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 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

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 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"
"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.