LiBeL Column

Still Going Nowhere

Columns from The Nation newspaper

Still kicking the topic of teacher expectations around

In the second part of this ‘cut out n’ keep then lose down the back of the sofa, find 6 months later and use to line the hamster’s cage’ guide it’s time to continue the exploration and explanation about how to attract teachers to a school deep in the hear of nowhere.

Last week I dissected the art of making your school appear to be an attractive proposition in face of surmountable odds. By utilizing a few tricks I learnt from the Afghanistan tourist board.

The school’s target audience as far as teacher recruitment goes is made up of two main groups. Firstly, the middle class, naive, fresh graduates who have spent 6 months researching on the ‘net and finally, after becoming experts on all aspects of Thailand, narrowed down their job search to “somewhere cool in Thailand that’s got sit down toilets, a world class hospital 15 minutes away and yet retains some olde worlde ethnic charm”. The other group is made up of ‘mid-life career changers’. The politically correct term for guys who are 40, feel they’re reached the pinnacle of their current jobs and are disillusioned about future career prospects. After all, once you’ve collected all 5 stars at McDonald’s or have handed Tom Cruise a hand towel, and received a $10 tip, in the gents at The Plaza Hotel, NYC; what else is there left to achieve?.

So having gleaned some information about the actual school and the surrounding area it’s time to consider the teaching opportunities and package that you – Mr/Ms Desirable Commodity would be likely to attract.

Opportunities – the following is taken from a website, which shall remain nameless but is aimed squarely at the target audiences mentioned above.

“For volunteers, this means a safe encounter with Thai culture whilst satisfying the Thais’ deep desire to learn English.” ( You’ll soon learn that tardiness, forgetfulness and laziness are some of the ways they satisfy that deep desire in a time honoured traditional manner.)

“We have a variety of teaching projects, working with Thai children, teenagers or professionals. If you like working with children, there are opportunities in the Mayor’s Office, teaching seven-12 year-olds,” ( Maybe I’m being a bit of a plank but what are 7-12 year olds actually doing in the Mayor’s Office? )

“or at other primary and secondary schools. You can also assist teenagers who can’t afford to go to university but are eager to improve their future prospects.” (And you’ll probably meet most of those teenagers in the village’s only karaoke bar where they’ll be more than happy to barter some their services for free English lessons and a handful of baht.)

“You help them with English skills at a Community College aimed at equipping young Thais with vocational skills, and these can be transferred to future university study.” (There seems to be a phrase missing from the second half of this sentence. Between ‘and’ and ‘these’, insert ” . . .there’s a chance, of the “Hey! Look that’s Elvis!” variety, that . . ” and you’ll get a more accurate picture.)

“Depending on your experience, you might also teach other subjects, such as mathematics, IT or even sports.” (You’ve got experience as a soccer coach? Then you’ll be guaranteed a spot as a mathematics teacher and vice versa. Why make things simple if they don’t have to be?)

“Work voluntarily for 3 months for only $2000 per person.” A bit steep but when you consider that this includes an orientation seminar in Bangkok, free bus travel to and from the nearest inhabitable town, the services of a locally hired Coordinator who’s paid chicken feed to listen to you whinge, a welcome basket of fruit and. . . Yes, there’s more . . . . a shared apartment with communal lounge and flushing style toilet.

So, what price home comforts? About $1900, if you subtract the cost price of the other services offered.

And how much is your salary? Roughly zero. Visitors to the website with an IQ higher than a geranium’s will now spot that perhaps this isn’t the greatest deal on offer. But, being sensible, there is no alternative, other than to get on a plane, fly to a strange country and sort a job out yourself. Of course, no one would be foolhardy enough to do that, especially knowing that terrorists are lurking in the most unlikely places, would they? What price freeing yourself from the shackles of corporate America – only to swap them for a 12 month contact with no get out clauses, other than ’till death do us part’, in a shanty town on the banks of an unnamed subsidiary of the Mekhong?

Dedicated to the guy who emailed me to ask a few questions as he’s just started planning for his arrival here . . . . in July 2004.