- Becoming human -

6th April '18

If you remember back to the last blog, I wasn't thrilled with the schedule that I had this term, but I was putting a brave face on it.

And I was able to keep up with that positive thinking for the first couple of weeks of the term, when anytime I started feeling a bit dejected, I would just tell myself... "it could be worse."

What really killed me though, the moment that turned my mood and my mindset completely on its head, was when at the beginning of the third week, I got some kind of bug. I got sick.

I used to say in this blog how rarely I ever get sick, but it doesn't seem to be such a rare occurrence any more. I'm not sure why.

Perhaps because I'm not really going running at the moment.

Sure, I exercise a lot, but most of what I do at the gym is bursts of hard work, then recover, then hard work, then recover. I'm lacking the continued, prolonged exhaustion that I got from running, so perhaps that's something to do with it. But whatever the reason, I got sick, and it was pretty bad.

Not so bad that I had to take any time off work; I've said before that so long as I'm able to walk, I'll be there. But there was one class I found myself having to hold onto things to keep myself upright be the end, because I was feeling so light-headed. Although I did my best to hide it, and to the best of my knowledge none of my students were aware that anything was wrong.

But this was a miserable bug. It affected how I could eat, I felt like absolute shit, I was nauseous to the point of vomiting.

It wasn't fun, and what I really, really needed, was some free time that I could just rest and recover.

Oh no wait, I can't, because for no justifiable reason, my manager has decided to give me a schedule so congested that even when I'm not at work, I'm sat at home working.

And when I said 'it could be worse', I was right, it could have been. It was for other people, so in that regard I had no right to complain. But at the same time, what made it so frustrating was that it was completely unnecessary.

My previous managers would always make an effort to give teachers the same levels on weekends, that they're teaching during the week. That way you have no new planning to do on weekends.

My new manager made no such accommodations.

My previous managers used preference forms and tried to give teachers levels they've taught before, classes they're comfortable with, and work at times when they actually want to work.

My new manager made no such accommodations.

And what his justification was for doing this, I can only speculate was a combination of an unwillingness to spend the time necessary to accommodate his staff, and a desire to show people that he was the one in charge.

Whatever his reasons though, I have never before felt morale at this school so low. I've never before witnessed such a lack of desire to be there. And that observation is perhaps partly because of my own frustrations, but it's certainly not all in my head.

Four teachers resigned this term.

I don't recall another term where two resigned, but there's certainly never been four during my tenure, and I don't think that's a coincidence.

This new manager has been at this school in some capacity for over a decade. And judging by how much time he spends here, has very little going on outside, but that's not true of everyone.

Most people don't see their future as being at this school.

I don't want to be here two years from now, hence these ventures into things like programming and writing as I search for something more meaningful to do with my life. And other people are the same.

In fact other people are far more committed to outside endeavours, with two of the resignees being the two teachers who're studying masters degrees concurrently with working here.

Where as previous managers tried to accommodate them, the new guy gave them both schedules that forced them to resign because they couldn't do their studies at the same time.

And many other people have second jobs or private students, and previous managers have always appreciated that our lives don't start and end with this school, and that we have things going on outside.

The new guy doesn't seem to care, and it forced four resignations this term.

Perhaps a couple of them would have happened anyway, but four?

That's not a coincidence.

I think that every single teacher got pushed a little closer to resigning with the way this term unfolded, and those that were already considering it got pushed over the edge.

My own personal frustration was with how little progress, and probably in fact how much I regressed, with my programming course.

In the first six weeks after getting my MacBook, I completed 36% of this course, and was aiming to have it finished by April; a target that I thought realistic because continuing at the same pace, I would have finished this six-week term with 72% completed, and then could have blitzed through the rest during my annual Songkran hibernation, when I don't go outside out of fear of little kids throwing water at me.

You know where I actually am now?

42%.

And that's not through a lack of desire, or want. My schedule just didn't allow me to progress any further, because even when I could find free time, I was so exhausted that I'd try to study but feel completely brain-dead.

So through the six weeks prior to this term, I was able to do 36% of my course, where as through the six weeks of this term; the first with a schedule written by this manager, I was able to do just 6%.

Why exactly am I supposed to like this guy?

And were it unavoidable, then fine, I would have no problem with it. Your job has to come first. But it's not.

You just sent around an email saying that we were so overstaffed that people were going to get fired, and yet everyone's having to work three times harder than they were under the previous manager. And the best part of that?

It's unpaid work.

You don't get paid extra if you have a new level that takes you thirty hours of planning.

I had two new levels this term, so that was about sixty hours of unpaid work. Work that was completely unnecessary.

Sixty hours that got taken from exercise, from sleep, and most devastatingly, from my course.

A lot of your motivation for your job comes from working for a manager that you actually like and respect. But yet it's very hard to like a guy who clearly has no intention of helping you. So the entire term, people have just been demoralised and pissed off.

I spent half of my term just angry.

It started when I got sick, and I just got angry that completely unnecessarily, I didn't have any time for myself that I could just rest and recover.

But even once I got better, I was then angry that I didn't have the time to exercise properly, that I didn't have the time to cook and eat like I was before, that I didn't have the time to do my course, that I was short on sleep.

My ex-girlfriend is the only person in Bangkok who means anything to me really, and she has a personal problem right now. One of her close relatives is in hospital and not looking so good, and she messaged me asking to come over because she wanted to talk about it.

I initially said 'no', I don't have time, I have to plan classes.

I eventually rescinded this, thinking it's stupid, I'm not going to let this manager affect my relationships with people outside of my job, so she came over for a few hours.

But once she left, then I had to plan, and I couldn't get to bed until gone 11pm.

I was up at 5:45 the next morning, so I was losing sleep.

Another person who I was once close with messaged me asking to meet. I had to blow her off as well; I don't have the time.

And all of this, knowing that my health was suffering in terms of my diet, exercise and sleep all regressing, and my relationships were suffering, and my course became just a frustration. All completely unnecessarily.

Yeah, it made me angry.

Why wouldn't it?

So it was probably the worst term that I've had at this school. I hated it.

Were it not for the fact that I have nowhere else to go, I would have considered quitting too.

But the shitty thing about this, is that this was only term two of 2018. Term two is an easy term.

Terms three and four are when the university students are on break, so that's when we get really busy. And if under this manager, life was so shit during an easy term, then how's it going to be next term?

Or even worse, how's it going to be during term four, when all four of the teachers who resigned will have worked-out their notice?

This guy just sent around an email saying how we're so overstaffed that he needs to fire people, which I've never believed, I think it was simply a way of trying to blackmail people into doing what he wanted them to do. Because at the same time as saying that, he was telling people that they couldn't take time off because we were too understaffed, and they needed to work more hours.

But now he's said it, and that the number 'five teachers' got floated around as the number that need to leave, is he really going to hire new people once four of them do go?

So this term might have been shit, but next term's going to be shitter, and the term after that shitter still.

So that's something to look forward to. I'm really motivated and enjoying my work right now.

The one thing that I'm really hoping, is that I can use my two week break to try and get my mood back to where it was at the start of this term, because if you remember in the last blog, I was talking about how nothing could bring me down, and how I was seeing the bright-side of everything.

Yeah, that didn't last.

So I want to try and get back to that, and although I'm kind of dejected about it all right now, I certainly haven't given-up on this pipe-dream of developing my own apps.

I've said in previous blogs how my definition of maturity is that you stop lamenting things that you cannot control, and start making the best of them.

Failure has taught me in the past that when setting a goal, in this case learning app development, expectation and reality are very different things and... well nothing's ever quite as simple as you plan it to be. And where as in the past, I might have given-up when reality started throwing obstacles at me, nowadays I'm more prepared that they're going to be there, and the important thing is to just keep going.

Before this term, I'd maybe taken ten steps forward in app development. This term I took nine steps back.

It fucking sucks that I was forced to take nine steps back by an unnecessary schedule, but I'm still one step further forward than when I started so... it could be worse.

There's a big UFC event this weekend, and I was watching an interview with one of the main event fighters, who's muslim, and the interviewer, who's jewish. And whenever something unforeseen happens to him, he's always talking about how this is just God's plan. And one quote said in this interview (by the interviewer) was:

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the future."

I quite liked that quote.

I don't believe in a deity obviously, but in many respects religion is simply personifying or... Godifying fate, or luck, or chance.

In fact, in many instances just replace the word 'God' with 'fate', and you'll have a sentence that an atheist suddenly believes.

But as fate would have it, in my non-religious eyes, no goal is ever as straight forward as you envision it, and nothing that's worth doing is ever easy, so despite being a term of endless frustration, particularly with how little I was able to progress with app development, I'm still as determined as ever to do this. With this manager, it's just going to take a little longer than I envisioned.

I actually found some inspiration on Reddit from a guy who posted his story about learning app development.

First he posted a thread one month into learning app development. Then a couple of weeks later, he posted another about how he got his first job offer.

If you read his posts, this guy sounds incredibly driven, and worked, as he said, four to eight hours per day.

I had the time to work about two hours per week this term with my schedule, so... with my current manager, having dreams isn't very realistic. He seems to believe that your only function should be to work for this school, and you need not have any other purpose. But I still took inspiration from reading about how someone went from no knowledge of app development, to their first job offer in 45 days.

And if you're wondering why it's been so long, over a month, since I wrote the last blog well... partly it's because I've had no time. But more importantly, I try not to write when I'm angry, because I just end-up saying things that I don't agree with once I've calmed-down again. And I've spent most of this term being angry.

And what I've written here, is as level-headed and as fair an assessment of what's going on as I can give.

Had I just copied the notes that I wrote into my phone as the term progressed, then I wouldn't have been so kind. But to put it very simply, this just isn't an enjoyable or nice job under this new manager. And were it not for the weeks-off between terms, nothing would separate it from any other shitty TEFL job out there.

And I would like to say that I have hope that he's seen these resignations, and that he's felt the mood all term, and that he'll actually do something to change his ways, but I don't really think that he's that kind of guy. He's much more of a 'this is my way. Deal with it or leave' kind of guy so...

I'm already not looking forward to next term, and this term hasn't even finished yet. Now all I'm praying for is luck. Because for me to get a good schedule or not, isn't depending on the will of my manager; I know that he has no desire to give me or anyone else a schedule that we actually like and are happy with. So maybe I'll instead luck-into one where I just happen to get levels I've taught before.

That's pretty much my only hope for having a good term next term.

More realistically, it's just going to be more of the same. No time to actually have a life, and my only function as a human being, being to dedicate all of my time to this job. Unnecessarily. No time to focus on my health or follow my dreams. All for what?

That's the part that I can't answer either, and four resignations this term indicate that I'm not the only one.