Monday, January 10, 2005

Relief and Discipline in Thai Schools

OK, you were probably wondering what that semi cryptic post on Friday was all about.

Well basically a kid made a complaint about me to the Thai teachers and ran into their staffroom crying his eyes out. He basically said that I had attempted to strangle him.

Au contraire mes amis! All I actually had done was put my right hand at the bottom of his neck to make him keep pace and not wander all over the place like he was trying to do at that point and had done previously. Sort of like a lead on a dog so to speak. I actually thought the way he was wriggling he was just playing and I never heard him say once in English or Thai that I was hurting him. Neither did any of the other kids who were in front, beside and behind me. It was only when I let go – possibly 60 seconds from start to finish – he suddenly “collapsed to the ground” and started crying. My initial reaction was oh what a drama queen as he got quite hysterical and then wouldn’t let anyone else near him and then bolted off to the staff room. Thinking about it now, I still don’t think that I had gripped him at all tightly. But and here’s the rub, we had been warned at various points through the year that we weren’t even supposed to touch the kids, never mind hold them at that point of the body. Hence me saying it was avoidable and mostly my fault, I shouldn’t have done it.

But then what can you do to keep some form of discipline? Most of the “younger” age group teachers have been, at various points, flicking ears, pulling arms to get kids to stay in one place etc etc. Not what you would call corporal punishment at all in my eyes but still definitely classed as touching.

Well, to cut a long story short, the teachers called me in to get my side of the story with one of our office staff translating. A few of the other kids who saw what happened were also called in to say what happened. Not to put too fine a point about it, I was totally bricking it. As I had said on Friday, if logic took precedent, I would be alright. But bearing in mind this is a country where the point of view can be dependent on the clout of the various people and not on the facts then I could have been in for a difficult time and worst case, the agency could have been asked by the school to remove me from the contract.

Fortunately, it seems to have settled with the parents giving it a bit of the “my darling is an angel and would never do this sort of thing” and I am not sure what level of combination but the agency and the school saying the teacher wouldn’t do it deliberately and anyway the kid is known for telling tales.

But anyway, lesson learned. I won’t do that again even though it may be my natural instincts to “discipline” a child for doing something they shouldn’t be doing ( or the other way around ).

But this whole approach and attitude to discipline is very confusing and hypocritical. You see the Thai teachers at the line ups smacking the kids with rulers or their hands on the legs or arms or hands and we aren’t supposed to touch them. When we speak to the parents, they want us to control the kids and get them to talk but when we try to get them to talk, they only talk in thai and don’t listen to us. When we punish them, the parents say we are being too hard and the kids should play more games. Well err… what do you want? Make your mind up please.

Anyway, thank god we only have 3 weeks of teaching left and then we start the exams at the beginning of February and maybe see the kids for the last time round about the 3rd week in. After that its still up in the air when we leave the school for good and what will happen for next year. New school, new job, new rants for sure :)

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