Friday, September 30, 2005

Report Cards and Camps

Well, we are almost there.

Just one more week before 2 weeks of holidays. For the next semester its broken up quite a lot with Xmas / New Year and so on. With any luck it should be fairly painless - well, in comparison. And then the descision has to be made again. Stay another year or move on ( to another school or country ) or go home but thats another time and another post.

When we got told about the reports it was at first the usual story - we would get guidelines on what we would be able to write. Here we go again I thought Have to be positive blah blah blah. But being honest I was quite surprised at what we were being allowed to write ie we could say that his classroom behaviour was unacceptable and he had to sit in seat to stop distracting others in the lesson.

Thing is to some people, this may not seem like a big deal but its a damm site more honest than in the last place where all comments had to be positive. So the comment would need to be something like he is an active student or some such bs like that to hide the truth.

Even so we were told that a minimum mark had to be given - an E+. Not an E but an E+. Its still rated as unacceptable, so I think maybe that + makes all the difference! Saving face and all that.

Next week we have a couple of summer camps that we have to do, 4 days in total. If we are not doing the camps we are going to a 2 day seminar. Szzzzzzz! But at least it should be a comparatively easy week.

This week just about everyone has been swiping in on time and then staying for an hour and then either going for lunch for 6 hours and coming back in for the last hour and swiping out or not coming back at all and presumably giving the swipe card to someone else to swipe out - a perilous thing to do, in theory you can get sacked for that.

Next week, well wait and see.

But this week we did get a very pleasant surprise. As well as being pay day yesterday, we also got a backdated salary increase because we passed our probation. It seems that this is not just a one off and will be a permanent increase. I and everyone else dont remember reading anything in the contract about this so, as I said, it was a pleasant surprise to get this "bonus" just in time for the holidays. So, dont say everything in this blog is negative!

Now for something a bit different.

Every now and again i look at the counter stats and one of the most interesting is the browser share. I think I last wrote about this a year ago or so. At that time the IE share was about 90 % or so, ( if I can be bothered I will look up the exact figures ) and Firefox was about 8% with others about 2%. Now it seems that Firefox is gaining hold amongst you lot.

Now according to the pie chart above its 66% IE and 21% Firefox.

YEHHH! Good for you guys. Keep it up and lets kill the M$ monster!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Exams & Happenings Part 2

I am still somehow getting covers that take me up to 5 lessons a day ( the maximum ) from 4 lessons when other people in my year group hardly ever get asked to do that and extremely hardly ever do the people in other years groups who have 2 or 3 lessons get asked. Its really fucking me off big time having to do all these extra lessons while other people get away with a far lighter workload. Unfortunately there is not a lot I can do about it, I have already spoken to management and nothing has really changed.

It seems that every year I am unlucky with the timetables. The first year I had 22 periods a week and was teaching the last period of every day so I never had the chance to get away early. Almost everyone else had a day or two that they could slope away early. One teacher only had about 14 periods – you know who you are you jammy sod. The second year was much the same although the number of periods each teacher had was much the same give or take a couple. The third year was the same and so it continues this year.

Another guy has a full morning off each week. His absence is very noticeable as he always in the staffroom on every other morning so presumably he is getting someone to swipe in for him – which by the way is damm near a sackable offence as far as I can tell for both parties or swiping in and going home.

Out of the 20 weeks teaching so far, off the top of my head, I have had 4 or 5 that I have done the regular hours. Every other week I have had one or two extra lessons to do. By now I reckon I have done 30+ extra lessons – all unpaid ( they sneakily put in the contract that we teach 22 hours, so they can nab you for an extra 2 each week and they don’t need to pay you ) whereas others have only done about 3 or 4. Why? Well, the extra lessons are forced on you, you have no option, you are just told you are doing them. In theory, who gets the cover lesson is logical and fair. Its worked on the number of lessons normally taught in a week - most people have 20 but others have 18 and 16 - then the number of lessons taught that day and whether you are in the same learning group.

Unfortunately it seems that this is mostly ignored so people who teach less hours than me get fewer cover lessons, when others teach the same hours I tend to get picked. I even got picked once because they couldn’t find the person who was supposed to do it, he had buggered off for a smoke and because I was in the staffroom I got nabbed. See me, see lucky white heather, pah!

The headie is always saying that he will not give anyone with four lessons an extra cover – yeh right, its happened to me 4 times now. But this has the effect of the guys who do 4 lessons every day get virtually no covers.

One reason our teaching group gets so many covers is I think Prathom 1, 2 and 3 teachers have a more stressful job and consequently get sicker more or get “sicker” more. That unfortunately means more covers for people within the group. I have no idea about the actual numbers but it feels like this is the % of which group needs and does the most covers.

needs does

P1-3 40 45

P4-6 30 30

M1- 3 20 15

M4-6 10 10

Any time the imbalance is mentioned ( and remember its not just me, a couple of others are in the same sort of boat ), a common response is “well, I am doing 4 or 5 lessons today, so whats the big deal?” The big deal is that they are including the after school lessons that they get paid extra for. Another is ‘well I did lots of extras last year” but this isn’t last year is it? This from a guy that has probably done 4 covers all year.

At the start of the year, we were told we could do this, do that in the sense of getting the kids to behave and the way to control the classes and collect the classes from outside the classroom etc. Well, that soon started going by the wayside. A few of the other teachers basically took the point of view of either it was too much work or thought it unecessary. At the end of lessons, they just let the kids run back to their class, went part of the way to their classroom and so on. One of the first things that went is timekeeping.

There is one guy that is late ( and by late I mean 5 minutes after the lesson is due to start I reckon about 50% of the time – partly because he overruns his lessons constantly and also because he cant stop his breaks on time. He is always appearing with bottles of water or cans of drink or even still eating. For a school that takes so much “effort” in being proper, I would have thought that would have been deemed proper. Last year, eating in the corridors was a big no no and eating while collecting a class was ust not thought about. Ah well, so be it. I soon realised that it was a fight that it wasn’t worth fighting as it was never brought up in meetings that it shouldn’t happen. So I just started doing the same – although in my view not quite going as far – turning up lateish sometimes, letting the kids run out back to the class and so on. On that subject, there is another teacher that is constantly complaining that his kids wreck his classroom and he is always having to tidy it. Yeh well no shit mate, he leads the kids out at the end of the period and hasn’t the patience to wait for the tail enders before he goes and collect the next class. No wonder they wreck the place, they are just left to their own devices.

Its all about the show. Don’t ask questions, don’t try to hard, don’t care, just look good and smile at the right people.

You try and break the mould, you try and install independent thinking in the kids, you ask questions, you care and some things are guaranteed. The kids wont like you and neither will a lot of colleagues or employers and or you will go crazy with the sheer frustration of it all.

Oh yes, if you are thinking, this isnt all that dark then you would be right. I re-read everything and decide to self censor a lot of it. Strange I know but I a few folk at work have found out who I am and so discretion and valour and all that.

And anyway, I am feeling a little less depressed than last week so that helps matters, especially since I have booked my school holidays and today is the start of the staffroom makework nonsense.

I will leave you with a couple of happy words. Jolene Blalock. Grrrrrrrrr! :)

Friday, September 23, 2005

To those who were thinking you are a miserable bastard, its not that bad. yeh, ok, you were right.

I didnt get a cover lesson, in fact this week is the first time in ages I have not had one. It makes such a difference in my energy levels, especialy with the way the kids are just now.

Anyway, yes I know I promised to enter the rest of it but I really cant be arsed at the moment. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Exams & Happenings

Well, for the first time in ages, I basically just sat down and started to write something for this while I was still in work. It turned out to be a bit longer, darker and bitter than I had imagined, but right now that’s just the way I am feeling. The rest will come tomorrow – or maybe even more.

Thank god we are nearly on holiday, as we are slowing down a bit

As it seems to be nearly everywhere for some reason, mathayom is stopping before prathom, we have two more days with the kids than they do.

We are now in that twilight zone of being after exams and being before holidays. Well, I say holidays but we have the usual bullshit of having to come into work to write the reports and do summer camps before they rulers deign to let us away for a couple of weeks. Almost everyone is feeling the same in that we are all saying that the kids are basically climbing the walls and going ape shit. Whether its because they can smell the holidays or they are as fed up as we are I don’t know. My lot are bouncing off the walls.

I had planned some light hearted fun stuff for them this week but they are being such utter dicks, I am not going to bother giving them everything. I had one class today where a kid said he didn’t have the worksheet from yesterday. I asked where it was. Mai ow maa baan. Basically its at home, I notice another kid at the same table hadn’t got it out. I asked him the same. Same answer. A third kid hadn’t got anything out and before I could talk to him one of the other kids in a stage whisper mai ow maa baan. Then he repeated it. Being a naturally suspicious bastard, especially when it comes to kids, I asked him if he wanted a bet. ( I love getting sarcastic with the real shits in my class, they haven’t a clue what’s going on and it makes me feel better ! ) Sure enough, in the bag there it was. He turned round and gave that little butter wouldn’t melt to hide the guilty smarm that he was beginning to show. A quiet little search revealed they all were lying little shits.

If there is one thing I hate as much as anything about the kids, its lying. No matter the reason, to save face, to show contempt, to hide that they don’t know the answer, that they just enjoy winding up the teacher or whatever. I HATE it, I really do. So that set my mood up nicely for the rest of the lesson – why will these kids learn??

Anyway, their behaviour at the moment is just hyper bouncing off the walls stuff. Somebody somewhere is giving them speed laced with sugar, fried with batter on a stick – chicken or pork flavoured.

I have just about reached the end of my tether and am really tempted to just let them loose and do whatever they want. The trouble is, I know I would just be storing up trouble for myself when I wanted to do proper teaching.

Even the simplest task of getting them lined up and into their seats in the class is turning into a 10 minute job.

Walk in and sit down. Nope, get them out and line up again.

Walk in and sit down! Nope, get them out and line up again.

Walk in and Sit down! Nope, get them out and line up again.

Walk in and Sit Down! Nope, get them out and line up again.

WALK in and Sit Down! Nope, get them out and line up again.

WALK in and SIT Down! Nope, get them out and line up again.

WALK IN AND SIT! Jesus, there must be an easier way to make a living than this.

Then once they are inside, the goldfish brain takes over. You can tell one boy to be quiet and stop talking but then the one next to him starts or continues on!

What is it with Thais and the need for noise? Why do they need to shout at every opportunity to each other, especially if the other person is only two yards away? Is it a law somewhere?

During the exams there were the usual pathetic attempts of cheating, hiding their faces with the paper to stop me from seeing them looking at others papers. You would have thought that maybe the moving piece of white paper might catch my eye would occur to them. Nah.

Well, I say exams, but in reality it was just an exam – singular. Not Speaking, just a combined Reading and Writing one that we had to make up. Depending on the level, the exams were out of 20, 30, 40 or 50. Then the fun began. The assessment grids are split into Reading and Writing out of 5 marks each. So guess what the solution was? Just reduce everything down to 10 then split it equally between the two parts. DOH! A real scientific test of the kids abilities. Why do so many schools do this? Why not at least set up the exams so they are the same mark? This mucking around is just pathetic.

We are still a couple of people short following the recent departures and have had a couple of permanent casual people in to do some of the cover - it turns out the only casualty of the probation shake out was Mr Banger who disappeared off to a language school. This still leaves quite a few classes to be covered due to the regular "illnesses" and despite assurances from the management that I would be used as the last resort due to the number of covers i had already done - I am still getting as many as ever. I will make a bet with you right now. That I get a cover lesson tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Catching up

Its been a few days since the last effort so thought I would get my arse into gear and put something down.

In some ways, it has been fairly quite with no real excitement and nothing new to relate that hasn’t already been told a dozen times, but on we go….

In the last week we have now passed the probationary period at the school – a massive 4 months. It was something that had been in the back of mind based on the stories I heard last year about people being booted out in time for the holidays. I had hoped and thought I was ok but this being Thailand, you never quite know even if you are told you are ok. But I got the letter that I had passed and basically that means I am “in” and can relax a bit – from the sense of job security.

A couple of people didn’t though. Its shrowded in the usual mystery that is Thailand why that was. One of them got the letter late and one walked off.

Although we are just out of probation we are still in the “hostage deposit” period. (The 4000 baht a month deduction from our salaries that is taken out for the first 5 months and returned after the end of the school year.) So this guy is maybe waving bye bye to 12000 baht – assuming he doesn’t challenge the school and ask for it back. I am not sure what the position is if the school doesn’t renew your probation and says you are out. I would hope and assume that the deposit money is returned.

We are now getting into the realms of end of semester exams and winding down for the holidays and compulsory english camps we have to do. So more of that later

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Assorted Ramblings

If you read the various newspaper and forums you will see that corporal punishment it now against the law. You now can’t legally hit any kids. Errr yup. Well, unless you are a Thai teacher. Sometimes, going to my first class of the day, I see boys who are presumably coming in late and receiving a late “ticket” just inside the gate and another little line hidden from the main road where boys line up and get whacked a couple of times by a cane on the rear end. You can actually hear the sound from the other side of the road sometimes! Ouch!! I think it depends which guy is in charge of the whacking as a couple of times I have sent he kids really get whacked and a couple of times it didn’t seem to be that sore – at least judging from their reaction.

As is common which a lot of schools, there is always a circus outside with various people selling the kids stickers, pirated PS2 games, food and of course English language schools. Sometimes the language school folk take things way too far. Handing out the leaflets is a thankless job, I know, I did it for a while in a summer holiday when I was younger and the number of refusals can get you down but… I saw something last week that made me mad. I was walking behind a small kid, maybe Prathom 2, the schoolbag bigger than him, struggling his way up the street and the woman who was handing out the leaflets held out the leaflet in front of his face, when he shook his head to indicate he didn’t want it she took one of his arms and forced the leaflet into his hands and closed the hands around the leaflet. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. I really felt like going up to the woman and smacking her one. In the end, of course I didn’t and she carried on forcing the leaflets into the hands of the kids. The overall result? A few yards behind her was a growing pile of those same leaflets that the kids didn’t and therefore just dropped on the street. Stupid.

Things in the office are fairly calm at the moment, unless you count the fact that 3 people handed their notice in and one left immediately. So if anyone wants a job let me know! Over the last couple of weeks we have been observed by the bosses, this was one of the final steps before passing probation. Mine went Ok with a few comments about language level in instructions ie it was too high and the mix of activities wasn’t quite right but overall pretty positive. The one thing that amazes me is that the feedback is given in writing, you don’t get to talk with the observer – unless you want to! Umm. Seems a bit strange, especially for such a “serious” English program. Ah well, whatever.

Once we pass probation, a few things will happen, we will have to wear the school uniform on Mondays – white shirt and school tie, not really such a big deal. We stop having the “bondage deduction” taken from our salaries. And maybe most important of all, it will be more difficult to sack us.

The crackdown on downloading stuff seems to be serious. A couple of comments were overheard about removing any sort of program that will download music or movies so maybe it will be more than a couple of weeks before people start downloading stuff again.

I will now tell a tale of a teacher who joined the school not that long ago in another section. You make up your own mind whether he is an idiot, unfairly picked on, unrealistic or whatever.

He joined about 10 days ago and said he was going to resign. He was teaching M5 & 6. Not the brightest pack of cards on the table but … He is teaching 22 lessons a week of 50 minutes. Because of various activities that the kids did and a lack of enthusiasm generally for turning up, he was never teaching full classes and in some cases, no one turns up at all. The way his timetable is set up, he effectively has a couple of half days were all he needs to do is make sure he comes in at some point to swipe his timecard.

He says that he has been having trouble with his bosses as they tell him that if no one turns up, he still has to give the lesson and that if no one turns up it is his fault. But the main point of him wanting to resign is that the school will not give him the full bonus at the end of the year. He is not getting the flight allowance bonus and is being pro-rated on the “normal” bonus. He seems to think he deserves the full bonus.

Now, no school I know of will ordinarily give anyone joining 4 months into the school year the full bonus – unless you were a really good negotiator and or the school were desperate to get bodies in.

A few days later he decides that well, I am not going to get another job until October and then it will be the schools holidays so I wont be paid for the holidays and well if I stay until then I might as well stay until December and if I stay until then I might as well stay for the full year.

To my mind he was being a bit silly in wanting to resign as he seems to overall have a very sweet deal. Kids not turning up? Great Stuff. Half days? Wonderful. I wouldn’t mind that.