In February 1991, I applied for a post at Patana with my partner David. Both of us were keen to work in a school which followed the British National Curriculum and had a British educational ethos. We were very impressed with the Patana information booklet, which included comments from children. It seemed as though Patana was a school which cared about children as individuals and valued their opinions.
Our interviews were nerve wracking. We'd never been interviewed together before and there were many recriminations afterwards about each other's answers. Amazingly, we were offered posts. Then the moment of truth - how would we break it to our families?
Actual first impressions of Bangkok severely dampened our enthusiasm. After a long flight, our simple 20-minute bus trip to the hotel was extended to 3 hours due to Bangkok's congested traffic. By that time, a deathly hush had descended on the bouncy, excited passengers and everyone was looking rather grim. However, the Principal was at the hotel to greet us personally by name, not an easy feat considering there were over 30 new staff. Did he spend nights memorising those dreadful photo kiosk pictures? (This was way before digitally enhanced images.)
Our first view of the school was inspiring, especially after previous teaching experiences in small infant/junior schools in Liverpool. We could not believe the feeling of space, the greenery, the large, inviting, deep-blue swimming pool, brilliant white buildings and a school office bursting with staff.
The first couple of weeks were a heady and exhilarating mixture of meeting new people, visiting exciting restaurants, soaking up an exotic and rich culture and settling into a new school. After being part of a compact staff unit in a small school, it was quite difficult to appreciate the structure of such a large school. However, meeting people from different education authorities and various countries was interesting and challenging. It was stimulating to be surrounded by new ideas and different ways of teaching. All the staff seemed very committed to providing the very best educational experiences for the children. There seemed to be no sign of any staff plodding along at the same school or just taking it easy. Teachers were caring but committed and were all keen to stay for meetings and INSET after school hours. The staffroom no longer included conversations about the latest microwave oven or home improvements. Conversations revolved around exotic locations, the lively night life, cultural experiences and the next holiday trip.
After those first impressions we settled down to daily life in Bangkok which is exciting, though at times frustrating. Things which don't get done on time elicit the reply "mai pen rai" - it doesn't matter. This is more than compensated for by amazing experiences ranging from a hair-raising ride through the traffic in a tuk tuk to finding a cobra on the doorstep (fortunately, a very rare occurrence).
Weekends away can include lying on palm-fringed white sandy beaches and trekking through the jungle in search of tigers. When we first arrived in Bangkok, David resurrected his football career with the staff team and we both took up golf (with varying degrees of success). After a 20 year break, I learned the new rules of netball and played for the Patana staff team and had my first tennis lessons. We both swim regularly; there's no excuse when the water is always warm.
We came to Bangkok with a view to staying for two years. At the moment we are in our 18th year at Bangkok Patana School. My initial impressions have not diminished, although, having given birth to a child in Thailand, my social calendar also includes children's parties and our sporting commitments are more likely to involve being spectators at the children's soccer or gymnastics. Recently, we also adopted a Thai child which has further enriched our lives. Bangkok continues to become more cosmopolitan although roadside noodle bars continue to thrive next door to Starbucks and Pizza Hut.
If you are a dedicated teacher who is keen to work hard with our teams to provide the best learning opportunities for the children and are also prepared to live with the frustrations and rewards of a very different but richly exciting culture, you will not be disappointed by Bangkok Patana School.
We arrived at Patana in August 2000 and continue to thoroughly enjoy our time in Thailand. We wrote the following piece after our first term in Bangkok and it contains our initial thoughts and feelings, having moved 6000 miles from home! They are still important and relevant because they relate to our first impressions of the move we had just made. What is interesting to note, having re-read them, is that we still feel the same way now! Our youngest, who started his school life at Patana in K2 (Reception), has moved into Year 13 this academic year to complete both his IB Diploma course and his journey through Patana. Our middle son is now in the third year of his University course in the UK. This year, he is doing work experience at University developing sport in the Community. He continues to have a love of sport, inspired at Patana and although he works hard he enjoys his social life too! Our eldest has begun his third year working in London, having graduated from University in the summer of 2011. He is thoroughly enjoying all of the freedom that living independently from his parents can offer and we feel that the education that he had at Patana, starting in Year 6, has been instrumental in the way in which he has successfully adapted to the challenges of University, starting work and life away from home. All three boys have loved their education and the many different experiences they have had here. They have made many good friends that will be part of their lives for many years to come; in this regard the Bangkok Patana Alumni is a great link and allows staff and students, from both the past and the present, to keep in touch. We now know that we came to one of the best decisions we have ever made when we decided to come to Bangkok Patana. We both continue to enjoy our work, our colleagues and most importantly of all, the children we work with. The job continues to be demanding but the benefits and rewards are enormous in many ways. We wish you the best of luck with your applications.
For us, the decision to work away from the UK was made a long time ago. The question was - where? The first question most people asked us, when they found out where we were going, was "Why?!" Our answers varied, but generally we would reply "Why not!" Bangkok is such a contrast to where home was in the UK that we could not help but be excited about the prospect of working in the Far East. Both of us had some experience of this part of the world as children when our parents worked in this neck of the woods. We wanted to give our boys the opportunities to experience a different kind of life, while they were still at a young enough age to enjoy the challenge of change with us and flexible enough to start over and make friends in a new environment.
Reports in the media and the way in which Bangkok is sometimes portrayed in the press, might not lead you to think that it is the sort of place to volunteer to bring young children to live. However, after our first few hectic months we can quite honestly say that our family life is much better now than the life we had back in England and our three boys are revelling in the new lives that they are making for themselves. Our two older children are being challenged academically in ways that they would never have been in their schools back home and our youngest is getting his first taste of education here and is loving every minute of it. After having received the first of two reports on all three of them (yes, it is something we have to do more of than before!) we realised that they confirmed the decision which we made for our family had been the right one. We are very proud of their achievements so far and it is Patana that has made all of these possible. We have also found that the school has staff, both academic and business, that are aware of the special needs of families and this has made both us and our children feel valued members of this very large community. They have been able to provide support for us in various areas of life outside school and no problem that arises seems to be too big.
The children's extra-curricular activities are just out of this world in comparison to those they have experienced before. They are able to swim, play football, basketball, rugby, short tennis, water polo and take part in the biggest production we have ever seen in a Primary School. All of these activities and many more take place during the course of a normal week at Patana. Their horizons are being widened, almost on a weekly basis. Their exposure to different cultures, languages and friendships are making sure that they will become children and young adults with a more rounded perspective on life than if they had stayed at home. Talking of which, we have been told by our middle son that we cannot talk about the UK and refer to it as "home" while we are here. He tells us that this is not the right thing to do as we are "home" now because this is where we live and we are happy to stand corrected!
The mundane aspects of life have been made easier out here by our ability to have help in the home that was never an option in the UK. It was something that was hard to get used to, but after a while, having your meals prepared for you and having your laundered clothes appear back in your wardrobe a day later meant that you could start to enjoy life in a way that was just not possible previously. It has given us the opportunity to spend time with the children that we have not been able to do before and also spend more time with each other. This was just another adjustment to make, but one we have discovered to be a pleasant one! We have been able to take time out to go away for weekends and half-term too. The children have ridden on elephants, snorkelled in clear blue seas, seen the jungle and associated wildlife, been in more hotels than they can remember and experienced parts of history that most of us have only read about in books. These are experiences that we have been unable to offer them before and it is down to the quality of life we have working in Bangkok that we can do so now.
Amongst all this "wow, doesn't it sound great?" stuff, you must not forget that your decision must ultimately be made on your desire to teach in a school in Bangkok; a city in a country miles from home and with a culture and climate so vastly different to that most of us will have experienced in the UK. Although your classes will probably be smaller, maybe better behaved and possibly brighter, the expectations from the school and especially from the parents are exceptionally high. Here you will find that the pressures are not really any different from the UK. There are meetings to go to, presentations and consultations to provide for parents, residential visits away and on top of all this we have the National Curriculum, with an added international dimension, to deliver! You are also expected to work very hard and also to give up your time to ensure that the extra-curricular activities we described before are offered at the level expected in an international school. Do not even think of applying to Patana if you believe that coming here is going to be easy as you will be greatly disappointed. However, if you are prepared to give freely of yourselves then the rewards can be appropriate to your efforts, and sometimes more. Good luck with your application. If you are successful, your life will never be the same again ....... we hope that you will enjoy the change and the challenge as much as we have!
"Where are you going?" – That is the way many Thais say "hello"! This salutation which would be considered inappropriate in Western societies if used to people you barely know, is one of many cultural contrasts that we have to face in this wonderful kingdom. Communication is an ever present issue here; and there is plenty of scope for misunderstandings to happen. The induction programme and the "Thai Culture lessons" that are in place at Patana have been invaluable sources to learning Thai etiquette. Everyone living in Thailand will notice that both Buddhism and the Royal Family command maximum respect as they are placed at the centre of Thai culture. I am still experiencing the beauty of this kingdom which extends to its people, its culture, its festivals, its landscapes and its food. Learning Thai Language has been a complex exercise but it helps the immersion into Thai culture. Fortunately, Thai people will tolerate most foreigners' responses to the learning of their language.
Bangkok Patana School (BPS)
"Wow!" - That was what many of us said when introduced to the facilities at BPS during the guided tour of the campus. The most impressive sight (so far) in my experience at BPS, was the first full campus assembly in the new sports hall, where 2500+ people barely occupied one third of the space available in that building! That was a memorable sight! BPS is by far the most efficient school that I know. We have great students and supportive staff. BPS has got a busy school day, but everyone seems to know where to go and what to do. There are always events taking place, so many that no one person can take part in all of them! Technology is so widely used that it became transparent at BPS (people just use it in their daily routines).
I need to make corrections to my previous paragraph written three years ago. Since then we have had new developments like the phased introduction of the one-to-one laptop program, the campus wide “wi-fi” system, the new state of the art theatre with 300+ seats, the ongoing re-adjustment of the floors in several areas of the secondary school and the construction of the new unified library. Some of the work is still not completed but I believe that BPS has found its way well beyond the 3th decade of the 21st century and the school has establish itself as the most influential International School in Thailand. We say “Wow!” to the new theatre centre and its use of modern technology!
Having tested the waters of teaching internationally in Istanbul and loving it, I decided to travel even further afield and, wanting to experience a taste of Asia, Bangkok seemed the perfect choice. A buzzing and vibrant city with so much to offer, it really didn't take me long to make my mind up. From a multitude of bars and restaurants to cultural experiences at every turn of a corner, I settled in and was content from the very beginning. As a single male and with so much to do, I often bemoan the fact that there are not enough hours in the day or days in the week to do it all! I could be doing something different every day such as gaelic football, jogging around Lumphini park, shopping at one of the many and varied malls or watching Thai kickboxing and still not scratch the surface of the many possibilities to fill my time. What's more, Bangkok is a great base from which to explore the rest of Asia thus opening up many more doors for travel. Yes, there are drawbacks such as traffic but the same can be said of every major city, plus with the public transport systems in Bangkok being continually expanded, travelling from place to place is becoming quicker and easier all the time.
What makes living here even better is where I teach. Bangkok Patana is a fantastic school that, despite being huge, still manages to maintain a strong and intimate community spirit. It prides itself on high standards of teaching and learning so as to ensure its students become true global citizens equipped with the skills necessary to lead a successful life. It therefore goes without saying that expectations of staff are very high so one should be prepared to commit lots of effort. However, the rewards you reap as a result make it all worthwhile. The students are a joy to teach and the facilities are first class including an Olympic size swimming pool and several tennis courts and football fields. The future is also very bright for Patana and its staff with technology being a priority to ensure it maintains its status as a 21st century school and one of the top schools in Asia. If that isn't enough to satisfy you, then the financial package which includes health insurance and contributions to your personal pension allows you to enjoy a very good standard of living, and even allows the option of saving too. I cannot recommend Patana enough so what are you waiting for?!
“You’re moving where?!” was the reaction from many of our friends when we announced that we had got the jobs at Bangkok Patana School. “Wow, it sounds amazing” was their reaction when we explained about the school, where we’d be living and all the benefits that came with it. And amazing it is. There is no doubt that the opportunities here are incredible. Coming from comprehensive UK schools, we were truly astounded by the facilities available at Patana and really excited about putting them to good use. It is a joy to see such a modern and exciting library that is used with great enthusiasm by a wide range of students. The sporting facilities are like none we had ever experienced in a school environment and the theatre rivals that of most towns in the UK!
The move was certainly a daunting one but we were hugely helped by all the advice, tips and support that Patana gave us. All our questions (we had a lot of them!) and worries were answered with great efficiency and the majority of things were organised for us prior to our arrival. Travel, housing, and bank accounts were all taken care of which meant that we could enjoy our last few weeks in the UK saying farewells to our loved ones.
Having never lived abroad before, we did our homework but nothing can quite prepare you for the wall of heat and humidity that hits you when you step out of the airport! Then there are the Bangkok roads and traffic, the mosquitoes and the “mai pen rai” attitude. The culture is hugely different to the UK and can make things feel quite tough in the first few weeks. However, the support network at Patana is fantastic. The induction weeks are intense but allow you to quickly get to know your new colleagues and ask current staff all those little questions that you thought were too silly to put in an email. You rapidly feel a sense of community and are supported on both a professional and personal level.
Although we are working in beautiful surroundings (something that we have to constantly remind ourselves not to take for granted!) and can be in the vibrant city centre one weekend and on an idyllic island the next weekend, it certainly isn’t an extended holiday. Expectations are very high and the work is fast-paced. There are different pressures at a school like Patana compared to the UK but when you apply to a school with such a reputation, this is to be expected. The attitude of the students, their enthusiasm and willingness to learn is more than enough to make you realise that the hard work pays off. Whilst school holidays in the UK were often spent by us looking out on rainy days wondering when ‘summer’ was going to arrive, we now spend school holidays exploring this exciting and diverse part of the world. The decision to move out here is not one to be taken lightly; we thought long and hard about it but only a few months in and we know it was definitely the right one!
As I write this, I am looking ahead to the last three weeks of an extremely busy first term at this incredible school. I teach in Year 6 with an amazing group of enthusiastic and creative teachers. I have twenty one children in my class, who hail from twelve different countries. They are enthusiastic, inquisitive, eager to learn and well behaved. My classroom is light and spacious with a large storage cupboard and air conditioning. I have access to a plethora of resources, including iPads and laptops and there are large indoor spaces available to utilise for learning. The budget is excellent, enabling teachers to request new resources with a degree of optimism that they will be purchased. There are specialist teachers for ICT, music, PE, Thai Language and Culture and MFL, meaning that I have a massively improved amount of time for PPA compared with the UK.
The last nine months or so have been an absolute whirlwind. I was offered the job at Patana in February and then began the task of preparing to move abroad. I have two young children – when we flew out, they were 10 months and approaching 3. My wife, who had been on maternity leave from her teaching job before we flew out, is in the process of sorting out the paperwork so that she can do some supply work at school. We had accumulated a ridiculous amount of stuff over the years. The build-up to flying out was extremely hectic - renting out the house, getting rid of possessions through eBay and car-boot sales and of course saying goodbye to our loved ones. I was sorry to see my DVD collection and CD collection go but my music is digitally stored, DVDs are cheap and there is a great swapping culture for movies and box sets here. We had our tribulations in the build-up to moving but we are absolutely loving our lives here.
Our decision to teach abroad was not taken lightly; we researched fully and narrowed our options down to include Thailand, having visited during school holidays in 2009 on our way to Australia. The city is wonderful, although it is so very different to our home base, Cornwall; we only have one city there (Truro) and I am struggling to think of similarities! Of course there are things that we miss, but this city offers so many options in terms of shopping, sight-seeing, socialising and of course (as the ‘gateway to Asia’) travel. Since we’ve been here, we’ve already been on two holidays! We spent a three day weekend in Hua Hin with another family in a villa with a private pool and went to Ao Nang near Krabi in half term, where we visited beautiful islands and enjoyed the beach.
I found the Patana website extremely impressive but was more blown away actually seeing the place. The facilities are truly mind-blowing. The main sports hall is able to accommodate every pupil and teacher from primary and secondary with space for a stage, where I have already witnessed the talent of the students on several occasions. The swimming pools and the 603 seat theatre are also noteworthy. Indeed, walking the whole school site is a joy with many ponds with Koi carp and some impressive Thai architecture.
We live in Todsamon, which is the family accommodation adjacent to the school. From one of our four balconies (our lounge), we look out on the school building. The fact that it is beyond palm trees means that I am not at all bothered by this: it is a great view! We have a 7/11 just around the corner for essentials and various supermarkets and malls within reach by taxi. The heat is intense. We have recently entered the cool season and it is still too hot! The pool at Todsamon enables me to cool off though after a long day at work. My wife swims regularly and our sons love the water – my three year old can now swim without armbands. The accommodation is spacious, although a little dated, and is due for renovation. Singles and some couples live a ten minute walk from school at La Salle suites, which are newer and better appointed.
There are frustrations here. We don’t have a car so rely on taxis (which are cheap and easy to get) and the BTS (air conditioned Sky Train – again, cheap and easy) to get shopping. Some things take longer and the cultural differences can be challenging. The language is not easy to master but we have enough in the way of basics to get by now.
Having said that, there are ample opportunities to pursue hobbies and social life – I play football and snooker weekly with teachers. The gym, 50m pool and 25m pool are available for staff use and there are opportunities for other sports, such as tennis, netball, basketball and climbing for staff. The music department offers adult tuition in most instruments and in singing.
Teachers work extremely hard. The hours are long and the expectations are high. Working in a fee paying school is very different to working in the state primary school I came from. I receive emails from parents and students regularly, which takes up a lot of time. However, my colleagues are very supportive and I have already learnt a great deal since being here. I do like the fact though that Patana is a ‘not for profit’ school, which means that the fees are spent on improving learning opportunities for the students. There is always a big event on the horizon here – International Day, Loy Krathong, Pitee Wai Kru (a ceremony all about respecting teachers!) and the Ploenchit Fair, hosted by the school, to name but a few. I was told when I got the job that I would be joining the Patana family; it really is like that. People have been wonderful in making us feel welcome and in helping us out with day to day life. If you fancy a change, approach the challenge positively and give it your all, you will enjoy life at Patana.
I vividly remember the moment I was offered my position at BPS, the relief, the joy, the excitement. However, this quickly diminished to thoughts of “am I actually doing this?”, “how do I organise my visa and get a Thai bank account?”, “will I be happy?”
The following weeks were a frenzy of telling friends and family members, allowing me to forget these concerns. As I began to remember all the ‘jobs’ I had to complete prior to my big move. Jackie had already emailed me answering all my questions and made what I viewed the ‘tough’ tasks as easy as possible. Thanks to the wonderful team at BPS moving to the other side of the world was a pain free experience, with all the apprehensions and uncertainty of what to expect soon taken off my hands.
Next thing I knew I had packed a box of shipping and was boarding a plane. The induction process is rigorous and intense, however, the numerous social events organised by school enables you to meet other members of staff and enjoy your first few weeks in Thailand. I will never forget my first tour around BPS, the facilities are phenomenal. From sports facilities that rival national training academies to technologically equipped classrooms and beautiful outdoor spaces that are uniquely designed to motivate the students and provide the best possible learning experiences. Once the induction process was completed I felt prepared, immersed in the ethos and expectations of BPS and, most importantly, ready and excited to start teaching.
The expectations on staff are very high; however, this is rewarded by superb young people you meet on a daily basis. Every day I am impressed with the work ethic that pervades the student body, the students are eager to learn and explore new concepts which makes teaching here a fun and enjoyable experience. For me, it is these young people who are the reason I am happy to come to work each day. Parents at BPS show a keen and honest interest in their child’s education, and thus support and appreciate the effort you make for their child.
Working with such inspired and motivated colleagues means that both expectations and standards are very high, but the rewards are great- you will become a better, more reflective teacher. BPS appreciates how being in education we are continually learning, and the wealth of CPD opportunities reflects this. I feel valued and in turn value the Professional Development and support I have received along the way.
Bangkok is a vibrant and dynamic place to live, and goes way beyond the common stereotypes you hear about the city. The vast array of restaurants and nightlife would allow to you eat in a different place each night and would never have to revisit the same one twice. Your time can be spent enjoying the greenery of local parks, sailing on lakes, enjoying a BPS musical and theatre event, cheering on one of the local football teams, watching a movie in the VIP cinema or shopping in a giant mall, there really is something for everyone here. Within three hours from the city you can be exploring ancient Siam ruins, sipping a cocktail on a deserted beach or trekking in a national park surrounded by exotic (and creepy) creatures.
Deciding to uproot your life to Thailand is obviously a big one, however, the staff at Patana assist you in every possible way to prepare you for your move and to allow you to settle in. Home will always be home to me but I have never regretted my move, BPS really is more than a school/your employer, it is your community. In the last year I have travelled extensively, whether it be the numerous sports trips I have attended to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia or spending my half terms in places such as Myanmar, Bali or Australia. I feel truly lucky to be experiencing working in a professional and vibrant community, within such a diverse and exciting city.
It really does only seem like yesterday that Susie and I decided to apply for positions at Patana. We wrote and re-wrote our applications, read all the staff reviews and looked (more than once!) at the fantastic video on the school website. Since we were offered the jobs in January, it has just been an incredible adventure. Every now and then, something happens to remind us where we are. Often it is just when we sit down together on the balcony in the evening and look out over Bangkok. Bangkok!? We now we consider ourselves very much a part of the wonderful Patana community, and itâ€™s time to write a review myself. How time flies.
The induction period seems to start as soon as the wheels hit the runway. Having been met at the airport by the Jackie and her team, we were whisked away to the school to explore our new surroundings. The next few days and weeks were a blur of new experiences and new people, all within the context of a completely new culture. Just when I think I am getting used to life in Thailand, there is always something which makes me realize I am not in England. Days will seemingly begin normally and then you will notice a security guard coaxing a large snake down from a tree near the Secondary Office. It really is only now, four months later, that I seem to have finally got my bearings (an unnerving situation for a Geographer!). However, one of the best experiences about our move was that we have never for a minute, considered ourselves on our own. From the very beginning, there has been a large group of us. We have all gone through the same settling-in process and had the same ups and downs along the way. Throughout the whole experience, everybody at the school has been tremendously supportive and continues to be. Everyone has made the move at some time!
It was great to eventually get into the class room and teach. I immediately found the students to be welcoming, forthcoming and attentive. Perhaps the biggest change for me has been getting used to teaching students from such a huge variety of backgrounds and experiences. I think it was only during International Day that I realised just what a multicultural school Patana truly is.
Our two sons have settled down really well in the Primary school and look forward to every day. Being able to visit them occasionally during their lessons or their ECAâ€™s is not something that would have been possible before we came to Patana. Watching them make the most of the incredible facilities such as the 50m pool or the gymnasium has been a real highlight. We certainly made the right decision to move to Patana School and we look forward to getting involved as much as possible in everything the school has to offer.