Steve Catchpole

Peter and Nadine

When teaching careers end before they've even started.

Although teaching in Thailand can sound like one big adventure, I'm convinced that some people are not really built to ever leave home. Teaching in Thailand is just not for them. One such person was Nadine.

Nadine had been taken on by the language centre boss to teach three hours in the morning, three days a week. A total of nine hours. That was the deal. Everything was spelled out to her and there were no hidden clauses. The school paid only 200 baht an hour but bear in mind that this was the early 90's.

On Nadine's first morning at school, having done her first three hour session, I walked into the teachers room and she was sitting in the corner in floods of tears. "What's wrong Nadine? What's wrong?" I said.

"Oh it's probably just me. I don't think the lessons went well at all"

"Don't worry" I said "It's only your first day. Many new teachers struggle at the beginning.

Day two. Teachers room. More tears. I asked Nadine what the problem was this time.

"Oh it's probably just me" she said (are you beginning to see a catchphrase develop?) "I'm not sure how I'm going to pay the rent this month.

Day three. You guessed it.

"What is it this time Nadine?" - patience and sympathy as you may guess were beginning to wear thin. We had a school to run. There was no room for such a sensitive teacher with a ton of emotional baggage.

"Oh it's probably just me but it's getting close to Christmas and I'm starting to miss my family"

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I caught wind that the male teachers in the staff room had starting taking bets among each other as what time of the day Nadine would start crying. As academic director, I couldn't stand idly by and see Nadine victimized. Something had to be done.

I called Nadine into my office. "Nadine, I want to help you in any way I can. Is there anything the school can do to help you settle in? Perhaps you want more hours so you can make a bit more money?

Nadine looked at me and immediately burst into tears.

By the end of the week she was gone.

I've worked with many teachers who were simply a lost cause from day one and often the difficulty adjusting to life in Thailand stems from a lack of research. Thailand becomes just too much of a leap into the unknown. 

The immaculate Peter

Peter was one of the most professional teachers I had ever worked with. He was always on time for his classes at the language centre regardless of whether it was an 8.30 'early bird' session with a Japanese businessman or the 7.45 to 9.15pm 'graveyard shift' with a small group of Thai accountants who had all recently undergone personality transplants.

When it came to appearance and dress sense, Peter had no equals. I went round to his apartment once. He opened the wardrobe doors and said "look at that!" - half a dozen freshly ironed business shirts hung neatly on wooden hangers with matching tie combinations - all ready for the teaching week ahead.

The language centre dabbled in a bit of corporate training at the time and we decided Peter was the ideal man to send to a new client, a multinational electronics company on Soi Asoke. He returned from the first lesson and said that everything went well. The group really loved him!

Half an hour later, we got a call from the Thai training manager at the company. The gist of the phone call was that the company wanted someone younger. "We just find younger teachers have a bit more energy and work out better for us" she said. "Peter was a very good teacher and we all enjoyed the class but could we swap him for a younger model?"

Peter was 34.

His pride took an almost dent on that day and he quit his job on the spot. As far as I know he never walked into a classroom or training room in Thailand again.

We did of course swap the teacher at our corporate client's request. We sent along 23-year old Lucifer. He was young, good-looking and energetic. Everything the company wanted.  But as a teacher he was useless. 

And when the company asked if they could give Peter a second chance, I had to bite my lip and tell them that unfortunately he was long gone. 


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