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An interview with Taua Pritchard

Taua is a primary English teacher from New Zealand. He has been teaching in Brunei since 2019.

CfBT: Can you please describe CfBT’s induction program and how it was for you?

TP: The induction programme gave me a good understanding of the processes and procedures of CfBT as an organisation. It helped give me a perception of what to expect and how to get settled living and teaching in Brunei. The staff and friends you meet are very supportive and make the journey abroad welcoming. It was not as scary as I thought it was going to be. One thing that stood out for me was to put what you take away from the induction into practice straight away. Be productive, open minded and embrace the opportunity.

 

CfBT: What do you like most about teaching English in Brunei government schools?

TP: I follow a Tiara programme which is flexible. I get a great feeling when I see a light bulb moment of interest and curiosity blossom not only within my students in the classroom, but throughout the whole school. I teach students that words are powerful and can influence people that instigate change in the world. It is special to know that it gives students and adults a voice. The staff at my school are very productive and supportive which makes working exciting and pleasing.

 

CfBT: What are the teaching resources like at your school?                                                     

TP: I believe the most important resources are the teachers, the students’ families, and the wider community as it takes a village to raise a student!

At SRTJ there are school buildings, whiteboards, desks and fans as it can be extremely warm in class. Students have essential materials like pencils, colouring pencils, pens, exercise books which is expected. Teachers at SRTJ share resources but be prepared to make resources that you will want to use in class.

CfBT have a bank of resources, a library, and the staff are always there for support.

CfBT: What type of support do you receive from your CfBT line manager?

BS: My CfBT line manager also known as Education Project Manager (EPM) is very supportive. She is always just a message or email away and is constantly sharing ideas, techniques and strategies. Our discussions are very useful and professional.

CfBT: What professional development opportunities have you had?

TP: I have attended many Professional Development training sessions through CfBT and SRTJ, both online and in person.

Some of these include the Professional Learning Community, Quilts, Teams, A-Z Lexile scores, Questioning Techniques, Plenary and Starter ideas, Differentiation Strategies, Dialogic Teaching, Structuring and Organising Lessons, Assessing Learning Continuously, Reading and Literacy Strategies, a beginner’s and Intermediate Malay Language course.

The Malay course helped me within the classroom, in the staffroom and shopping. There is always room to upscale and to improve on your pedagogy. But like everything, do it at your own pace.

CfBT: What has been the most memorable moment so far?

TP: It is great to see my students using the language that I taught them. It gives me a sense of achievement. Colleagues at SRTJ are very caring and supportive. When asked to join in on school activites like, Book week, Armed Force Day, National day, Isra’dan Mi’raj, Earth day, Science craft, Awal Ramadhan, get involved! It is so rewarding to immerse yourself in the activities and culture.

Something that stands out for me is the excitement I get when seeing our hearing groups of monkeys trotting over our school rooftops. Never a dull moment!

CfBT: What was it like moving from your home country to Brunei?

TP: As a family we were excited and anxious about moving to Brunei, and CfBT made the entire transition smooth. From the moment we arrived, we were met with staff from Welfare who took us to our accommodation. The apartment had everything we needed to feel comfortable. That night I was also given a welcome pack.

The next day we met at the CfBT head office where I was given a mobile SIM card and the keys to a hired car. There was a quick briefing, and then my family and I went sightseeing around Brunei.

CfBT put us at the Sumbangsih apartments in Gadong, good location, close to CfBT, central to everything.

Some advice for future CfBT teachers: it is summer here every day so be very ready for tropical weather. Be very alert while driving. Lastly when looking for something in a shop, and the shop assistance says “No have sir” chances are if you look, you will find it yourself.

CfBT: What is it like living in Brunei as a family?

TP: CfBT made our travel arrangements as a family to Brunei simple and it worked like clockwork. Our son enjoys attending The International School of Brunei – they have so much to offer in terms of arts, sports, culture, music, dance, education, and he says he likes making new friends.

As a family we love the life of just chilling. We love the beach, the jungle, picnics, BBQs, early morning or sunset walks. Our son particularly adores all the beautiful tiny or big creatures, the fabulous hornbills, the mischievous monkeys, the secretive monitor lizards, the odd slithering snakes or tiny scary scorpions.

CfBT have been very supportive every step of the way, and I am very grateful. I am pleased to have the opportunity to live in the Abode of Peace. Because really, it doesn’t matter where you live, it is up to you to make it work for you.

CfBT: What is your accommodation like?

TP: CfBT gave us a list of houses to choose from, but we made sure to have a list of criteria that needed to be met too. For example, we wanted our accommodation to be close to the International School of Brunei as well as the school I taught at.

After an agent took us to see all five places, my wife, son and I settled with a fully furnished two storey house. It has four rooms, three toilets, three showers, our own yard that’s fully fenced and plenty of room to have BBQs. We are satisfied with it and have made it our home.

CfBT: What is it like to live as an expat in Brunei?

TP: You will meet people from many walks of life here. The expat community is huge and everyone meets often. It varies from social gatherings, sporting events, jungle walks, arts and crafts or simply just catching up for makan (feast). It is a perfect environment for expats to bring up families.

In our free time, it is good to keep existing hobbies like, spending time with family, board games, relax, walk, swim, go to the cinemas, the beach, explore, eat, and meet people.

Living abroad is a unique experience, if ever given the opportunity, I think you should give it a go. My favourite thing in Brunei is the lifestyle.

CfBT: Please share what the general cost of living is in Brunei compared to your home country.

TP: The government has promoted Brunei as “The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures.” And that’s exactly what it is.

Obviously, there will be certain foods that you will miss from home, but it is about improvising and adapting to what you have here. I find the cost of living reasonable, depending where you want shop. There are a lot of places to choose from when it comes to grocery shopping depending on your taste. Eating out is a treat and there is so much to choose from, you have local cuisines to western food – it is really cheap too. Putting petrol in the car makes me smile all the time, I have a full tank on twenty dollars. Just like everything, come with an open mind and enjoy the Bruneian Unexpected Treasures.

CfBT: What is the food like in Brunei?

TP: Food brings everyone together and it is a huge part of the culture here in Brunei. You can find pretty much anything here from, KFC, McDonald’s, Jollibee, Asian food, Cafes, BBQ street food, market stalls, vegetarian and vegan eateries. The local food is a must try… seriously, the choices for food are endless!

The Bruneians have a sweet tooth and have a wide range of pastry treats. Food is a passion of mine. If it is good, we will definitely go back, if it is not, at least we gave it a try. It is all about enjoying and exploring the unique taste that Brunei has to offer.

CfBT: What do you enjoy most about living in Brunei?

TP: Brunei is a relaxing place with so much natural greenery to discover, it reminds me of Samoa and the Cook Islands in terms of the lush greenery just on a larger scale. The river and ocean boat rides are an experience not to be missed. My son enjoys school and has made lifelong friendships. The people are friendly and very welcoming. Brunei’s location is in the heart of the South East Asia which makes it the best place to travel to other countries. Be totally open minded about the Brunei experience. Once work and life balance is sorted, there is so much more to see and explore. Covid-19 has brought a lot of instability worldwide so we are unable to travel, but make do with what is in your backyard – adjust, adapt, and enjoy.

Meitaki, Fa’afetai, Terima Kashi, Thank you.

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