Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Interview Merry Go Rounds

The merry go round continues although it looks like I have landed a decent job at a school. I wont name it for obvious reasons.

People complain sometimes about employers and schools not knowing what they are doing but sometimes teachers really dont help themselves. I went for an interview last week and it tirned out to be an agency who would be employing teachers and then contracting them out to a school.

The first interview was with the agency and the second with the school. During my first interview the woman who was interviewing me kept on answering the phone every five minutes or had people coming in and out of the office to give her things or to take away things. Which meant that it was really really distracting and no real flow happened with the interview. Somehow I passed the test and got the second interview. As it happened it was a group interview. There were five of us who turned up including one guy who was there in a casual shirt, some sort of neck thong thingy with a tribal talisman dangling from it. He also didnt have his passport, original degree or his TESOL Cert despite being asked for it. How do I know he was asked for it? Well, his was one of the phone calls that was answered during my interview.

The agency girl had a chat with him and sent him home and then promtly told the rest of us she wouldnt be asking him back and who did he think he was turning up like that.

That may well of been her thoughts but not exactly professional to share that with us was it? I wonder if anything else was being said behind our backs when we werent there.

I am trying to get home at the moment, but its turning out more difficult than I thought. Many Airlines are full and this is the strange thing. It isnt the leg from Bangkok to XXXX Its the connecting leg to get me home. Which is very strange because I wouldnt have thought that connecting leg would be all that busy, so its looks like I might be staying a while longer here and more or less coming back and going straight to work ( give or take a day ). Not ideal I suppose but better than not getting home at all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Strange Feelings In Bangkok

I woke up this morning with a strange feeling.

No, not that sort you smutty dirty minded people!! :)

It is one of these strange feelings that you get when something ends. Something that for all the bitching I did, I sometimes had good times with. Is it relief, is it rapture, is it the absence of stress, the realisation of knowing that you will not put up with that particular set of fuckups ever again, the possibility of a cure to the madness you have suffered from over the previous academic year, a hangover, the lack of a hangover J ?. I really don’t know but there was a void. I didn’t have to get up for work anymore and go to the school or the office of the agency.

What to do? What to do? What can I do that will mean I don’t spend money at an unacceptable rate and will keep my liver intact or at least not decline any further. Stay at home and go to the pub every afternoon and evening and spend money and expand the waistline? Do I just grab some books and head to a beach? Grab a tv guide and stay in my room? Hmm, don’t really fancy any of those things on there own, so it will probably be a mix and match, a bit of tourist stuff in Bangkok, a few days away somewhere, a few days just staying round the neighbourhood, some interviews for new jobs. Of which more later.

Maybe a few days summer camp somewhere but not with the agency who were offering a full time camp at the princely rate of 1000B a day. Only a few hours teaching a day they say to tempt you in. Well, yes but then you have to hang around “supervising” the kids during outings and afternoon activities and then you can’t really go out because usually the camps are 15 miles out of the back of beyond and can’t get drunk as that would be an unacceptable roll model for the kids and you don’t really get any time to yourself as you share a room with anywhere from 1 to 5 other teachers. So maybe not. Then there seems to be an increase in the number of full time camps. By that I mean for the entire summer holidays. Work all year round with kids and then during your holidays work with some more kids? No thanks. I need a break and I don’t mean just a long weekend.

Now back to jobs. To enable me to vent the old spleen during the holiday, what I will do is have a look at ajarn and crucify some of the job adverts.

On a personal front, it seems that I have a job lined up through a friend of a friend deal. Or at least lined up as much as anything can be without me having an interview or seeing the school or ……..

Saturday, March 19, 2005

On Parole

And so the end of the prison cell existence has ended and we are out on parole.

I say parole because officially we still work for the agency until the contract ends on March 31st and then we need to wait for the rest of the salary and the bonus. The last couple of days were really dragging and it got to the point where the final morning was just excruciating. It seemed to be that because we were so near release that every second seemed to last hours.

We even had a fairwell party that consisted of pizza and coke. Wow. They really pushed the boat out on that didnt they! What was quite sad was that the bosses all suddenly appeared and dispite the fact that they ( ie King of the Walking Cadavers ) hadnt spoken to us at all for the two weeks we were there they came in and had the pizza and deigned to share the same room. They still didnt speak to us though!!

After that it was the farewell speech and the awards. One for best attendence and one for the teacher of the year. This prize was a 500Baht voucher for a book store. Wow and again I say wow. Their generosity underwhealms me completely. 500B for a "good" years work. Pathetic.

It turns out that nobody has got a job with the agency for next year. They have a couple of vacancies but at the 30 -32k a month level. That would mean a salary cut for everyone and for some, a 10,000 a month cut. Nobody is going to accept that. Which means they are going to have a load of inexperienced straight off the plane teachers working for them. Oh well. Its their funeral.

The next few weeks are going to be fairly quiet. No idea what I am going to do and where I am going to be. Back to square one as that was the situation I faced when I first arrived here all those years ago.

Lets see what happens.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Almost Free

The days continue to drag as we sit around the office wasting time and waiting for release from the misery.

The agency is being quite sneaky in their attempts to get us to do “make work”. The FUD comes into the room and says the corporate manager is wanting to have a meeting to discuss work. It was phrased in such a way to suggest that it would be work next year. Of course, the more suspicious were saying that it would be not real work but more make work. The key test would be if the boss appeared with lots of papers in his hands.

The meeting starts and the boss has lots of papers and sure enough, that meant make work. He basically wants us to create a new 40 hour course with materials. Not only that we were to give a 1 hour lesson to the other members of staff!! Why we would have to deliver a sample lesson I am not too sure. A couple of people are going to do the silent rebel bit and appear to do something but in the end do nothing. Other tasks that have been invented are laminating worksheets, cataloging text books in the library, organising and putting into binders the worksheets that were taken out of binders when we moved etc etc.

Through the week the boundaries were being gently stretched or in one case being stretched to it's upmost and today was the same. A couple of people basically turned up and then disappeared about 10ish. The FUD then gave them a phone call to find out just where they were and to make a reappearance promptly.

Apparently he has been getting stick from the MD of the agency and Dracula or King of the Undead or The Corpse, well you get the idea. We are not absolutely sure just what title he has but it's something along the lines of Operations Manager, which essentially means he is No3 or 2 in the business.

This is the twat that supposedly suggested in meetings that we should be forced to sit around in the office doing sod all until the end of contract because “that is what we are paid for”. The thought of us getting paid holidays is appalling him. It's almost as though the money we are being paid is coming directly out of his personal pocket. Which is quite interesting, because according to rumour, he is loaded. Old money i.e. landed gentry. No title but supposedly he has a large income from very expensive London property. He actually talks like an old fashioned toff and a perfect gentleman but he is actually quite a back stabbing, two faced twat. Which is probably why he fits in so well there.

The job hunt continues. Which unfortunately means I am going to have to give up my visa as the school is going to cancel it on March 31. This means I need to reapply for one. I suppose it won't matter that much if the consulate is as relaxed as the last time I was there but its extra money I didnt want to spend and just another added complication.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Head Office Borezzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Our final last two weeks of purgatory has begun and the degradation mounts and mounts.

The 20 or so of us turn up at 8am on Monday for the “welcome meeting” and it turns out to be the FUD going "this is the kitchen", "this is the reception", "this is the toilet", we are shown into the two classrooms we are going to be occupying for the next two weeks. Right. Bets are immediately laid to see how long we get to keep the rooms because of the summer camps over the next two weeks. ( I lost, I thought we would have stayed longer in a room )

We all get sat down and the instructions given for the next two weeks. Well, umm, what you have to um do is ( look at floor ) write two um well um activities that um someone can use ( look at floor again ) next year and two that ( look at ceiling ) need materials right and er um next week you will be doing more of the same.

Believe me this is a shorter and far clearer version than he came out with.

Oh yes, not only that, we were told that we had two pcs that we could use to print out the material. But not yet, they had to tell someone to move out of that room. Good to see they had planned this.

Within a couple of hours two pcs had been changed to one pc. Supposedly this was because of sensitive data on the hard drive. Umm, new windows xp user profile anyone? Then it turns out that the pc isn’t connected to the printer, so we can’t print the materials. Good to see they had planned this part 2.

Yesterday they decided that we couldn’t access the internet through the company LAN because of sensitive data on the network. So what do they do? They buy a pay as you go internet access card from KSC!! Nice to see they trust us so much. Good to see they had planned this part 3.

Meanwhile during the “welcome meeting” it was announced that the two weeks would be full time i.e. no going home early or coming in late in other words the full day 8 til 4. this seems strange as normal practice at school was at the end of the day that people would just leave when teaching was finished and that if people had a big break during the day i.e. teaching periods 1 then 7 and 8 they could leave school and go home, do shopping or whatever they needed to do. Indeed it was OFFICIAL policy that we didn’t need to sign out at the end of the day, that we could sign out the following day when we came in. This soon evolved into not signing out – ever. Of course the previous two weeks we have been turning up 8ish, 9ish and leaving for home at 11ish or 12 ish.

So we have the situation that we are now on the premises longer than we were during a normal working week or the previous two weeks when we have not been working!!!

Now during the day what are we doing? Umm, not a lot actually. In fact absolutely sod all to be honest. The 10 minutes work to produce the worksheets have been done by some people others have been “strategically thinking about the big idea”. In other words sod all until the deadline of Friday when it has to be completed by. Most of us are just reading newspapers, playing computer games on laptops, doing crosswords, seeing how long a lunch we can get away with and so on.

So far, its been 4 room changes, I wonder how many more times we have to move things out the way.

I was talking to another teacher last week and he had a right old go at me for my negative attitude about the agency and the FUD and that I was moaning about having to sit around doing nothing for two weeks. His take on it was basically it was my fault I have a negative attitude to the agency, the FUD and that I carried that into the classroom and the agency had never done anything to him. I should be grateful for the chance to do nothing over the next two weeks and get paid for it. I pointed out that given the choice I would gladly do real and useful training but nope, he wouldn’t have that. He kept on hammering the point that as I was allowing myself to get depressed it was all my fault.

Now to a certain extent I can agree with that, putting the positive spin on things and making the best of what you have etc etc. But, when you have worked for an agency for 2 ½ years you get to see the heart and mind of an operation. This agency has no heart and certainly no mind. It is petty, money grabbing, cynical and you could argue mentally abusive. Now, some may see this as a negative, I tend to see my viewpoint as realistic. I can see the emperors’ new clothes!

This guy makes the claim that he never gets tired of anything, that his daily routine is never boring etc etc. He never lets anyone with a negative attitude change his attitude and no one should allow that to happen. He wouldn’t allow anyone to change his attitude. I asked him, if he had a great boss who was really enthusiastic, knowledgable etc would that raise his game. He said yes. Ah ha! I said so you do allow other people to influence your attitude. Yes, but only the positive ones. So would you allow the concept that a negative boss could influence people? No, it's your fault.

I asked him if he had his favourite meal all the time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, did exactly the same thing everyday would he get bored with it? He answered no. just to check the point I argued that human nature needs change, it needs new things to learn, to prevent boredom etc. He said no, that’s rubbish. If that’s the case why do we move countries to work, why do we go to university, why do we change jobs etc etc. He would just not be having any of that. In the end I almost felt like belting him one, not only for refusing to acknowledge my points but also he was always interrupting me, not allowing me to finish my point and talking over me. That’s what I call a negative approach.

Lets see what the next few days bring along.

Friday, March 04, 2005

End of Bangkok Schools Days

And so it ends.

Not with a bang but a whimper and a soft one at that. We walked out of school today never to return again. Not one of the 20 teachers has been offered a job by the incoming administration and it seems not one of the teachers has been offered a job by the agency.

Of course the FUD & little FUD have jobs with the agency. They made damm sure of that, but us? Nah, we are little people, small insignificant little cogs that can be changed and replaced at any time without thought or planning.

It seems that the schools they do have contracts for are small ones with one or two teachers and some are in Nothaburi, Thonburi etc at 30K a month. Nah, not for me. I don’t really want to move out of Bangkok itself. As the FUD admitted himself, at that level of pay they are looking for unqualified teachers who don’t know any better or who cant get anything better. Sums up the whole attitude of the system here in many ways. They want the system to improve but don’t want to pay the money to get proper teachers.

By 10.00am today already half the teachers had gone home and the remainder straggled out until … no idea. I wasn’t the last to depart by any means so it could have been 11am or 12pm or 1pm.

It is going to be interesting to see what they are going to do with us over the next two weeks. Supposedly there is a welcome meeting for us at 8am on Monday in the agency head office. A welcome meeting?!?! Why?? To welcome us to the last two pathetic weeks of make work? Apparently the teams and assignments for the work has already been made up and all will be revealed on Monday. And no slacking off early! We might be allowed like 90 minutes for lunch but it's going to be 8 til 4 every day. Yeh right. Where’s my sarcasm smiley?

Another wonderful suggestion surfaced today. The agency is running a summer camp in the office so if anyone wants to teach 9 til 12 they can then leave for the day. Whooooo!! Yes lets teach a bunch of uninterested kids 3 hours a day UNPAID just so that we can leave at midday.

I think not part 2.

The job hunt continues with no further news.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Report Dozezzzzzzzz

Marking Dozezzzzzzzzz Again

Due to difficulties in uploading this is a few days posts put together.

The days are really dragging with all the marking finished and only 20 report cards still to mark. My forecast of the amount of time spent in the office is proving to be about right with the vast majority disappearing before lunchtime and not coming back.

So far nothing else has been mentioned about the portfolios for the next two weeks in the head office for. Lets wait and see if that is quietly dropped.

As far as jobs go, it seems that the dangling carrot of being offered new schools by the agency was just an imaginary one. The FUD spoke to someone yesterday and basically said along the lines of start looking for a new job. Of course he couldn’t quite say that as that would be straightforward and clear. He came out with a ramble along the lines of “well, I can’t promise anything but if you are comfortable waiting then wait for us to offer something to you, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that then maybe it would be better for you to think about doing something on your own. Yeesh, talk about using 20 words when 3 will do. I wonder sometimes if he is a relative of the poster machengzi on http://www.ajarnforum.net :)

To give you an example of what a prat our FUD is, we had a group photograph sprung on us yesterday. Unfortunately I had an interview to go to – using common sense I have arranged all my interviews in the afternoons. So I tell the FUD I am not going to be there and he gives it a considered hmmm, hummm, ahhhhhh, well I suppose if you have an interview, I suppose well hmmm, alright. ???? he tells one guy to look around and then later he tells someone that when they are going for an interview. Unbelievable.

I was speaking to someone on Monday night who basically said I was in fact very lucky for being paid to sit around doing nothing. In a way I suppose they are right but this is dead time, it's wasted time. I would love to have some proper training, I really would. Not just some ramshackle thing cobbled together and delivered by some numbskull that they have dragged in from the office or by the FUD but real teacher training that I would get some benefit from. But that won’t happen, that would cost money!

Today I finished the final report card and whoops by about 10.00 almost everyone was away home. I overheard someone saying that next week we would actually have to stay the full day because we would be in the head office of teh agency. Hmmm. I think not somehow. Where will they put us all? Errr the staff room isnt big enough. Will they put us in a classroom. Maybe but again then why do they insist on us wearing shirts and ties when at the weekend they dont insist on teachers wearing a shirt and tie. Who knows. Probably the usuall power and control attempts.