LiBeL Column

Whinging Thai Teachers and Cheering Practice

Columns from The Nation newspaper

Returning to the topic of ISO numbers for a moment

Just to return to the theme of ISO accreditation for a paragraph. I noticed earlier today that Berli Jucker Co. Foods, known for their top notch potato based snacks have also become members of the ISO club in Thailand. One question remains. Does this mean that their potatoes and the students in ISO ratified schools are somehow equal in quality? Answers on a postcard please. Strangely enough, I’ll probably get complaints about this rhetorical question doing an injustice to BJC Foods’ vegetables.

Before going any further, an important disclaimer. I must point out that all references to the daily goings on in schools are figments of my imagination and not based on the bizarre occurances in any particular school. In fact, the school to which I sometimes make references to is the hypothetic and unfathomably prestigious St Judas’ Academy for Serial Underperfomers.

This week at St Judas’ a mysterious label appeared on the computer in the teacher’s room warning teachers not to use it for individual work. A more effective warning might have been “And I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and with furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my P.C. And you will know that my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” Now that’s the sort of thing that would make you think twice.

No doubt teachers will be charged for wear and tear to the keyboard for any unauthorised usage. Taking things a little further would entail employing a hypnotist who would instill a second personality into the minds of every teacher. One personality would kick in when teaching, discussing grades, tests, retaking tests, retaking retaken tests etc and the other would surface when chatting about plans for the weekend.

Come to think of it that might not be a bad idea. Hypnotise every teacher so that they think that life is peachy and never complain about anything – no matter how incomprehensible or nonsensical the order or how inconvenient the task being asked of them. At St. Judas’ it appears that someone has already implemented this cunning plan and ‘Stepford wives’ type personalities have been issued to many of the teachers.

So no matter what, no-one ever complains, at least not out loud and not in public. Hence the strange quizzical expression on some Thais faces when a farang complains. It’s as though the thought of complaining, for example about being the last to know that your entire schedule has been changed, is the equivalent of asking them to explain quantum physics or decide how much wood the woodchuck could actually chuck. The Thai ‘panic’ reflex action kicks in – Appear to listen. Smile. Nod as though you comprehend. Then busy yourself with something infinitely more important such as organising your paperclip collection.

I realise that some sticklers for Thai culture take a dim view at the attempts at humour shown in Ajarn.com and in this column. Fair enough, but I’m not looking to write sociological essays or a website which is a fact filled snooze-fest. The bottom line is that if you’re not amused don’t read it.

At St. Judas’ the kids have been practicing cheering, since last December, for an upcoming football tournament, to be held sometime in late 2001. Of course the importance of a rehearsing a coordinated cheer far outweighs that of studying, so every week half a day’s lessons are cancelled for cheering practice.

Cheering doesn’t only include yelling “We are, we are, (insert school name)” until hoarse, it also entails holding up coloured cards which, providing they’re aligned correctly, form a beautiful mosaic. These pictures are designed by teachers from the schools and the mosaic images vary from the sights of amazing Thailand to the royal family and in one case ‘funny’ images of Adolf Hitler.

I hope the school concerned won the award for best mosaic featuring a despised mass murderer. At least I hope the teachers and kids found it funny. I didn’t. But I guess, just as some Thais have difficult understanding the nuances of ‘farang’ humour, I sometimes have the same problem comprehending what passes for Thai humour.

Getting back to the football, a student told me the real reason many of his friends don’t enjoy the football tournament. It’s the fact that, in addition to having to sit out in the scorching sun for several hours, they’re not allowed to have a toilet break all day. This is a cause of great consternation amongst young teenage boys.

Students are left with a dilemma, either they dehydrate and suffer the consequences or they down a few litres of soft drinks and suffer the consequences. A situation involving having to use an empty plastic coke bottle as a receptacle is pretty alien to them as the cheering practice manual contains no references to this eventuality. Luckily a solution is at hand. The embarrassment of peeing in public can be eased by using a technique that involves simultaneously maneuvering the bottle up the leg of your shorts with one hand whilst using the other to ensure your willy is correctly positioned.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of ‘shooting rabbits’ in stadiums. At least the idea of then hurling the half filled bottles of warm yellow liquid at students from opposing schools hasn’t occurred to them – until now.