Way back in 2002, after about 8 months of basically holidaying in Thailand and then getting low on disposable funds, my Thai girlfriend found me a part-time teaching position.
At only 250 baht an hour and 11 hours a week it amounted to a pathetic salary, still I'd invested in a mini-mart which in turn was also bringing in some meager returns, albeit I didn't have to starve.
The advantage of this job at a local language centre owned and run by two English long term expats, was that when and if a full-time teacher left - I would get to replace him (they never employed women.). Still, why did I even bother you might well ask, because it came with full teacher training and I mean full teacher training!
That is, John and Gary took their school very seriously and no less so than if they'd been the joint heads of ICI. And I have to give them credit in that they both spent a good many hours every week with their new teachers for a good many months; alongside teaching over thirty lessons each themselves. Therein, teaching each one how to teach and discipline their students, while how to write extensive lesson plans that were of that rare combination of education and fun.
John and Gary had come up with their own method of teaching pronunciation and fluency through structured fun learning orientated activities, that not only worked but even motivated lethargic Thai learners.
Coincidentally, they started their teachers on 38,500 baht a month with many benefits; paid holidays, comprehensive health insurance, overtime pay, plus paternity leave, which I'd soon qualify for. What's more, in the second year they jumped it up to 45,500. Anybody that was around then would have agreed that this all equated to a fine deal for someone with no teaching experience.
In spite of the fact that with stacked classes and would-be students on waiting lists hoping to attend while pulling in a considerable sum, John would sell-out a few years later. Although having become the sole proprietor, Gary is still going strong approximately 27 years since when he first co-founded his learning center.
At last, after three months as a part-timer, my chance arrived at around 9 o'clock one Saturday morning in the middle of March, 2003, when two of my fellow full-time teaching colleagues, Big Barry, a former scaffolder from the West Country in England, and Londoner Jeremy, an ex-soldier and former plumber, both failed to turn-up.
This meant that I had to teach on a full nine hour Saturday teaching schedule, that I wasn't fully prepared for as I was only ready for my regular 3-hour stint. It was without doubt the hardest teaching day of my teaching career, even though I've taught something like 30,000 lessons since then. Apart from anything else, these students expected to be taught and entertained, in the all singing all dancing way which they were accustomed.
All that aside, on the Sunday morning, in walked Jeremy to the school smartly turned-out and on parade as always, (Ahhh well, with of course the exception of the previous day!). Wherein, he was quickly hustled into a vacant classroom by John for a serious conflab. There Jeremy told John a watered-down version of the truth as to why he and Barry hadn't made it in the day before.
The true story
Confidentially, here's what actually happened. Barry and his wife and their baby went to Jeremy and his wife's apartment for a get together and a few drinks on the Friday night. Maybe, having drunk more than he'd intended, Barry chose to stay at Jeremy's and not to ride his motorbike home with his family pillion.
Therefore, on that fateful Saturday morning both teachers were showered and shaven, but still in a fragile state from the night before.
Barry was now capable of riding his bike heading to our language center with Jeremy on pillion having puffed a ciggy that he absentmindedly tossed over his shoulder just as they were passing the local law station. That just happened to have a half dozen officers standing outside and one waved Barry down, before going over to them and demanding 2,000 baht (the standard fine for littering). And as Burly Barry and 'Jelly' as the kids called him, were still in an hungover state, they elected to start throwing their weight around by framing up to the officer, pointing their fingers directly in his face and shouting choice phrasal verbs at him such as 'F_ _ _ off!'
With hindsight Jeremy considered their irrational behavior was brought about by their belief that the officer was going to pocket the money for himself, and also, they clearly weren't thinking straight at the time for obvious reasons.
Well, I'm sure you can imagine how well that went down with the boys in brown, and what happened next. That is unfortunately, they were soon bundled into separate cells, minus their mobiles, money, watches, cigarettes and matches. And there they stayed until the early evening, when they were both 'sprung' by a 'guardian angel' or to be precise, Jeremy's Thai brother-in-law.
It turned out that in the afternoon Jeremy's wife'd gone up into the soi to do a bit of shopping and someone'd told her what'd happened to her farang husband. There in, she got on the blower to her sister's husband who knew someone in a position of influence, and it was agreed thereafter, that if the two each made a twenty-five thousand baht contribution to a relevant body - it'd be like everything'd never happened.
A long few days
For the next few days I was waiting to be asked to sign my first contract, yet the bosses were still hoping that the 'Janner' would be back. As in, they rang him for those next few days, where each time Barry's wife would answer and each time they could hear him shouting in the background "I don't wanna to speak to anyone!"
As it happens, though degree-less, the former construction worker was an able and empathic teacher who was well liked by his many students both young and old alike.
In the end, if there were skills that John and Gary lacked, empathy was surely one of them, although they did eventually sign me up before March was out.
The names will be changed to protect the guilty.
Next month, my recollections (blog) will include a very nasty trip down memory lane, that is where a pair of Irish teaching brothers put a freshly hired American teacher in hospital. And where a young English teachers' teacher accidentally took his own life on his school's campus.