Many of Thailand's foreign English teachers face an uncertain and unsettling few months as the floodwaters, which have ravaged areas such as Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani, bear down on Bangkok. For many schools the new school term, which should have begun in the first week of November, has been delayed indefinitely, leaving teachers completely in the dark. Many chalkies are wondering if they'll even get paid for what is shaping up to be a long period of inactivity.
The situation is particularly distressing for those waiting to start a new job. On the ajarn Facebook page, one teacher wrote that he was due to start a teaching position at a new school on October 31st. The school contacted him to say that the floods had caused them to postpone the first day of term until the 7th. Then the 7th became the 14th and who knows what will happen beyond that? The teacher is lucky inasmuch as he has been given lesson preparation and worksheets to do from the comfort of his home, but that won't be the same story for everyone. Many teachers will just have to play a waiting game. Another teacher contacted ajarn to say they had no idea when their school would open. Every question aimed at the school admin staff is met with a shrug of the shoulders. What else is there to say?
It's even worse I suppose if you are not even in the country. There you are, suitcase packed, ready to leave for the airport - only to have the school tell you "please don't come now - we're under water" This has happened to one teacher whose three-week break in the USA has already turned into six and has no idea when his school will be open for business. "I've already switched my flight back to Thailand twice. The second time as I was about to leave for the airport. It's all incredibly frustrating"
Although a lot of schools have penciled in the 15th November as the start of term, it could still be optimistic. Even after the floodwater has receded, there are going to be gigantic clean-up operations necessary. One ajarn forum reader said that their school was inundated by over a metre of water. One can only hope someone had the sense and foresight to move all equipment, furniture and paperwork up to a higher level.
Although there are some optimistic reports in the media, stating that this could all be over within 2-3 weeks, some teachers are not taking any chances. One teacher, who lives near the Saen Saeb Canal in Bangkok, wrote "the school told the teachers that classes will tentatively begin on the 15th and the school term will be extended into March. Teachers are welcome to go back from the 10th November and claim full salary, but I'm not sticking around. My home is in a risky area being so close to one of the proposed drainage canals, so I'm bailing out to a neighboring country for an extended holiday"
The biggest worry for many teachers of course is are they going to get paid for the downtime? The more unscrupulous school owners and agents have never been slow to pick up on an opportunity to ‘nickel and dime' a teacher out of bonuses, overtime and holiday pay. Will a flood provide the golden opportunity to say ""well, the insurance companies aren't paying out so why should we?"
One teacher said on the ajarn forum that his school has promised all teachers half-pay for the time the school is closed and no lessons are being taught. There is also the promise that the school will ‘make up the money at a later date'. Any Thailand old hand will hear those words and know that it's probably best to dip into the salt bag and take an extra large pinch.
Worrying times indeed.
Are you a teacher caught up in the flood situation? Tell us about your situation in the comments section below.