I have to disguise the name and language of this fellow, a friend I met last night at a local hole in the wall café across the street from TEFL International, in Ban Phe. I wouldn’t want to get him in trouble, or get him mad at me. He’s been teaching here in Thailand for the past three years, doing everything from online teaching to instructing bar girls in the finer points of . . . well, never mind that. Right now he has a good, steady, job at a local high school teaching both English and Math.
A heavy smoker since the age of twelve, he finally kicked the habit last year with the help of some Chinese herbal medicine and a course of acupuncture – so imagine my surprise when the first thing he did was light up again.
“Tough day?” I asked neutrally. There followed a diatribe, a perfect philippic, which I have cleaned up and amended slightly, but otherwise here’s what my friend had to say about the state of teaching in Thailand:
“A tough day? No, not really. Gimme a Leo, a large one. Just about like every other stinking day I’ve had for the past six months since going to work at that god-blessed school. My classroom is air-conditioned and the free lunch today was pad thai with several nice curries over rice to choose from, and bananas in sweetened coconut milk for dessert. The fact that ninety percent of my students hate my guts doesn’t affect my appetite in the least. These are rich kids, for the most part; they’ve all got Blackberries and iPads and drive brand-new cars, while I’m running around on a blessed scooter that belches fumes like Vesuvius. I’ve given up competing with the phone calls they get in the middle of class – somebody calls them I just park myself next to them and continue teaching in the loudest voice I can until they decide they can’t hear their friend and hang up. And do they want to learn mathematics? Do they care about the sciences at all, or are they curious about the physical world they inhabit? Heck no! At home their parents and servants take care of them so they’re growing up fat, dumb and lazy. They don’t pay attention to anything except their mother-lovin’ video games. I need another Leo here, and more ice. No, I’m not eating anything. So today the principal gives me a list of students who aren’t allowed to fail my classes. Even though they haven’t been there half the time and the other half of the time they don’t pay any attention to what I’m trying to teach. I’ve spent hours on lesson plans and then it seems no one is paying any attention. You know what happened last year at my school? Some kid was in class and put his head down, so the teacher thought he was taking a nap – kids do it all the time there. But when class was over that kid never woke up. They took him out in a body bag! They checked his shoes and there was a baby cobra in it. How late is the karaoke bar open tonight across the street? Good. So the principal gives me a list of kids that can’t fail – their parents are too important and would lose too much face if their idiot child got the grade they deserved. But that doesn’t upset me in the least. Sorry to talk so much. Man, I’m thirsty. One more Leo, for the love of heaven. You know, if a kid doesn’t want to learn anything I’m not going to force him to. He can grow up an imbecile and go to work for his father’s company. Good riddance. I just wish kids like that would shut the heck up in my class so I could teach the one or two percent of the kids that actually want to learn something, that don’t have super rich parents and who want to, and need to, better themselves through education. They’re the ones that keep me going. I’ll bend over backwards to help them out, give them time after school and really look over their homework. Y’know what I did the other day, just as an experiment? I told one of my classes that the Eiffel Tower was in New York City, and then told them to write a report about it for the next day. Not a single one of those dumb bunnies bothered to find anything out about the Eiffel Tower – not a single one contradicted me to say the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, France. Another Leo, here – make it a small bottle. Golly, these Krong Thip cigarettes taste like crap! No, I’m not gonna be looking for another job. It’s the same everywhere you go – besides, I get my bonus at the end of the month. Yeah, ten-thousand baht. Big fluffy whoop . . .”
Further your affiant sayeth not.