Phuket Has Been Good To Us

Working to improve the economic opportunities and life chances of young people, by funding and implementing high quality, practical English language education in government schools on Phuket Island.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Teacher Vezah's story:

On Becoming a Teacher

                “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have asked this question multiple times to my students now as a teacher. As a student in the past, I have answered this question multiple times to my teachers, and my answer is always the same. I want to be a teacher. This is the dream that I know I am sure of.

                “The best legacy parents can give to their children is Education – it is our weapon against the challenges in this world.”

      I was born in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. My parents are not rich either. Growing up, I was aware of how precious education is. Although education is our right, not everyone has the capability to send their children to school, and if they can, quality education is questionable. I always consider myself blessed that despite the fact that my parents were only earning money to sustain our daily needs, they worked extra hard for me and my sister’s education. They sent us to one of the best school in our province (elementary to high school) and in the Philippines (college).

           If my memory is not mistaken, my love for teaching started when I was still in Kindergarten, 4 years old. In my tiny room, I had a blackboard and a small cabinet filled with children’s encyclopedias which my mother paid through monthly installment. On my own, I would play pretend to be both the teacher and the student. I would read a line or two from the book and explain it to myself using broken English but often times I would give up and speak in dialect. Then, I would give myself a test either through oral recitation or written test. I remembered my father laughing at me when he found one of my self-made written tests. “You gave yourself a test? Why didn’t you give yourself a 100% mark?”, he said. I wasn’t embarrassed, I felt proud still. I had never liked playing with dolls; this is the kind of play I enjoyed.

   When I reached high school, people who knew about my dream discouraged me: telling me how little a teacher’s salary is, and that I should go for better-paying profession. The more money I will earn, the happier my life will become. I decided to stay silent, but in that silence I become more eager to fulfill my dream. I am moved by stories of students who would walk across mountains just to be at school. Children from poor families whose only wish is to graduate inspired me.
Without a doubt, I took Bachelors in Elementary Education Major in Special Education at the University of Santo Tomas. College marked another story in my life. Being with people with special needs changed my perception of life. My interaction doesn’t limit to kids but with adults as well. These people opened my heart and ignited my passion for teaching. This is the time I decided that I don’t just want to be a teacher who teaches but a teacher who affects not only the mind but the heart. Teaching them made me realize that life is not about who comes first or who does it best because life is neither a race nor a competition. Life is a journey in which every day is a hope, and the teacher uses that hope and turns it into a possibility. Life is also about celebration success. As the movie title goes, “Every Child is Special”, the success of a child is different from the other. Their talents and needs differ, thus their success may differ. It may be as simple as being able to dress oneself independently or being able to count from one – twenty. These may seem very little but celebrating these little things makes life joyful.

“Teaching is everyone's bread and butter but only a few cups of tea.”

                At the age of 19, I tasted my first mouthful of bittersweet reality - I finally became a teacher. I was a kindergarten adviser and was assigned to teach all the subjects. I was assigned to teach Grade 1 – Integrated English and Science wherein I taught two lessons (one for English and another for Science) at the same time. This first mouthful of bittersweet reality brought great impact in my journey on becoming a teacher, it taught me valuable lessons that I didn’t learn at school. I learned to listen not only to my students but to other teachers whose skills were honed through time. I was able to see clearly how important the role of the teacher in the development of the children; how a single praise could mean so much for a child that it could greatly affect his confidence. However, the greatest lesson that I learned was the sacrifices of a teacher. A teacher cares for her student, even if she has so many she still cares for each as if they were the only one she had.

                After a year of teaching in the Philippines, I decided to fly to Thailand hoping to continue my journey to becoming a teacher. This journey brought me to Sathingphra, Songkhla where I taught Mathayom 1-5 students English. Loneliness was not the hardest part because I am already used to living far from my family. Adjusting in their culture was the challenge especially since I couldn’t speak a word from their language. Like any adventure, this was filled with lessons to learn. I learned how to relax and not to pressure myself too much. I learned to value myself more. Little by little I started to understand and appreciate the bitter taste of reality. Slowly, that bitterness became sweet.
    As I continued my journey, fate made me stumble upon Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation’s website. Reading about them in their page, I fell in love with their mission. I was reminded of how I dreamt to be not just a teacher who teaches but a teacher who makes a difference. I was aware that leaving my job for PHBGTU would be more challenging because most of the kids I will be handling are from underprivileged backgrounds but my heartfelt excitement when I was offered a job in the foundation. Even when I had been working in the foundation for only about 3 months, I was able to appreciate every effort of the Foundation in nurturing the students, especially the residential students. At a very early age of 6, kids are left to live at school away from their family. It is a joy to witness how the students are very excited to join in our activities. They would always rush in front of our office to see the list of activities prepared for them. Sometimes, my students would ask me excitedly, “Teacher, where is coconut club?”. The best experience I had working with the foundation is the Birthday Party. Seeing the students smile, playing in the pool, and being grateful for the gifts they received is heart-warming. Through every activity that we prepare for them, both in and out of the classroom makes our students feel that they are not alone. They have their teachers who truly care for them. 

        My experience with the foundation feels like I have only just arrived, but it is always meaningful when I see what I have accomplished. I can’t wait for more adventures with the students, co-teachers, and volunteers.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Foundation, Kay and Andy Hunter, and The Chava Resort of Surin for supporting me, and my English programme classes for the year. It makes such difference in everyone's experience.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Highlight Spot: Student Faozee

Faozee's story by Teacher Laura

Phuket Has Been Good To Us is more than an educational charity. Yes, the main aim is to improve the English language skills of the students, but it also provides a learning environment where the children can take risks and grow in confidence in all areas of their life. The teaching and methodology that the Foundation adopts, coupled with the after-school programme, Coconut Club, means that sessions are active, productive, fun and relevant. 

When children are emotionally literate (ready to learn) they feel secure, they are happy and in a comfortable environment. This is when successful learning takes place. The teachers and volunteers at PHBGTU provide this for the students and it’s clearly reflected in the children’s behavior, motivation, and achievements. For me, this is particularly relevant for a student whom I have personally followed since I worked for the Foundation. His name is Faozee.

When PHBGTU started teaching at Kamala school in 2007 we were an unknown entity. A lot of the children hadn’t had contact with foreigners before and certainly hadn’t had much English language education and it took a little while for everyone to be at ease with the new situation. Faozee was pretty small, I think about 6 years old. He was scruffy, distracted and generally a bit reluctant to learn. 

Faozee was a difficult student. However, his willingness to attend classes and try to learn English increased significantly as he warmed to us - always hanging around the teachers’ room hoping to be invited in for a game or even a little healthy snack. Faozee soon gained self-esteem and became much more confident in his learning. This change became even more evident when Faozee found an interest in photography through one of our Coconut Club activities.

Today Faozee is a motivated student and is headed into his final year at RPG 36, Kamala School. Faozee does not have the best English in his class but he is well known and well liked by the teachers and his peers. He is also a role model for the younger students, always helping out at school events and lending a hand at PHBGTU birthday parties and student activities. Faozee also shared with his current teachers that he would like to go to University when he graduates to become a teacher one day!

I have personally followed Faozee for the last 11 years and have observed how  PHBGTU has helped him not only progress in English, but to develop stronger relationships, have more ambition and really helped him to grow into the wonderful, happy, responsible teenager he is today! Phuket Has Been Good To Us’s approach gives support, positive reinforcement and security that children need in order to really want to do the best they can. Working simultaneously with the care and education they students receive within their schools means that the students are much more likely to reach their potential. Faozee is proof of this.

-Laura Gray 
Senior Teacher and English Programme Coordinator, September 2007-June 2009. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Teaching for a Nonprofit - by Teacher Caitlin

The first thought that comes to my mind when I think about the children that Phuket Has Been Good to Us works with is:

Many of the children, particularly the residential students, have been through so much hardship in their short lives but are still able to smile. I am often in awe when I see the little community that is created among the children who live at the school. Without parents to help them, they depend on each other. Working at RPG 36 Kamala School is not always easy as there are often underlying psychosocial issues that are not addressed properly. As one would expect, working with children of diverse histories is challenging but also incredibly worth it. Nothing that is worth it is ever easy, right?

To be a teacher is to be a role model, a leader and a person to turn to. The ultimate goal for me is to make a safe space for these children; a space where they are free to be children, to play, to learn and to grow. I believe that it is crucial for children to be able to play and have time to simply be young and carefree. When we let children play they develop the skills needed to thrive in our world. That is why Coconut Club, PHBGTU's afterschool and weekend programme, is essential. Residential students can join after school and just relax and be kids. With activities including drawing, cooking, and sports- we are enabling them to have fun and explore their own interests while practicing English with us in an informal atmosphere. Coconut Club becomes a safe space to be just like any other child and to bring normalcy back into their lives. 

Coming from an International Development background with a focus on Children and Education, working for a non-profit is an integral part of who I am. I doubt I would ever teach English at an International school simply because, for me, there needs to be a greater purpose. I believe there needs to be an overarching goal we strive towards. I feel comfort in knowing that the Foundation seeks to improve the lives of children through a supplementary English programme so they can enter into well-paid jobs in the tourism industry once they graduate.

Tourism is the fastest growing industry in Thailand, and the largest industry in Phuket, generating more than 145,000 jobs with more being created each day. English is necessary to communicate, negotiate and make transactions with tourists. If a person can speak English and are able to have conversations with foreigners, then they are much more likely to obtain a higher paying job securing economic stability. 
 Is teaching English a long-term solution that will fix all the ongoing development issues in Thailand? No.
 However, the Foundation has the potential to change hundreds of children’s lives by improving their employability and opening doors where there would not be otherwise.

It may sound silly, but my favourite part of being a teacher is being able to give positive support to the students that come into my classroom each day. Being able to encourage my students to believe in themselves is something I cannot take for granted. Seeing their smiles and giving them a high five (or 10 high fives) for a job well done is often the highlight of my day. When we lift children up and teach them that they can do anything, we begin to instill a sense of hope and possibility beyond the school gates.

I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far and am learning a lot about what kind of teacher and role model I want to be moving forward. I feel grateful and blessed to be a part of such a wonderful organization. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!

Teacher Caitlin's Primary 1 class at RPG 36, Kamala School is made possible by a grant from XL Catlin. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Teacher Diego: A bumpy road to becoming an English Teacher

Teaching in Thailand is one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had yet. I’ve learned a lot about the culture of this beautiful place and I will never regret my decision to leave Italy and start my adventures abroad, which ultimately led me here.
I had to work hard to get the opportunity to take a TEFL course, going through countless adventures in Australia and New Zealand to learn the appropriate level of the English language that allowed me to start this amazing career. Despite my Bachelor degree in foreign languages and literature achieved in Italy, the language barrier was huge when I landed in Australia for the first time. Every day included many mistakes and struggles with incomprehensible words and local phrases. However, unashamed, I kept trying and trying until my conversations were fluent and my understanding was nearly perfect.

Then, after 4 years, it was time to face the new adventure that I had planned after my degree: teaching English in Asia. Many friends told me about their amazing experiences visiting Thailand so I did my research on the internet and found a very interesting TEFL course on the island of Koh Samui.  Upon arrival I discovered paradisiacal beaches, warm weather, and amazing fresh food; it seemed about right. In short, it was one of the best adventures of my entire life, I was surrounded by amazing people - future teachers, in fact, the location was beautiful and life seemed to be amazingly perfect (which it is even now).

The TEFL course was a blast and it went by too fast. The instructor was clear and funny and after the classes I was definitely ready to apply for a teaching job. I had quick replies from three different schools: one in Songklha, one in Krabi, and one from a charity Foundation called “Phuket Has Been Good To Us”, like the name says, in Phuket. I decided Songkhla was too far and in the middle of nowhere so I placed this offer as my last choice and arranged a Skype interview with the other two offers. Any doubts I had were gone after these interviews. There was nothing wrong with the Krabi school but the professional and friendly people on the other side of my screen from Phuket Has Been Good To Us (PHBGTU) were just amazing! My questions were all answered by the senior teacher, the recruitment volunteer and the boss of the Foundation. I decided to start my adventure from the Island of Phuket!

Friendly staff welcomed me in the small town of Kamala. We had lunch and introduced ourselves; everyone was very friendly and at the same time very professional. The staff and my co-workers helped me a lot during the first months of the job until I got used to it and I started to have my first achievements. Students began to get used to me; the younger ones started to see me as an example and the older ones as a friendly face who they could open up to and explain their problems, dreams, and hobbies. Teaching in the underprivileged government school is not the easiest thing to do but the rewards are enormous considering we can make a small difference in the lives of less fortunate students. I have been so fortunate as to be put in charge of the P6 class here in Kamala which has been sponsored by Jean-Claude and K Kantaya, meaning I can make an even bigger difference.  

Every day is a new experience and there is something new to learn. Even after one year and a half as a teacher for PHBGTU I am still surprised an amazed the Thai people, the community and my co-workers and I’m looking forward to the rest of this academic year ahead.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Global Perspective on Teaching English: by teacher Violeta

I came to Thailand from Spain. I grew up in a small city in the centre of Spain. Since I was a child I wanted to be a teacher because I loved studying, going to school and I had the chance to have some amazing teachers that inspired me.

While I was at university studying a degree to be an English Teacher in Spanish schools, I found out my passion for the English language and started travelling thanks to several scholarships that I obtained from the Spanish government.

I started travelling only during the summers to improve my English skills and got the amazing opportunity to travel to England, Canada and the US and live with different families for a month or two at a time as well as got to know people from around the world.

After I finished my first degree, I kept on my studies and went on to complete another degree to be an educational counsellor. Unfortunately, Spain was not a good place to work because of the economic crisis and after a few short-term jobs, I decided to move to England.

I started off by doing some volunteering artwork which was a really amazing experience. However, after a while, the teacher within me started to rebel and I decided to move on to teaching again.

I worked with a charity that had opened a new school. I worked as a volunteer teaching assistant at the beginning and then I took on the kindergarten teacher role. I worked for that school as a volunteer for three years and this really taught me how deeply I can bring benefit to kids as well as benefit myself from teaching. I learnt that as teachers we have the opportunity to take part in the development of children not only by teaching the academic curriculum but also providing the kids with some tools that will be very helpful for the rest of their lives in many different aspects.

Unfortunately, after almost four years of full volunteering, I ran out of resources and needed to find a paid job so I decided to leave England and try in a different part of the world.
I stayed with my family for a few months trying to figure out what to do and where to go and somehow I found out about Thailand which was a complete stranger to me at that time.

Within one month I decided to leave Spain again and came to Phuket to complete a TEFL course so that I could have more opportunities to work as a teacher around the world.

That first month in Thailand was great, I was amazed by the way of life and how people take life in a more relaxed way. So, I decided to look for a job in Thailand. I went to the east coast of Thailand and worked as an English teacher for a private school for a few months. It was a good experience that allowed me to get to know the thai system and I also met many amazing teachers.
However, I realised that I was missing being able to help children in a deeper and more meaningful way than just teaching English and therefore started to look for other types of job.

I had read things about PHBTU while I was doing my TEFL course and right away I was drawn by the foundation and its purpose so as soon as I discovered that they were looking for teachers I saw the great opportunity to be able to take part in this inspiring project. With help from my sponsor, MontAzure, I was able to join the team and start teaching soon after.

When I arrived again in Phuket I was so excited to start working and meet the children at both schools where I work. It was a challenging start as it always is in a new job but the children quickly got my heart and working with the team of amazing teachers and volunteers gave me more reasons to love it. The students always seem so happy to see me even if I am not one of their teachers and they learn very quickly.

Working with unprivileged children has brought me a new perspective on life that makes me keep striving to improve my skills as a teacher as well as a person trying to be the best I can be.

My goal for this year is to enjoy every day and take the most of this great opportunity.
I would like to thank the foundation for giving me this amazing opportunity as well as to all the sponsors and in particular, I would like to express my gratitude to MontAzure for sponsoring the English Programme for Anuban 1, 2 and 3 at Anuban Kamala School.