Of teachers and emperors without clothes
An ironic view of a job ad
Irony ...is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity or discordance that goes beyond the simple and evident meaning of words or actions. Verbal and situational irony are often used for emphasis in the assertion of a truth.
(Definition of irony from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Employment agencies in are in dire need of actors for live performances on stage.
Their primary audience is children aged from six to eighteen years old, but sometimes extending into the twenties. Their secondary audience is the parents, school visitors, government officials, and other dignitaries in public or private events.
Preferred actors are single white females, from their late teens to mid-twenties, tall, slender, blonde, blue eyed, with a pleasant smile, and meeting the last but most important characteristic: they must sport large noses.
Body piercing, visible tattoos, drinking or smoking in public, or any kind of physical handicap, even if slight, will disqualify the applicant. Eyeglasses, as long as they are not too thick, are permitted. Some exceptions will be considered and are listed at the end.
Actors will play the role of English teachers. As a result, it is important but not imperative that they speak English. To this date, our most successful actor never spoke one word; she just sat in the reception area where students were enrolling, wearing a school name tag, looking very professional and smiling. The number of students in the English Program nearly doubled that semester and we laughed all the way to the bank.
Those who hold a passport from a country where English is the official language will be paid twice the salary of those who do not. A college degree, real or not, in any subject, will also be needed for a work permit.
Actor's duties as follows
1) Be at the school half an hour before the official start time. Since the official start time is 8:00 AM, as stipulated by the work contract, arrival time is expected to be at 7:30 AM.
During the 30 minutes before the start of work, actors must stand right outside the main school gate to wave and smile at the parents as they drop off the kids. This reinsures the parents' belief that their children are getting a world-class education. Opening vehicle doors and helping the kids get out will accrue bonus points.
2) The morning service starts at 8:00 AM. Actors must stand in solemn attention, with the rest of the local staff, as the national anthem is sung, the flag is raised, and the prayers said.
After main announcements are made, the actors will perform a skit asserting how easy and fun it is to speak English. This will promote future enrollment in the English program even if students have to pay extra fees. Student enrollment is the lifeblood of any and all schools. Acting daily will accrue bonus points.
3) While in public, actors must act as true symbols of fully responsible, well-mannered and cultured adults for they are seen as pillars of the community and role models that every parent want their children to look up to. This means that an actor cannot be seen sitting in a drinking establishment other than a coffee shop.
Drinking alcoholic beverages or smoking in public will be cause for immediate dismissal with forfeiture of pay. The same is true if the actor is wearing less than decent clothing showing too much skin or in the worst case, part of the undergarment.
Actors should under no circumstances be seen holding hands or sitting too close to a member of the opposite sex. Actors should not be seen walking around licking an ice cream cone, as this is unbecoming behavior with a sexual connotation attached to it.
Note that we did not make any of this rules. They are cultural and social expectations. You will be judged by your looks, your skin, and your clothes (or lack thereof) so don't be surprised if the judgment is skin deep.
4) Now that the nature of this role, based in public exposure, has been made clear, a word on actor costume (dress) and make up is in order. In the morning, from the moment the actors step out into the street, locals will automatically assume they are English teachers, so it is imperative that they dress for the part.
A business-like attire is ‘de rigueur'. This means well tucked in and buttoned up, light colored blouse with collar and covered shoulders (no cleavage is to be seen!), below the knee dark skirt that is not revealing in any way (cannot be tight), and closed toe shoes, preferably black. High heels are acceptable as long as they are not of the ‘stiletto' type. No bright colors, casual, or fashion clothing is allowed. The more conservative, bordering with the outdated, the better. The use of black bras will be cause for immediate dismissal.
Worse yet, actors caught wearing a ‘g-string' type of undergarment will be subject to a severe spanking where it hurts the most (while still wearing the ‘g-string') by the school director using his bare hands. Note that all clothes have to be impeccably ironed. Actors showing up for work with wrinkled clothes, however minor, will not be allowed into the school grounds.
Use of facial powder is discouraged and lipstick should never be too reddish. Local female teachers overindulge in make up but they are usually forgiven as they are trying to ‘whiten' up their normally tan faces. White is might and since you are white, you already have the very best and cannot get any whiter. Don't alter it. Showing your face often and wearing a business suit will accrue double bonus points.
5) Now that appearances in the proper attire have been established, the actors will be asked to play the role of teacher by playing games (hangman, tic-tac-toe, bingo, scrabble, trivial pursuit, musical chairs), doing artistic activities (coloring, paper doll cutting, flower arrangement, glass etching, batik art), singing songs (in English, please), strumming the guitar, clapping hands, passing out candy and in general, having a good time.
While not placed first on this list of duties and responsibilities, ‘teaching' English in a fun way * IS * the primary directive as this insures ‘happy' paying customers who come back for more. Since this is so much fun, actors will be asked to do this role play at least five times daily to an exciting captive audience of fifty wonderful lively children. Making the kids happy will accrue triple bonus points.
6) Actors will often be asked to model and pose for photo ‘ops'. The pictures will be used in school brochures promoting the English program, in billboards advertising school capabilities, in school catalogs, newspaper articles, and in other types of advertising that may include banners on buses, taxis, and trains.
Since the actors are now being promoted in the media and definitely converted into public figures, all at the school's expense, bonus points will quadruple.
7) The actor will be required to attend each and all events where the local staff or students are present. This includes, fairs, sports games, cheerleading contests, parades, picnics, camping trips, field trips, outings, luncheons, dinners, parties, celebrations, and conferences. In most circumstances, the actor will be seated near or right next to the VIP's.
With the exception of picnics, camping trips, and field trips, the business like attire is still expected. No overtime is paid for working outside business hours, but the more events where the actor is seen participating, the more bonus points.
8) Near the end of the term, the actors will be asked to write tests but this is not a difficult task at all and it's only meant to remove this responsibility from the local staff whose knowledge of English is poor at best. The tests consists of a series of multiple choice questions with two possible answers (right and wrong), for example:
Mary (is/are) beautiful.
Since there is one possible correct answer out of two, students are guaranteed to answer correctly at least half the time for as many questions as there may be. Mathematicians call this a ‘binomial distribution'.
Given a large enough number of questions even a blindfolded lifeless thousand-year-old mummy will be assured a fifty percent correct answer rate. This is the reason why the passing grade is set at fifty percent. Of course, if a student actually knows any English, the correct answer rate will be much higher.
In the very rare cases where the blindfolded lifeless mummy scores less than fifty percent, the grade can be ‘adjusted' by the teacher with ‘participation' points (even for a lifeless mummy). This way all students are assured to pass the subject.
Bonus points are subtracted if an actor ‘fails' a student for an actor is not a teacher and it would be near impossible to explain an irate parent why the ‘teacher' didn't ‘teach' the failing student. The school would get into a lot of trouble if the ruse were discovered. Tests with passing grades, although worthless, are documented proof of successful academic progress and are audited by the authorities on a regular basis.
Note that the authorities also went through the same educational system and methods and since today's students will be tomorrow's authorities, this cycle is inevitably insured to continue in perpetuity. School staff, students, actors, parents and bureaucrats win, everybody benefits and there is a balanced happy medium all can co-exist in.
9) During final exams, the actors will take the role of a proctor. All that is required is for the actors to look very serious (the only time they are allowed to look serious) and with a majestic air, walk up and down the rows of students taking the exams. This would be the performance's grand finale and the complete embodiment of the empress (or emperor) wearing gold gilded clothes. You'll feel like a star.
10) On extremely rare occasions, actors may be asked to teach English, but this is the least of their worries, as the high school students' English skill level is far below the third grade and the actors will most likely be struggling with students who cannot pronounce ‘excuse me', ‘schedule', ‘fish', or even ‘mouse'.
There is a bright side, however, for students can say the three-word sentence ‘I love you'. If you can teach the students to say a four-word sentence, such as ‘I want to learn', or ‘My house is large', you should seriously consider changing careers from acting to teaching English. You could make enough for an early retirement.
11) Actors who accrue sufficient bonus points will be granted Summer camp work where the duties are to accompany and be seen with the students at parks, zoos, markets, shopping malls, entertainment complexes, movies, and food courts. Actors and students will be issued colorful baseball caps and distinctive polo shirts with the school logo on the back. This is a great publicity and advertising stunt. Lunch boxes (Basil chicken over rice) to be provided daily by the school.
We recognize our requirements are a tall order, but we are understanding and flexible and will sacrifice one or two things:
• An actor may be male and over thirty but all else has to be perfect. This means he cannot be short and chubby.
• An actor need not be blonde and blue eyed, but he cannot be bald and have a flat nose.
• He may meet all he physical requirements but if he insists in playing the role of a serious teacher, then he is of no use.
In all honesty, most of our actors are male since it's nearly impossible to get a female to stay after she gets accosted by the local male staff, who are chomping at the bit to ride the white horse.
When it comes to males, we do prefer Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise look-alikes, although surprisingly, we had good success with an actor who looked like George W. Bush, silly grin and all: female students kept coming back re-enrolling at the school even after graduation. We made a bundle of cash on the silly grin.
• Monthly salary will be the same as it was ten years ago by secret price fixing with other schools in the vicinity. Paid on time in freshly printed cash and guaranteed not to bounce like checks.
• Medical insurance pays a percentage of the bill if hospitalized for something other than drunkenness.
• Paid official holidays (but not Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence, and Labor Day).
• Sick leave days (except Mondays, Fridays and days before or after a holiday).
• School provided housing consisting of a studio with bed and air con. User pays water and electricity. User will save money, as there is no hot water heater and no phone. User to buy linen and furnishings at own expense. Front gate and door are locked at 10:00 PM.
• Actors to pay for all transportation costs including round trip airfare from country of origin and all visa application expenses including visa runs to the border.
• Unless dismissed before the end of the contract, all bonus points will be converted to frequent flyer air miles (some actors have been known to get enough for a Bangkok-Utapao air ticket).
If interested, please email your complete CV, including letters of recommendation, police clearance reports, college transcripts, photograph, three references, and a two-page essay stating why you are the best choice for the part. If contacted for an audition, you'll have to bring your own clothes.
Upon employment, a document-handling fee will be subtracted from your first paycheck if we have to get you a degree or any of the above documents. We will also subtract the taxi fare and the printing cost.
Aside from our stringent hiring requirements, we are an Equal Opportunity Employer and new college graduates as well as high school dropouts are encouraged to apply. No experience necessary.
Jorge E. Jo
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The irony is, that that is a lot closer to reality than satire or indeed - irony.....
By Jim, Chonburi (20th January 2021)
First let me start by saying well done, very entertaining. Let me finish by saying this is Asia and welcome to it, why are you here acting/teaching? Do something else. It baffles me why people continue to do something they don't enjoy and from the tone of this article despise. You are clearly a much better writer than teacher/actor. Do that instead, you are wasting your talent and money on suits. Come down to Rambuttri and have a drink wearing your cleanest dirty shirt and enjoy this country while writing whimsical satires about living in Asia and then sell them to foreign youth hungry to get teaching jobs so they can travel S.E.A!
By owsley, thailand (7th December 2010)
Great stuff! Maybe I should consider acting lessons on top of my degree and TEFL in order to increase my employment opportunities.
By Phil Lane, Chiang Mai (22nd October 2010)
Darrell Brown the meager wage in Thailand will not "supplement " any pension.. LOL
By Kanadian, China (13th October 2010)
Kudos !!!! just brilliant!
By Elie, Bangkok (29th September 2010)
Great article. I laughed out loud while reading it. I am a Foreign Service Officer with the US Department of State. I was posted to Bangkok and grew to love Thailand, with all it's quirks. I retire in May and I am considering teaching as a source of additional income to supplement my pension. Not sure if this article helps or hurts in my decision making process, but it was fun to read.
By Darrell Brown, Charleston South Carolina (25th September 2010)
WOW Nothing could say it better, the education system here thats quite a good piece.One more thing the actors are recruited too by the agents who who come form English speaking(natives) with the same accent across the board from Australia, New zealand, Britain and America and require and insist that the actors hail from these countries too for total enjoyment of all the stake holders. Also the acting goes on from Secondary level to university. I wish you could post your article in the papers too.
By RICHARD KOMU, CHARAN SANITWONG BANGKOK (23rd September 2010)
I had a good laugh while reading the article.If Thailand will enforce strict educational requirements for foreign teachers,I wonder how many certified teachers(Uni grad) will apply considering the low salary compared to other countries like Korea and Japan.
Let the actors stay in the show...unless otherwise if they want to elevate themselves to directors or producers they have to acquire an authentic Bachelor's degree from a Uni...
By barbiechuckie, at the end of the rainbow (23rd September 2010)
that's a great read and absolutely spot on. I was laughing through most of it! It reminded me of a friend's book about teaching in Thailand called "Experience preferred, but not required" (Paul Murphy). I just hope nobody takes you too seriously and with more than a touch of some irony of your own!
By Tom Tuohy, Bangkok (21st September 2010)
Hey Jo! brilliantly written; frankly speaking I hope it would encourage more folk to contemplate working as teachers or facilitators... the traditional teacher (local ones and long time ex pats) usually end up being politicians, accountants, personal body trainers, ego masseuses, physical abusers, mental harassers, etc. The showmen and women r what we need to lighten up the emotional and mental stresses today's students undergo...
enjoyed ur writeup...
I love it when the low financial gains still keep folk steeped in their contracts... there is more to the administrators misgivings.
Thai children live in a very different time warp compared to young uns elsewhere and by more foreigners dropping by to do an act or two in the classroom probably would help open their minds and eyes to a reality they would never see if we don't spare time for them and help them see things differently atleast for a short time...
only education can help...
By Wanipok, Timbaktu (21st September 2010)