing it alone but with my family and three young children eager to learn about the world. I am excited for them, as much as for myself, to enter this new chapter, to go into the unknown once again and to seek out a whole new set of opportunities and learning experiences – anything can happen!  I leave Regents and Thailand as a much better teacher but I know I will come back as an even better one, because as we all know:  anyone that really understands the magic of Regents always comes back! ”  

Paul Crouch #gooycz

A Thai role model and mentor

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Khun Apichat is the Headteacher of Baan Huay Sapad School in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand.  I have had the fortune to know and work with Khun Apichat for the last six years on student centred service learning projects.  His collaboration is one of the most influential and effective partnerships that I have been able to forge since working in Thailand for the last 15 years.  The amazing thing is my Thai is virtually non-apparent and his level of English is improving all the time but not at a level you would expect to be able to coordinate such projects effectively but I have total confidence and respect for his ability to make things happen and the manner in which he achieves this.  I have met many school leaders over the years and Khun Apichat has to be one of the very best – I do not need him to be fluent in the English language or to be educated and trained as a teacher in the UK – to know this.  To me he role models the best of what a lead learner should be – he is confident but reserved, extremely hard-working but calm, always present but never the centre of attention.  What I admire the most about him is that he understands the importance of community and bringing them into his school to be part of the learning and the teaching.  Everyone respects him and he is always prepared to roll up his sleeves, pick up a hoe or a shovel and do the same work as everyone else.  Since October 2010 he can be heard saying “We Walk Together” which has become a kind of mantra for him and how he believes in education and collaboration, very rare within the Thai system.  Khun Apichat is someone I will always ‘walk’ with and I look forward to taking my family to visit him and his school community later in the year, watch this space…

Global Citizenship Award

This is a website for all people that love the world and love to learn with it.  It is for people of all ages and in all professions but originates from an international school based context of recognising that young people actually never stop learning and should be encouraged to celebrate their adventures and achievements at all times.  By doing this you make learning smarter (and teaching easier) by personalising your own learning through ambitious target setting and your own unique way of reflective practice – “reflection is what links our performance to our potential.”  Ultimately this award is a way to maximise transferable / dynamic skills that benefit you in any learning experience and should not be  mentally compartmentalised for a specific academic subject as some teachers would lead you to believe they should be.  Learning is a dynamic process and extremely personal and involves every aspect of a persons mental, physical and emotional state – that is why this award focuses on the four ‘Pillars of Learning‘ as stated by UNESCO (http://www.ibe.unesco.org/cops/Competencies/PillarsLearningZhou.pdf):

Learning to know

Learning to do

Learning to live together

Learning to be

You are required to select 16 Identities of a global citizen, four under each of the four Pillars of Learning to demonstrate a broad and diverse range of learning experiences and achievements.  This award is unique to each individual person and their own learning journey and is therefore not dictated by a set of predetermined outcomes or benchmarks.  To achieve the award and formal recognition (for school, university, work, personal motivation, whatever…) you must first set a challenging target for each Identity, e.g. give a 3 minute speech or presentation in front of 100 people, record and reflect on the learning process ideally setting a new and even more challenging target for the future (beyond the award).  It is up to you how your record the process as this is all part of your own unique reflective practice and a large part of this award is discovering how you reflect best and how it helps you to achieve beyond your (perceived) limits.

Once you have completed all 16 Identities you can post your reflections as comments on this website or send us a link and the Global Citizenship Award team will review the portfolio of evidence and provide relevant feedback, either successfully issuing the Global Citizenship Award to you or giving further suggestions for improvement.

This award encourages you to track and organise learning for life.  It will formally recognise your achievements and help you to produce an effective digital portfolio for future interviews and applications.  It is also a universal and free award for all schools to use to track their students (and staff) achievements across a curriculum and to help them measure the real value added (or internal professional development) that schools offer as a learning community.

The 16 Identities of the Global Citizenship Award:

16identities