Ian McNamara

Language school stereotypes

Those terrors of the staff-room


Working for a language school one encounters many different personalities and characters, some friendly, others neo-Nazi murderers on the FBI's Most Wanted list. One thing they all have in common is that they managed to pass a rigorous selection process. "We need someone to start as soon as possible. Are you free this afternoon?"

When you walk into your new school the first task is to navigate the treacherous waters the teachers' room. One false move and you could be ostracised for life. This handy, cut out and keep, personality guide will help you in your quest to understand the psyche of some of your fellow educators:

The Resident Technophile - You believe he's a techno-savvy child of the new millennium. This observation is based on the fact his life revolves around the Internet, although the only sites he visits are discussion forums and chatrooms where his handle will be a composite of his hometown, his love of Thailand, and an adjective pertaining to his (imaginary) sexual prowess. If he's not in front of the class, he's in front of a monitor or pouring over the Bangkok Post's Database section.

In class warm-up banter: "Let me tell you about my weekend. Well, I was playing on the Internet on Sunday and . . . (20 mins later) . . .so after chmod 755ing and uploading, I accessed the T:\flw.q^idaaakk/ch@ung file on the server by mistake . . . (finally, after 45 mins) . . . So that was my weekend. Now, before we colour in ‘Charlotte the cow and his farmyard friends', does anyone want to go to the toilet?"

Often lacking sleep due to irrational anxiety regarding a nagging thought running through his mind ‘Is Wanda Sloan a woman or a pseudonym?' Other skills include being an excellent one-handed typist.

Stan from the Steppes - " Hallo everyone. Velkom to my class. I'm sure ve vill get on like ze house zat is burnink viz ze fires." Possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of English grammar. Let down by an accent that even elementary level students know isn't from Newcastle. "If the students ask, tell them you're a Geordie" the DoS explained helpfully on his first day. Dodgy accent only matched by his partial grip of English idioms and their usage.

Major disappointment in life: Finding out that he doesn't qualify for asylum status in Thailand and that one day will have to return to the cold, grey battle scarred land that he once called home.

The Singing Nun - This Filipino's dreams of a successful career as a singer in the resident house band at Spasso have been laid to rest and she's now committed to saving money. How and why she lives on a grand total of 4,725 baht a month is never fully disclosed. She's good friends with every other Filipino within a 100-mile radius of Bangkok and spends her free time meeting up with each and every one of them. No boyfriend however, she's saving herself for Jesus.

Bible thumping quotient: Loves the Pope but believes he could adhere to the faith a little more strongly. Ambition: To return to her homeland and run a school for showbiz wannabes. Undisclosed ambition: To save enough money to be able to live outside the Philippines for good.

Over qualified and over keen - The Indian teacher employed, begrudgingly, by the school. This despite being the only teacher within the school's zip code with a B.Ed., Masters in Linguistics and Grade ‘A' RSA. For some reason she actually wants to be a teacher.

Fake qualifications - none.

Fake emotions circa 2001 - the wry smile on her face as she pockets the 120 baht an hour she earns because her skin tone isn't in line with the students expectations and perceptions.

Fake emotions circa 2002 - the wry smile on her face when you bump into each other on the street you tell her you're still at the same school but you've recently had a 30 baht per hour rise. You listen as she enlightens you as to how she ended up at an International school pulling down 90K a month. Indeed, her only worry is trying to decide whether it should be Bali or Hawaii this Christmas holiday.

Starting over - The middle aged guy, dapper, well read, experienced in life and often, recently divorced. Difficult to find out exactly why he came to Thailand at all. Rumours abound that he's on the run from Interpol or is here to have his gender reoriented. Fellow teachers hatch a plot to gently probe him for snippets of information.

Eventually, after a couple of Singhas at the Christmas Party the truth slowly comes out. You discover he was in the medical profession and was sleeping with one of his patients. You sympathise and down a couple of Blue Eagle chasers, it's then revealed that not only does he have hidden talent for go-go dancing, but also that he used to be a veterinarian.




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