The school I currently work at has various challenges to overcome, some or all of which would probably shock/annoy the average teacher in the UK. There’s no photocopier. The internet is either slow or not working. There are projectors in only a few rooms, meaning no powerpoints (there are a few portable projectors, but these need to be booked in advance). No teachers have their own classrooms. Whilst I was shocked and annoyed about these things when I first arrived, I have now got used to them. And I am convinced I am actually a better teacher here than in the UK.
Photocopying isn’t a problem: I don’t teach any classes of more than ten students, meaning I can just print instead of photocopy (so I guess it’s actually quicker and more efficient). The internet being bad is annoying, but I just link my laptop to my phone for internet. I’m paid enough for the extra data this consumes. As for lack of projector, there’s one school at least in the UK which has made a conscious decision not to use them. Last but not least, the lack of classroom is a bit of a faff, but most of the classrooms I teach in are three metres from each other, so getting books etc. that I’ve left behind isn’t really a problem.
Then there are the bonuses, of which there are two fairly major ones: more time and better behaviour. The better behaviour is nice, although the school I left in the UK was very very good at behaviour too. But there’s a difference between a school being good at controlling students’ behaviour and there not being any bad behaviour to control, and the latter is what I have now. I will own up to considering student engagement as something I considered when planning lessons back home. I don’t think this is a good thing. Teachers should only, ever, when planning lessons consider how to get the maximum amount of learning done in that time slot. If research discovered indisputably that having students copy out the complete works of Shakespeare repeatedly would have more benefit than, say, feedback, direct instruction, and spaced practice, then teachers should just do that, without having to worry that Georgina, Muhammed and Colin might kick off.
The big one, though, is more time. I tweeted this week that in the UK I planned lessons quickly, and in Thailand I plan them carefully, and that’s about the size of it. I can take ages planning my lessons for the following day, then mark a set of books (only ten or so in each class, remember), and still be home by five o’clock. And I can do all that with decent amounts of energy and care, because the day before I was also home by five o’clock, and the day before that too. I spend pockets of time left over reading various edu-blogs or essays on JSTOR. I worry, when I return to the UK, if I will be able to do as good a job.