Surprise, Surprise, It Is A Conspiracy!
So okay . . . you’ve taught English, or “maths”, for several years in the schools here in Thailand. You’ve learned to put up with mosquitoes and flying cockchafers in the classroom; to do without chalk or blackboards or, sometimes, even students, when they forget to tell you about a major Buddhist holiday. You can eat the nuclear curry sauce, with gristly meat and dubious twigs and leaves, that the lunchroom dishes out to staff and students alike. You’ve made your peace with heat rash. You’re a veteran ESL teacher, and can look down your sunburnt nose at newbies.
But you still can’t make heads nor tails of your school administrator’s policies and procedures! Does this make you a bad person? An ignoramus? Culturally insensitive? Not a bit of it!
As an ESL teacher here in Thailand, has this ever happened to you? You wake up bright-eyed & bushy-tailed, ready to teach those eager young minds at school, and when you get there you find the school administrator looking askance at you – as if you’d showed up in nothing but your underwear, with erotic tattoos clearly visible. You are informed that, beginning today, all teachers must do a cartwheel when entering the school, and then imitate the mating call of the speckled vireo; otherwise, they are liable to a fine of 25 baht. When you protest you were not given any prior notice of this bizarre ukase, a flyblown piece of paper is waved in front of your face, on which you suspect there is nothing but a takeout menu from the local Indian restaurant.
Now your enthusiasm, your dedication for the job at hand, has evaporated. You feel lower than hemorrhoids on a snake. Despair grips your heart as if it were a five-iron on the fairway. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The head administrator has it in for you, and you alone. For reasons you cannot fathom you have become a pariah to the school administration and the result is this unreasonable persecution. Or, perhaps, you are going insane . . . developing a persecution complex . . . hearing voices, seeing things, that aren’t really there . . . wasn’t old Uncle Kenny a bit potty? Insanity runs in the family . . .
You are not alone, my friend. After years of arduous research and intense investigation I have uncovered a monstrous conspiracy among school administrators – world-wide! Not just here in Thailand, but everywhere from the salt pans of Brittany to the fjords of New Zealand. From the Mapuche of Patagonia to the Aurora Borealis of the Yukon – sinister forces are silently at work to undermine both the sanity and the credibility of ESL teachers.
At considerable personal risk, I am now prepared to reveal details of this complex strategy. Should I turn up missing there are certain documents that will be of public interest, held by my banker, Mungo Shufflewaithe; he has instructions to release those documents to New Scotland Yard and Homeland Security if I fail to meet him every Arbor Day. Checkmate, Professor Moriarity!
First, and foremost, is the infamous Sliding Pay Scale for ESL Teachers. This notorious document was initially cobbled together in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1952. It provides dozens of excuses and outright fabrications to justify withholding part or all of an ESL teacher’s salary on the slightest pretext. In 1968 this document was amended, in a rathskeller near Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to include promising year-end bonuses that could never be collected. Doubting Thomases will find the whole foul tissue of lies authenticated and notarized in the Thursday, August 6th, edition of the Oshkosh Daily Raconteur and Bulletin Newspaper. Page 5, next to the ad for Big Dutch’s Meat Market. (Knackwurst, 98-cents a pound.)
You will notice that July 3rd is always circled in red on a school administrator’s calendar; and for good reason! For that is the day, back in 1971, when school administrators initially met in Geneva, Switzerland, for a four day conference, ostensibly to investigate the advantages of New Math in the classroom and soybeans in the lunchroom. That was their cover. In reality, once the doors were locked and the conference room swept for electronic bugs, the school administrators began a systematic analyses of ways and means to humiliate and disorient future ESL teachers. No one can accuse these despicable individuals of not being far-sighted; they knew, even back then, that the need for ESL teachers would one day grow insatiable. The school administrators were determined to keep the reins of power in their own hands, to make sure that future ESL teachers were too confused and brutalized to form a strong union or in any other way assert mastery over the pencil pushers and bean-counters who now held sway. It was decided at that historic meeting that no request from an ESL teacher, be it for a chair or a pencil or a light bulb, could ever be considered unless it was filled out in triplicate, and stamped by the deposed king of Lithuania. It was decided at that same meeting that no ESL teacher had the right to feel comfortable with their own personal desk; as soon as an administrator discovered an ESL teacher putting up family photos and otherwise settling into a comfortable routine, he or she was to immediately have the desk seized and reduced to kindling, and to move the offending ESL teacher to another classroom, preferably next to a bathroom with defective plumbing.
This was also the meeting where an army of engineering experts were brought in to demonstrate how to warp floors so ESL teachers would continually trip over their own feet, and how to concentrate chalk dust in such a concealed manner as to cause bronchial pneumonia.
You will notice that your school administrator is never available on July 3rd – it’s a sort of Black Sabbath for them; they gather in their thousands near Mount Erebus in the Antarctic to award each other trophies for Advanced Capriciousness and to plan further indignities and pitfalls for ESL teachers.
I know I may have just signed my own death warrant by revealing these amazing details. But I don’t care. My only concern is that you, the struggling ESL teacher here in Thailand, realize that although there are vast and cosmic forces of chaos ranged against you, in the person of your school administrator, there is hope – there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Because, after all, in a few more years, you might get promoted to a school administrator yourself! Ha! Ha! Ha!