Colored education

The road to becoming a teacher

I came here as a fresh graduate on the lookout for different things that I had heard of. So being a young man with little money in my pocket I decided to take up teaching as I had been engaged with teaching economics to secondary students for one year. A language school employed me but their inability to obtain a work permit and the required visa compelled me to quit the position to attend TEFL course in Bangkok, which I still think was worth attending considering the introduced approaches in teaching English as second language. By the time the course was over all my friends were already placed by various school but I was left without a school where I could complete the internship period, the placement officer at the training would not try because I am Asian and the schools I had approached would not consider me because I was too Asian to be on their campuses as an English teacher.

Understanding my problem the English-educated Malay trainer somehow pulled out the name of a school in Bangkok and told me to try. So in few days time I found myself in front of the school being welcomed by a diminutive lady with who I had to communicate by smiling at each other. She examined me from my gelled up hair to my Tawyin-cushioned feet as if she was in a store looking for a doll for her grand daughter, finally over with the intense examination she released a smile and told me to sit down facing the wall where pictures of animals with name incorrectly written below.

As her understanding of the language, through which we were going to communicate, was limited I just put on a nice smile and asked her few questions by relying on gestures, her comprehension appeared rather shakable and she called out for the young secretary, who was already nervous at the fact that she had to do something related to translation, excusing herself she ran out of the office room to find a teacher who could communicate in vain. Her return was met by the cold lashings from the diminutive lady. The diminutive lady rose up to ask if I could start teaching from the following day, but I would have to teach kindergarten. There I was caught in a dilemma; I badly needed a job but I had never taught young learners before. I diverted my eye contact to imagine how it would be like to be with young learners, then I returned my gaze at the eyes which had been eagerly waiting for " yes' , I nodded my perplexed head in agreement.

Next day I was in the classroom looking for someone who would explain the whole things in vain. After two hours a lady in her late forties with freckled face which ran down till her chin showed up, smiling at me she introduced herself and left me before I could even ask her what I had been expecting. Half an hour later there 12 kids in the class, curiously staring at me, they sat down in horse-shoe shaped on the floor and turned around their head to look at me as if asking " come over here and teach us!" The lady in her forties rose and said "teacher you go and teach."

The bizarre ended after I met few British teachers who explained what I had been looking for and the following days turned rather smooth. Few days after I had joined the teaching staff I ran into a tall teacher from Holland. At the parents-school meeting the parents looked at the tall handsome high-school dropped out teacher from Holland in admiration, when he mentioned the word "Amsterdam" they fixed their eyes to him for a while then " wow! Beautiful" snuck out from their mouth. Then my turned came, the expression became observant and critical, when I finished my explanation I asked them if they had any question, to which they wagged their head.

I knew that from day one that my attire should be formal and I followed it; neck-tie, pressed shirts and trousers. Being a person who grew up in a cold place I had to roll up the shirt-sleeves sometime in the afternoon due to the profuse perspiration in Bangkok. One day a lady from the office approached me to ask why I had rolled up the shirt sleeves, slightly vexed by her oblivion I said "you would not understand mam." As she was going to walk away the tall Dutch teacher grabbed her by the wrist and sent down a smile and she instantly became the subject of his smile, his exposed chest , the rolled up sleeves. All that mattered to her was the acceptance by that tall flying Dutch man.

Few months after all the teachers in the school had to pose with children for pictures, the Caucasian stood prominently, Thai teachers knelt right next to the Asians wearing the same shirt as the school had the rule to hire only Native English speakers. The following weeks pictures of the Caucasian teachers were hung on the front walls of the school, their names were even displayed but that their qualification and achievements were nowhere to be seen.

In the middle of the semester the diminutive manager who recruited the new teachers and systematically arranged our wages according to the colours of the skins was told to hang up her boots, a new religious one arrived and she was welcomed in the most pompous fashion, the pomposity of the ceremony overwhelmed her that we could barely see her existence in the crammed room where the subservient Thai employees displayed the best demeanour.

I found her rather sneaky, sneaking up on people and leaving without even greeting people around her, but she was the person in charge of the school where 600 young minds had been receiving formal education. In the middle of the second semester all the teachers were informed that our teaching would be observed, nobody objected but English teachers in general suggested that someone who could speak and understand English should supervise the observation part. Hearing what we had suggested the new religious manager notified all the teachers for an urgent meeting, there in the staff room we found her sitting hair spiked up, eye glasses hanging on the tip of her nose, wearing pink skirt and blue jacket over a white a green shirt, discerning our steps she raised her head and stared at us over the glasses then released a smile which allowed her canine teeth to sneak out as if she was cunning vixen.

A person who smiled at all of us a moment ago now diverted her attention and it was fixed on the a young Thai teacher, who spoke the best English among the Thai teachers, gibbering while wagging her head as if she was threatening her, to it the young Thai teacher lowered her head until it touched her knees and when she woke with her entreating welled up eyes relaying the meaning through her quivering mouth only said "yes, yes". The Thai teacher on the verge of crying gathered herself and announced that the manager had the utmost desire to observe our teaching regardless of her English level.

She came to my classroom and sat in the back of the classroom. I was little worried that my kids would not response well even though I had been slogging. Much to my relief it turned out to be a disciplined lesson with kids having a good laugh during the activity time. The manager stood up holding the evaluation sheet and wandered out without even looking at me and not even saying "hi" to the kids. Slightly disturbed by the whole thing I rushed out and stopped her, she turned around and looked at me like a cornered creature. Having explained why I stopped her I looked at her eyes and waited for her response. I wanted to know what she felt and I expected some feedback from her, but my curiosity was met by her postponement which didn't come for 7 months.

Sitting in front of the tiny mart with my colleague drinking a bottle of green tea during the lunch-break I saw my British mate approach us. He sat down next to me and delivered his positive outcome from the one-to-one interview with the manager. The smile on his face disappeared leaving me wonder what he was going to do now. " The manager says you are fired mate." he released the gloomy appearance. Both my colleagues insisted that I go and find out in person. So I rose and scurried to the office where the manager was yelling at the young Thai staffs.

Understanding my intention she ventured in to her office, but she didn't utter a word but behind the friendly mask she wore there were many things she wanted to say, which had not been allowed by quite cultural backstabbing. "Parents call everyday say we no like Asians, we like farang teacher, committee say you teach no good" she released the verbal lump inside her. I demanded which parents had called the office and if the school had any written complaints. Holding out the matter instead of facing it is another naïve mantra that I had experienced, so she expected me to buy what she had cooked up to seek personal vendetta. Having found out that I was not going to leave the premises without given a valid justification she, at some points, stopped coming to school for few days, however my aggressive mind didn't give up easily instead I hung in to wait and organized the teachers- committee meeting. Only when she was summoned by the chairman of the committee she showed and we met in one room after days. She backed down but behind that submissive manner I could see the cold expression which would prolong to nurture up the egoistical beast inside her. The beast which allowed personal vendetta overcomes professionalism.

In a month time I was offered a job by a language centre in Bangkok which required me to teach in a government school with a good 67 years American mate. Teaching 26 hours a week and handling classes of 50-55 exhausted and drained the creativity that we could have employed for a remarkable outcome. However, the curiosity in the eyes of those innocent kids kept our spirit up and we surrendered to the innocent curiosity while ignoring that fact that the school administration never even dealt with us, as, to them, as if we were bunch of aliens from a language centre.

It's such a pity that the quality of teaching is compromised for the sake of appearance as if what one wears and colour of a person is what we are eyeing for. Are we too naïve to figure out what we our society needs?

Small people spend a large part of their life talking about people, while great people talk about great minds, and people who talk about great minds are not necessarily encased in one preferred skin, what is beneath the surface of what appears so ugly, so dark, so brownish ,so white is more important that how flashy the appearance is. Those who see more than the tip of an iceberg and those who can see what is beneath the surface are the people who outwit the conventional wisdom. The anachronistic belief of racial superiority seems to hang in as a stubborn beast in a society which I love. Certainly the racism prevails in most countries but it is the degree of it.


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