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Thread: What it's really like to fix old problems in a new school...

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    What it's really like to fix old problems in a new school...

    I almost decided to return home on a flight tomorrow (Monday) morning
    and to leave Thailand for good. I may have to do so yet. Here is
    what has transpired:

    1. On Monday, after Songkran holidays were over, I had been feeling
    ill for a few days, despite my trying to rest and get my strength
    back. The doctors here are quite good, and two of the best consulted
    over me while I was in the hospital for a few days. The problem is
    that I have lost over 40 pounds--perhaps more by now--in just 4 weeks;
    I have not been eating properly or getting enough water, which is
    absolutely necessary when you work in the sun much of the day in the
    tropics, during its hottest season; and the doctor I had in America,
    who recently diagnosed me as having adult Attention Deficit
    Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), made a mistake in putting me on
    Adderall, an amphetamine, and a high dosage at that. They don't even
    allow the prescription of Adderall or other amphetamines in Thailand
    because they are not believed to be therapeutic, as American doctors
    and pharmaceutical companies believe, and because the heat, coupled
    with amphetamines, can be lethal. So I was very dizzy, dehydrated,
    had serious problems with my blood pressure, and my heart was racing
    and would not stop, for a problem that I likely do not even have, in a tropical
    environment. That put me on the gurney, and I was well taken care of
    by the hosptial staff, the school paid for it, and I had many visitors
    from my teachers and staff. The Thai consider it to be very bad luck to stay
    in a hospital alone, and I had to convince them to let me sleep alone
    in my room and give me time to rest before they would leave me in the
    evenings. They believe in assigning people to stay with you throughout
    the night.

    2. Meanwhile, just before and during my time in the hospital, I have
    discovered that not only was I brought in to get a program off the
    ground and to pass muster with the Thai Ministry of Education, but
    that there are other, much more serious problems at the school, this
    school of such high repute, within the department that my program
    falls under, and that those problems have been shuffled to me. The
    Thai person values most highly the act of "saving face," because to be
    disgraced in Thailand brings a reputation to you and your family that
    threatens your very employment and future employability, as well as
    your social standing--all are interrelated. As a result, I have
    learned, it is often the case that the falang, the white man, is set
    up to take the heat, while the Thai retreat in silence and wash their
    hands of the matter, regardless of responsibility and the origin of
    the problem. You may think this is wrong, but you are thinking in
    Western terms, not in Thai.

    3. The problem begins here: Before the formation of my program, there was (and
    currently remains) another smaller program that teaches only English
    to select Thai students whose parents pay extra for the service. This
    program is, on paper, a sister program to my program.

    The students at my school are very wealthy and they are to be trained in English, in all of their
    subjects, under my program, in order to take over their parents'
    international businesses or take positions in the Thai government, etc.

    Many members of the Thai Ministry of Education who audit students'
    progress are not happy with the lack of proper English education that
    Thai students have received for the last decade or longer, that
    education having come mostly from falangs who go through a 4-6 week
    course and get a "certificate to teach English as a foreign language."
    These people come to Thailand often because they are not employable
    in their home country, the wealthier foreign countries will not employ
    them, and they have some serious problems with vices, namely hard
    drugs, and Thailand has a subculture where one can easily indulge the
    vices for only a few bhat, a fraction of the cost at home, and with
    little or no scrutiny. These sorts of people are known to be a
    problem in the lesser schools at Thailand, but not at the better schools, or so it is said.

    And so I was brought over to build a new, total immersion,
    all-subjects English program while the old program was slowly allowed to die out or be
    re-organized. The old program has a serious problem not only with
    some poor teaching, but with drugs. They are staffed with many people who
    are tourists of the vices, not teachers. I learned only yesterday
    that many of them had not even been properly vetted through the
    personnel and recruiting department. Rather, a small group of them
    landed here and for the past two years have been bringing over their
    friends to join them. They have had no performance reviews and the
    Thais have turned a blind eye to their behavior to avoid embarassing
    the school by eliminating the problems, thereby "saving face."

    You understand, of course, that job descriptions never reveal any such
    things as this. People do such wonderful things to each other when
    they go through a hiring process.

    4. Two members, two highly problematic members, of the old program
    were transferred to be under my watch before I even arrived here.
    Their lack of performance and absenteeism was immediately obvious, and
    once the Thai teachers came to trust me, they quietly reported to me
    what I was already seeing at the campus teaching accommodations, that
    these two were part of a larger group of teachers who had entrenched
    themselves here and were using, and likely dealing, narcotics in the campus
    accommodations.

    Now, many of you who read this may recoil in horror at my indicated
    lack of tolerance of drug usage, based upon your own culture and beliefs.
    The facts are clear, however,
    that our teachers are not to use drugs, deal drugs, or in any way behave in a
    manner that brings disrepute to the school, in their contracts.
    Further, the new prime minister of Thailand has enacted a
    zero-tolerance policy for drug users. If your blood tests positive,
    you go to jail. The standard sentence is 10 years.
    Sheer common sense should dictate your behavior in such an
    environment.

    And so I heard about, observed, and reported the problems to my
    superior, and asked my superior to report to the Man who oversees
    the entire school. My superior was out of the country, and she sent me a memo
    directing me to dismiss the two problem employees, which I did, with
    witnesses present. What she did not do was inform Director of the entire school of the
    problem, in order to save face for herself, since she oversees both programs.
    Fortunately I kept the memos that were exchanged between my superior
    and me.

    5. The Results are not good, and never are, in such a situation. One
    of the boys who was fired threatened a lawsuit and refused to submit
    to a drug test. He remains at the school temporarily, and is causing
    quite a disturbance. The other boy said that unless he were allowed to
    resign, and thus were allowed to remain in Thailand without being
    "blacklisted" by the school and possibly incarcerated, he would report
    15 other teachers in the old program who are also part of the problem,
    and thus, he said smugly, "bring down this whole bloody school."
    Sorry, but I have to tell you that all of this problem
    comes from a gang of the most loutish you could imagine--what
    Senator LeRoy Percy once referred to as "raw, undiluted Anglo
    Saxons"--and one other director who is their buddy in all things, rather than
    their boss. And to top it all off, many of them can't teach their way out of
    a paper bag.

    The Director who runs the school backed down from the confrontations
    made by the boys and their friends, who all marched into his office
    and demanded my head on a platter. He also demoted my superior for
    failing to notify him of the problem. She has been given the choice
    of either working for me now or leaving the school, which she has
    invested more than 20 years in; ie, she has completely lost face.
    Meanwhile, incidentally, to add to this soap opera, her mother is
    dying, and she is beside herself with grief
    already. She returned from overseas urgently to stay with her mother
    around the clock.

    I met privately with the Director and asked him whether he was going to
    help sort out this mess, which has been allowed to fester for so long,
    and which is now endangering the welfare of the students, my teachers, and the
    reputation of the school.

    He again washed his hands of the matter, saving not only his face but
    perhaps his own skin, which leaves me standing to hear the complaints from the old
    program about the Director’s new drug testing policy and the firing of
    the two boys. And I should tell you, they are behaving like members
    of British Parliament--all shouts, accusations, denials, and whatnot.
    One member of my staff who spoke up on my behalf had to be moved this
    weekend to a safe location, because he was threatened by the group.

    I have also proposed the simplest solution to the problem: Conduct a
    drug test of the employees and act upon the results. I offered my
    hair and blood sample to him on the spot, and asked the others who were
    in that particular meeting whether they were prepared to offer theirs.
    They got very uncomfortable about that and shouted louder to redirect
    the conversation. I listened, said nothing except that I was
    following the orders of my superior, and then practiced sam ruam,
    which the Thai also highly values--the control of the temper. The
    Director may have understood it, but the others went away still railing.

    The Director, I understand, has to make some difficult choices, and I
    spoke with him privately about this to let him know that I understand.
    If the problem is ignored, the school will continue to suffer, and
    eventually a legal situation could occur to embarass the school
    regardless. If the problem were addressed and resolved, he could then
    position himself as a leader who rooted out an old problem for the
    betterment of the school.

    The Director said nothing. So I spoke to him in proverbs,
    one about the moneychangers at the door of the
    temple, the other about King Solomon judging the two women who both
    claimed to be the mother of the same child, where one was willing to
    having the child cut in half and the other was willing to release the
    child in order to save its life. I offered to resign and defuse the
    situation, and he only said, "up to you. You can stay. You can go.
    The school will go on." This is true, of course, but it does nothing
    to solve the current mess.

    And so I have called in reinforcements. My friend who has lived and
    worked in Thailand for some time has explained to me that I will not
    be respected unless I demand respect, and that a demand for respect
    must be made. On a meeting to come this week, several members of the school’s foundation, who overwhelmingly support me and have already
    written reports of the high quality of work that I have done in only
    one month, and who have also been troubled by many months about the problems in the sister program, will be present, as will my former boss, who will be expected to acknowledge
    her role in the matter.

    After I know the results of the meeting, I will decide whether to act
    on my alternate plan, which is simply to call the FBI in the American
    Embassy and to contact the authorities in the British Embassy and let
    them work with the Thai police to put an end to all of this rubbish,
    thus going over the Brother's head and everyone else's. I informed my
    friend in the American FBI of the situation today, and he is making
    his report now, because I have been threatened by this little gang as well. I am refusing to
    leave campus for a safe house, however, because I will not be
    intimidated by weak and small-minded pub-crawlers. The guards who
    work at the school--which is walled and gated, but the inmates are
    already inside this particular asylum--have all been alerted to the
    problem, but I do not know how effective they are. I am keeping to my
    room and my office today.

    And, most importantly, my staff has stated openly that they will
    remain working diligently, regardless of any changes that come, and
    they have asked me--several crying--not to leave. They are very, very
    good teachers, and the students are responding to them wonderfully in their summer school.
    This could be a gangbuster of a program, if you'll pardon the pun.

    Drama, drama, drama. Good Lord.

    I do not know exactly what I will do about staying or going, but I am
    not inclined to leave--not at this moment. I change my mind every
    half hour or so. But I felt too strongly that I was called to be here
    when I arrived, and now that the real tests have come, I was at first
    very hurt, and now am very ticked off. I have had a
    belly full of this madness, and something must give. If I was called here, maybe
    it was just to clean up this mess and prepare the way for someone else
    to come join the school. I have already submitted the name of a very,
    very capable man to either join my staff or take my place, whatever
    happens.

    Pray for me in the meantime, and pray for the students and teachers of
    this well-regarded school, who have no reason to suffer for the idiocy
    of their leaders, perhaps myself included.

    As for now, I am doing everything I can to remember what
    my respected uncle told me about always maintaining my integrity, and I have stuck to
    that ferociously, but I must tell you that I feel like I've been run
    over by a truck right now. The hospital trip and this problem, put
    together, are leaving me quite low. PM me if you want to discuss this further.

  2. #2
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    I only got halfway through.

    Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit, and never look back.

    Adult ADD is hard to diagnose. Adderall may not be prescribed in Thailand, but Ritalin is, under the trade name Rubifen.

    Excessive amphetamine usage could cause loss of weight, but medications for ADD shouldn't cause that much weight loss. And the dehydration is suspect of other causes. If you had diarrhea as well, suspect other causes.

    PM me if you wish, but while you're running out the door, please.
    "The times I've been mistaken, it's impossible to say" - by the Moody Blues

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    Senior Member Array keeshou's Avatar
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    Sounds like a highly stressful situation to be put into, especially with your recent health problems. I'm not sure about the drugs you were prescribed, but amphetamines for hypertension sounds like something from the 1970's. I cant believe a doctor would prescribe that anymore. Also as you yourself noted these are not allowed here.
    made a mistake in putting me on
    Adderall, an amphetamine, and a high dosage at that. They don't even
    allow the prescription of Adderall or other amphetamines in Thailand
    With all the other problems you are having here the last thing you would want is to be accused of being a drug abuser yourself.

    I wish you the best, in this endeavor, and hope that you and the school find a way to remedy this problem without hurting too many lives.
    I can understand your frustration at finding less than stellar examples of teachers at your school, this seems to be a problem that runs through many schools in Thailand., generally attributed to the abundance of English speaking "Partier's" coupled with schools looking to cut corners economically.
    "We're all very different people. We're not Watusi, we're not Spartans, we're Americans. With a capital "A", huh? And you know what that means? Do you? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts."
    PFC J. Winger




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    Hyperactivity is not hypertension. ADD can be treated with low doses of mild amphetamines. But yes, it very well might make him more tense psychologically, even if it didn't raise his blood pressure much. If you're in a situation some people would describe as contributing to paranoia, no mind-altering substances should be imbibed.

    Innocent Abroad, you have a valid excuse for leaving: health problems. I suggest you leave without making move waves, and just put it on your resume as 'health problems.'

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    sinneslöshen Array Unwell's Avatar
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    another 'innocent abroad' gets unstuck in thailand.

    go home. and good luck.

    "...ever wonder why they kill the weak ones, baby?"

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    Um, Innocent Abroad, Leo Tolstoy's estate just got in touch to inform me that in view of your post they have decided to re-appraise the status of War And Peace, and will from here on in market it as a "short story". :smile:
    Or would you like to swing on a star?

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    Senior Member Array El Tel's Avatar
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    Game? This wasn't meant to be a game!!!...NEVER!!

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    Wow, Innocent, all that in only one month, including all that weight loss. Maybe one of those doctors mis-prescribed your medications.

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    sinneslöshen Array Unwell's Avatar
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    A bad situation to be in for sure.

    You need to get management on your side, without 100% support from the owners and board of the school you will have an untenable position. From what you say I doubt whether that is possible at this stage. A more softly softly approach would have been better.

    The easiest way to get rid of bad teachers is to follow the letter of the law. You can't just fire someone unless it is for gross misconduct. Follow the verbal warning, two written warning approach, and then dismissal. Let them know you are serious and that you are following the rules and that they have the chance to follow the rules as well or get out.

    I don't like the way some things are run in Thailand either, I do think that all teachers who work with children need to be vetted to ensure they are no risk to their students.

    I don't think you can force the staff to have drug tests unless it is written into their employment contract, but a quick call to the boys in brown if anyone is selling drugs will have them cooling their collective heels for the next ten years in the Bangkok Hilton.

    The main question you need to ask yourself is can you deal with the confrontation and the problems in the short term?

    Whatever you decide, good luck!
    Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

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    Innocent, in reviewing all the posts you made here before coming to Thailand, I note that many of us warned you not to do some of the very things you appear to have done. Given the circumstances, maybe you had little choice. Given the situation now, it appears irrepairable, and unsalvageable, especially if your boss has lost that much face.

    Run, don't walk....don't look back. Never mention it in future interviews or resumes. It never happened. If you stay in Thailand - which is very unwise - say you were touring the country.

    Innocent, are you still with us?

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    easy solution:
    phone your mate in the FBI, get him to phone the cops here and find out which nightclub/bar is going to be raided next and compulsory drug tested for every patron. Next appear to make peace with those Anglo Saxons and invite them to the affore mentioned bar for a "peace party" wait for the cops to arrive and hey presto their gone.
    Then i would get on the plane and go somewhere else anywhere but here. From your story you seem to have really upset the applecart in the whole school. Thais will never accept that they have screwed up (especially if there is a westerner to blame!) They dont like confrontation and i dont think your boss will be too happy having Proverbs or whatever quoted to him from a newbie in his own school.
    I dont advocate anyone using drugs especially when they are around children (i have my own - children not drugs!)
    However, there are a lot of unsavoury characters here who are desperate to keep their jobs for whatever reason. If you pi** the wrong people off they will come looking for you. You should have let the Thai staff sort it out. If they didnt sort it out to your satisfaction you should have left and found another job. at least that way you wouldnt be living in fear.
    Maybe you should give Billy graham a ring!!!!!!

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    I almost buy it, except for the long, sordid paragraph in the middle talking about how unsavory so many farang teaching in Thailand are... that's where the Smeggy smell comes in...

    "Steven"
    "Teachers, we are having some technical problems with our PA system. If you are having any difficulty hearing this announcement, please send a student to the main office to let us know."

    Heard in a U.S. Public School

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    sinneslöshen Array Unwell's Avatar
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    what does smeg smell like?

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    Senior Member Array keeshou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IJWT
    I almost buy it, except for the long, sordid paragraph in the middle talking about how unsavory so many farang teaching in Thailand are... that's where the Smeggy smell comes in...
    I thought it was a bit off the wall myself Steven, but look at his previous posts. He brought this up in March and asked for advice back then.

    http://ajarnforum.net/phpbb/viewtopi...&postorder=asc

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