I’ve had team teachers in Korea, China, Kenya and Thailand, And then there was Mrs. T. During the second week of the semester, when I wrote a topic on the board, Mrs. T left my classroom, fetched some notebooks from another classroom, shoved them in my face and said, “You didn’t teach this topic to the other class!”
In one particularly busy week that included holidays, visa runs, Teacher Appreciation Day and a seminar or two, some classes were not taught certain topics nor did they receive make-up classes. 99.99% of the people in education understand this and are cool with this. Indeed, they discovered this a long time ago. But for Mrs. T, interrupting her team teacher’s lesson and sternly demanding an explanation is standard operating procedure.
So I realized at that early stage she was going to be difficult. As the semester progressed, I also discovered she was a micromanager and a control freak as she repeatedly interrupted my lessons, constantly tried to hijack my classrooms, obsessed over the most trivial details, and insisted on relaying the most minor questions from every student.
When I told the students to form groups of 4, Mrs. T said, “Teacher Carl. You told the students to form groups of 4, but we have 38 students in this class and one is absent, so we have a group with 5 students.” Never mind that she’s been in the classroom for decades, pretending she doesn’t know what to do. She can always feign helplessness, interrupt her team teacher’s lesson for the umpteenth time, and ask him to solve pseudo crisis.
When she sent the director a list of petty complaints and trumped up charges against me - personal revenge for trying to shut her down, thinly disguised as a professional evaluation, I discovered she was also a vindictive witch, a pathological liar, a sociopath and a schizophrenic.
But she was not only my team teacher, she was the director of the whole 6th grade. And she’s Thai and I’m a foreigner and she’s been at the school for 20 or 30 years and I’m brand new.
I had some impressive team teachers in Kenya and Korea. The Korean teachers weren’t in the classroom with me, but we had the same students and compared notes and exchanged ideas. Then there was my kindergarten team teacher in China, who was probably the best member of the Chinese team (but they were all top notch). And I had a Thai girl who’s in the same office with Mrs T, and who gave me very few problems, and who was an almost ideal team teacher. There was also a very good English major Thai intern.
And then there’s Mrs. T. She can’t speak a complete, correct sentence in English and her pronunciation is incomprehensible, but she fancies herself to be an expert on teaching oral English. So, I’ve had awesome team teachers and I’ve had OK team teachers and I’ve had Mrs. T and Mrs. T is a poster child for the team teacher from hell.
Neither the school principal nor the vice principal (who is in charge of foreigners) nor the academic director nor the foreign affairs director ever set foot in my classroom during the entire controversy with Mrs. T. Nor did any of them look at my lesson notes, even though I had almost all of them translated into Thai.
Nor did the academic director look at my math worksheets or my math students’ notebooks or talk to me about my math teaching strategy, yet he accused me of not being able to teach math.
When they fired me, I told them I would take my story to the internet if they didn’t get Mrs. T under control and allow me to continue teaching there without any further harassment. The principal responded by telling the foreign affairs director, “Cancel his visa immediately!”
I went back and forth with the other foreign teachers about how I might have done things differently and how the situation might have turned out had I handled the situation another way. My conclusion is that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had diplomatically appealed to the foreign affairs director to resolve my problem with Mrs. T. Dealing with some people is just an unwinnable situation.