The crowing of an urban cockerel at 5.45am is my daily alarm in Samut Prakan, near Bangkok in central Thailand. I rise in daylight and watch the liners and local fishing boats shimmering on the Chao Phraya River as they make their way towards the Gulf of Thailand.
I was recently appointed principal of a new international school. We follow the Singapore early years and primary curriculum, and the school is growing rapidly as Thai parents are attracted by our trilingual curriculum. Having worked in secondary education previously, I’m impressed with the exponential rate of learning that children as young as 2 demonstrate as they soak up language skills and knowledge.
Students arrive from 7am and receive a daily health screening for high temperatures and common tropical ailments. At 8am, the school day begins outside in our impressive covered play area/assembly space with flag-raising, a tribute to the King of Thailand and a rousing chorus of the school anthem.
Teachers then lead the children through a series of exercises, checking coordination skills and introducing the day’s activities. The curriculum is delivered in English (60 per cent), Chinese (30 per cent), and Thai (10 per cent). The main teacher in each class is a native speaker of English and they are supported by Chinese and Thai teachers.
This term, my professional goal has been to build relationships with staff and parents to ensure that they have confidence in my leadership. I have met with all staff individually and informally observed lessons.
My daily activities vary according to the calendar and the almost monthly Thai festivals we celebrate with parents and the community. I am also sometimes a classroom practitioner, teaching phonics, and providing cover for primary science and English.
After a long morning of learning, nursery and Kindergarten students nap from 1pm to 2pm. The school uniform includes regulation pyjamas, and little beds are brought into the classrooms. During this time, teachers start their daily reports. Each child takes home a portfolio of completed work for parents to scrutinise, and this is supported by the teacher’s written report of progress made.
Parents collect children from 2.45pm and our extracurricular classes run daily until 5pm. Staff meetings and training take place three times a week – the most rewarding sessions are when teachers share their language skills; my Chinese and my Thai are improving thanks to my colleagues.
At 5pm, the school bus takes staff to the main road where buses and taxis are flagged for some, who are faced with a long journey home through Bangkok’s traffic.
Living locally makes my journey more pleasant. I stroll along the river, dodging the scooters that take to the pavements to avoid the frustration of the long jams.
Read next week’s TES for Louise’s tips on how to run a trilingual school
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