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Find out more about life in Brunei as an English Language Teacher.
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CATHY HADFIELD

An International Literacy Coach who has been in Brunei for more than 7 years and has experienced teaching primary level education in Whanarei, New Zealand.

Age: Early 40’s

Nationality: New Zealander

Home: Kaitaia, New Zealand

Has been in Brunei for 7+ years.

What do you like most about Brunei?

So many things to choose from, Brunei is fantastic; however, I think number 1 would have to be, having a live-in maid. Most families have domestic help, so when you finish work, you don’t have to then turn around and do all the house work. We have the freedom as parents to still have a social life with a trusted ‘Aunty’ to look after the kids and my husband and I do not argue about who’s doing the ironing.  Secondly would have to be the sunsets, every night is amazing!

Please describe where you live.

We live in Kuala Belait, a small expatriate town with many Shell Oil workers and the British Garrison. Kuala Belait is located at the southern end of Brunei, 1.5hours from Bandar Seri Begawan and very close to the border with Malaysia. Visits to the City of Miri in Malaysia for shopping, restaurants and other supplies are easy.  My family lives in a 4-bedroom house, one back from the beach. Our house is double the size of our home in New Zealand.  We have a fully fenced compound down a quiet simpang (street) with a beautiful tropical garden.  We get monkeys, monitor lizards and hornbills daily in our garden.

Please describe a typical working day.

I am now working as an International Literacy Coach so I leave home around 7am to drive to which of my 3 schools I might be rostered on that day.  I start work at 7:30am, if I am not in a classroom immediately I usually meet with the school principal.  Each day I work with 2 Learning Partners and 1 Local Coach, so I usually attend 2-3 classes a day either modelling lessons or co-teaching.  Between classes I have pre-lesson or post-lesson discussions.  I always make time to meet with my Local Coach to see how their coaching is going, even if I don’t have time to attend one of their classes that day. There is a coffee break from 10:10 – 10:30am with no playground duties.  School finishes at 12:30 pm but I often stay back and meet with Learning Partners for planning meetings or T-Grow discussions.  Technically there is a lunch break from 12:30 – 2 pm but rarely do I take this.  Our official working hours in the afternoons are 2 – 4:30 pm and how this is spent changes each day.  I will be delivering Professional Development 1- 2 afternoons per week, 1-2 afternoons attending PD sessions or meetings myself, usually in Bandar Seri Begawan and on the other 1 – 2 afternoon a week there is always a lot of administration, lesson preparation and development of workshops to be created.  Most evenings I get home between 5 – 6pm.

How does teaching in Brunei compare to home? (e.g. discipline, teaching hours, admin load, etc)

Teaching the main difference between here and New Zealand is obviously teaching in a second language.  The Pra children begin the year with NO English and many tears, so classroom management for the first month can be very challenging. But once that is over and the routines are well in place, the teaching is great.  The behaviour of the children in Brunei across all levels of primary is a lot better than I have ever experienced in Western countries. The children really enjoy coming to English they are enthusiastic to learn and excited about English, especially with a CfBT teacher, they pick up the language quickly.

As a teacher I found the teaching hours, administration and workload a lot less than what I had experienced in NZ, Australia or London.   As an International Coach I believe I am working similar hours that I would be, if I was back in a classroom in NZ.

What do you do in your free time?

Most of my free time revolves around our 2 sons and their after-school activities. They do swimming lessons, rugby, tennis, football and cub scouts.  We go kayaking at the beach, walking in the jungle, swimming at the pool and movies or bowling (which are 1/3 of the price in NZ!) My husband plays a lot of tennis and golf. I play touch rugby, go to the gym and enjoy bushwalking.  We spend lots of time with other families and friends having barbecues or bonfires on the beach. There are lots of large well organised expat social events in Kuala Belait, such as shows, performances and even the annual Highland games, which are always lots of fun!

What do you do in your holidays?

TRAVEL!!! There are so many places nearby to visit and explore.  Air Asia makes travel affordable for everyone. Since living in Brunei we have travelled all around Northern Borneo, Labuan and Kuching. We have also been to Kuala Lumpur several times on route to other destinations in like Penang, Langkawi, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali and Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne on our way back to New Zealand.  Our list for the next two years includes the Philippines, Sri Lanka, China and Japan.

What would you say to a teacher thinking about Brunei?

Do it! For singles of all ages, couples and families it’s amazing. We have been living this wonderful life for 7+ years and we still enjoy it.  It’s a beautiful safe country and a great place to base yourself for travel or savings.   My one piece of advice is to single income families is, do not come with the expectation that your non-working spouse will find work if they are not a teacher, because this rarely happens. For us Brunei has been an awesome experience, which we will continue for a few more years yet. The teaching is rewarding, the local colleagues are kind hearted and friendly, the climate is wonderful! Come and experience Brunei for yourself, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

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