Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Exits, Banks and Problem Kids

I seem to have got the commentators curse. As soon as I said no one had been screwed than somebody left the next day. I am still not sure exactly why but it does seem that things were promised and not delivered. Seems to be quite common here.

One of the other things that have not been delivered to anyone is a copy of the contracts. It’s a bit worrying that we still don’t have them. They keep on saying that we have extracts and that will do. Err yes, the extracts are going over the main details but they also leave out important stuff that could be relied on if the shit hits the fan. Like stating exactly why we can be fired, what constitutes grievance procedures ( if I remember right ) etc etc.

One reason for wanting the contract is to double check what it says about out of school hours activities. This was something that was glossed over – as well as the having to work the first two cover lessons free each week. Looking at the school calendar today, it maybe that we have a weekend coming up of school activities. It will be interesting to see what is expected. Already a couple of people are starting to grumble and make noises about “I’m bloody well not coming in two days and giving up my weekend”. We found this out because we got measured for our official school t-shirts that we will have to wear. Lovely white things with trimmings of green, blue, red, orange and purple I think. No idea how we got allocated our colours or anything, there will be a meeting soon we were told that will tell all. Uh huh. I won’t hold my breath.

Another task we might get is attending the chapel for a spiritual awakening week. It won't be so bad during the lessons we are supposed to be teaching the kids, as all we need to do is turn up with them and stay awake and make sure they don’t run around. But they were also talking about doing it for the teachers during our lunch hour. Stuff that. My lunch hour is the only time I get on a couple of days to chill, no way am I going to sit in a chapel and listen to somebody rattle on about Gods love. If god loves me I am sure he will forgive me and at least I am honest towards him unlike some Christians who preach about love and forgiving but will then stab anyone in the back who gets in their way. They are they few people who can look you in the eye as they stab you in the back. I seem to saying this word a lot today but another wait and see event and see what will actually happened compared to rumour control.

Ah well. No news today – as you can probably tell, the bit above was written yesterday but because of problems connecting it didn’t get uploaded.

No more news today officially about the contracts but unofficially we should get them this week. Apparently they are with the program director for her to read – exactly why I don’t know, as far as I am aware they are all the same. Maybe she is inserting the clauses that say we if we get a government holiday that we have to make the time up. That is a story that appeared on www.thaischoolwatch.com I think that the person is from the other program that the school has, the facts just fit better on their side. There are a few bad tales coming out on that and some of them are true.

Pay day is tomorrow whoop de whoop and we got out bank accounts today and we are promised that the money will be in there tomorrow. At the start of the year we were told that we had to have an account with the bank that is purple. All other banks were no good. Hmm, school colours purple and the bank is purple. Connection or paranoia? After a couple of weeks some people had got their new accounts and some hadn’t – like me. Then we got told that the school would organise it and we shouldn’t go the bank ourselves. Alright, something less for us to do, good. Fill in the form and wait. Err, what account are we getting? The normal one. Yesssss, but what is the normal one? Is it a card or a book? It’s a book. Oh, no card? No, just the normal one. Can I get a card? Umm, yes but you have to pay. Err, ok, how much? 300B. And it can be used in an ATM and is a debit card? Yes, you can use it at the ATMs.

So we troop along to the office today to pick up the card. Its there, jolly good, sign for it and open it up. Whoo Star Wars limited Edition card, funky! Now, can I use it at the ATM. Yes. Can I use it like the Visa Electron? No. Aw feck. It’s just a normal ATM card. Yet another story that was invented to get out an awkward situation of not knowing? I should have just told them that I had got one myself and that way I would have got the card I wanted rather than the book and basic account they were going to foist onto me. Sorry but what the feck is the point of having a book and no card in this day and age. Carry a book round with me and have to queue up during my lunchtimes or right after school along with the possible wrong queue / translation difficulties? Nah. Make sure I have enough cash on me at all times just in case I see something I like or spend too much? Nah.

Never mind they said, you can always change it at the bank. How about getting it right so I wouldnt have to change it? No doubt there will be another fee that I have to pay.

I have just watched an interesting documentary from the BBC about Autism. It is one of these diseases that do not exist in Thailand. The shame would be too great for the parents and for the school a possible loss of revenue. It seems that more and more discoveries are being made not only in the diagnosis of it but also the causes – even if they are still years away from the definitive reasons. They now no longer think of it as a black and white disease and more like varieties of grey. Some of them can actually seem to be previously described as other psychiatric diseases like obsessive compulsive disorder. What quite makes the difference it wasn’t quite explained. It could be that a lot of “Autism Spectrum” disorders could be currently diagnosed as other things.

It sort of makes me wonder where one disease starts and one finishes when the symptoms are so similar and that it could just be the new medical “in” disease for doctors.

One thing that I realised is that I have seen a lot of the symptoms in my kids, in this and my previous school, that probably some could be suffering from Autism Spectrum disorder of one level or another. How many? Not sure, single figures probably with a few more that have some other psychiatric problem but a lot more than the school or parents would like to admit.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tests Test and More Tests

The way this place seems to be driven by tests scores and reports of one sort or another.

Every week we have to do tests of either speaking, reading, listening etc etc as well as that we have to do semester exams. We have to record all these scores into special record sheets to give out overall marks at the end. Unfortunately, like most Thai schools I heard that last year it was a case of everybody passes. I somehow dont think that this will change this year.

You would think that the more money people pay, the more interested they would be in what is actually hapening with the kids but it seems here that it is almost the reverse. Not all the time of course but...... a lot of parents seem to have the attitude of shove money at the problem and no matter what the kid will come out a native speaker. Errrr nope. There is a little thing called atttude. And the one in question is not the teachers. If the kid doesnt want to learn, he wont learn. Full Stop, end of story. No teacher in the world can force a student to learn.

We have a thai guy who is sort of the office manager. Well, thats the title but basically he helps us get stationary, acts as a go between the personell office, thai staff, the photocopier guy etc and us and so on. He is a nice quietly spoken youngish guy maybe mid 20s. But anyway, today he had a message to pass on to one of the guys who joined us this year. He was asking for a copy of the guys old teachers licence. Now it appears that the guy left on less than pleasant terms with his old employer and didnt want to contact them again which is fair enough. But what annoyed me was the way he was speaking to the office manager. He really was quite unecessarily agressive - I dont know what this form is, this isnt mine, I'm not doing that, why are you asking me for this, no way am I doing this. Just very agressive and dismissive. I really wanted to tell him to just chill and leave the guy alone. I mean it wasnt him that was asking for this, he was just the messenger. What is it with some people?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rant In Uber Minor

Another few days have passed and things seem to be settling down into a routine. It was interesting to see that the school got a mention on thaischoolwatch.com It seems that there are a few unhappy people out there who used to work here. I suppose that is only natural given some of the stories I heard before coming here and some of the things that I have seen.

There is certainly a lot of paperwork here compared to my last place. We have to
write weekly lesson plans for each class – 5 classes
write work done sheets
write a letter to parents weekly about what we will do in class next week

as well as that we have to create a hell of a lot of supplementary material because the book is so shit. Add that to the normal weekly meetings and the unannounced meetings and church services and after school meetings it does all mount.

There was a meeting last Friday after school with the high and mighty director who told everyone that she was there and all the school staff were there to help us in any way they could – unless of course you mean helping with paying for unnecessary extra documents the MOE wants or giving us some real discipline options in the staffroom or listening and actually acting to our suggestions and complaints about how to do things better or defending us from weird parents who want us removed because we insist little Somchai should be told not to drop his trousers in class or is constantly talking or running around or……..and deserves to be shouted at.

As far as I am aware we have yet to see someone shafted and fired – although we have had one person leave ( for reasons unknown ) but then it is still early days.

Its becoming a real pain walking to and from class now because our staffroom is in a totally different part of the school from where we teach, we need to actually need to leave the school and re-enter it across a road. If you have forgotten to bring your classroom key its a 5 minute dash across the way, up the lift and back again. And we arent allowed to have copies. Nope, that is against school policy aparently. We might sneek in after dark past the guards and steal a marker pen or something thats in the class. A spare key was actually taken off someone this week and got ranted at for his troubles.

Oh Well.

I hav
e been listening to Bill Hicks this week and compared to his ranting, I am a complete and utter beginner. The man was a comic genius.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hoops, Jumps & Mood Swings

Bah humbug, this place is turning out to be just as frustrating as the other one for an entirely set of different reasons.

There are a few people that got caught with the middle initial query – the passport shows the full names but the degree certificate only shows an initial. I might still get caught with that although they haven’t mentioned it yet. It seems to be tht the school office are meekly accepting anything the MOE says instead of kicking up a fuss and saying we have checked these people we don’t employ Khao San tourists, we are the best school in Bangkok with many mighty connections blah blah blah. The school are also making up a few rules of their own, I mean why cant we get the medical certificates at the same time instead of when they tell us, why do we have to use one hospital.

This is making a few of the Thailand newbies unhappy and really moaning and saying that unless the school pay for the various embassy letters or whatever they wont get the additional info. It will be interesting to see who blinks first.

My transfer of teachers licence and work permit is not proving to be smooth and I am also having to go through additional hoops and jumps that I shouldn’t have to. Its actually making me wonder that maybe this year will be my last and I will go home at the end of the year or if my mood doesn’t improve maybe sooner. I am maybe reaching the top end of my bullshit level. Or maybe I am becoming like Raphaela on the ajarn forum who really does have major mood swings - I am going home, no I am not, yes I am, no I am not, yes I am, no.............

Its one of these overall things, the school, the paperwork, life outside, the rip offs, the smells, my family back home, things going wrong with the bank back home and so on. Maybe it is time to go back home. Lets see if I still feel that way in a few weeks.

I had to laugh today, we have two staffrooms, one for Matayom and one for Pratom. In our one we unfortunately have a typical loudmouth yank who drowns out anyone else who happens to be talking in the room. He has been constantly moaning about not being told about this, that and the other. Some of which he has and some of which is just plain common sense.

He is actually one of those complaining about the extra hoops and jumps I mentioned earlier. Anyway. He was moaning away saying how unprofessional this place was and so disorganised (which admittedly it is but its still better than many others ), then a bit of extra material somebody made up caught his eye and asked whose it was and commented how good it was. He then asked when she had time to make it as he never has time. The reply was that she sometimes stays behind or does it in her lunch hour. Godammit, they don’t pay me enough to stay behind was the response.

Hmm. A bit two faced I thought given his comments about the office seconds before. Incidently we actually get amongst the highest salary you can get without being either a “proper” teacher or a subject teacher.

Friday, June 10, 2005

How Do I Still Cope?

I will answer very quickly someone who commented that if they were me they would kill themselves in my position.

Well, it aint that bad. At the end of the day I walk away from the school. I dont take work hom. I dont think about it once I am out the school gates. It doesnt dominate my life like my last job back home did, although if you listen to me down the pub tonight you might think it does.

You do get pleasant surprises like I did today. One kid in my worst class actually managed to get some individual time with me today and I was very pleasantly surprised in that his English is actually bloody good and he is a very polite little boy. Unfortunately he is submerged most of the time by the other snotty little sods who dominate my time by trying to control them in keping things down to a dull roar.

And lets face it, if you want to kill yourself over a stupid thing like a job then get another job or go top yourself and prove Darwin right.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Uber Rant part 2

A little late I know but what the hell. I think last year I managed to get into a real rhythm with the scribbling but this year its somewhat disjointed to say the least so if it isn’t updated here for a few days don’t worry be happy, it’s coming soon.

OK, the kids. Its funny but in some ways these kids are better than the ones I taught last year. That is individually. They seem to be better at vocabulary. They know the individual words are but they are worse I think at putting them together. Apparently the teachers they had last year at P1 never lasted that long or didn’t bother their arse so the end result is kids that are collectively not very good. It seems that it is my destiny to always get the tough year kids. Why godammit why?

I do seem to have a few good kids, a majority of easily swayed and a few hard core couldn’t care less troublemakers or downright disturbed kids. You know it’s bad when the head honcho and the teacher from last year come up to speak to when they find out he is in your class and warn you about his violent tendencies and his family background. So far, he hasn’t actually hit anyone yet although he has tried throwing his weight around a bit. The main problem with him so far is his total lack of involvement and interest in the class. He originally started off in the main body of the class but he then misbehaved and I moved him to a seat on his own at the front and he now actually refuses to sit anywhere else. Whether that’s because he knows he is not that well liked by the other kids or that he is now the centre of attention or front stage so to speak, I am not sure. What is sure is that he is becoming more and more of a distraction in the class – moving his chair or table, tilting the table over, dropping his metal pencil case, hiding under the chair, the table, slumping in his chair, crating new ways to position him self in the desk chair combination, singing, making noises and so on. There is no hope of him being moved out of the class or even god forbid out of the school because of one big reason MONEY. His parents pay – apparently they are weird as well. He has an older brother who is also just as many behavioural problems. So we the teachers are stuck with them both.

I have a couple of heavy days as I said earlier so I have decided they will be might light teaching days. I am not going to try anything heavy, serious or difficult. I tested that theory out today. It almost worked. Gave them a couple of worksheets and tested them on the vocab we have been using the last couple of weeks. It was going ok right up to the last two lessons. It was just lets wind up the teacher time by writing on the desk. Only bringing one pencil then deliberately breaking it, lets ignore the worksheet and have a sleep instead or chat to the person beside me, lets see how many ways I can sit in the chair, lets shout out random letters when I ask how do you spell scissors. Did you know there is an a,b,d,g,h,k,l,m,n,q,t,u,v,w,x,y and z in scissors? Well they think they do. I am sure they were just taking the Michael.

Once class was actually due to get a video as a reward for last weeks best score, so I said to them they would get a video if they got a 7/10 for that lesson. Next thing I know, one kid bolts out the door when my back is turned. No word of explanation, no asking for permission, nothing. He comes back in a few minutes later and again without explanation tries to come in and sit down. Where were you? I said “Yes” he said. Huh? Where were you? I said “Yes” he said. Where were you? I said “Yes” he said. Oh lordy. This is not a yes no question. Where were you? The home room? A shake of the head. The toilet? A shake of the head. He vaguely points downstairs which could mean anything as there are a load of offices, the canteen area, school shops, vending machines, water coolers etc etc. None of the other kids have a clue where he went either as he didn’t speak to them when a couple tried to translate the question into Thai for him. Where did he go? No fricking idea. And then the lesson went downhill from there. This and in fact all classes take a perverse delight in doing the opposite of what you want.

Take the desk layout for example. I have moved from 5 or 6 desks together to get group work to 4 desks together to now traditional rows of twos so control them better. This lot seem to be even worse than the old school for wanting to move the desks when they sit down rather than the chairs when they come in and the desk creep during the lesson. But anyway, I now have the “wing” desks angled into the whiteboard so they can see it better. But the number of times they move the desks so they are parallel with the rest of them after a few minutes is unreal. Even after being told again and again and again not to move the desks. And actually that’s just reminded me. Getting them to move the desks is unreal when I do want them moved. Move the desks I say and use my hands to gesture and indicate where they are to go. The expression on their faces is the same as when you show dogs a card trick. There is no comprehension and no connection to what they have just experienced and what is stored in their heads.

I have already created a crack in the plastic board wiper with banging it against a desktop to get their attention. Nothing like as sturdy as the wooden ones.