- Meeting expectations -

24th March '17

I wrote the last blog on the day that I completed my 100km running challenge for this month. And when I saw them the next day at work, people were asking me 'are you going to go further? Are you going to try to run 200km?'

No dummy, I'm going to sit on my couch and do fuck-all now. Getting to 100km was pain enough.

I didn't quite literally mean that I was going to do no exercise. But when you lack the rigid motivation of a ticking clock, then sometimes life gets in the way.

And by life, I mean a PS4.

It's fine though. I'm sure my body needed some R&R. I won't be going next week without any exercise, I can assure you. But I feel far better today than I did at this time last week, so perhaps it was the focus of having to run this distance that was affecting my mood, and not having a PS4, as I had hypothesised.

Which is good news, because I don't want to stop playing it.

In fact, without exercise, this was pretty much my week:

I worked, and I played Battlefield 1. And I'm still terrible at it.

'So why are you writing a blog then, if nothing happened this week?'

Because I like my life now. It's more or less my ideal existence. And I want to remember it; I want to capture this moment in time, just in case it doesn't last much longer.

The unknown of change is always a scary thing. But it's always more scary when you're one of the people happy and benefiting from the status quo.

It's why middle-class people on comfortable incomes are so up-in-arms about Brexit and Trump. The status quo serves them well, so they hate the idea of it changing.

The sign of a functioning democracy, and even a functioning society, is that things change to serve the majority better. The sign of a failing society, is when the changes made benefit a minority... Thailand.

But when the majority of people vote for the candidate or the choice of change, it's because for the majority of people, the status quo isn't working. It isn't serving them well. They are willing to brave the unknown of change rather than persist with the devil they know.

And I guess that it's the same here, in that the decision-makers at my school have decided that things have got so dire that the risk of change is necessary.

Back when I started this job, me and another teacher were hired at the same time. Then the next term, another new teacher was hired. Then the term after that, another one.

Business must have been good, because in those three terms, four new teachers were hired. In the eight terms since then, zero new teachers have been hired, and several have left.

At about the same time as that fourth teacher was hired, we were all given a slight pay-raise, and the price of tuition was increased.

Nothing horrendous; roughly £12-15 per term.

I felt a little uneasy about this pay-raise at the time, because if you read this blog, then you know my attitude towards money:

Money is important only to the point that you need it for essentials, such as food, shelter and Playstations. Beyond that, it has little value, especially compared to things like health, free-time, happiness...

I remember feeling uneasy about this pay-raise because I was already being paid a comfortable salary, and this school's selling point was its low price.

I don't know if this is the reason or if I'm completely barking-up the wrong tree, but since that pay-raise and tuition fee increase, we haven't hired a single new teacher, and I've heard endless whisperings about dwindling student numbers.

That's all it's really been though. I mean, for all the positive things that I can say about this job, communication isn't one of them. The managers' ability to communicate with the teachers and other staff is... abysmal, shall I say.

Occasionally a notice will pop-up on the already cluttered notice board in the teachers' room, and once in a blue moon, an email will get sent around. But even when the manager of my school changed, I only found-out by word of mouth, and it wasn't until the new manager was already in place and sitting in his office that any kind of deliberate communication was made about it.

Whisperings were all that we had to go on until this week, hence why I'm writing this blog to remember how my life is now, because... well how much longer will it last?

I love my life now. With my Apple Watch, my PS4, my hi-so apartment and my cushy job where I don't work very hard. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

I'm just at that point of living where... the little things make me smile.

Back when I moved-into this condo, the 'entertainment' space in my living room consisted of just a TV. And there's one cable going from the TV to the plug.

I quickly got wifi connected though, which included and still includes a free basic cable TV package that I never use. Two cables are coming out the back of the wifi router, another three out of the set-top box.

Next I added the microwave to this 'entertainment' space, because I so seldom use it that I'd rather this space in my kitchen be used for a toaster oven than a microwave. But the microwave has another cable coming out of it.

Then I bought my Apple TV, which has yet another two wires.

And then finally, I got my PS4, which has two more cables. And all of these cables sit behind the television.

I never really have to look back there, and it's rare to move anything around; these devices all but remain stationary.

Yet this week, I still spent an hour unplugging everything, and tying and taping all the wires so that there was no slack in any of them, because even though I never look there, it bugged me that there was this huge mess of wires just sitting behind my television.

Everytime that I looked at my 'entertainment unit' for about two days after this, it just made me smile to know that everything was organised so neatly and perfectly.

And that's kind of my life now. It's very perfect. I have the time to pay attention to the little things.

But what's the problem with everything being so good? Well not too much will have to change to bring this house of cards tumbling down. If I had to move to another apartment, if I had to get another job...

In a very rare move, my manager sent around an email to all of the teachers this week. It was basically a very long-winded invite to a teachers' meeting this coming Sunday.

In order to accommodate the different schedules that people work, there are actually two meetings; one at 10am, and one at 2pm, but they're intended to be the same meeting.

And this email started by saying that I'm sure you've heard, some big changes are coming soon, but included quotes such as 'There will be growing pains' and 'some changes may need getting used to'. Then it said 'It's important that all teachers understand the thinking behind these decisions and the reason so many of us think they are necessary.'

But it was towards the end of the email that he wrote the paragraph:

"I would also like to talk briefly about what we may be facing in the way of enrollment if things don't turn around soon and how that may affect you all as well as what we can all do to lessen the impact, so to speak, as well as what is being done on an organizational level."

Perhaps this is me being more negative than I should be, but if something is going to change, then as a manager, you put the most positive spin on it as possible. And nothing about this sounded positive.

And does that last paragraph not sound like manager-speak for 'we're going to have to start letting some of you go if things don't improve'?

To lessen the impact? Do you mean that I should start sending-out my CV now?

You must understand that when my life is fucking awesome, this kind of email is absolutely terrifying.

Don't get me wrong, I get it. If a business is haemorrhaging money, then you've got to do something to stop the bleeding. I understand that.

But the ways that you can stop a business bleeding money can be painful. And when you're so happy with the status quo, that's even more scary.

Some people call me pessimistic, but I view it as being prepared for the worst.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

But in that vein, I'm cognizant that if any teachers do have to lose their jobs... well I'll probably be among them. I just don't have the tenure to justify expecting to be kept-on.

What would suck about that even more, is that I can name multiple teachers who, since my first term, have continually crowed about their intention to imminently leave this job and find something better. But yet, 18 months later, guess what? They're still here.

It would suck when I like this job so much, but what can you do?

So that's why I'm writing this blog today.

I don't know, I may have read this completely wrong, and the changes that they're talking about will be purely procedural, and my job is safe but...

Well when a manager, who is more or less responsible for morale, sends out an email this negative, it makes you think that something bad is about to happen.

It was compounded even more when I was teaching yesterday.

In each term at my school, there are twelve lessons for each level, and to progress onto the next level, students must attend at least nine of these lessons.

If for any reason a student cannot attend at least nine lesson, then the normal procedure is for them to do a make-up class; that means a class at the same level with another teacher at another time, in order to compensate for the time that they've missed.

You can alternatively just set them extra homework or give them an essay to write or something, but I tend not to do this unless a student has no free-time to attend a make-up class because... well it's a complete waste of their time. They're not going to gain anything from writing an essay about some random topic on their own.

I had a student that needed to arrange a make-up class yesterday, so as I've done in every single term since I've worked in this job, I took this student to one of the admin girls in the academic office, and told her 'she needs to do a make-up class at level 3.'

The normal response is 'ok, no problem. I'll take care of it.'

Back at the beginning of this term, another teacher heard from somewhere, that we weren't going to do make-up classes anymore.

I don't know where they heard it from, but I'm sure that they didn't pluck it out of thin air. But just to be clear, this teacher went and asked the manager directly, who told her 'no, everything is just as normal.'

So we've all assumed that everything is just as normal.

I took this student to the academic office yesterday, and rather than responding with a variation of 'ok, no problem. I'll take care of it,' as has been the case for the last eighteen months, for two or more minutes, this admin girl was trying to persuade me to do something different. In front of my student no less.

'Why don't you give her extra homework instead? Why don't you have her write an essay? Why don't you give her extra activities from the workbook?'

It was somewhat embarrassing if I'm completely honest. I was being undermined in front of my student, who I'd explained the procedure to and had brought here to book a make-up class. And then the admin girl was 'why don't you do this instead? Why don't you do that?'

It's weird. It's kind of like they've changed the rules or the procedures that we're supposed to follow, but they're unwilling to tell us that they've actually changed.

I can think of no explanation as to why this admin girl was so adamant that my student shouldn't do a make-up class.

She eventually conceded and my student got her class, but not without me losing a lot of face and getting somewhat angry in the process.

But what makes it even more aggravating is that I don't even understand why this admin girl acted like this. I assume that a manager has told her to try and limit the number of make-up classes, but if that's the case, it's somewhat odd that they wouldn't also relay it to the teachers.

Perhaps it's something that'll be addressed in this ever more ominous Sunday meeting.

Things are just weird now; I think that's the only way to really describe it. People know that things are about to change, but no one knows how. And that kind of puts you on edge. Especially when the worst-case scenario is that you don't have a job at the end of it.

It would suck if I had to find a new job. My perfect life here would be shattered.

In fact I've said in the past that if I do ever leave this job, I don't anticipate even staying in Bangkok.

I did my share of research and of interviews before I took this job, and it was really the only one that could afford me the time-off each year to make it palatable.

Every other job wanted more hours and less time-off and... I would find it very hard to take such a step backwards.

I don't know where I'd go or what I'd do, but if things do go as badly as I'm fearing, it could even spell the end of me living in Thailand.

It's kind of a high-stakes meeting in that regard.

Presumably things won't change so quickly that I can disregard the upcoming holiday though, so now it's time for the weekly pointless update on where I'm thinking about going:

You might be able to tell; technology is kind of a big part of my life right now.

Within three yards of where I'm sitting is a laptop, an iPhone, a PS4, an Apple Watch, a wifi router, an Apple TV...

I'll go a step further and say that my life feels totally overwhelmed by technology right now, and that I'm so immersed with it, that I have no time to get away from it and just think... just think, does all of this stuff and the way that I'm using it even help me? Does it benefit me?

How much good would it do me to just turn everything off for a week, and reflect about what my life actually is?

No more PS4 to consume my free time playing video games. No more Apple Watch bleeping at me because I'm not moving enough. No more Reddit, to read about all these things in the world that I think are important. No more blogs to write, TV shows to download...

It sounds like bliss, and sure I could just switch everything off now and have a technology-free week or two sat in my apartment but... well wouldn't that be kind of odd?

I honestly don't know what I'd do in my apartment all day without my technology.

Even the small number of books that I own are ebooks.

Thailand's a buddhist country though, so has many meditation retreats, and one that's been brought to my attention in the past is this one, somewhat curiously with a Russian URL.

I don't quite understand why.

But for this week's vacation idea that I'll never actually do, why not head up to this retreat in the north of Thailand, and just get totally off the grid for a few days? I genuinely think that it'd do me the world of good to clear my head like that. And presumably, there wouldn't be any people there throwing water at me over Songkran, although that might be wishful thinking.

I'm immediately put-off by the idea of having to travel over Songkran, especially that far, so excuse my skepticism that this actually happens. But I'm thinking about it. It's another idea I've had before I ultimately just spend Songkran hibernating in my apartment.

I certainly do need to detox myself of my technologies at some point though. This'd be one way how.

Well this wasn't really a blog to say anything. Rather I spent it speculating how bad things might be.

On Sunday, I have this meeting, so hopefully I can write a blog next week and report that everything's staying exactly the same as it is now. But excuse my pessimism when things have got to change but I love the status quo.

Brexit doesn't mean too much to me beyond potentially limiting my employment options in the future. I have in the past toyed with working in Europe. I even once applied for a job in Bratislava, but to no avail. In terms of directly impacting my life as it currently stands, Brexit means very little to me.

This is my Brexit. This is what's going to force change on the life that I love.

There's a shit-storm coming, so I hope I have enough toilet paper.