It’s incredible to think back to March of 2020. While it was just a short time ago, so much has changed for us all. Teaching in a foreign country had always been a dream of mine, but it always felt like just that–a dream that most likely wouldn’t become a reality. A few friends from college had made the choice to go abroad after we finished the teaching credential program, and for 8 years I found myself with the seed of inspiration to do the same. At a few points in my teaching career I explored opportunities to move and transfer my educational experiences abroad, but I always found the timing was not right.
However at the start of 2020, as the world was grappling with the onset of COVID-19, I once again began looking at opportunities to teach abroad, feeling confident that the 2020-21 school year would begin with what was a frightening global health crisis behind us. Professionally, I was feeling inspired to take my knapsack of skills and experiences into a new setting, community and school culture, taking advantage of the opportunity to be fueled by the learning and newness such a shift would bring to and for my teaching.
After applying to teach in Thailand, I was thrilled when I began the interview process with BASIS International School Bangkok and then received an offer letter. My dream of teaching abroad was coming to fruition! Through the support of BASIS International School Bangkok, I felt like my skillset was honored as an asset, and this life shift across the world would become a supported reality.
After much anticipation of this journey and process, overwhelming feelings of excitement were interrupted by the global pandemic. How would I be able to move across the world during a time of such uncertainty? As a teacher, planning and preparation are critical, and the realities and preventative measures of COVID-19 being a presence in the classroom community began to seep in once again. What would distance learning look like remotely, how do I show up as my best educator self for the students, their families, and colleagues in such an unprecedented time? How do I shift my pedagogical approach to meet the educational and socio-emotional needs of these weighted circumstances?
My thoughts were racing as the start of the school year approached, and I was still in San Diego, California. There were times I felt I wouldn’t make it here. Flights were cancelled. Borders were closed. Everyone was on lockdown. Schools had transitioned to distance learning. Teaching abroad began to feel like a distant dream again.
While people were trying to navigate the “new normal” and drastically adjusting their lives with so much uncertainty, our Head of School, Head of Operations and HR assured me that I could, and would, make it to Thailand. Their positivity helped me stay optimistic and their dedication to making sure new teachers would arrive in Thailand made all the difference.
Getting here was not easy and was certainly a team effort. After countless calls to the embassy, I was finally granted my certificate of entry and my flight was officially booked. I expected to feel anxious driving to the Los Angeles International Airport, but once I was on the road I felt such a sense of relief knowing I was finally on my way.
Physically getting here was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had. Our wonderful HR manager, Punla, made sure to coordinate my flight with another fellow American teacher allowing us to meet up in Seoul, South Korea. Little did I know my new colleague, Megan, would end up being one of my closest friends.
After we arrived in Bangkok, we went straight to our quarantine hotel. Our days were filled with Zoom trainings, so the time went by quickly. After 14 days of quarantine (in a beautiful hotel, nonetheless) I was more than excited to see the city of Bangkok and my new school campus. Before moving here I had painted a beautiful picture of Thailand in my head. I couldn’t wait to be in the “land of smiles,” eat delicious food, and relax on breath-taking beaches. What I didn’t expect was to be welcomed into such a beautiful, supportive school community. Every day at work is such a joy. I feel so fortunate to work with people who are truly the best in their field.
I was speechless when I arrived on campus! I have never taught at a school that physically provides a space for such growth and creativity. All aspects of our school have been thoughtfully planned out and designed–it truly is a dream campus. The campus respects the developmental and learning needs of the students, fueling their learning, and in turn inspiring the teachers. Learning sprouts when access meets opportunity, and the BASIS International School Bangkok campus and knowledgeable staff bring these two resources into collaboration.
As time moves forward and the students and I nurture our classroom community, I feel grateful to bring my experiences traveling within Thailand into the classroom, bringing a connectivity from shared observations and understandings with the students. I love to share with the students what island I have visited, or the amazing sea creature I have met as I have discovered a love of scuba diving. I recently shared pictures from my hike to ice-blue waterfalls, surrounded by lush green trees that were home to the cutest monkeys. As I reflect on the experiences I’ve had here, and look forward to those to come, I am filled with gratitude. Living and teaching in Thailand is most certainly a dream come true.
Michelle Waldron is an Early Education Teacher at BASIS International School Bangkok.
Learn more about teaching at BASIS International School Bangkok on our careers website.