Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Som Nam Na, or Operation License Renewal

This phrase has come to mind a lot lately. “Som Nam Na,” is a Thai phrase that loosely translates to “Serves you right,” though the pronoun is flexible, so you can say “Som Nam Na,’ to another person, about yourself, a group or whatever. While there are many reasons this phrase has come to mind a lot lately, I will only highlight a couple of them, especially as point two turned into a tangent all its own.

1) Some of you may know that I have no aspirations of ever joining the Peace Corps. I did, at one time, but I will never make the cut. Why? Medical Clearance, which is one of the top reasons people do not go through with Peace Corps.
Try as I might to pretend I have a cast iron stomach, I really do not. Allow us to add to the list of things Jenny’s stomach doesn’t like: palm oil. Oh well that’s not a big problem, palm oil is terrible for you any way, so just avoid things cooked with palm oil. Except that palm oil is added to so many Thai dishes I couldn’t even begin to list them. While possible to avoid, it’s not easy, and it takes way more Thai language than I currently grasp. Conundrum indeed. So som nam na on me for not doing my homework on Thai cooking more thoroughly. To be fair, I hadn’t made this health connection previously, and I’m just thankful I don’t have a full attack reaction such as ‘getting glutened,’ for someone with celiac – because full avoidance of palm oil in Thailand would mean I would lose a lot more weight.

2) I’ve recently been frustrated with the state of affairs that is coming to work to do nothing (though I’m getting much better at filling the hours), especially because I know there are things I need to do to prepare for my week of summer school teaching and next semester, but I do not have the information I need to begin those preparations. This is Thailand; you can do that at the drop of a hat right? You’re a foreigner, you know the ins and outs of computer science right?
It’s even better when I actually arrive at work semi-on time and the offices are still locked; yet another reason I’m not inspired to be punctual.

But Som Nam Na on me for being ungrateful for unstructured office time, I will need a lot more of it for several undertakings in the coming months; and it will be sorely lacking when I truly have to get to them.

It has recently come to my attention that my school has decided (maybe) to comply with recent Thai Ministry of Education, or Thai Teacher’s Council, (who knows who says what), legislative changes for foreign teachers. Do I know this information definitely? Of course not, I’ll say it again. This is Thailand.

The gist being: within a two year grace period, a foreign teacher will prove their qualification either by obtaining a Thai teacher’s license, or showing equivalent certification in their home country. Which is completely different from ‘native speaker with a degree,’ which is the criteria that has mostly been the law of the land for years. And while I’m sure that will continue, I’m not sure it will continue and also provide a work permit or conditions I’m willing to teach in.

Oh, but you have your teaching license and degree, so no problem!
Not so fast.
My Indiana license expires June 3, 2011. For my non-education major friends to understand: As an Initial Practitioner, you receive a two-year probationary teaching license, you’re supposed to go out and get your teaching job, wherein you will be assigned a mentor teacher and will undergo a portfolio, observation/evaluation process that I don’t know all the details of. After successful completion of this, abbreviated IMAP in Indiana, you can apply for a more permanent license. Oh wait…what was step one? Obtain teaching job in your subject area in Indiana.

I did not work on renewing my teaching license because I’d been holding out hope for an art classroom in the Great Hoosier State, which would then have put me in IMAP, and then when I made the leap to move to another country, where my having a teaching license was kind of a bonus for my school in the usual terms, this seemed like something that did not require attention. Until now.

So, realizing that I need to renew the license to continue teaching in Thailand OR to come back and teach in the United States, or come up with a completely different career path and plan entirely, enter Operation Renew Indiana Teacher’s License. We can call it Operation License Renewal, or OLR for short.

The path to do this as an Indiana Initial Practitioner (the nice way of saying your license comes with training wheels) that has not found employment in the two years since obtaining the license, and thus not undergone IMAP, is to take 6 credit hours of Graduate coursework (INDOE says undergrad can count, good luck finding that option in distance learning) in education or your subject area, compose a paragraph explaining why you have not completed IMAP, and then fill out a bunch of paperwork and pay the $35 for the license.
Yeah, because every education graduate that can’t find a job has change to spare to take MORE college classes, as do employed teachers with their exorbitant salaries. I realize this legislation was enacted with the best intentions, to keep teachers studying their field and aware of changes that affect their students. In practice, we will reap what we sow and the mass exodus of bright education graduates flocking away from teaching will only get worse.
I’m trying very, very hard not to be among the jaded leaving in droves. But that doesn’t get any easier each year that goes by, or any time I follow the education politics situations back home across many states. I’m still passionate about education, but honestly, how much do I want to do this?

For now, I’ve commenced the process to enroll for online distance learning at IUPUI to obtain 6 credit hours before the end of 2011. I will renew my license well within the Thai two-year grace period, and it will leave more options open for me to consider beyond teaching English for the next school year. So really, I should just be thankful for a good kick in the pants. Mostly I’m annoyed that I’m being pushed into graduate coursework before I feel I’m ready for it, non-degree or not.

A few other things:
A Thai teacher’s license is rather expensive to obtain, and valid in no other country. So, as I can renew certification in Indiana and have that count in Thailand, the Thai license alone seems rather foolish to undertake.

It is not entirely clear that an Art Certification will suffice to teach English. I’m weighing my TEFL certification options, but that’s a little farther back on the burner right now.

And here’s the rub:
Even though I can renew my Indiana license for another two year, Initial Practitioner period – I’m still stuck in Educator limbo. I have yet to gain experience in a stateside classroom that would allow me to complete IMAP, or whatever equivalent other states have enacted in the wake of NCLB. I cannot indefinitely take a graduate course online annually to renew an Indiana license to teach in Thailand (not the least of which financially speaking, which I have yet to figure out for the current OLR); at some point I still need stateside teaching experience, or some other plan entirely. The sheer number of plans I’ve come up with since graduating from Purdue have run out of alphabet to describe them by. I thought I was going to take a break from that, but I guess not. I have to re-examine the idea of goal setting and figure something out.

Which, more than anything is the most infuriating part – back to square one and the insane planning ahead for years and life mapping instead of just having some time to fly by the seat of my pants and be happy with that. But, som nam na.


  1. On the bright side, if you take enough classes you will at least have a Master's! Or be closer to having one, and THAT is always good, because it opens the doors to other things.

    What other things do you want to do if you don't teach? Hmmm.....I checked out some popular careers for artists: advertising, animator, art acquision specialist, art agent, art teacher, art therapy, cartoonist, exhibit designer, freelance artist, gallery director, graphic designer, illustrator, industrial designer, jewelry designer, journalistic artist, photojournalist, set designer, tattoo artist(teehee!!!), technical illustrator, web designer. Alot of these seem to offer the opportunity for travel as well, especially something like art acquisitor. Like the idea of any of these?

  2. Aside from art teacher, the following from that list have been on the table at some point: art therapy, freelance artist, illustrator, jewelry designer, journalistic artist, photojournalist, set designer, web designer. And that's only accounting for the arts category of 'fill in the blank.'

    Still requires some thought. Thanks for the encouragement!