What is your profession?

by Jay Chambers

In the movie 300, the Spartans’ commitment to the cause of stopping Xerxes is questioned by Leonidas’ Athenian counterpart. The Athenians had brought thousands of men to fight whereas the Spartans had only 300. Leonidas counters the verbal jab with a simple question to three of the Athenian men, “What is your profession?” Even though the men are going off to war, none of them reply with the answer of warrior. When Leonidas asks the same question of his 300, all give a resounding cheer, indicating that they are all warriors.

If you were to come to Mooltripakdee International School, line up all of the Thai assistant teachers and ask them, “What is your profession?” you would get that same resounding cheer. The cheer would demonstrate that they were not warriors of course, but teachers.

When most people come to observe an English international school for whatever reason, their focus is typically upon the homeroom teachers. That focus only makes sense, for most of the subject teaching is done by the foreigners who have been hired to teach in English. But what of the Thai assistants, just what is their role in the macrocosm that we call an international school? Why should their contributions be looked at closely when observing an international school?

At MIS, there are two assistant teachers placed in each classroom, many of them Thai. Just what is their purpose in the classroom? This is a question that is often overlooked in the race to find a competent foreign homeroom teacher. It is astounding that this is so, since those same assistant teachers are the homeroom teachers’ left and right hands.

While the homeroom teacher organizes the curriculum into lesson plans and sets the objectives for the day, the assistant teachers often help turn those objectives into reality. They do so by efficiently finding the materials needed for lessons and even expanding upon what the homeroom teacher has in mind. Many homeroom teachers have been pleasantly surprised by their assistants’ ideas when holding meetings about their lessons. After all, three heads are better than one.

There is a reason that assistant teachers are given that name for their profession in the first place. It is because they proactively help the homeroom teachers to teach, not just sit back and relax while the foreigners do all of the work as many people seem to think they do. The competent assistant teacher is in constant movement, aiding the homeroom teacher by helping to manage the classroom, preparing materials so that they readily come to hand, and even by dealing with outside distractions that may interrupt the lesson.

At MIS, the assistant teachers never leave the students’ sides. They follow them to lunch, watch over them at recess and make sure they focus on their work during each and every subject. They are more than teachers; they are mentors, father and mother figures and helping hands when needed.

So it is easy to see why so much focus is placed upon the competency of assistant teachers when hiring at international schools such as Mooltripakdee International School. At MIS, the management’s work does not end at hiring, either. The Thai assistant teachers are constantly aided and urged to continue with their professional development.

Each week they stay after school to practice their English with the ESL teacher. Many of the Thai assistant teachers have gotten quite good at English as a result. They take time out of their busy schedule to speak with the native English speakers to further improve upon what they have learned. They also have their own English notebooks to write about various subjects which are later read by those fluent in English.

Every assistant teacher is encouraged to keep a daily journal. This journal is used to help give the assistant teachers and management some idea of how the class is progressing throughout the year. If a student consistently causes problems, then the pattern can be detected and proven through the journal, and the homeroom teacher can be notified if he/she hasn’t yet seen the problem.

The Thai assistant teachers are also required to write a research paper every year. Last year’s research papers were about classroom management and how to improve upon it. It gave the assistant teachers and homeroom teachers much to think about and discuss, once the results were concluded and shared.

It becomes easy to see why assistant teachers and their contributions should not be so easily overlooked, especially where the assistants excel, like at Mooltripakdee International School. They assist the homeroom teachers during lessons, watch over and take care of the students throughout the day and constantly look for ways to improve upon their professional development.

So be warned, hold onto your hats when asking the Thai assistant teachers, “What is your profession?” at MIS.

Jay Chambers is 1/1 Homeroom Teacher at Mooltripakdee International School.

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