Fiona Etienne, a passionate secondary school teacher, embarked on a life-changing journey when she left London 8 and a half years ago to teach in Brunei. In 2014, her knowledge of Brunei Darussalam was limited, but the allure of the “Abode of Peace” captivated her. The cultural and religious differences intrigued her, and she was won over despite the differences.
Seeking a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, Fiona was drawn to Brunei. She had previously experienced an excessive workload in her teaching career and longed for an environment conducive to her well-being. What fascinated her most was the opportunity to connect with CfBT teachers, allowing her to gain invaluable firsthand insights into teaching in Brunei. Additionally, the informative videos on the CfBT website assisted her in making an informed decision.
Since settling in Brunei, Fiona has fallen in love with the serene atmosphere and the abundant opportunities for exploration and recreation outside work hours. She has embraced a more active and health-conscious lifestyle, engaging in activities such as going to the gym, practising yoga, and even learning to dive and swim. Furthermore, Fiona has had positive experiences with the healthcare system in Brunei, particularly during a challenging medical incident that required her to visit multiple hospitals. The compassionate doctors and supportive welfare officers at CfBT made her feel well cared for.
Fiona’s teaching experience in Brunei has been equally remarkable. She praises the amiable and respectful nature of the students, who are unafraid to express their likes and dislikes about the lessons. The school environment fosters positivity, with motivational posters reminding teachers and students of the institution’s values and encouraging them to strive for improvement and optimism for the future.
During her time in Brunei, Fiona dedicated herself to teaching and pursued her academic growth. She completed her M.A. in 2019, with her dissertation focusing on Cognitive Load Theory. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she delved into theoretical research due to the inability to conduct a practical project. However, Fiona strongly desired to further enhance her professionalism beyond her master’s degree.
Motivated to be recognized as a knowledgeable professional, Fiona discovered the Chartered College Teaching certification through Facebook. Although relatively new, having been established only 5 or 6 years ago in the U.K., she saw this opportunity as a perfect fit for her aspirations. She acknowledged the rigorous standards set by the certification, requiring individuals to prove themselves every three years to maintain the title.
Remarkably, Fiona managed to excel in both her teaching role and her pursuit of professional qualifications. Her research aligned with her teaching program, allowing her to integrate theory into practical lessons that benefited all her classes. Her supportive school and the Ministry of Education granted her permission to conduct her research on-site. Throughout her studies, despite the time difference, she found ample resources and support from both the Chartered College of Teaching and CfBT, accessing materials and engaging in peer observation and conferences.
With the Chartered College Teaching certification in hand, Fiona’s confidence soared as she implemented research-based strategies that had proven effective. Given the limited time available for teaching, she recognized the importance of applying tested methods rather than constantly experimenting.
“It might sound silly to do it when you have the experience, but you get thrown a lot of ideas to do this and that, but then hang on a minute – is it working?”
“There’s not a lot of time to teach in class to try things that don’t work. It’s important in any subject that you want to do the best for your students as it’s important for their future.”
Should she face any challenges, she could rely on the support of her peers in the Chartered College program to explore successful strategies.
She noticed that many students in Brunei initially lacked confidence in speaking English, often feeling shy and reserved. Fiona’s passion ignited when it came to helping her students overcome their fears and embrace the language. She taught them to see mistakes as stepping stones to improvement, drawing from her own experiences of grappling with new languages in the past. Witnessing her students’ positive attitudes and remarkable progress brought her immense joy and fulfilment.
The Chartered College Teaching program played a vital role in enhancing Fiona’s teaching experience. She was enthusiastic about recommending it to her fellow teachers, as it provided clear guidance and direction. The program’s website also offered valuable resources, readily accessible whenever needed. Fiona appreciated the program’s commitment to professional development, enabling her to continuously improve her skills and stay current with the latest teaching practices.
Fiona’s answer was beautifully simple when asked about the source of her unwavering drive and motivation to make a profound impact on her students’ lives. She revealed that she had always aspired to be a teacher, even from an early age. As the eldest sibling, she taught her two sisters how to read and write when they were children. This early experience instilled in her a deep sense of purpose and a natural talent for nurturing young minds. Teaching was her true calling; she carried this passion with her every day, striving to empower her students to reach their full potential!
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