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กันยายน 2550
8 กันยายน 2550
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They've sacked him :( Hirings, firing and contract dilemmas

One of my colleagues was sacked yesterday afternoon. He was told that he would have to leave at 3.30, just after he'd finished teaching his period 7 class. Most of the other teachers had already left for the day. It's our Friday treat. If all our marking, teaching prep. and lessons plans are done, we're normally allowed to go home an hour early. There was just K, C, me and J, my English boss left in the office.

J told me that I could go and that I didn't have to finish writing my reports. I could do them on Monday. But, with 6 hours of classes to teach on Monday, it made sense to stay put, and to at least try and get some of them done there and then. My Boss took C to one side. He told C that the school had ordered him to sack C. When the 2 of them came back into the room C, said bye to the three of us and started cleaning his desk, and getting his stuff together.

I gave him a big fat hug and said bye. I couldn't think of much else to say. I felt so sorry for him. The other foreign teachers at school all tend to make fun of him. He's very northern, often talks to us as if he's bellowing at his students (you need earplugs whenever you get too close) and likes to think out loud.

He also brings his personal life into the office with him, so almost every day we get a new dilemma that we have to help him resolve. 'Should I break up with my gf','Should go out and get ratted tonight ???','Do I let my girlfriend buy me life insurance when I can't understand a word of the contract','What's the best thing to use for a website? Dreamweaver or flash ?'

Monday morning's not going to be the same. Last week Nick left. Now we're already another man down. He loses a lot by being fired. Getting fired in BKK is OK. There's such a teacher shortage that it won't be too difficult for him to find a new job. Anyone who's white faced can usually find some sort of teaching work here. 'Native' speaker's are prized. White native speakers even more so. Their teaching ability is rarely questioned.

But, the timing of his sacking's not great. It comes right at the end of his contract, a time when the school is getting ready to draw up new contracts and more importantly for most of us, pay out end of term bonuses. Just in terms of money...

* Bang goes this and next months salary (totalling around 86K) and 2 easy-ish months of teaching. This month we only teach for another 2 weeks. The rest of the time the students do their end of term exams. We normally sit in the office drinking coffee, marking papers and preparing materials for summer school and next term. Plus, we also have an extra day off, to celebrate the school's birthday.
* Bang goes his end of contract bonus (up to 25K baht)
* Bang goes the 24K that the school are supposed to pay him at the end of next month (the school deducts 2,000 baht from your wages every month as insurance against you leaving before the end of your contract. If you're still there at the end of the year, you get it back.)
* Bang goes a week's paid holiday (a couple of days at the beginning of October and three at the end.)

It's a lot of money to lose. Especially as it comes at the end of a hard year. And this last week has been doubly hard for everyone. We've all had exam papers and reports to write, as well as needing to cover 2 or more extra classes each too.

OK. He did something very stupid. He went crazy and swore at his students. From a Thai perspective, just by shouting at them. he's lost face. But, is that a sackable offence ? At home, if it was a one off occasion, probably not...

Neither my Thai boss or my English boss wanted him to go. We're 1 teacher down already. 7 of us will have to cover 20 lessons next week. Now we will need to cover 36. If the school really wanted to fire him, maybe they could have given him 2 weeks notice, so that he wouldn't have to leave until this term's teaching is finished.

But, my little boss's opinions counted for nothing. Apparently, the owner of the school had ordered the top management to tell my English boss to fire him.

I can't go into all the details here, its not fair on the guy, and I don't want to slag off my school without knowing that what I'm saying is 100% true. No one really knows exactly who did what or who is telling the truth anymore. So far we know that:-
* C, the teacher they fired tried to downplay the incident.
* C's students siezed the opportunity to get him fired. They exaggerated some incidents and may also have made up blatent lies about what he did in class. Maybe the students didn't like his teaching style and wanted him to be fired. The sad thing for them is that their new teacher will probably be no better, and changing teacher midway through the school year and 2 weeks before their end of term exams (which teacher C had already written) isn't really going to benefit them at all.
* the school may have changed the excuse for firing him, to save their own face.

When my english boss went to ask about why teacher C was being fired, the school's management produced a whole list of reasons. They included the fact that teacher C had turned up to work late, drunk (none of us ever noticed) and behaved inappropriately in class, throwing things at his students and throwing a book on the floor. Apparently the management had been compiling a list of his misdeeds for months.

C's supposed boss (J, my English boss) knew nothing about any of this. If my Thai boss knew, she didn't let on. Faced with such a long list of wrongdoings, J had no choice but to fire him.

In England there are rules about firing people from jobs. Back at home, employment law normally protects workers from situtations like this. When employees do something wrong, their supervisors have to note it down, then issue warnings. The employee is informed of what they have done, and given the chance to change their behaviour, improve their attitude, work harder etc... OK, sometimes an employer wants someone to leave their job, and 'manages them out', but at least the process is documented and the employee has a chance, however slim, to at least try and put things right.

Here in Thailand, nothing is said. The employee is allowed to contine to make the same mistakes over and over again. The mistakes are usually trivial things, too petty to warrant anything more than a flippant comment back home.

For example (this is a general example, not one about C) :- "They were 1 minute late 4 times this term. ' Here no one cares how hard you work, how productive you are or what time you leave work. It's irrelevant. What's important is clocking in before 7.30. At home, if you were a couple of minutes late, but worked through your lunch hour almost everyday and usually stayed a couple of minutes late in the evening to make up the time too, no one would mind. Here, whenever your timecard shows that you arrived later than 7.30, it's noted down. People lose bonuses because of it.

What you do when you are at work is rarely examined. Lessons are rarely observed by senior teaching staff. Teaching techniques are hardly ever debated or questioned. One of the most important, perhaps the most important thing to the school is turning up on time. At home people are interested in how you work. Here, it's all about how you look, or even how you appear to look, to others. Creating the right impression is vital. The actual work itself, of teaching the children, the thing that should be the most important thing in any school, is rarely appraised.

Last year I worked as a volunteer teacher in a school upcountry. One Thai teacher commented to a friend that I couldn't teach. It's true, I'm not that great at teaching, and last year, with hardly any experience of standing in front of 45 teenagers and trying to think of something to say, I was even worse at it than I am now. There were loads of valid reasons for them to criticise me. My inexperience, my poor classroom management skils, the fact that I was so nervous that I found it hard to speak slowly, loudly and clearly. Their actual reason.... It was because I was fat and my hair looked a mess.

Anyway, back to C's story. My school had already complied a long list of complaints against him. My English boss, J had no idea that anyone in the management felt this way. No one had ever consulted him about it. I've heard that this kind of thing happens a lot here. The list of wrongdoings continues to grow to a point where, once confronted by them they're impossible to refute or explain away with a simple 'sorry, I didn't know. I won't do it again.' There's no time or opportuntity for explanations or excuses.

Foreigners are often totally unaware of what they do wrong. OK, when we start to work in a Thai school there are some rules. Don't be late, Don't tell you students to put their books on the floor for instance. But the rest ??? They're tucked away in some Thai teachers head. We will never understand what they are, or that we've broken them. If we're lucky, we might notice that, one day the Thai teacher's smiles seem broader than ususal, but we'll have no absolutely no idea why. Maybe something good's happened. They're happy. Farangs tend to equate smiles with happiness. But Thai smiles usually mean anything but... Then one day, someone tells the foreigner " you're fired..." A whole list of reasons are read out, most of which (to a foreigner) verge on the bizarre.

I hope C gets paid, and that he finds another job soon. I feel really, really sorry for him. Regardless of what he did, it must be horrible to have a safe, secure job one moment, and then nothing the next. Also, Some BKK schools are known for not paying teachers their last month's salary or for lying and telling their teacher's that the school has already paid their employees tax, when they've done nothing of the sort. I really, really hope that my school doesn't try to do anything that to him.

It's almost the end of term. There should be sumer school jobs around, plus teaching jobs from Oct-March. A lot of teachers who want to move jobs wait until the end of term. It's better to see out your contract (so there's less animosity between the teacher and the school that they are leaving) and its also easier on the kids. For the students, it's not easy to get used to a new teacher. There's a new accent, a new teaching style, new rules etc. to deal with. Getting used to 3 or 4 new teachers in one school year (as some students in BKK school's have to) must be really hard.

I worry about my job all the time. I'm not that great a teacher. I don't play games every day so I don't have that good a rapport with my kids. Some of my kids can barely understand it when the Thai teaching assistant speaks English to them, let alone a native speaker.

I don't have have a good working relationship with my Thai boss either. She's nice, smiley and polite and friendly. Most English people would think that we got on fine, but I sense that its all very false. I know that the management at my school lie. I know that my boss rarely gets told in advance about hirings and firings. And I now know that my boss's opinion is totally worthless. Scheming pupils and people higher up the food chain decide who comes and goes, not lower management.

I'm not sure whether my contract will be renewed or not. Even if it is, I would have serious doubts about working somewhere long term where there are no warnings and no second chances. I wouldn't want to be in the situation where one day, you have a job, the next day you don't.

So, the 28th of this month is D-Day. It's the last day of term. My contracts run out on the 31st of October but, if the school aren't interested in renewing it, I doubt that they will wait till the start of next term to tell me. If they did that there'd be a work permit to renew, another months wages to pay out, a week of which would be paid holiday, plus they'd need to give me my end of contract bonus. Why waste the money ? when its just as easy to find some obscure reason to fire them 1 month before.

For now, I feel sorry for C, and am trying to stop worrying about what will happen to me. I'm really hoping to have a new (short term eg. only until March) contract at school. It will be my back up plan, in case the thing I really, really want to do (bit difficult to talk about it on here) screws up. I asked my boss when we would find out about new contracts. Apparently, it won't happen until the end of September at the earliest.

So I, or any of the other teacher's at school could be in the same position as C. A job in the morning then nothing at night. We're waiting to see what the big wigs say on the 28th. Other than find ourselves new jobs and leave beforehand (lose all our bonuses etc. anyway) there's nothing that we can do, except do our jobs the best we can and wait.

Create Date : 08 กันยายน 2550
Last Update : 8 กันยายน 2550 21:39:27 น. 0 comments
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