By Ralph Sasser
This is one of many stories about the way some Thai schools operate.
On June 6, 2009, I was sent to a school by an agency. The school was desperate for a teacher because the previous teacher was fired five weeks into the semester. When I arrived, a teacher met me at the gate and took me to my desk. He said, "put your book-bag on your desk and come with me, you have students waiting on you." On the way to the class, I thought of an old lesson plan to teach. The class went well. After the class I went back to the office.
I was accepted and got along with all the teachers. Of course there were some Thai teachers that I thought had a bad attitude, but I got along with them and did my job. I was told several times that the students liked my teaching and had fun in my class. I always had some students that wouldn't or didn't show up for class, but for the most part, the students were wonderful and I enjoyed working there. I never had problems with any students. They all were well behaved and that made my job much easier.
During the semester, all the foreign teachers were taken to the tax office to get our tax numbers. We asked constantly about getting work permits, and were told they would be coming. We continued to do our job well. Late in the semester, the lady that takes care of the foreign teachers gave me a work permit application and asked for some pictures to go with it. I filled it out, gave her the pictures, and never heard about it again. Every time I would ask about it, I was given an excuse as to why it was taking so long.
The Thai teachers were continually asking me to edit their work, which I gladly did. My director was great and I enjoyed my job. There were never any arguments and everyone seemed to get along well together, even the ones I thought had a bad attitude.
At the end of the semester, the director called a meeting, but no foreign teachers were allowed. We all thought this was strange. The meeting lasted 3 hours and after the meeting we all noticed all the Thai teachers acting differently towards us. But, we all continued to be at school doing our end of semester work.
On September 30, 2009, my director called us all in for a meeting. I was told that I was a wonderful teacher. Was? This word made me think something was wrong, so I listened. She continued to tell us that the co-teachers and the students are surveyed about our performance and I had failed my student survey and some of the students couldn't understand me. I told her, "some of the students? Of course there will always be some that do not understand. That is why we teach ESL. I think that is reasonable considering they have never been taught by a native speaker. They have only been taught by a Thai teacher that cannot speak English or even a coherent sentence in English. I think the students did well." I ask, "what are my percentages?"
She told me, "You have 73%" I said, "So, 73% liked me and learned?" She said, "Yes." I thought that percentage was reasonable. She went on to the other teachers and told them their percentages, which were basically the same. So, to make a long story short, at the end of the meeting two out of three of us were "let go" as the director called it. In spite of the fact, that none of us were ever spoken to, warned, reprimanded, counseled, and we did our jobs to the very best of our ability. We never had any problems of any kind.
I found out later after talking with other teachers, that there were two teachers that didn't like us and they were both on the "committee" The director couldn't go against the committee because she would lose face. The director told my wife, whom she liked, "Ralph had a hard time climbing the stairs because of his handicap. I didn't want to let him go." Even though I never complained and most people never know I am handicapped. You certainly can not tell by the way I walk.
So, it boils down to the fact that the student's survey had nothing to do with being "let go." I believe I was "let go" because two Thai teachers didn't like me, I am handicapped, and I am sixty one years old. In retrospect, it doesn't matter how good a teacher one is as long as you kiss the Thai teachers asses, are not handicapped, and are young - then you can work.
The schools know how to skirt the system. By not providing us with a work permit, we have no right to file a claim against them for termination without cause. Needless to say, I was shocked. I have taught in Thailand a long time and I know how the system works in the ESL community. Or I thought I did. This was a first though.