Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Things That Make Me Crazy


The Ways in Which I Am More Like Andrew Than I Am Comfortable With

One of the things I learned very quickly is that, in many ways, Glory (my school) needs me more than I need them. But more on that in a moment.

We are a small school that is trying desperately to expand, even if the expansion pushes us to the utmost limits of what our school/staff/sanity can handle. But this expansion doesn't seem to be based on anything resembling an objective judgment of our academics, curricula or the quality of our staff. No, it is instead predicated entirely on the inanity, useless standards and chicanery. We have lies and damn lies, but no one seems to actually care about the statistics.

For several weeks we have been working on making the school look better for prospective parents. If we were in a rundown building, or had problems with dirt, that would be one thing; but our 'beautification' is putting up cork boards with good looking student works. So I have to take good hand writing and colorful things and put them up, even though everyone on both sides of this equation knows that I am not going to put up the ugly things. Shouldn't it be more important to see how well children who have been taught at Glory speak English, or can actually perform mathematics?

At one point my principal attached four extra sentences for one of the children to write on a piece of paper they colored so it would look more full. So now we're not only not showing off anything real from the students, since they have already been so edited it resembles actual student work as much as a McDonalds McNugget resembles a chicken, but we're actually just showing off what the Principal can do. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Chu is a good writer, but for god's sake.

And now I'm being asked to, after school is technically over, go and mingle with the students. So that people can see the white teacher walking around, talking to students. So now not only do we have plagarism, but prostitution. If we throw in 'plotting against public officials' we can hit the "Get You Kicked Out of College" Trifecta.

Thats what schools are bought and sold on here, this veneer of academia shoddily plastered over a churning world of business and profit. Our school, like nearly all of them, has investors; am I the only one who sees the job of 'investor', which is to maximize profit, as being totally at odds with the job of 'educator'? And we are not bad teachers, and Glory isn't a bad school, but how do I look at parents who only care about the superficial things (and the token farang) and think that they have their student's best interests at mind?

And yet these are the schools that have the best chance at giving their student's the best chance, even if they are choosing it with a method that contains less academic honesty than a dartboard with school names on it. So does it matter how the parents choose, as long as they choose something? I have students going back to Thai schools from time to time, because they do not want to keep up with the rigors of a tri-lingual education, and students who want (and whose parents want) to have the opportunities in life cherry picked and handed to them simply because they went to an 'International' school. Is making the choice, regardless of the reason, better than not?

Perhaps. And maybe this is inevitable globally, that schools will move to this business oriented model. Glory will, if it follows the formula, make money; the more money it makes the more and better teaches it can hire, and the more prestige it can gain, which makes it more money. It is not necessarily a bad system, just a frustrating system to work in from the perspective of someone who wants things to be based on facts, rather than farces.

The plus side of this is, however, that once you get enough experience and some certification (which I hope to get this summer), a white teacher falls in to the situation of being needed more than needing a particular school. There is a reason why Glory was willing to take a chance on an untested honky, after all. So we'll see if that doesn't increase my socio-economic status some here in the coming months, as I rise to that plateau.

This whole sordid affair makes me feel close to my brother Andrew, who has rallied for such things all his life. And I know the score, and I know how to work the system for my benefit and for the benefit of the school, but at the end of the day it still bothers me sometimes. Bothers me that school ends at 2:30 and I work homework club until 3:30 which is when everyone leaves, but that I am still asked to go hook myself for the passing masses so that we can strum up some joh...I mean students. Why can't we put our brains and degrees out there to attract the best and brightest rather than trying to entice them with a glimpse of pale flesh behind a 100 baht tie? it causes me to to think at times. And at those times I have to pause and say "Gee, this must be what Andrew feels like all the damn time." I know I can't change it, I know it isn't even necessarily wrong, but there is a cognitive dissonance between reality and my view of how it should be, and I want that to go away.

But it doesn't, and so for now I am the token white teacher cum prostitute for the school, seling my appalling whiteness first and my academic credentials second, in order to pay the bills and keep myself in Pocky money. I knew it would be like this but you can know with God's certainty something is coming, and still be disappointed when it does.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Safe Return/Future Trips

Hey everybody. I'm back in Thailand safe and sound, got in last night (for me) at about 6 PM. I'll do another post about Malaysia later tonight, after I pick up replacement chargers for the stuff I fried (more later).

On the further trips side I just booked another flight for July 4th till the 11th. Yes, after the U.S. spent years trying to get out of it, I need to get a Visa to get in to Vietnam. I will be spending the 4th of July in Ho Chi Minh city.