Friday, March 18, 2011

School’s Out for the Summer…ish

I have at least three rough drafts currently sitting in blog post purgatory, and much more I’ve written in various notebooks. And none of them seem right to post right now. So I’m going back to off the cuff today.

Summer ‘break’ is an interesting concept in Thai government schools. And let me preface by saying every school is slightly different, so the details of this account do not necessarily reflect other Thai schools. Standardization is not a large part of Thai culture, even though they sometimes try. Also of note – schools in Bangkok and schools outside of Bangkok are different species entirely.

Teachers are still required to come and sign in Monday-Friday during all school holidays (we are at least exempt on National holidays), and hang around for appearances, whether or not there is any work to do. The level of flexibility in this matter varies from school to school. At my school so far, actual hours at school can be adjusted since there is no class, no students, and paltry work to do if any for the time being. Foreign teachers are allowed 30 days ‘exemption’ from the daily sign in during school holidays without penalty in salary for each calendar school year, which restarts October 1st for some odd reason. Paperwork must be submitted well in advance for these pre-arranged absences from ‘work.’

I’m told other schools are not so flexible, and missing the sign in will incur loss of pay. Other schools are also stricter about actually staying the full 8 hours every day even in these weeks of sheer nothingness. I’ve been fortunate to fudge the sign in by 8AM rule quite a bit; though I’ll need to get back in gear when the students return in June. My German colleague and I also fudge the afternoon hours and leave early. We are often the only ones here besides the secretaries in the front room, as the foreigners have our own separate office. The others are currently using their 30 days, sick or signing in and bugging out entirely as they will not work here next year. Seems even continuing on you can get away with a day of sign in, bug out sometimes. I did on Wednesday.

As it seems the level of rigidity with the sign-in varies on a daily, weekly and annual (with the change of school directors) basis, I will not claim any of this is definitive. But then again, nothing in Thailand is definitive.
Over the course of this semester, I’ve found that if I’m sick, but I come in to teach my classes and sign my name, there isn’t a fuss about missing the other time I’m supposed to be in the office, whether morning or afternoon. But in such cases it was fairly obvious I was quite sick. This also hasn’t counted as a sick day, which thankfully my school allows many of, with the proper paperwork of course. Three days in a row requires a doctor’s note stating what was wrong. You will be told this in the most diplomatic way possible.

As great as it is to basically get paid to sit on facebook, it is kind of maddening when you are in a city that begs exploring and have to forgo opportunities to volunteer up north because you’re stuck playing school. I think I’ll finally make a dent in my reading list at least. Eventually I will be lesson planning for next school year, but of course deciding who is teaching which courses is not a priority right now, and I’m not lesson planning for a class I will not end up teaching, with 6 grade levels and at least four possible subjects, that’s a bit of a jump. Something tells me I will receive this information the day before classes resume.

Most every day I have some sort of reminder of how new I still am in Thailand. I’m still surprised by the racial whitewashing, the blatant anti-black sentiments and the pressure to be skinny that is 100 times worse than in the states, living in a fish bowl and being a walking photo-op.

For the record, a better answer to “you come Thailand alone?” is No. Come up with something. Some people that ask this will be impressed that you’ve moved abroad on your own. Most of them are asking if you are single. As I’ve stopped counting the number of taxi driver’s I’ve gotten this from, I’m quite fond of trying to decipher as many bus routes as possible.

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