Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

And thats it. The final week has gone and finished.

In the end all I did was play games and a little bit of a prize giving to the good kids. But to the bad ones all that happened was the Activity Book!

I had decided in my heart, maybe as long ago as November last year, that I would be going home after this year and wouldnt stay for another year.

In some ways, I will be sad to leave Thailand and in others I will be glad. I wouldnt say there is one particular thing that made up my mind but just a gradual increment of various issues. The lack of respect from students, from Thai teachers, from administration, the no fail policy, the everyday hassles of living, family issues at home, personal timing ( sounds a bit strange I know, but a lot of what I decide to do is when something feels right - buying a flat of my own, moving jobs, changing habits, whatever. It just felt the right time to move back.

As much as I moaned about the various kids, I will miss Beer, Oil, Boss, Benz, Jame, James, Big, Ken, Jack, Golf, Pong, Bill, Fond, Ice, Big, Ford, Babe and all the others.

Whether I made as much of an impression on them as they did on me, I have no idea. Hopefully, I have made a difference. Hopefully, I have made them think I was a fair teacher and applied all the rules equally. Hopefully, I have made some kids reach their potential. Hopefully, I have made the kids stretch themselves and start to actually think instead of being spoonfed. Hopefully, they learnt something.

And that is all you can hope for out here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Counting Down The Moments

Jjust like a tropical sunset, the sun is dipping to the horizon and the sands of time slip by faster and faster to the end of term.

The exams have now passed and we are moving into the spare week where we are supposed to be doing "farewell activities" and other exciting things to keep the kids occupied.

Although I have got lessons planned, the reality will probably be that I will mostly play games with them or whatever they and Ii am in the mood for. If they are good they will get team games - english language based and if they are bad, the dreaded Activity Books and worksheets - the original lesson plan.

The exam week was reasonably uneventfull was remarkably little cheating going on. They seemed to have learnt their lesson and became a bit more sophisticated. There was no getting up out of their seats, no trying to open their books in their bags and so on. Of course there was some looking at others answers and quietly asking each other questions but even that was seemingly restrained.

Had I finally got though to them? Where they finally beginning to realise that they could use their brains to think and do it for themselves? Heaven knows. If I could leave them with just one impression, one thing they have learned in their year with me I would choose that.

Now that I have got the marking started, a few patterns are emerging. The smarter ones have noticed that some of the questions were answered by some displays and posters around the room and the err others didnt. Even though the marking scheme is quite relaxed I have quite pleased with the general results and of a couple of kids in particular that have in the last few weeks started taking the smart pills insted of the stupid ones.

Quite why they only started doing it in the last few weeks I am not sure. Maybe they learn a little like I do, sit, observe, think then understand. No matter, from being in the 30% range these two kids suddenly reached up into the 60%s. Good on ya kiddos!

The last week or so has seen a flurry of memos about how to have our end of year partys, how to enter the scores in the worksheets and this that and the other. But basically we now know the timetable for remaining few weeks of term time Unfortunately it seems that its there is a bit of work involved, by that I mean a few of the deadlines are quite tight. By the end of this week we have to mark all the exams and enter them into the spreadsheets and then by the end of next week type out all the reports and then a few days later proof read and correct and then sign. Ah, not that bad I hear you cry but at the same time, we are supposed to be invigilating the Thai exams and then help doing summer camps. So, its going to be a bit tight and more rushed than the end of the first semester for example.

It seems on this occasion I have come out a bit ahead of the game - at least me and my learning group. This week we only have a couple of tests to do fr those kids who were off sick or whatever. But another group have got two full weeks of the normal tests and the exams. It seems that someone somewhere miscalculated or was told the wrong information. Whatever, the end result is the two solid weeks of testing and more importantly - from the teachers point of view - marking and then entering the marks into the spreadsheet.

One of the more interesting memos was about the payments, as usual everything will get back to us at the end of the contract. The final salary, the remaining bonus ( half of which we got In december ), our flight/travel bonus and our runner deposit. All in all a tidy sum assuming we get it all. As well as this, any deductions will be taken off. By this they seem to be indicating the days taken off sick over our allocation, the times we were late, went homm early and so on. The cynical are pointing out that of course by paying it at the end by which time many people would be away or travelling etc any mistakes in the schools favour wouldnt be corrected!

This was one memo that wasnt put on everyones desk surprisingly. After all thats why we work - for the money. Some might love to do the job but if we aint got no money we dont eat! Another reason why it was suprising that it wasnt given out to everyone was that it was talking about the contracts for next year and when they would be issued! A few people have apparently been talked to about coming back but a lot havent.

What is strange is that they seem to be giving everyone a letter about "the invitation" to come back next year. Seems a bit strange. Why give an invitation to someone who is not going to come back? I would have thought that a little chat first of all would have done the trick better. Some already know 100% that they are not. Why bother sending them a letter? ( Of course, this assumes that all the letters include an invitation to return and not one to go forth and never darken our door again! ) Ah well. Whatever. Just another case of TIT and resource management in thailand.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Whats that light...........

at the end of the tunnel?

Knowing my luck its the light of an oncoming train wreck. This week is a review week for the kids to ahem review and revise for the exams next week. Of course in most cases its just the opportunity for me to remind myself of the differing levels in the classes from the finished in 5 minutes and 100% right good kids right down to the end of the lesson and they have managed to write their name at the top of the practice test.

I have absolutely no doubt about who will get the good scores and who wont. I reckon after 2 weeks at the start of term I had got 95% of the classes pegged. There are some who drift in and out, up and down but you tend to know who are the smart kids and who are the waste of fried pork very soon.

One of the constant battles you have is trying to keep the kids just below the middle level doing the work you give them - hopefully on their own - without you standing over their shoulder the whole time. Some teachers like to stand the whole class, some like to sit, some floorwalk the whole time, some dont let the kids out of the chairs and go to the kids to correct, some have them lined up at the teachers' desk. There is no right way as no matter what works one day for one class their is no guarantee it will work for the next class in the next lesson.

Today I was doing a bit of a mix, hand out the practice test, wander at the start to see they were doing it right and then sit when they start to finish and mark / correct and give them new work. Of course, the disdvantage is that the kids sitting think my mind is distracted and start to muck around or the ones on the queue start to push and shove each other and so on. Anyway, in this class is the kid who is beyond redemption as far as learning goes. He just doesnt want to be there and do anything that the rest of the class do, he has been disruptive, unresponsive etc etc. ( this is the kid, I was warned about for being like this at the start of the year so wasnt too worried or surprised ) I looked over at one point and he was asleep, good. I dont mind that in the least because that way he doesnt distract anyone else.

Unfortunately I noticed another kid hadnt yet been up and his head was in a bit of a strange angle. I got up - leaving the queue of kids going "TEACHER FINISHED ,TEACHER FINISHED" sixteen times in my ear and all waving their bit of paper in front of my face in case I hadnt heard them - and walked over. Aha, thats why he was so quiet as well. He was asleep. Sound asleep. I dont see why if I cant sleep, he should be allowed to get away with it. I gave him a little prod in the ribs and nothing. Another prod and he slowly stirs, he rubs his eyes and looks at me and then puts his head back down on the desk to sleep some more! WTF??? One of the other kids actually came over and shook him until he woke up and paying attention again.

If I had done that at my school, I am not sure if my feet would have touched the ground on the way to the headmasters office and from school all the way home. Oh what it is to be a respected teacher in Bangkok. I reckon last year at this time I would have slapped the kid a good one round the back of the head and bawled him out. Today, I just couldnt be arsed. One week of exams and one week of doing something to keep them occupied until we dont see them again. Anyway, what would happen if I did something? At this time of year, nothing in all probability, so why bother.

By the way the little sods are doing not bad, only a couple more dead. So as so many people asked, I have put a picture of them on for you :)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Grassy Knoll

Well, its that time of semester were we are obviously nearing some bigwigs visit or a football tournament.

Why do I know that? Well, they are relaying the turf on the pitch. Again. At the start of the year, it was in pretty good nick but of course with all the games and functions on it, it started to go bare down the middle. Would they returf or reseed the whole pitch?
But of course not.

The solution was to returf the middle bit. So, afterwards you had this green strip of grass down the middle of the pitch and then the semi bare wing areas. The trouble was the sods they were laying looked as though they had been stolen from a public park a lot of the sods were dead before they had been laid, the actual sods were maybe about 3 feet by 2 feet big, the depth of the sod was barely an inch. This meant holes started to appear when they were being transfered. As well as that you had the usual high tech approach of the workers, instead of putting the sods as closely togther as possible like a jigsaw puzzle they left quite big gaps. The end result was that after only a month or so - which in itself is far too short a time for the grass to lay proper roots - they were playing on it and pulling the grass out. Not only that they had only lightweight rollers which gave the nominally flat surface the same gradients as Nepal.

Within 3 months the effect was that the newly turfed pitch was bare and the original side area still had grass! DOH!!

So they are now returfing it again. Watching the process, you can see why the grass cant hold, the underlying soil is not soil, it looks like either hard compacted earth or an earthy clay combination. I would imagine that to get the pitch right, you would need to import proper soil to get decent drainage and then look after it properly etc etc. Which means obviously it will never happen.

As you can guess, not a lot else is happening just the same old same old.

We are starting to get the papers ready for the final end of year exams that we wont let the kids fail and doing finishing off the weekly tests. One of the kids got my special attention today as I discovered what he did with his test paper. After the class he scrunched it up and left it in the desk. Wow, big deal you think.

Left at that I wouldnt even have blinked but combined with the fact that he had scored out my corrections, marks, and awarded himself full marks just pushed the wrong button. Its bad enough that we have to let them pass - which we think the kids know - but when they display such a total lack of respect in rolling up a test into a paper ball, changing a teachers comments and test score then it just goes beyond the pale, actually beyond the trough and small lake as well.