Meet TJ, the Montessori teacher with an keen eye for fashion and a love of travelling
Name: Thichachon Jaipakdee if you can pronounce it - if not, just TJ! Hometown: Bangkok born, Hong Kong raised.
Current Residence: Hong Kong is home :) Occupation: Soon to be a certified Montessori guide!
What inspired you to become a teacher and why a Montessori teacher?
I originally did not want to be a teacher, but my parents were leaving HK and they gave me a choice to either go with them to France or stay in HK and support myself. The easiest way to make quick money to support myself was teaching! I started out as a NET in a tutorial center and I hated it! My boss was terrible, and I did not enjoy teaching older kids, one day I decided to just leave. It was a struggle for a few months before a friend reached out and told me he knew a playgroup center looking for a teacher and that I would be working with children from 0 - 5 years old. Plus, all I had to do was play and have some messy time with them. I loved working with younger children and I was doing it for 3 years when I decided I wanted to do more and learn more about early childhood development. I was doing a lot of research on what kind of curriculum I wanted to do until another friend told me about Montessori and that I should go to her school to do an observation. It was an incredible experience to sit in a Montessori classroom and watch all the children doing individual work or group work without any chaos and everyone respecting one another. My friend told me that with a Montessori diploma I could basically teach anywhere in the world. With my love of traveling and teaching, I knew this was the curriculum I wanted to pursue.
Can you explain to us a little bit about what Montessori education is?
Montessori education has produced some amazing people such as Google Founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, CEO of Amazon: Jeff Bezos, Co-founder of Wikipedia: Jimmy Wales, or the creator of our beloved game, The Sims: Will Wright. Just to name a few ;)
Montessori education is very child centred and to study a child's true nature is by observing children freely in activities of their own choice within a well-ordered physical environment. The child is taught individually or in a group, depending on their age. Each child is allowed to make mistakes and work at a pace and level suited to the child’s need and to realise his or hers full potential.
In a Montessori classroom, the teachers are not called teachers but we are called guides or directresses as we will tell the child this is the way to do certain work and this way works or sometimes we will rather be side by side with the child and make discoveries together, we won’t give all the answers but we will help the child discover the discoveries and sometimes we will take a step back and give the child the floor and let them know they can do it themselves. The Montessori environment is a joyous place to be. There is no limit to what a child can learn and do. The environment offers the child limitless, unique educational materials. In this way, we prepare children to be contributing humans for the society. We prepare children to become adults who are at peace with themselves and at peace with the world around them. That is why these children are called the 'New Children'. Dr. Maria Montessori said that the child is our promise and our hope for a better world of tomorrow. That’s why she called her education “Education for a new world.”
After a crazy day with the kids, how do you like to relax after work?
After a long day, I like to go to the gym and do some Thai boxing. I’ll come home, have a nice home cooked meal or have a cheeky take out and watch Netflix. Nothing too crazy since I need my 8 hours of sleep to work with the children again the next day.
What is the best part about your job?
Watching my students grow and progress into these amazing unique human beings! They surprise me every day with things they discovered or how quick they learn when you just teach them once, even silly things like the mess they make, that makes me smile every day! I actually want to get up in the morning and see my students. Having a supportive boss and team also helps of course. My team really supports me on what I do and how I want to run my class and every time I need to go and do my training they are okay with it and that is something really hard to find in Hong Kong, a boss who understands where a teacher is coming from and wanting to help the kids and not just all about making money.
If you were not in education what would you like do?
It has always been my dream to be in fashion or art! I did start out as an intern working with graphic designers before I went into teaching and that was a really great experience! Recently, I started sketching and painting again and I realised how much I miss it. Now, I am actually thinking about getting a bachelor’s in art/design - after becoming a certified Montessori guide!
As a fashion lover who needs to be practical for the classroom, what is your perfect working outfit?
My perfect working outfit is both comfortable but still stylish haha! I love wearing high waist culotte pants with a nice blouse or top! I found a really nice culotte pant from Uniqlo the other day and I went back the next day to buy 3 more pairs in other colours! On days I don’t want to think or I’m running late, I just slip on a nice wrap dress! I do always have an extra pair of pants or leggings at work just in case I get messy during painting with the kids or for when I feel like wearing shorts to work on a hot day.
Where do you buy most of your clothes from? And where do you wish you could buy your clothes from?
I buy a lot of my clothes from all over the place! Mostly just ASOS as it’s quick and easy and I can do it from the comfort of my sofa haha! If not, I like Zara and H&M - the basics brands here in HK. I hate trying on things at the shop and being surrounded by people when I’m looking for things. I wish I could afford to buy clothes from Revolve! I love their clothes and brands!
What is currently on your shopping wish list?
LOTS OF LINEN! Whether, it’s shorts, tank tops, dress, jumpsuits, playsuits...I'm really into linen at the moment! I am pretty sure my summer outfits will just be linen from head to toe.
Who are your style icons?
Jill Wallace from LittleBlackBoots, Kendall Jenner, and Selena Gomez!! I am a true millennial!
What is your favourite new discovery?
Traveling to a new city or country! I am from Thailand and I just recently came back from Chiang Mai. I’ve learned so much from this region since I was based with the hill tribe in the mountains, 3 hours outside of Chiang Mai for my Montessori observation and teaching practicum. I discovered so much in terms of culture, tradition, language dialect and the people. It was a beautiful experience! I wish to go back and discover more of it!
What is your necessary extravagance?
Being spontaneous! and wearing big statement earrings.
What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever bought?
A Givenchy Antigona Bag that cost me 30k :D. It is my only designer bag that I bought brand new. All my other designer bags are second hand and bought at the Salvation Army store.
Where are your top 3 travel destinations?
Koh Samui, Vietnam, and Nepal!
Where are your top 3 dream travel destinations?
Sri Lanka, French Polynesia, and Peru!
What are your most used three emojis?
Where are your favourite spots in Hong Kong?
My apartment, Sai Kung and Tai Ping Shan!
Where do you go or what do you do to feel inspired?
I find new books to read or I go on sky scanner to see what’s the cheapest flight out of Hong Kong!
What were your last 5 songs you listened to? Be honest!
Cold as Stone - Kaskade
Where were you in the morning - Shawn Mendes (My current man crush!!!!)
Home with you - Madison Beer
Why - Bazzi
The Wheels on The Bus - Super Simple Songs (Life of a teacher! Having nursery rhymes stuck in your head all day long!)
All images from TJ’s Instagram @ tj.september