Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Thoughts

I dont think I can really let the year go by without putting down some thoughts about what happened down the coastlines of the various countries here.

First off I am glad to say that no one I know was killed. As time has gone by, gradually reports came in of friends, ex colleagues and friends of friends who were down there but all survived. Some are still in hospital but thankfully not seriously injured. One person I know lived down there and his house was basically wiped out but through sheer luck he moved back to America at the start of this month.

I will leave all the who didnt do what and why to other sites such as Thai Visa as quite frankly it just bores me. Its one of these things that distance, for me at least, seems to definately have an effect on how an incident touches me. If I were back home I probably would be going yes very sad next please. Here it has - not changed me - but definately it does make an emotional connection.

It is probably one of these mysterious ways that God has, that ensured there was no way I would be down there again - I was in Patong for a week in June. Our school basically only gave us the weekend of Christmas day off. Other schools I know have 2 or 3 weeks off. If I had that I would certainly have gone out of Bangkok somewhere.

But, I think, even if I had been I would have been ok as I probably would have had a hotel back on the 2nd road, I would probably have not left the hotel yet, I would probably have not been on the ground floor and probably I would not have been on the beach ( unless I had got some excursion that lasted a full day organised ). A lot of probablies I know. The scary thoguht is that if I had gone ot one of the smaller islands, the odds are I would have been in some little bamboo bungalow near the shore and well, given the sheer devastation I have seen on the likes of Phi Phi island, I dont know what would have happened.

Again the standard of english in the english language press releases shows no bottom.

" Pravit Janyasittikul, vice-president of marketing at Central Pattana Plc, the operator of Central World Plaza, said the company had called off its Bangkok Countdown 2005 New Year event. Instead, it has launched a relief programme called the ''Biggest Wave of Your Generosity'', which is now accepting donations."

http://www.bangkokpost.com/Business/29Dec2004_biz55.php

I mean did somebody not think that oh, we have just had the biggest Tsunami in 100 years, lets not call the campaign the "Biggest Wave" It just beggars belief sometimes this country. Did somebody somewhere not have a dictionary??

Since its happened the number of stories about the heroics and generosity of individuals show again that basically, we humans, can actually be human from time to time and stop all the bullshit that we think is important.

Its just a shame that we only tend to do it when the shit has hit the fan and not all the time.

Where ever you are, remember the most important things in life are ( in no particular order ) love, family, friends and health. Everything else is disposable.

Have a Good New Year and may it be better than this one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Super Teachers!

We have a guy in the office who started at the second semester and he comes over as basically a pompous ass who thinks he is better than everyone else.

He likes to think of himself as a great teacher because he does all this stuff with his kids. Hmm, the reality is he has got them doing all this flashy stuff creating diaramas and posters and what not with about 2 sentences of english. The rest of the time is taking up with colouring in, cutting up, gluing and so on and so on. In other words the kids love it and there is something flashy at the end of it to show off how busy he was but how much have they actually learned?

He also is a space hog - so the people sitting beside him come in to find his bag on their chair, his books / activities in their space and so on. He also bought two plastic "office tidy ups" for all his papers, pens and so on and so on, so they actually take up almost his entire space before anything else goes on. Fortunately I am not one of those beside him but those that are are pissed off. It may sound trivial but in a small staffroom personal space can be a big issue.

He is also apparently turning up late for classes, he comes out of classes quite a few times during lessons to come back to the staffroom to pick up stuff he "forgot" and so on and so on. We are supposed to be here at 7.50. He has decided off his own bat that as he doesnt start working til 9.30 or so some morning he will come in around 9! Now in theory, he is allowed 4 late arrivals before he is docked on of the 3 sick days we are allowed each semester.

And for me the worst thing that someone could possibly do - he noisily SLURPS his coffee!! EEUUUCCCHHH!!!

I would love to know if he has been spoken to about his time keeping. I wont hold my breath though.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Xmas & Some Stats

I hope everyone is having a happy Xmas Day where ever you are in the world and are not working - unlike me.

Apologies to Firefox users. For some reason the addition of the google search box at the bottom of the page has moved to the top of the right hand column. I have no idea why that is, it was fine a couple of days ago and it doesnt do that in IE. Hey Ho!

Some geeky stats for you now.

16% of you are using Firefox, 79% IE, 2% Mozilla, 1% each for Netscape and a couple of versions of Opera.

64% are using XP, 15% Windows 2000, 12% W98, 5% some variation of Mac OS ( I know who you are RickF! ), 1% unknown and 3% Windows Millenium.

Looking at where you are browsing from - as in domains its pretty mixed with compaq.com at 1%, navy.mil 2% ( Storekeeper is that you? ), ac.uk1%, eircom.net 1% and pc7at 6% is the biggest identifiable one. The majority arent trackable and just are classed as IP numbers - 43%.

According to Organisation tracking, I have got 53% tracked as IP addresses, 17% as .net, 13% as .com, 5% as .th, 3% as .uk, 2% as .mil, 2% as .fr, 2% as .ca, 1% as .no, 1% as .edu and 1% as .au

If you recognise yourself well done !

For some reason the 23rd is the most popular day to visit. Must go back and see what I posted on those days! November has been the most popular month.

Ah well. A whole day and a half holiday. Better go and enjoy it.

Keep Safe & Well.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Xmas Cheer In A Bangkok School

I would like to say there is some but basically there aint.

Too much uncertainty still abounds about what is happening next year. The agency still havent officially confirmed what is happening with the contract, if we will be offered new jobs at other schools etc etc.

Add to that this is a marking / report card week where we say ( or rather would like to ) in as many ways as possible that little Somchai is a lazy little shit who we would happily beat around the head until our hands bleed and that we have to perform for the head brothers a couple of christmas carols this afternoon like performing monkeys and that I am not sleeping properly for some reason the last couple of nights and for some reason the fact that I am not at home with my family for Xmas and that we dont get any Xmas holidays and in fact have to work on Xmas morning to attend the brilliantly timed Xmas fair set up by the school and that the are now playing Xmas tunes over the school loudspeakers and that I have a headache and you will probably guess that I am not really in the best of moods today.

What a wonderful Christian school we work at. No extra holidays for Xmas because Xmas day is on a Saturday and they make us work part of it to boot. Back to work as normal on Monday.

Wow. Thanks a lot guys.


UPDATE -

It turns out that tomorrow is a holiday after all. Oh yes, the agency knew 2 weeks ago that tomorrow would be a holiday. When did they tell us? This morning! Spastic power hungry fuckers who like to play little mind / power games to try and show who is in control. ( apologies to spastics )

Oh yes, out of the 18 teachers here, how many did the agency invite to the agency xmas party? Two. One of whom just started. So the rest of us who have been here, one year, two years or god forbid 3 years are not invited. And of course, they privately ask the invitees to try and keep the fact that there is a party secret.

And then they wonder why no one is happy.



Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Pretentious Teachers

Just how pretentious and arrogant are teachers?

The reason I am asking this is a conversation I heard last night in a bar in Silom. It consisted of four teachers, three of whom looked the earnest late 20s out to change the world types and one maybe middle 30s. I suppose that the conversation is a fairly harmless one but it was more the style than the content that had me nearly spilling my beer at times at the whole pretentiousness of it all. As they were talking about different subjects, I am again guessing they were in some English Program somewhere at a better school.

The heat of the discussion was, which is the most vital subject that is being taught today.

Now part of the trouble is that when you are trying to listen to a conversation you shouldn’t be and you are in a public place, you can’t really make it so obvious that you are trying to listen in. Also you tend to miss parts of the conversation.

I wonder if this is a common debate in staffrooms across the lands - my subject’s better than your subject! I really don’t know if they ever stopped to think about just how bad the conversation sounded from the outside. They can’t even have the excuse they were drunk because they weren’t, it was still early afternoon. I think maybe about after 40 minutes or so I gave up and went to another bar as they were still at it.

As ever, it seemed to be the history teacher that had the most to say, how people must learn the past so they don’t make mistakes in the future, the past has many lessons etc etc.
What is it about history teachers? All the ones I have known have loved the sound of their own voice. The last one I worked with was so opinionated that once I had learned the lesson, I never raised particular subjects, walked away when some came up or just went to sleep - mentally. Especially if he had drunk a few. It was then a case that you weren’t really in a conversation, you were in a lecture and you got lectured and any viewpoint was totally dismissed as worthless and you were thought of as an idiot.

But moving on, a lot of teachers here – especially in the “better” schools - do seem to be quite full of their own self importance. I have spoken to a few who seem convinced they were changing the world with the one hour or two a week they see their kids, for how the kids loved them and would press their little faces again the glass window of the classroom eager to get it and learn from them.

It may be different for some people, but I didn’t have a particular teacher that did that to me at school. Sure, there were teachers I respected because they knew their stuff and made it interesting but me running up to the door to press my little face against the classroom door? Please, pass the sick bucket.

The teachers at the lower end seem to have a much better expectation of what impact they have. They know that maybe they will get one or two kids that pay attention in a class or want to learn quietly and maybe just maybe they can pass some encouragement onto the kids. The rest? Well, do your best and hope they will shut up once in a while and maybe one or two will remember you in six months time. The only reason these kids might run up to the classroom window is because they know the will get to play games and run around all lesson.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

American Insensitivity

Its been a while since I have had a rant about some of the others teachers. So today seems a good one after what happened.

We have 5 pcs in the staffroom. Four of which the teachers use and one for the Thai assistants. They are both female and relatively young – mid / early 20s. One of them in particular has really good English, as in she understands about 90% of what we talk about, can make a very good guess of another 5% and will make a reasonable stab at the rest.

For most of today, the internet access was down. But around lunchtime Cleric found out that the pc used by our thai assistants still had access. It seems that the school system administrators have been playing around with the network settings to deny us access. Why this is, I have no idea. Maybe its one of these things they are doing to show even more that they don’t want us or they need the bandwidth for something or whatever I have no idea. Anyway, Cleric starts complaining about it and how "we need our porn" and "fucking this" and "fucking that" and on and on. In some ways a bit understandable if it was just the guys who had been around, after all, I am not adverse to a bit of juicy language at times.

The trouble is that the two Thai assistants were there and very much in earshot.

But it gets worse. As you may remember, Cleric is an ex IT guy, so what does he do? He changes the network settings of on one pc so he can get on the internet. He of course doesn’t offer to do it for anyone else. Nah, that would mean he was thinking of someone else for a change. When someone else from his teaching group saw that, he asked Cleric to change the settings on another pc. Fair enough. Then the fun begins. This other teacher started surfing and opened up a web site that had… well err…. pictures that could only be described as porn. So, Cleric saw this and went to the same site. Now to the bit that gets me into the disbelieving stage. They were on two ajoining pc’s with one of our printers in between. Using the printer at that time was one of our Thai assistants. It just so happens that one of the models has a name similar to our assistant. They then unbelievably make a loud comment about the similarity.

So lets recap. At lunchtime in the staffroom ( admittedly all male teachers ), which both Thai staff and students sometimes come into, two teachers were looking at porn while our two young female assistants were in the office, not only that, they were looking at it on two pcs while she was using a printer in between them!

Sheer and absolute stupity!!!

It gets worse. Our boss – the FUD - actually saw that and was laughing about it afterwards.

OK, lets review again. He sees two teachers, looking at porn while a female Thai assistant is beside a pc and he thinks it’s a joke.

I do not know, if he has actually spoken to or intending to speak to these two or not. But, I mean for gods sake, how about some discipline?

How about some common sense? How about some thought for the feeling of
a) the setting – during the day where students, Thai teachers and administrators could come in
b) the setting – where our two young female staff are in the office
c) the setting – where one of them is actually BESIDE the pc where they are looking at porn
d) not swearing in front of women – I know that’s a bit old fashioned but…

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of Cleric lack of thought and feeling for others. A few weeks ago, he was complaining about having to live in an apartment that costs 10,000 baht a month to one of the other teachers over in one area of the office. Just listening to him whine was bad enough, but, he was sitting at the Thai assistants desk and one of them was sitting there.

So to recap, he was complaining about having to live in a hovel that costs as much per month as the girl gets in her monthly salary ( if not more ). I mean how would you like it if some fat arsed foreigner who gets 4 times your salary complaining about having to live in some “poor” place that costs your monthly salary. I know I wouldn’t like it, but she is far too polite to complain.

What she must say in private, I have no idea but I can guess it wont be good. All these rich falang who dont care what they say or do, look at porn....... Thank you for making the stereotypical English teacher image stronger than ever.

The sooner this guy fucks off back to yank land with his little trophy girlfriend the better. Apparently the plan is they will live in an area where there are lots of Thais and she will teach Thai. Hmmm. Potential problem here I think. Perhaps if there are lots of Thai people they can already speak Thai? There is a great suspicion that basically once she gets over there and finds out that there are far more handsome, just as rich and thinner Americans, he could be in for a very miserable time. If this sounds like jealousy, I suppose in a little way it is as I don’t have a regular girlfriend and seen how she licks an ice cream ;) but it sure saves a lot of hassle in other ways!!

Anyway, back to the topic. I struggle to find the ways in which what happened was so wrong. Fuckwit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Thai Kids and Exam Attitudes

Back to the wicked world of exams this week. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

We are only giving two exams just now, a Reading & Writing one and a Listening one. That’s a laugh, them listening. The chance would be a fine thing.

So far, it’s gone pretty much as expected with the usual blank stares, the no hoper efforts and the finished teacher cries after what seems like only 2 minutes from the bright ones. Add in the usual pathetic attempts at teaching, I mean they are not even bright enough to try and copy when I am not looking or more than 1 yard away from their desk!

One thing that was thumped into me at school and especially by my mother - sometimes literally - was the concept of " if you don’t know, put something down and hope you get credit for it anyway" especially in the likes of mathematics where I wasn’t that brilliant, I always ended up putting something down to show what I was trying to do before I got stuck or in the yes / no questions at least a guess. Who knows how many marks I got ( not enough, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Boom Boom! )

But its crazy the number of kids who just give up and put nothing down, just dashes. I have already started marking and if in a block of 5 questions that they have really got wrong, they will get 0 of course, but if they have made an attempt and by strict marking they would get 0, I am sometimes giving them 1 mark or so depending on how close they were.

One of the sections is about using must or mustn't
the gap sentences are
You --------- feed the animals
You -------- touch the animals
You -------- buy a ticket
You -------- put litter in the bin.

The number who are getting these wrong are scary considering this was only taught two weeks ago. It also maybe explains the number of kids and adults in Thailand who lose limbs or have parts bitten off as they try and touch the nice cuddly lion and oh what big teeth it has. Nice rabid doggy! What do you mean don’t cross the green and brown wirezzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We got told off today because a lot of us are doing marking in the classroom while kids are doing their exam or after they have finished it. Oooh that’s right, the kids might actually find out what their real scores are rather than their pretend wishy washy grade zones are. Of course we can’t let that happen.

I hope that they don’t think we are stupid enough to let the kids see the answers on our desks as we are marking, Nah, probably another control tactic to give us something to do next week when the kids have their Thai exams. As well as writing their mid term progress reports. Then in, oh say February we are marking their full term exams and in March we are writing their full year reports. Talk about overkill. Purlease!

If it actually mattered and anyone took a blind bit of notice about what they said then fine, but they don’t so what’s the point of all the paper work? Control tactics from the agency again, so we look busy and industrious.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Learning Thai

Do we do it? I mean of course learning thai. Err..... the majority, if we are honest will actually say no to this.

The vast majority merely stumble along with maybe 50-60 odd words that we spout out in the hope that they actually mean something and particularly something actually relevent to the conversation you are having.

Probably the biggest barrier is the tones. If you havent got a good ear, words sound exactly the same with a falling, mid, high, rising, low tone or anyother way of saying the blasted word. A lot of times, I just give up and revert to the pointing, mumbling state of tourist terror when they dont understand me. Other times in the 5 ways I say the word I accidently say it with the right inflexion and tone and they understand or someone is listening and they repeat the word to the general nodding of heads and understanding of the person I was speaking to. The trouble is, it sounded exactly like the way I was saying it.

Sometimes, I think it is actually a great conspiracy that Thais have just to make fun of the falang. They just want a bit of fun at the foreigners expense.

The thing of course is confidence. Too many times, we write in our report cards so and so lacks confidence to speak. But what do we do when we have a chance to speak thai? We mumble and stumble or just rely on their English. Not exactly a great example. But, unless I get a fire under my butt and put some effort into learning it properly, I am probably going to continue the same way, picking up a couple of words here and there and maybe in 20 years I will have the Thai level of a 5 year old!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Its getting cold in Bangkok!

Hard to believe really but it is now feeling pretty cold here in Bangkok.

There have been a couple of times where I have turned off the air con in the classroom and just had the fan on. Its funny watching the kids in their home rooms and the whole logic than goes on here. It seems to be that as soon as the thermometer drops below 30 degrees the kids start wearing jackets and sweatshirts to keep warm. Crazy. Its also the case that they dont seem to be able to regulate the air con thermostat. It just seems to be on or off.

This is true out in the real world as well. So often you see people working with jackets on. Why? Because they are cold. How about changing the air con settings? Cannot do. Err why? Dont know. As usual the double edged sword of living in this country.

Its actually got so cold at night I have put a blanket on the bed. Remarkable considering usually I dont even sleep beneath a sheet. And the stone floor of my living room is so cold that I have to wear socks or put slippers on to keep my feet warm! Good grief, any more of this and it will almost feel like home. I suppose in a couple of months when the hot season starts again I will be looking back at this time with a sense of nostalgia wishing it was colder.

Every so often, I do a little search on google and yahoo and so on, just to see where this site is in their search results. I got a pleasant surprise today to find out I have been mentioned on gadling which is a travelling blog for enagaged travellers. Hmm, not quite sure what that means but hey, more exposure for me. http://www.gadling.com/entry/1234000027021191

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The run up to exams

Here we are once again in the run up to exams next week and what happens? Its a 2 day teaching week. Just the thing to help the kids prepare dont you think.

A combination of the Kings Birthday, Sports Day and Constitution Day result in vastly reduced hours. I suppose I shouldnt complain but its that old professionalism nagging at the back of my mind again. I really have to get rid of it. Its interfering with my attempts not to give a damm.

At the moment, I am sitting in an internet cafe and boys from the nearest Mathayom school have either cut classes or they have reduced hours as well as they are currently shouting their heads off over Counter Strike which leaves with me a wish that I had a baseball bat or a shotgun with a good supply of shells or indeed both. Oh yes, and earplugs. Just see what I think about noise in a previous rant. I loved the game POSTAL, just the thing to relieve stress by kicking anything living and blowing away the shopkeeper as they charged you too much for a can of coke. ( I will momentarily forget about the big video card requirement this game has and the other drawbacks )

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thai School Activities

The month of December is filled full of outings, cheering rehearsals ( yes they do get to rehearse how to cheer ), Xmas practice, sports day practice, pratice practice activites and so on and so on.

You soon begin to wonder if the kids can do anything without practising - sorry reality check, no they couldnt.

This has a both pleasant and unpleasant side - doesnt everything? Pleasant side first, well of course, they need time to do all this practice so we dont see the little darlings for as much as usual. Today it worked out I had only one lesson, goodie goodie :) But the unpleasant is really really unpleasant. Our staff room is just about directly above one of the area they have cheering practice in and song practice and anything that involves the kids singing loudly, someone playing a bass drum and an out of tune Thai teacher with microphone leading the song on. At the moment its roughly the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In, so its boom, boom, da daa da daa, boom da da da daa, boom da da daa daa da da daa

There should be a law passed that says anyone who cannot hold a tune or a note for more than 1 second should be banned from singing and the sentence must be immediate execution. That would stop things quite nicely and probably decimate the worlds pop industry as well. Added Bonus !!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bizzare Sights at School

A few days off due to non internet connectivity at home & work and sheer lazyness to go to a internet cafe resulted in the little break in postings. But I am back BWWAAAAHHHAAAHHAAA!

Earlier today one of my classes was lining up inside their homeroom and their homeroom teacher had just basically fucked off as usual wanting as little interaction with the horrid falang as possible. I thought about opening the door but thought the better of it as they have as little common sense as, well, a thing with very little common sense.

With this particular class even when I ( we the falang ) am in charge of lining them up from a break and sending them into their rooms to get their books and line up again outside its chaos. They always want to battle against each other and go against the prevailing tide so that they can push, shove, thump, bodycheck their way into and out of the classroom unless I physically hold them back or tell / shout to them to again wait until everyone is in the room.

Today it was like a cork coming out a champagne bottle, out they all ran without looking and I unfortunately mistimed getting out the way and they ran yelling and screaming and pushing out of the room. Over, through and a couple I think made it around me. The result was I had footprints and marks on my shoes and somehow on my trousers. If a Thai teacher hadnt been coming down the corridor I would have given those little swine sweet merry hell. She just gave them a looks could kill glance and they shut up. Another example of the level of respect and attention the kids give us and Thai teachers.

And onto bizarre sights, walking to a class at lunchtime today, I was greeted with 5 boys in a corridor in a line spaced about 2 yards apart. Two teachers were there talking to them. A bit strange I thought, maybe the boys were bad and were being punished. Errr, no. Walking a bit more I saw another kid with a football dribbling between the boys to practice his football skills!!! Add to that the number of other boys just moving between classes it was somewhat a surreal sight. No, it wasnt raining and no I have no idea why they could do it down in the playground with cones.

has it really got to the stage where boys are cheaper than traffic cones?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Boring Days

Well, this week so far has been fairly boring with not much happening.

It seems like the school are stepping up there anti falang teacher mode with us being not invited to more and more ceremonies. Not that I care but its just reinforcing the feeling amonst the teachers here that well if they dont care why should we. And that is showing itself in the teaching. I havent really done that mich this week. Just basic pupil book /tape and then the workbook. Fairly low energy for me and it doesnt seem to matter to the kids what I do. They get bored with the good stuff, talk during the good stuffmuck around as much in the good stuff as they do in the dull stuff. So for the bad classes unfortunately thats what they are going to get. For the ones that try I will still try to get them more interesting stuff to do and teach them extra bits. For the rest - sod them.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Thailand And Deafness

To be fair its not just the youth, everyone who comes to Thailand and especially Bangkok will have experienced the pain of sheer deafening volume at some point or another.

There have been many times I have been sitting in a internet cafe and had to leave because of the hellish noise that has been coming from the pcs and the ( mainly ) boys who are playing half life or counter strike or ragnarok or any other on line game and who are shouting at each other over the noise of the sound effects - of course then they cant hear the sound effects so turn the volume up so have to shout louder to hear each other so............ Walk down the street and you are assaulted by cd vendors, mosques, shops, bars, buses, sales vans of one sort or another all with loudspeakers and or microphones.

Add in the noise from tuk tuks, buses, motorbikes, trucks, cars and people you are struggling to find a moments peace and quiet. Even in one of the few parks in Bangkok you cant really find peace as somebody somewhere will be yelling to their friend, playing karaoke or there will be something somewhere breaking the peace.

Maybe thats why the classrooms are battlegrounds as well in the war of noise and why the kids feel the need to communicate at top volume rather than speaking to each other.

Nothing in this country can be subtle, tourist buses ( I might upload a picture of one later :) ) are painted in the some of the most garish paint jobs possible purples, reds, blues, greens, whites, oranges..... and thats just the front! and of course there is a 1000gigawatt stereo or band at the back of each bus pumping out music.

Go into any bar with a live band and the music tends to be an 11 on the volume scale of 10. Why I dont know because you just hear volume rather than the band. An evening of shouting to talk to someone is not my idea of a good time but it obviously is someones as that is the norm rather than an exception. And another thing they stupidly do is put the band on at the same time as the football! WHY ???

But to get back to the original question, there must be a huge number of deaf or nearly deaf here because of this. And they are creating so many more its scary.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Blogging and The Nature Of Blogs

Change of pace here as I have calmed down from that last major rant. :)

Why do people Blog? Someone asked me that last night and I suppose its for the reasons that everyone thinks of - to record thoughts, to get revenge on people/companies by outing their stupidity, as a way of keeping in touch with friends/relatives if they are in other countries or like me you are just too lazy to write to them individually! And of course the one I do it for - as a form of mental therapy, a release valve for the frustrations that steam me up.

Then of course some that are not so obvious - immmortality, fame, ego and so on. And yes I do admit, there is a little bit of egotism at work when I ramble on here. And thats why I been listing the Blog in some Blog directories. Its at the same time pleasing and worrying that I am getting as many people as I do to read my rantings. Whats even more worrying is that some people not only agree with them but also enjoy reading them! Strange people!!!

In the few short months I have been doing this, I have had about half the number of visitors than I have had on my own web site which has been going for 3 years. Now that is scary. No, I am not going to tell you what the address is, as its for an entirely different audience. My mother would blush at some of the contents here! I basically wanted a place i could record more thoughts and happenings about the school where I work and the agency I work for. There is some crossover in content but actually not that much as the personal site is more general thoughts, feelings, happenings and photos.

How long will I do it? I suppose like everything in life, it will be until I get tired of it and gradually it will fade away and die as people realise that it is no longer active.

Anyway, thats the mad rambling for today over, time for lunch !

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I suppose it is the nature of irony and fate that as soon as you do or post something positive or something good happens, something to pull you back down occurs, ying and yang, pleasure and pain and karma and and and……

By nature I am an easy going sort of person, level headed and normally a lot of things don’t really get to me. That’s not to say things don’t annoy me, they do. Of course reading this Blog you know that don’t you!

This week however, I have had some of the worst classes I have had in a long long time that have just flipped me right to the edge. Firstly a Prathom 2 class with one of the brightest boys I have in either 2 or 3. This was the last class of the day. Right from the word go they were not settling down in the line-up outside their classroom. On the way up it took the usual crawling pace and waits every floor to make sure the stragglers weren’t too far behind. Then lining up outside my class they continued the theme.

Inside the class the theory is that the walk into the room in silence giving me a bow of respect as they walk in, they then sit down in silence and then when I enter the room they stand up and say in unison "good morning/afternoon teacher" etc. In practice however, they continued to talk and despite me trying to get them quiet there were still a couple of talkers. I thought OK, lets get on with it so did the good afternoon routine but some decided to howl like dogs on the "how are you?" section and it came out "how are yooouuuuuuu?" So I told them off for that and tried again, it was a little better this time, so I tried again – 3rd time lucky it was ok and we started the lesson.

The talking continued and got worse and worse to the point I couldn’t hear the people who were supposed to speak so I got them to stand up and be quiet. No joy, I got them to put their hands on their hands and they still were talking and doing little dances and playing with the chairs and desks. I would tell one person to be quiet and they would nod their head, I would turn away and they would start again. Now at this point, ( in no particular order ) shouted at them, looked at them, towered over them, banged a desk with a board eraser, switched the lights on and off, glowered at them collectively and individually, stood in silence at the front, used body language, gestures ( no not that one but I wished I had ! ) just about everything short of slapping them hard. Now I must admit to sometimes flicking their ears or popping the marker pen on them to get their attention or to get them to stop doing whatever – nothing too violent, promise! So escalation time, I threatened to turn off the air con. They still wouldn’t be quiet so the air con went off. They still wouldn’t be quiet so the worst two offenders went onto their knees and then they were followed by another two. And so the last 20 minutes of the lesson passed. I think I got about 10 minutes of actual teaching time, maybe even less.

A day goes by then it turns out, the kids have gone and complained to the parents who then complained to the school about the amount of punishment I give them! If anyone should be complaining, it should be me about the amount of mental punishment they give me never mind me to them. If for once they would just shut the hell up and listen, I would even for just them shutting up and letting me teach the ones who want to be taught it would be great. Amongst my crimes apparently are constantly turning the air con off, getting them to stand on chairs, hitting them, keeping them late after class and after school………From the report card I should get them to sing more songs, get them to talk more, concentrate more, write more, help them out more, play more games……… Well, yes I would love to do these things but unless they shut the feck up how can I explain the game, the language, the song, the drawing, the cutting up, the insert activity here.

What is really getting my goat is that the kids will now know I can’t do anything, I can’t punish them at all. The air con was the greatest threat I could use and that has gone – the most ironic thing is that on that day the actual temperature rose in the room only about 5 degrees from start to finish as it was already unusually cool for an afternoon anyway. I would love to get a hold of the parents and tell them exactly why I did those things, I would love to tell them that their little darling is an immoral, vacuous, wilful, ignorant, rude, stupid little shit who gives no respect to the teacher, no respect to the school, no respect to the other people in the class who want to learn and see what they say.

The amount of complaints we get from parents and the school are just unreal, we get accused of hitting them every lesson, of touching them ( no, not in that way ), kicking them, our fingernails are too long, we don’t dress respectfully, we drink and eat in the school corridors, we are too loud, we collect the kids too soon, too late, we return them too soon, too late,…. and then we get onto how we teach them………………….

If we treated the kids the same way the Thai teachers do, we would be hitting them with rulers or slapping them with our hands on their hands, arms, legs, backs…. at the slightest provocation. Do they get complaints? No, of course not, they are Thai and we are just dirty farang who don’t know any better and should all go home as we are overpaid, drunken whoremongers and hate Thais and Thailand.

Now to top it all today I had another P2 class that just wouldn’t be quiet, wouldn’t stop talking and for the first time in a long time I was actually angry and showed it. All my previous outbursts where just acting and for show. It got to the point where I ranted about them wasting my time, their time, their parents money etc etc etc, no that it will do any good and I got them to sit in absolute silence for the last 20 minutes of the class. No doubt that will be complained about as well.

Then in a P3 class today, I had one kid sitting at the front of the class today because he was talking and every now and again I had a reaction from the remaining kids as if he was doing something and then I caught him. He was bending over as if to smell my bottom and smelling it, then holding his nose and waving his hand in front of it and pulling a face as though I smelt bad. Needless to say I was not a happy camper and I went totally ballistic at him. Nobody anywhere should be able to get away with doing that without consequences. I do not care if his parents complain because if they do I will tell them exactly why but then that only works in a logical country. They will probably back up their little darling against the big hairy smelly farang. The one thing is that I did tell a couple of people about it afterwards so no one can say I just made up that story to save my skin if the crunch does come.

Why is this happening? Am I losing my tolerance for their bad behaviour, is their behaviour getting worse and worse? I don’t know and at the moment, I don’t really care. Some of the other teachers are also complaining about the P2s and other classes as well since the break, so its not just me feeling it. I am so tempted to just give up on the P2s, I really am. But this is still in the heat of the moment hours after the happening and what I need is a break from them – which is another possible reason. We are in the semester when the routine is broken up with trips, holidays, activities and so on and so on. And that’s what these kids need – routine to build some sort of discipline. After all, it seems that not very many get any at home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Old Life Back Home and The New Life In Bangkok

Looking again at the http://www.ajarnforum.net/phpbb/portal.php ajarn forum I saw today the return of an even older cynic than I am.

But one who is seemingly incapable of reconciling the fact that he is no longer here and has returned back to the UK. Depending on which version he types he was happy here but became disillusioned so returned back or he had to leave as he couldn't cope with the lifestyle or he wanted to go back to improve his chances of getting a "proper" teaching job out here. I give you Smeg/Dunkin Donut/Inquisition/Smegma and maybe about 10 other incarnations.

So I thought maybe it was time for a bit of comparison with here and hom.

Home - the job was a good one with a pretty dad good salary for the area with a blue chip company. But I was working 10-14 hours ( plus maybe 1-3 hours traveling time a day for a boss who would pick on the smallest mistake I made and build it into a mountain and when things did go right, I was lucky. I had my own 1 bedroom flat, a car, usually 2 foreign holidays a year plus other little weekend trips. Unfortunately towards the end, I was probably not far short of having either a mental or physical collapse because of what he was doing. During the week, I went to work, I came home and eat and went to sleep. Unless I made a real effort to do something I had no energy or will to go out again.

Bangkok - I have a 1 bedroom apartment very near the school, I don't have a car because the combination of the BTS, MRT ( underground), taxis and buses all fill my needs. I have made as many friends here as I did at home. I go to quiz nights, the pub, movies, watch football ( albeit on tv) etc more regularly here than I ever did at home on around 4 times the salary and I am still saving some money each month.

For all the frustrations about the job I post here, I know it is just a job and I leave them all behind when I go home or at least until I leave the pub bitching about them and I am far better off than I was on a personal level than back in the other country.

Am I better off professionally ? Tough one but one that I have thought about so I am actually doing more university credits through distance learning whilst I am here so the brain doesn't get completely pickled though alcohol and lack of use. Hopefully this will stand me in good stead to either get a me a better job here or show employers at home that I haven't just been out here drinking, partying and having my wicked way with lots of women ( even if I have ;) ).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Thai Kids and Time Wasting In Class

I dont really remember doing as much of this in my school days even in the classes I didnt like but lets see how many you recognise.

Although officially I have to teach a 50 minute lesson, I often find that actually I sometimes teach as little as 10 minutes a lesson or on a good day about 35 minutes.


This wastage time is made up of the following - now remember, I have to collect the kids from their classroom and take them to my classroom.

In the homeroom
Writing down homework from the board from the previous class
Playing in the lineup
Going to the toilet
Dropping notebooks / pencilcases on the way out
Tieing shoelaces ( that do or dont need it )
Forgetting something and going back into the class to get it

In my classroom or on the way
Insisting that the broken pencil stub is the only one that they can write with as it is lucky
Chatting with friends
Insisting bringing everything from their homeroom they could possibly need for the class and then not find the thing they actually need or take10 minutes to find it in in the bag
Ignoring you - even from 1 yard away. It falls into different varients - the total ignoring or the ( this is the most annoying to me) saying yes to your instruction then immediately going back to whatever they were doing before you interrupted them.
Hiding under the desk
Hiding in a cupboard
Hiding under the chair
Crawling on the floor
Pushing the book / notebook / pencil / ruler onto the floor to retrieve it
Sharpening the pencil so that a brand new pencil instantly becomes 1 inch long - I hid all the electric pencil sharpeners in the room the moment I saw them.
Not noticing that I am walking away with the front of the class so 20 kids can be spread out over 3 floors until they notice I am not there and of course run at full speed knocking over everything and anyone or falling over. Or not caring and just wandering along in their own good time ( more likely )Needing 4 of your friends to help you sharpen your pencil / open your book / tie your shoelace
Making "funny" comments when you are trying to teach so getting me to tell you off and stopping me teaching ( it depends on my mood if I ignore them or not ! ) Other ones in this variety are - playing the desk / pencil case / the head in front as a drum with a ruler / pencil
Playing with the pencilcase and its built in game of pinball / football / mini whiteboard
Looking at another page in the book
Drawing in the notebook
etc etc etc

Monday, November 15, 2004

Assorted Gripes and Ajarn.com

A new week and its the same as ever.

Last week they repainted the basketball court in the playground, very nice it looks now too. And today we found out why. The school held a Basketball Tornament at the weekend - as if they might want to do any maintenance just for the hell of it. Nah its all about face again.

It seems that once again, whoever the sad git is has done it again. What do I mean? Somebody is hacking the forum of http://www.ajarn.com I wish I knew who it was so I could twat the guy ( I assume it is a guy ). Last year there were some real personality clashes going on and most people have a suspcicion that whoever is doign this now was on the receiving end of a lot of flaming on the board or seriously disliked the management of ajarn and over the last few months has made it their mission to hack the board again and again. If it were my board, I probably would have given up by now but the guys there have and are going to persevere. Guys - I wish you luck. I really hope the board keeps going as it is a great source of information to teachers here.

OK, cant let a post go by without slagging off someone so here we go. The two new teachers in our teaching group dont really seem to care too much about discipline - which is a bit strange because one of them used to work here before so he should know whats needed. But they seem to be quite happy to let the kids go back to the classrooms on their own ( we are supposed to escort them to and from the rooms ) and dont care if the kids follow them or not. We had a situation today where I was leading my kids passed theirs ( outside the kids classrooms ) and they suddenly decided to start moving their classes as well! The net result was there were 60 kids all mixed up together instead of being in threee separate groups. Talk about chaos! A little bit of thought would have gone down great there.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Semester Activities

We are now into the 2nd week of teaching here and the usual amount of non classroom activities are starting to kick in.

Whether its for a football tournement, day outing, scout camp or whatever. It always seems to be the 2nd semester is the one thats broken up. Depending on the timetable, this can reduce the number of classes taught in a day to 0 or you could be unlucky and they are all scheduled on days where you dont see the little blighters and have a full complement to teach.

Given that we have only 6 weeks teaching in the semester its a bit wild with virtually every week effected in some way or another with activities or holidays or exams from now until March.

At the staff meeting last week, it was even suggested by the FUD that we might not get a day off for Xmas because it falls on a Saturday this year ( as does New Years ). Given that this is superficially a Christian school thats a bit of a laugh. I suspect we will get a substitution day but he either hasnt asked about it or doesnt know.

Teaching here ( or maybe more acurately what passes for teaching here ) is progressing along with the kid not really paying too much attention to anything thats going on apart form what their friend is telling them or making jokes at the teachers expense. Its one reason I would really liek to learn Thai - to catch these little asides the kids make. At the moment, I just bluff them into thinking I do know what they said and the majority of time it works but some day they will realise I know less Thai than they know English!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fatal Fatalism & Work Permits

Well, here we are and we have just got the minutes of the meeting. Surprise surprise, there is nothing about losing the contract and we will probably be out of a job next year ( the agency is big enough to probably offer a job at another school it has contracts for but the pay / hours may be different ).

The strange thing is, they are now starting to try to do things properly round here ie checking when we start - 4 times late equals one absence - 3 absences equals no more free sick days and its a 2000 Baht a day fine after that. Strange, they are more focused on that than people leaving early - although we did get told we have to tell the FUD if we are leaving the school for anything apart form lunch. HA! The problem with my timetable is that I actually teach every last period of the day, so I dont get away early.

Given the option, I would like to arrive later than I do but people were complaining about teachers turning up late ( but still in time to teach ). Funny thing is, these are the same people who can and do go away early as they have no classes in the afternoons. Hmm they coplain about people coming in 20,30 minutes late yet they go 3 hours before the end of the school day. Hmmmmmm!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Management Bullshit With Contracts

Our agency had a 3 year contract with this school ending this year. Rumours have been floating round for the last year or so about whether it would be extended or not. On Sunday the Bilingual Program teachers were in doing prep work for the new semester and they had a meeting.

The meeting said the agency had lost the contract and they would be taking over our staff room ( as they are expnading another year upwards ) and another agency would be coming in and the they will be sharing the thai teachers staffrooms.

Obviously as we have friends in the program word soon got out and by Tuesday it was the talk of the staffroom but no word yet from our agency. Wednesday no word, or wait a minute, maybe there would be a staff meeting. Yes there would be one on Friday. Today comes along and we have it. Our lunch is 11.25 - 12.55 or depending on what level you teach 11.55 - 12.55. The meeting is scheduled for 12.00. The minutes drift by and at 12.15 we start the meeting. The cynically minded are thinking mmm good waste of time so far, lets see how they spin the message.

1st item up - trivial
2nd item up - trivial
3rd item up - trivial

then the baited breath

And to paraphrase

" this may be of interest to those wanting to stay in thailand or with the agency"
Eh?
"you may have heard negative reports about the contract and probably they are true" WHAT??
" negotitations are still ongoing and we have a final meeting to go to, to get a final decision. They ( the school) want to change what they want next year and I dont think anyone will want to do it"
OK, tell us the changes then.
" well its about working in October, teaching more but I dont think we will get the contract"
Ok, give us the details. We are here on stupid training for two weeks in October anyway so...
" If any one wants to get the full details they can come and see me"
" Current contracts not affected blah blah, we have contracts with other schools and can always use teachers with good records and attitudes blah blah....."
But the bilingual teachers have been told we arent coming back and are moving into our staffroom.
" oh, they have jumped the gun, its not definite yet!"

EH!!!! This has been the worst way I have ever been told that effectively I have been fired. Lets review. Other teachers in another program were told before we were. They have even seen plans of our refurbished staffroom! During almost the entire first couple of minutes our FUD was delivering the news with his head looking down into the noteboard he had and was mumbling about we had had a final decision yet and not to worry because good people will be kept on...... yes, those who dont rock the boat and tow the line. Hmmm Sniff Sniff, I smell BULLSHIT!

In a way the worst thing is that when I found out the other teachers knew before I did, I wasnt actually upset. Thats how immune I have become to this countrys and this agencys way of working. Back home a union would have gone ballistic!

We supposedly will have a concrete answer by the end of this month. I wont hold my breath. Maybe 2 1/2 years is too long in one school in Thailand and it is time to move on. My greatest concern is not finsing a job its my visa and work permit situation. I dont want to go through the whole visa run to get a non imm b to jump through hoops with the MOE .... again. Our contracts are due up on March 31 which means the WP and visa is valid til then as well ( at least according to some folk, other say different and others say different again but any way it is.... I dont want it )

I had hoped to go back home for a holiday in April but know I might be running around trying to sort out a decent job and or my visa. No point trying to organise one now as the only schools who hire this far in advance are true international ones who want fully accredited teachers which I am not - just a degree and a TESOL man me. ( but if anyone knows of a job starting May next year and paying 50k+ please let me know, pretty please with honey on top ! )

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Blackbored Jungle - The Return

Dearie dearie me. Back at the old chalkface and within 30 minutes I was wishing I was somewhere else - again.

You go away, recharge the battery and sanity levels and come back in the vain hope that in the few weeks that they haven't seen you that the kids have grown matured and got an extra brain cell between them. Not a chance of course but one can live in hope.

It seems that all the hired replacements ( if in fact we did have them all - ooops that's the cynical old me showing up again this early in the semester, not a good sign) didn't turn up and we are still one short. Well, if you had the choice of teaching Prathom 1s & 2s from Little Cleric, would you take it on? I have successfully avoided doing any cover teaching for his classes because I know they will be absolutely out of control. Just about everyone who has covered his classes has said they are horrible.

One problem has been because big Cleric has lost his little pal, he is spending more time in the staffroom which means more time he is on the pc and no one else can get on.

Add to that the American election for the last few days and his motor mouth has been going non stop. One unfortunate teacher who has now left ran into him and his little helpless girlfriend on Koh Chang. AAARRRGGHHHH!! Now that would be a nightmare from hell. But then he doesn't like me anyway so probably we would keep a civil distance away - well I would try and just move to the next resort!

A rumor is floating round the office saying our agency has lost the contract for this school from next April. How did we find out? The bilingual program teachers got told on Sunday and then told us. A meeting is planned for tomorrow and we will supposedly get told about it then. Hmmmm sniff sniff I smell bullshit coming.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I Can See The Pub From Here!

The last day passed without major excitement and it was as predicted, a mainly teacher run session with only a very little input from the trainer. But at least we finally got a handout!

So last day of term and it was celebrated in the traditional manner of going out and getting totally slaughtered straight from work.

Enjoy the holidays folks and see you whenever as I wont be posting much here, down the fact that I will be somewhere better than in front of a computer screen. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Almost Last Day Of Term - Yipee!

OK, something a little different this time, it’s a little competition. Lets see how many you can get.

These are all initials of methodologies of teaching

PPP,ARC, OHE, III, ESA, CLT, TBL, CLL, TPR

I will even throw in a little prize if you get them all. Todays’ training was much the same with basically the teachers training ourselves with different delivery methods. Hey ho. At least it’s the last day tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Teacher Training -Methodolgies

Today was another day that was for me and many others a waste of time receiving unfocused and superficial training.

We went into the room to be met with a whole load of initials on the whiteboard and are then asked over the next 15 minutes to guess what teaching approaches they represented. WTF?? Can anyone see the value in this, apart from to waste time and to possibly once again prove the intellect of the instructor and the ignorance of the audience? Indeed that very question of what’s the point was raised ( what's the point ) and the response was this is what we are covering today. Ok, very good but why not just write them up on the board or prepare a hand out or something that would have been more productive? It would have saved 15 minutes of no idea, don’t know responses.

For the next 2 and a half hours we had the Readers Digest condensed guide to TEFL teaching. Mainly from the teachers not the trainer. He gave out a sheet with a brief description of a method to groups and then the groups had to give a 5 minute presentation. Err, ok and do we get an overall summary handouts at the end? No, have we been given anything to keep and refer to later? No. Can we take any notes? Well yes, but the notes would be based on another teachers 15 minutes of reading one sheet of paper about a method. Not a proper course researched, compiled and delivered by a teacher trainer and which you could refer back to at a later date. Again nor was the content really focused on how to adapt it to the specific needs of the different age groups and situations. Just the we will throw everything up in the air and we rely on you to decide and pick out what is or what is not useful to you.

Is this better than no training at all? Yes, it is but not by much. It is so superficial, ill conceived, unfocused and unprepared that to actual concentrate for the whole period and mine for the golden nuggets that you can use is very very difficult.

Tomorrow brings the promise of more activities that are presented as being “learner centred” but in reality are ones where they have thought what else can we do to keep them occupied and save as much work as possible for us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Teacher Training Part 3

So, onto todays training.

More people arrived from the others schools that work for the agency so we have almost 30 people there who range from Prathom 1 to Mathayom 6 teachers.

Gander is doing the training today and its all about techniques. OK I think could be useful and he starts. He then does a 50 minute lesson entirely in Turkish and tells a story. We are supposed – in groups, again after being sorted into different groups - to write the story down in Turkish, translate it into English and note the techniques used.

If you have been in a CELTA, TESOL course you will probably have gone through this exercise one to demonstrate the difficulties of new learners and ways of learning etc. On my course the actual demonstration was about 15 minutes long and involved the Quizennaire (?) Rods and we did colours and numbers. After that we moved onto discussing the points raised and ways to overcome them.

Today the foreign language section lasted 50 minutes. Yup, 50 minutes of him “acting” and talking Turkish. Then we talked about the translation and then some of the techniques. All in, this lasted 3 hours. 3 hours that could and should have been condensed into around 50 minutes to 1 hour of focused activity. Instead it was one long rambling mess that most people were bored of after 10 minutes. Then he makes the point that he knows that “we are unmotivated and uninterested and that we didn’t want to be there because it’s the end of term so how do we think the students feel?” yes, we are unmotivated because, you aren’t a proper trainer, it’s the end of term, its unfocused, you are treating us like students, not grown up experienced teachers, you are giving the same training to Prathom and Mathayom teachers and we know you don’t care because if you did, you would be doing at the start of the term.

It’s this point that gets me. Almost every training we have is across such a wide range of age groups that it’s a scatter gun approach and they hope that we pull something out the multitude of pellets that’s shot our way and make it useful.

Reading some of the literature online about teacher training, the vast majority of opinions are that is has to be focused, it has to age specific and has to be done by people qualified to do the job. As far as I am aware this guy hasn’t got anything more than a CELTA ( education qualification wise ). In which case, I can do the job as well as he can. Give me the internet and some idea of what you want taught and I am sure I could come up with a decent course.

And of course the other point is the timing, if they are serious why are we doing it at the end of term when we are mentally shot and just wanting to go away for the two weeks holiday we have coming up. Why not do it at the start of the term when any points raised will be fresh in our minds and will be effective?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Teacher Training Part 2

As the original version was lost when I was trying to back it up this one is going to be a bit more vitriolic just as payback for the 15 minutes lost typing.

Anyway, so there we are on Friday with some of us having received an email – sent the same day – saying that the training would take place next week between 9 and 4. The mornings were supposedly training and group sessions with the afternoon’s preparation and group work for the next day. F@ck that for life on the ocean wave. However, after talking to the FUD he unsurprisingly shifted blame to the Training and Curriculum manager who we shall call Gander and it was all his fault yaddaa yaddaa yaa. I have no idea if it was or not but it would suit his character as it comes over as a typical corporate type who will brown nose those above and crap on those below.

So, this morning comes around and at 9 am there are still folk coming in, so around 20 minutes later everybody is still talking but I am suddenly aware that there are an awful lot less people than there had been a few minutes before. A quick check revealed that the FUD had come in and told people to move out to the room. I had not heard him at all, the person I was speaking to had heard him talking but didn’t make out the words. Obviously he had not got everyone’s attention first to make sure we could hear him and waited to see if we had heard and understood the situation. No problem we thought, the assistant FUD was there and we could go with him. Err, no, he didn’t know where we were supposed to go exactly.

OK then, lets just wander round the building until we stumble on them. No one was in sight as they had all disappeared so we set off looking in various classrooms until a cleaner saw us looking round and pointed to a room and indeed that’s where everyone was and we trooped in a few minutes late.

Now let’s distil the facts and consider them
1) an instruction was given to leave the staffroom and go to a previously unknown location and it wasn’t checked whether it was heard by everyone and acted on
2) the assistant FUD didn’t know where the training room was
3) we were told by a cleaner where the others were!
4) We turned up late delaying the training

Very professional. NOT!

Anyway, we go in and Gander is there looking typically geeky and he decides to do a “warmer” and mixes everyone up so we aren’t sitting in the original position and then spends the next 10 minutes explaining why he did it and trying to get us to participate. Unfortunately he waffles on and misses really one of the most important points – authority reinforcement – as well as other minor ones. Most of us agreed that after going to the students classroom to collect them, get them all lined up and walking to our classrooms, what we needed to do was to cool them down not warm them up. Yep, that’s what we need, someone who has never taught here telling us how to teach.

Could the slightly modified old saying could be true. Those who do, do. Those who can’t teach and those who can’t teach, train?


And at that he said the rest of the days training would be by the FUD. Ah ok, we have a curriculum and training manager who apparently doesn’t do either. Oi vey!

The FUD comes up and the transformation is remarkable. It was like the visit of someone from head office to a little branch where the eccentric staff do things in their own way and pretend during the visit that they do things normally and don’t use the office pcs to run an internet cafĂ© on the sidelines for locals and so on. Then when the boss is gone everyone is relived and gets back to doing things their own way.

And he begins to waffle on and umm errr yes ummm quite right yes umm maybe umm errr and I begin to tune out and suddenly realise that people were leaving again – a quick translation from the person beside me informed me that we had in fact stopped for a coffee break. Great 9.50ish. On entering the staffroom we all sort of looked at each other with a “what the hell was that all about?” look. Another waste of time and effort.

Around 20 minutes later we go back up and find out the schedule for the week. The morning is supposed to be training and in the afternoon free study and preparation for the next day. The study can take place just about anywhere we are told. In other words we can go home or stay or do what we want. See what I mean about eccentric local ways?
We are also told that we are going to have to prepare a syllabus for the next session to give to the parents. Er, don’t we have one already? Isnt that why we have a curriculum manager and project manager and assistant project manager. Apparently not. The answer is, the one we have will not be accurate and they want to produce one with dates and topics and that sort of junk. In other words, its just for show to give to the school and isn’t of any real importance at all.

After that gem, we are given a questionnaire about the semester so far – how it went, how relevant were the books and so on and so forth. After filling them in we go into groups to discuss them and then into different groups to get further ideas. Not a bad idea if the conversations had been focused but of course since we ranged from Mathayom to Prathom not all the ideas could be used across the range.

One idea from Cleric was to introduce a teaching assistant to Prathom 1 classes as he could only teach about 10 minutes out of the 50 minute period. Unfortunately the way he put it, only revealed that he couldn’t control his classes and the more he spoke the deeper and deeper his hole became. I noticed quite a few heads shaking on this. Sorry, been there taught that level and got the buggers under control and taught them a damm site longer on average than 10 minutes. Did I lose control of the class sometimes? Yes. Often? No. Its called technique and combined lots of patience, some intelligence and with a dash humour you can teach and sometimes the best reward is the one worked most hard to achieve which most definitely is the description of what you have to do in Prathom 1 – WORK. And that is one thing he doesn’t like to do. He openly admits to showing videos as rewards. Ok that’s fine every now and again but he does it in the majority of his classes and that makes it routine, not a reward. I would much rather give out a worksheet for the kids who have finished than show a video. At least with a colouring in sheet you can still use it to teach while they are enjoying colouring in – what colour is this? What is this? How many…? Etc With a video they are gone and not learning.

Oops went on about him quite a lot so will draw the line there and call it a day. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Teacher Training Elite

F@CK! F@CK!

Just spent 15 minutes typing stuff and it vanished again.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Teacher Turnover

Since I have started at this school 3 years ago I have probably worked with around 70 people. I think there are only now 2 others still here from the time I started. I say around as I have no accurate record, could I list them all? Probably not, many came and went before the week was out.
To be fair, this does include temp teachers, but the problem is, as it is for so many schools here that you lose count. People come and go and you develop the Vietnam 1000 yard stare and the "they're a newbie so lets not talk to them as they probably will leave soon, so there is no point getting to know them" attitude. Which of course sometimes can have the old self perpetuating theory. You dont talk to them so they think the place is unfriendly so they leave so another person comes in and you dont talk to them.......

This year it seemed to have been reasonably stable, as at the start of the year we had a full complement of staff as well as a cover teacher. Whoohooo! A great change from the previous year where it took a couple of months to get a full staffroom and almost everyone was doing 3 or 4 extra lessons a week to cover the gaps. As time progressed it got worse as the first one dropped due to the fact they didnt like teaching kids and then another but somehow we kept up more or less to full strength. But now, come the end of term we have got Little Cleric going, the cover teacher, 2 others and rumours of another 2 disappearing. We have been told that the start of the new term will see us up to strength so wait and see.

So the next thing is now WHY? Obvious reasons some of them, some people are going home to the UK, US for good, some going to better paying jobs, some better conditions, some leave because they shouldnt have been there in the first place, some realise they hate kids, can't teach or can't teach them that young. Then you add in the corporate culture.......

We have been sitting here for the last 2 weeks basically doing feck all. Officially we have been marking and writing report cards. This means we had around 30 cards or exams to mark per day. ok, thats 45 minutes out the way, what do we do for the rest of the day? I know! Crosswords, reading the paper, talking, checking the internet and then going home after 2 hours. Then next week we have training the agency now want to last ALL DAY! The attitude of the training manager appears to be that since we are paid we can be there all day. Err, well we have just been sitting around doing feck all for 10 days and only after that they are worried about us going home early? Add that to the fact that we suddenly now have to get back into thinking mode and the Thai teachers have already departed the school, the EP teachers are also away.......

They organise things like this to just dig the knife in a little further into the backs and make sure they appear to be the all conquering bosses. Pathetic.

Nonsense, tish, pish and waffle.

By the way, I have actually gone back into this post to re-edit and add in a couple of extra bits as this is usually typed in one go with the attendant mistips and rambling and ranting thoughts. Sometimes I cant be bothered going back into a post to even spell check and check for signs of intelligence but since this is now on the front page of ajarn, I felt it a required duty. Don’t worry, the normal ramblings will return soon.

PS Billy Connolly, I hope you are happy now that Ken Bigley has now died. For those of you that dont know, Billy said live on stage last week that he hoped the kidnappers would just get on with and kill him. He was booed by a couple of people in the audience but he told them to "fuck off". I liked BIlly but not now, I hope you rot in hell for those comments.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Boring Days

Here we are sitting in the staffroom, far above the real world, everyone is feeling blue and there is nothing here to do.

Apologies to David Bowie for that but we have now finished writing the report cards and have literally nothing to do for the next 3 days, but we are still supposed to come in. I suppose it is alright being paid for doing nothing but why not just give us an official holiday instead of this stupidity? The school doesnt need us here, its only the agency that tells us to come in.

How to fill in the day. Go on the internet, do a crossword, read the newspaper go to the pub for lunch and end up staying there until well passed sober time. Or should that be well pissed sober time?

Next week should be interesting as we have training. Lets see if its actually useful or again just a waste of time.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Thai Schools, Parents & Films

I was in a cinema down on Sukhimwit last week with a friend watching a Japanese movie called Azumi. Its basically a samurai movie with lots of sword slashings, blood spurtings and general mayhem and killings. Apparently it was based on a Managa comic of the same name. Obviously I enjoyed it. If it was back in farangland i would probably be only for 15 years or 18 years old and up. When the lights came up at the end I was surprised to see a young boy maybe about 7 or 8 years old lying across a couple of seats fast asleep and the parents sitting next to him

Now the question is - what where the parents thinking when they brought the kid to see the film? Did they know about the bloody content? Could they not find a baby sitter? Did they want to see it and didnt care if the kid got nightmares? Did the kid want to see it? Who knows but I have noticed that it is actually quite common to see young kids in movies that are plainly not suitable for them. Back home of course, there would be letters to the papers demanding that the kid be taken into care and out of the hands of the unfeeling parents because of innapropriate behaviour. But in a way Thailand is actually quite grown up and infact more so because it says do what you want, we the government are not a nanny to look afer you and hold your hand.

Another example is this school. There is a large audio visual room with tapes and videos to borrow and show the kids. There is the usual range of Disney and animals videos but there are also some surprising ones. A few weeks ago a teacher went down to get a video and asked about a particular title - she didnt know what the film was about - and the thai staff said yes its ok its a martial arts movie with jet Li and Bridget Fonda. She showed the film to the kids who were actually quite bored apart from the action bits but she was surprised about the content. Its about a policeman framed by a corrupt policeman and he then has to tie up with a prostitute and kill various people to clear himself. This film was actually classed as only for over 18 year at home. Let me repeat, the thai staff said it was ok to show this film to 8 year olds.

Unreal, but then if this was the same as home, we would still be there!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

End Of Term Report Cards

Here we are, now stuck in the staffroom for another ten days before we have those wonderful training thoughts. At the moment - well, ok all the time, its fairly dull and tedious writing out the names, class details, sticking the little pictures of the kids to the insides of the report cards and then writing the same bloody commments for 140 kids.

The end result is that there is actually very little to write about. Supposedly we are here for the normal full teaching day but in reality - as I am writing this there are 4 teachers in the building and the two FUDs - everyone else has gone home at some point throught the morning. I suspect the first one went home about 1 hour after coming in. In a way its a little annoying from the "well he gets away with it so why do I need to do it" point of view but if I wanted / want to I could actually do much the same. Then the question is what would I do with the extra time? Read, listen to music, go on the internet? Well, in school the internet is free and a lot faster than most internet cafes. I have a little walkman with me to listen to music to and I can always watch tv later. I can read in an air con office or on the rooftop terrace beside the pool with a fresh beeze.... hang on that actually sounds quite good. I'm off. Ta Ta.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

End of Term Reward Certificates

Well, this is the day when I start to see the last of my little darlings as the timetable winds down and they head on to their Thai exams next week and I head off to a week of writing report cards and then trainzzzzzzzz. Ooops, I mean very interesting and vital training by our curriculum manager who has never taught in Thailand and incidentaly has still not given me feedback on an observation he did on me about 3 weeks ago now.

Supposedly the agency is going to give prizes to the student we nominate for student of the semester or whatever. I really think this is not going to happen - again. The students were supposed to get something from the Mid term exams in July but they never bothered their arses. So to make sure the good kids got something I made up a little certificate and awarded them to the best student - not always the one with the best scores but one that combined good scores, attitude and behaviour through the semester. The first class I gave it to, the rest of them crowded round the guy clicking imaginary cameras and gave him a round of appluase which was nice to see. The 2nd class were a bit more blase about it with a minorr ripple of interest and that was it. They are also getting a little prize as well - a sort of lucky dip. I have put all sorts of free gifts or confiscated toys in a bag and they make a blind grab at something. So far no complaints !

This means its also the last week for the teachers leaving us. The lady teacher in the room next to me is a bit of a laugh, I dont always agree with her style of teaching but at the end of the day she gets the message across which is the main thing. But her room is normally a bit more boisterous than mine so today I got my own back. Today, towards the end of the lesson I heard the wall banging again. So I go the four boys in the last row to hit the wall in time - 1 2 3 Bang!, 1 2 3 Bang! But of course the rest wanted to join in so I let them as it will be the last time I see them until November. She said her whiteboard was almost jumping off the wall and her kids went silent as they hadnt a clue what was going on! Heehee!!!!

The next room down is the more mature american guy who is going to Costa Rica. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there are lots of available little boys. But he is really losing the plot. This week, he found a new angle. Some kids were misbehaving and he got them to take their shoes off and throw the shoes into the corridor!!!!!!! I suppose it makes a change from him just shouting " You will respect your teacher ! "

Youve got to laugh havent you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Thai Nicknames

Ok, the posts here have been a little downbeat in nature I agree. So here is something a little more lighthearted.

Nicknames - As most people know, thais have their name and a nickname. The nickname was originally given to "hide" the baby from eveil spirits, the reasonaing being that if the spirit didnt know the persons real name they couldnt do any harm. It seems to be the case know that the majority are given icknames simply because it is easier to say Apple rather than Praem-Thud or Pongsakorn all the time. Some of the nicknames are numbers - Neung, Song 1,2, colours Daeng, Dam, red, black, animals gob, pla, frog, fish or sizes Lek, Nit, Little.

It seems to have become the fashion now that more modern names are used and some seemingly grabbed out of thin air, making you wonder if the parents know what they are doing and what the word means. AMongst the kids I have taught are Beer, Benz, Golf, Earth, Kenneth, More, Big, Grand, Oil, Max, Guide, Best, Popeye, Mick, Most, Farm, Hopper, Oat, Bell, Park, Ball, Fred, Jame ( no this is not a mistype), James, Sea, Win and so on.

But the best one todate, is a kid I teach this year. Ladies and gents, I give you JAR JAR!

I dont know if this is after Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars but how else could he have go this name?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Computer Hogging and other Monday Moans

Yes, well the biggest moan is that after I had been typing it for 15 minutes the f@cking thing disappeared on me, so thats why there was an empty post for a while until I went back in to edit it.

Anyway. I finally managed to get onto a pc. The fat yank, I think I will call him Cleric from now on, decided yet again to hog one of the pcs from as soon as he got in to the moment he had to go and teach and then at every break. Even then that wasnt good enough for him. After the day had ended he came back into the staffroom and had the audacity to sit behind the ones who were using the pcs to "force" them off. He really has a very bad habit of doing this. He didnt even have the courtesy to speak to anyone, he just sat there.

He hardly comes into the staffroom now apart from to use the pc. Almost every morning you can set your schedule, come in, check who is on the pc - yup its Cleric and his little pal Mini Cleric. One is almost as bad as the other for hogging the pcs in the mornings. It doesnt matter if they have the first teaching period free or not. They are there until they have to go and teach - which reserves 2 of the 4 pcs we can use in the staffroom. Cleric also manages to reserve the pc in various ways - he leaves his email logged in and then goes to make coffee or photocopies or just chat to the others at the pcs or go and collect a book. And not forgetting to speak to his girlfriend on the phone every ( what seems like ) 15 minutes. ( she is one of those helpless females that seemingly cant do anything by herself and has to ask his opinion on how to do it - "How do I open the door baby? Well baby what you do is... " Eeuuuggghhhh! Thats what he treats her like, a baby and he calls her that all the time, pass the bucket. Please! He keeps on saying she is useless but he loves it, he loves the fact that he is there, charging in on his white horse, a shining knight to the rescue. I wonder if she is really that stupid sometimes and its all just an act and further down the line she will finanacially screw him for everything he has. Time will tell. Some of these methods reserve the pc up to 10 minutes! I would really love to say something but I know it would be taken as a personal attack on him - which it actually would to a certain extent.

This guy really has no sense of others - the surrounding world. He is so self centred and selfish that he doesn't think about what impact he has on the rest of the world. The concept of others appears alien to him - unless he can tell them how to do things of course!

Anyway, rant over for the day. Until next time. :)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Fridays' Staff Meeting

Well here we are again after yet another fun packed week. We had a special staff meeting today to reassure everyone that the agency isnt ruthless, insolvent, unscrupulous and otherwise out to screw its employees. Well, one out of four is pretty good I suppose.

The chief FUD ( remember the Fully Undynamic Duo ?) came out with one of his rousing flag rallying speeches. Well, umm, umm, remember, umm, that , umm, it is a ummm, hard ummm, time to be ummm specific ummm Prat, he even had the audacity to mention that we were viewed as the chief competitor to Inlingua in many area and he knew that by speaking to the marketing managers there. Err, yes you did, probably when you got interviewed or see them when you go in to pick up new course details because you work for them doing corporate work! A few of us raised our eyebrows but made no mention. I wonder what he would have said? Probably nothing and wormed his way out of it as usual.

Hey ho, Ryder cup weekend. Come on Europe!


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Speaking Tests and Workbook Frolics

Here we are again and into a new week. Still, at least I finished the speaking tests. Its still amazing how after them saying good morning teacher how are you, I'm fine thank you and you every school day of their lives that they still sometimes find it impossible to answer that question on their own. "How are you?" "I am 8 years old" DOH !

So another couple of days of getting them to practice their reading and writing in the class by catching up with their workbooks - boring I know but a lot are way WAY behind on doing that type of work and it gives me the chance to catch up on marking the workbooks as well.

"Finish page 1, finish page 2, finish page 3 ....., finish page 48. OK?"
"OK!"
5 minutes later, "Passawich! Why are you on page 75? AARRGGGHHH!! "

I tried again to load a picture from Picasa last night - the program Google want you to use to add pictures to their blogs - and again it didn't bloody work. Grrr. Why cant they allow you to use Photobucket? Stupid.

I will try to get some pictures on here to make it more interesting for my loyal reader - whoever that sad bugger may be.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Thai Speaking Tests & Students Intelligence

Where did Wednesdays post go then? Hey ho, another post disappeared into the ether.

I tried putting up a picture as well from home using the Picasa software and it is horrible to use, it is not user friendly at all. Its also not helped by the fact that the connection at home is lousy - the highest I have ever got is 24kbps - even then I think that was wildly over stated.

Well, another batch of speaking tests done today and its much as I feared, they are dreadful - ahem - would be dreadful if we used the proper scripts. As usual the word came down that if we unhappy with the exam in any way we could change it. Which of course everyone has and the result is, it is no longer the prestigious Cambridge exams but some hotchpotch of things thrown together, subjective marking and some teachers aren't even doing speaking tests at all. They are giving a mark based on the performance through the year. Which sort of makes sense but again makes a mockery of the whole fact that the agency tells the world that we are doing the Cambridge exam. End result is, the average score is going to be much higher than I previously predicted. I have been so lenient, everyone has been given at least 1 mark.

In the school grounds there are some roads for all the cars to get to car parks etc etc. Yesterday we were leading classes from their play break lineups to their classes rooms. To get there we had to cross one aforementioned road across a pedestrian crossing. As it happens, one of the school minibuses comes along the road at the same time. One class hadn't fully crossed the road and was still partially on the crossing. Instead of the kids moving up or out of the way, they just sort of pointed at the van coming towards them and laughing. OOHHH! Look at that, a van is driving towards me, isn't that funny! Not, oh there is a van coming towards me, I will get out of the way. Oh no, that would be far to clever and require some sort of free thought. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Was sitting beside the big fat yank yesterday just at the end of lunchtime at one of the pcs. As I had a free period after lunch I stayed on but I suddenly realised that he probably shouldnt have been there. i looked over at a timetable for the group someone had pinned up above their desk and sure enough, he was supposed to be teaching. Although I was dieing to say something, I knew he would just take it as a personal attack - which to be honest it sort of would have been. I waited to see how long he would be there as he and Scruffy Doo have got a very bad habit of nt leaving until the very last moment or even later for their classes. The period started at 12.55 and eventually he wandered off about 1.30pm, not because he suddenly went Oh SHIT! I am late, but a very casual I suppose I had better go now. WTF?!?! The really, really sad part about it was he was speaking to the two FUDs ( Fully Undynamic Due aka the Project Manager and the Assistant Project Manager ) during the time he should have been teaching!!!!! :(

At the moment, as you know we are doing exams, now the thing is, his teaching group can do the exams as a group and sensibly do so, it is far easier than doing them all by themselves. But he should still be there, I mean surely he hasnt got it all sorted out so he doesnt have to be there and everyone else does the work? Surely? Hmm, unfortunately maybe he has. After all this is the guy who within a month of starting his first ever teaching job was telling a 3 year veteren who taught in Thailand and Japan how do do everything and how he had created this material and so on. The only thing is, a lot of it was created by me and the teaching group I was in the previous year. To my knowledge he hasnt actually contributed anything knew to the material bank - he just uses it and discards it! Whats the point of that? Selfishness, arrogance, lack of thought, not a team player..... Just about sums him up.