Do you know anyone who could be a Guinness Book of Records candidate in the category, "Most number of schools taught in?" I met a Filipino teacher who taught at an incredible 19 schools in his lifetime. I'm actually proud to know him because we happen to share the same nickname.
One summer, I was having lunch at the Big C Extra food court in Bangyai City. All the tables were taken, except for one where a Filipino was eating. He gestured to me to sit down and appearing to be a reasonable sort, I asked him a few questions. It was my first time to meet someone with such a remarkable teaching record, so I got his telephone number and arranged a second meeting.
Ben said that he didn't plan to hop from one school to another. It just happened. From the time he started teaching at age 20 - but now in his 60's - he had taught in 19 schools (excluding tutorial centers). He taught in thirteen schools in the Philippines, five in Thailand and one in Afghanistan. When I asked him why he kept moving from one school to another he explained the major reasons were usually for bigger salary and better opportunities. If he didn't like a school, he would put up with everything until it was time to leave. The shortest time he ever stayed at a school was only three months.
Although Teacher Ben did not stay long in many schools, he was never terminated. His motto was, "Wherever I am, I always please my director/principal". That's why he always got good ratings from his superiors. He made it a point to make good impressions anywhere he taught so that he could leave with good grace. In addition to this, he loved his students and always put their well-being first.
Ben said he enjoyed teaching most in Afghanistan because he was teaching children of expatriates and the salary was in dollars. He was treated like a first class citizen - mingling with ambassadors, charge de affairs, and 1st to 3rd secretaries of embassies. In Afghanistan, teaching was easy for all his students understood English. Of course, he has always loved teaching his own people in the Philippines because students are conscientious of their studies. This is mainly down to the parents who believe that education is a key to their children's status in life and the chance to have good future. The other country he enjoyed teaching in was Thailand because here teaching materials are free, the pay is bigger than what he earned in his own country, living accommodations are affordable, people are nice, and everday cost of living is cheap.
For Ajarn Ben, he prefers teaching in private schools rather than in public schools because in private schools, where he taught either in Thailand or the Philippines,, there was closer supervision, more disciplined students, better facilities, and more opportunities for professional development. In his opinion, English teachers in government schools of Thailand have more classroom management problems because of lack of communication. In his teaching stint here, he has observed that many students in the public schools lack sense of responsibility. They are careless with their things and most of them do not do their homework. But he is proud to say his Thai students are helpful, respectful and loving.
He advises young teachers to plan their life, stay put in fewer schools, grow roots, improve their lot, pursue higher studies and achieve their goal. They can work abroad as long as they go back to their country and share what they learned.
Ben's career journey is not worth emulating. He is likened to a rolling stone that gathered no moss. He probably neither established deep relationships with people nor grew roots in a place where he worked. He was easy to forget - just like a passing wind. Although his professionalism, dedication to teaching, love for his students, high regards for his boss, are his fine qualities worth mentioning.
This blog gives me the realization that it pays to value people, relationships, and establish stability in one's place of work. So, if only schools give importance to their teachers, by giving high salary and better teaching conditions, their mentors won't be looking for greener pastures somewhere. To sum up his experiences, Ben shared me some lines of a poem he wrote:
"As I watch you each day,
I wonder if you are really happy;
But there is no question about happiness,
Yes, you are contented.
But there is something more than living...
Open your eyes.
Each day you grow feathers.
Feel your wings.
You can fly.