A CASE STUDY: REAL STORIES OF REAL TEACHERS

Former Teacher Q, 36, is a long time friend of English Teacher X. He has taught English on two seperate occasions, though briefly, in Bangkok, Thailand and Kiev, in the Ukraine. He has no college degree and no teaching certificate of any sort, and other jobs have included photo shop clerk and bartender. He is currently unemployed and living with relatives in rural America, following legal troubles and health problems. This interview was conducted by insant messenger on November 27, 2002.

English Teacher X: better late than never
English Teacher X: but better never late

Former Teacher Q: Well, well, at last! What time is it there?

English Teacher X: 12:30 i was about to go to bed.

Former Teacher Q: Okay, it's 2.44pm here...

English Teacher X: thought I'd check one last time

Former Teacher Q: Glad you did.

English Teacher X: how're things there in Pancreas Town?

Former Teacher Q: My doctor today said that I have to come back Monday for an invasive test to find out if "the tissue is necrotizing", in which case they are going to do exploratory surgery.

English Teacher X: invasive test, that sounds fun. They go in through the urethra.

Former Teacher Q: Yeah, sounds like every Saturday night for me...

English Teacher X: don't they have little fiber optics and shit? they gotta cut you open?

Former Teacher Q: I don't know...he just said invasive, I didn't ask.

English Teacher X: man, you're taking this pretty calmly.
English Teacher X: i guess you are anaethestized mosta the time

Former Teacher Q: I've been going through this for so long, I'm getting used to it...

English Teacher X: not as bad as those people at the theater in Moscow though
English Teacher X: Well so anyway, my idea for a case study
English Teacher X: is to ask you some questions about your English teaching experience
English Teacher X: such as your addled brain can recall

Former Teacher Q: Exactly...considering my lifestyle, I'm thinking I'm getting off lucky.
Former Teacher Q: OH, I remember Bangkok quite well.

English Teacher X: that's surprising

Former Teacher Q: And my brief Ukranian experience with Misha.

English Teacher X: So your first experience was in Bangkok, about three months at the end of 1995.
English Teacher X: What was your first impression of the school?

Former Teacher Q: Yes, you got me into it.
Former Teacher Q: My first impression?

English Teacher X: what were you expecting versus what did you get?

Former Teacher Q: Well, it was in a mall...that was different...I was a little shellshocked from SF, so I was prepared for just about anything.

English Teacher X: yes, it even had animatronic hippos, that mall. a real oasis.
English Teacher X: So then your first class, was it a group, or an individual?

Former Teacher Q: It was rather nicer than the Ukraine, teaching in an old elementary school that was so 1940's abandoned warehouse.
Former Teacher Q: But in Bangkok

English Teacher X: we'll get to that

Former Teacher Q: you still there?

English Teacher X: yeah
English Teacher X: your first class, was it an individual or a group?

Former Teacher Q: You need to change your HTTP proxy setting if it's bumping you off.
Former Teacher Q: Do you have a firewall?

English Teacher X: I need a lot of shit, man
English Teacher X: i need love
English Teacher X: how do I do that?

Former Teacher Q: Don't we all...
Former Teacher Q: What system are you using,Windows what?

English Teacher X: 98

Former Teacher Q: Okay...hold on.

English Teacher X: it doesn't seem to be doing it too often, i can bear with it

Former Teacher Q: That's good, because I can't remember how to get to it...I think it's in one of the dial-up control panels
Former Teacher Q: or it may be in my firewall software...

English Teacher X: get back to the interview Pancreatic One

Former Teacher Q: Okay, what else do you want to know?

English Teacher X: Was your first lesson a group or an individual

Former Teacher Q: Ah, you didn't get what I just said...it was a group, which I was thrown into with no preparation.

English Teacher X: well that was normal procedure at the school
English Teacher X: sink or swim

Former Teacher Q: I experienced a moment of intense fear, until I realized the kids didn't know any better about my credentials, and that I was the boss.

English Teacher X: yeah, as long as you kept smiling and talking they were usually happy

Former Teacher Q: But most schools aren't sink or swim, are they?
Former Teacher Q: I've seen some pretty intensive preps going on ...

English Teacher X: well, these days itís not so cavalier, but yeah

Former Teacher Q: I tell you what---

English Teacher X: i mean, there's not much room for sissies.

Former Teacher Q: Email me a list of questions, and I can write in great detail about what I saw, heard, felt and smelled.

English Teacher X: Yes, perhaps, but let's keep going here

Former Teacher Q: I Was A Sissy English Teacher...heh
Former Teacher Q: okay
Former Teacher Q: what else?

English Teacher X: Do you think you ever succeeded in teaching anyone any English?

Former Teacher Q: Actually, surprisingly, yes....there were a couple of students that were utterly committed, and I spent a lot of time with them...
Former Teacher Q: There was this one guy,

English Teacher X: that's beautiful. just like DANGEROUS MINDS

Former Teacher Q: he was right off the farm, was barely literate in Thai, but his English pronunciation was perfect, he was a great mimic.
Former Teacher Q: I held him up as an example to the other students often.

English Teacher X: now of course, in addition to bad hangovers, you also got hit by a bus while drunk at one point. Can you recall your agony?

Former Teacher Q: And there was one girl in the TOEFL class you turned over to me that I gave intensive instruction.
Former Teacher Q: Oh yes, the bus.
Former Teacher Q: Of course I can recall my agony...I have perfect recall when it comes to pain...

English Teacher X: ah, but she already spoke English that didn't count
English Teacher X: she probably could have taught you a lot about grammar

Former Teacher Q: No, but she was hungry for idiom and slang, plus her writing was clumsy...

English Teacher X: pshaw
English Teacher X: And so then you did the time-honored English teacher tradition of running out the back door when things got tough
English Teacher X: did you tell any of your students?

Former Teacher Q: I remember we had an argument about gerunds, and participles...
Former Teacher Q: And she missed the old "pay attention/pay money" question...

English Teacher X: that little whore

Former Teacher Q: Hm, well, things didn't get tough, I just got weak...

English Teacher X: oh well, same difference

Former Teacher Q: No, I didn't. I did schedule them so it would inconvenience them as little as I could manage, though...

English Teacher X: what did you think of your colleagues, apart from me?

Former Teacher Q: To tell the truth, I wish I'd stayed...things would have been better for me all around.
Former Teacher Q: My colleagues?

English Teacher X: well, the other teachers

Former Teacher Q: A peculiar mix of the totally professional and blatant incompence.

English Teacher X: oh, things are never better or worse, just different
English Teacher X: who would the totally professional have been?

Former Teacher Q: My personal feelings toward them had nothing to do with their teaching ability though
Former Teacher Q: English Teacher M was a lot of fun, but he was an indifferent teacher. Once,

English Teacher X: oh, i'd say we were pretty much equally unskilled
English Teacher X: all of us

Former Teacher Q: I took over one of his classes, and he bitched at me later about now they wanted him to talk more and be more conversational, something he rarely did due to his hangovers...
Former Teacher Q: The big professional was English Teacher S, the guy who had part of his intestines removed.
Former Teacher Q: He was always demanding the tape recorder
Former Teacher Q: which I used as a crutch rather than aid.

English Teacher X: Well now, you see, there were two kinds of ways to fake out the students
English Teacher X: One was to pretend to be really fun and interesting and talk a lot
English Teacher X: and the other was to pretend to be really serious about grammar and methodology

Former Teacher Q: Hold on I gotta go piss

English Teacher X: damn pancreas

Former Teacher Q: I'm back...pancreatic troubles makes your urine very dark. Anyway,

English Teacher X: yucky

Former Teacher Q: I subscribed to the "Performing Monkey" school of thought concerning English teaching.

English Teacher X: yes, it's okay if youíre an energetic type
English Teacher X: or if you're whacked on goofballs like you were

Former Teacher Q: I kept them happy and amused with my Americanism, gave them lots of slang, told them a lot about how things went down in America...they liked that.
Former Teacher Q: Now, I didn't get SO whacked at school, after that one incident you so chastised me for.

English Teacher X: er, well that was after class I was chastising you for
English Teacher X: though I seem to recall you were drinking whiskey and coke on the way to your first day of work

Former Teacher Q: Besides I figured if they REALLY wanted to learn English, they wouldn't be at that school...
Former Teacher Q: Yes...haha, I remember
Former Teacher Q: offering you a swig....your grimace was sweet.

English Teacher X: I think that instituteís rep was better than most

Former Teacher Q: Really?

English Teacher X: which says a lot about those private schools

Former Teacher Q: Shit, I'd have loved to work at a worse school...

English Teacher X: yeah, it had really nice classrooms and air conditioning
English Teacher X: and was close to McDonalds, Thai people think that's important

Former Teacher Q: Remember those goddamned non-Euclidian stairs we took if the elevator was busy?

English Teacher X: What was the worst moment for you there?
English Teacher X: In the classroom, I mean?
English Teacher X: Does one stand out?

Former Teacher Q: Hm, let me think for a moment....
Former Teacher Q: Yes.
Former Teacher Q: Okay, it was the time that I was grading a final for my class that would determine their final average.

English Teacher X: and?

Former Teacher Q: I gave this one little Thai girl, a sort of nerd with glasses, a B+ because she wasn't so good, but she gave it a lot of effort. But she started complaining, then crying, so I changed it to an A.

English Teacher X: nice guy
English Teacher X: did you ever have to teach a kid's class?

Former Teacher Q: I'm a sucker for the tears.
Former Teacher Q: Oh god yes...

English Teacher X: i mean with young children?
English Teacher X: Not like anybody gave a damn about the grades except the students, anyway

Former Teacher Q: Those horrible weekend classes that were just jumped up baby-sitting...

English Teacher X: except with lower pay

Former Teacher Q: I still remember asking the secretaries how to say "Shut up" and "Sit down" in Thai...

English Teacher X: what was your philosophy for dealing with the kids? Did you even try to teach them? Many didn't. . .

Former Teacher Q: I hated working weekends with those kids.
Former Teacher Q: No, honestly, I didn't try to teach them after the first...

English Teacher X: Not the best way to spend a Saturday morning, really
English Teacher X: or Sunday. . .
English Teacher X: i always played a lot of word grid games on the board, you know where you hide the words.

Former Teacher Q: then I mostly just figured out what songs they liked best, and sang them really loundly while goosestepping around the room while they followed me like a conga line.

English Teacher X: we all did that a lot
English Teacher X: I can still sing many of those songs by heart

Former Teacher Q: It is a strangely fond memory after all this time....
Former Teacher Q: Me too

English Teacher X: That which does not kill us. . .

Former Teacher Q: Nearly kills us.

English Teacher X: We didn't suffer from Super Parents watching our every move in those days

Former Teacher Q: Oh, but I did!

English Teacher X: it's become a trend in recent years

Former Teacher Q: One day there was some sort of horrible

English Teacher X: oh really? I don't think I did much

Former Teacher Q: Parent's Day.
Former Teacher Q: Man, did I hate that!

English Teacher X: Well, they didn't try to talk to you, did they?

Former Teacher Q: No, but they watched me like a bug under a microscope...it was like teaching the children of the Easter Island monoliths.

English Teacher X: yeah, they do that, believe it.
English Teacher X: it was good about complaints in those days, i doubt one complaint in a hundred actually reached us
English Teacher X: it became a problem later, the management wanted to be all sensitive and responsive

Former Teacher Q: I got back at them by involving them in lengthy after class discussions about their children's performances.

English Teacher X: And what memory strikes you as the fondest?

Former Teacher Q: Yeah, I was as sensitive and caring as I was paid for.
Former Teacher Q: My fondest memory?
Former Teacher Q: Being down in the bar with the "faculty" after classes. Does that count?

English Teacher X: With me it was English Teacher T coming in in a sarong drunk with his polly parrot earrings on and chasing the secretaries
English Teacher X: he denies doing that now, by the way

Former Teacher Q: Heh heh...sorry I missed that.

English Teacher X: but he did it nearly every other week

Former Teacher Q: What's he up to these days.

English Teacher X: well, he got married
English Teacher X: last i heard

Former Teacher Q: WHAT?
Former Teacher Q: To a bloated Thai whore?

English Teacher X: no he was going to marry a secretary

Former Teacher Q: And?

English Teacher X: he'd calmed down a bit by 1999, 2000
English Teacher X: well I havne't heard from him lately
English Teacher X: he was a rather respected manager when I visited the place in 1999 for 3 months
English Teacher X: ran a pretty tight ship
English Teacher X: started trying to actually teach English

Former Teacher Q: God, the tedium of aging, and getting slow...but I'm glad he was respected. A tight ship...does that mean no drinking before class?

English Teacher X: well, god knows it still went on
English Teacher X: but student's test scores and such were checked
English Teacher X: teachers were rewarded for good results
English Teacher X: it was differnt in 1999, but the bar in the soi was the same.

Former Teacher Q: "Teachers rewarded for good results" how did that grossly unworkable plan work out?

English Teacher X: Well, it wasn't his idea, it was the owner's

Former Teacher Q: I loved that bar...I hope to return someday to read again everything I wrote in the bathroom.

English Teacher X: they had rewards for the best teachers every month
English Teacher X: it was still there in 1999

Former Teacher Q: Ah, rewards. I see. That would have certainly inspired me to new teaching heights.

English Teacher X: "Hit by a bus and still loving it."

Former Teacher Q: yep.

English Teacher X: Speaking of cash, did you manage to save anything from your salary, or did you blow it all on Pi Pi
English Teacher X: Not including the $200 you stole from me of course

Former Teacher Q: No, I was really good with my money, but I blew all of my last check on the flight back.
Former Teacher Q: Actually, I worked on Phi Phi.

English Teacher X: yeah, but that was just for free beer wasn't it?
English Teacher X: English Teacher M and I saw that same sign, asked about it. . .
English Teacher X: better than being a crack whore

Former Teacher Q: Stole? Ahem, that was money you offered me, that I simply had a crisis in repayment management.
Former Teacher Q: Yeah, but free beer for me represented a significant savings.
Former Teacher Q: My thought exactly.

English Teacher X: more crack whore logic
English Teacher X: Anyway, let's talk about the Ukraine
English Teacher X: when was that?

Former Teacher Q: Yes, how fondly I remember my days as bar tout.
Former Teacher Q: Who wouldn't follow me, such an obvious good-time Charlie to his drinking well of choice?

English Teacher X: Yeah we met some people on the bus in Pi Pi who'd seen you. "that crazy guy with long hair who takes a lot of pills" was how they referred to you

Former Teacher Q: In 1998.
Former Teacher Q: It's so good to be remembered.

English Teacher X: How did you get the idea to go to the Ukraine?

Former Teacher Q: On the internet.

English Teacher X: oh really?
English Teacher X: What were you doing at the time?

Former Teacher Q: Those are some hazy days...I remember getting so trashed in Amsterdam that even I thought it was a good time to get out.

English Teacher X: hmm, i can imagine
English Teacher X: and you accepted some dubious job offer on the Internet?

Former Teacher Q: I seem to recall discussing my prospects with a Ukrainian in Amsterdam, who gave me a number. The internet bolstered what already seemed like a good idea.
Former Teacher Q: It was a nice deal...

English Teacher X: in what way?
English Teacher X: Did you have a job offer or not?
English Teacher X: Was it just one of those, "Oh, well there seems to be a lot of work" kind of deals?
English Teacher X: Like when the Joad Family took off for California in THE GRAPES OF WRATH

Former Teacher Q: Well, it was mostly private students. The so called "school" was a farce, I mostly culled out students who wanted to pay me privately, that's how I met Misha.

English Teacher X: But there was a job offer from a school
English Teacher X: what kind of school was it
English Teacher X: did it have any other teachers?

Former Teacher Q: Yeah. They had no clue what they were doing. It was a "English is the Future!" deal where some incompetent types hoped to take advantage of the new capitalist revolution by offering the people what they wanted. A few other teachers I met...

English Teacher X: did they have a building, books, that kind of thing?
English Teacher X: and what about your visa? did you have a legal visa?

Former Teacher Q: The building was some sort of factory that had failed to survive the market reforms. The books were some haphazard collection of 1950's British schoolbooks....facinating, historically, I wondered at the time if they were worth any money. The other teachers...well, there was this Former Teacher Q: spikey-haired Scottish girl who's brogue was nearly incomprehensible. She was my favorite.
Former Teacher Q: Visa
Former Teacher Q: Yeah, just like I had a Thai work visa. Ha!

English Teacher X: boy that sounds pretty cool all right. Were there classes, and how many students in each one?
English Teacher X: Was this a private deal? It smells like some misguided government project

Former Teacher Q: My boss....now there was a New Revolution character. Yevigny? I think that was his name, I never saw it spelled in English.

English Teacher X: Yeah, probably that. Russian for Eugene

Former Teacher Q: No, it was entirely private, as far as I know, but they could have easily been grafting the government and I would've never known about it.

English Teacher X: and undoubtedly the government was grafting them
English Teacher X: now where did you live there?

Former Teacher Q: Well, at first I stayed in the requisite hostel suggested on the low end by the Lonely Planet guide. I've still got my address written down somewhere. It wasn't bad, it was cheap. But the plumbing. Christ....I was so amazed that a major world power of the twentieth century had learned nothing from the Romans of 2000 years previously. And is the toilet plunger an entirely unknown device?

English Teacher X: yeah, i know you and toilets. you have standards
English Teacher X: man, you must have hated the fibrous Russian toilet paper

Former Teacher Q: Standards? I think there's a minimum written down in the Universal Bill of Human Rights, or at least the Geneva Convention. As for the toilet paper, I immediately went to the store and bought expensive paper towel for my delicate tookus.

English Teacher X: back to the classes. did you ever have any, or just private students

Former Teacher Q: I had two classes. One morning, one afternoon. I think the Ukraine is a long way from their Russian overlords, or maybe not, you'd have to compare for yourself. It was kind of sad...
Former Teacher Q: this was no Thailand baby sitting or learning English to be cool....

English Teacher X: what were the students like? And how many were there?

Former Teacher Q: These were people who genuinely thought knowing English was their ticket to a better life. I pitied them.

English Teacher X: well here, the only people who can afford English lessons are people who already have a better life
English Teacher X: was that the case there, too? Surly businessmen, rich wives, spoiled kids?
English Teacher X: Rich guys' mistresses?

Former Teacher Q: Okay, morning class was about ten students. I have a picture, I'll scan it and send it to you. A mix of young girls, middle-aged professionals, and a couple of bluecollar types. I suspect the local ad cost more than the rent on the school.

English Teacher X: hmm, this smells more and more like a government project.
English Teacher X: Although, what were they paying you?

Former Teacher Q: I didn't get any rich guys mistresses...they would have gone someplace much nicer.

English Teacher X: so your salary was about, what $20 a month or something then

Former Teacher Q: The pay at the school was crap. You were paid hourly...to make salary (and NO teacher made salary) you had to work at least 36 hours a week, but that was assuredly never going to happen for any of us. I think I cleared $28 dollars one week, but as soon as I set up private deals with the students, I did much better.
Former Teacher Q: And $28 was at least three times what I usually made.

English Teacher X: ah hah, you went "outlaw" on your pimps, huh
English Teacher X: careful, they'll tie you to the bed and beat you with clothes hangers for that

Former Teacher Q: I considered myself lucky. I think it was because I said I was thinking about quitting. Probably came mostly out of Eugene's pocket.

English Teacher X: and how long did you do that? It wasn't too long, was it?

Former Teacher Q: Yeah, welll, I'm glad I wasn't working for Chechins.

English Teacher X: or Armenians
English Teacher X: I remember an email I got saying you left mostly because Kiev was scary and you'd taken to carrying a gun or something
English Teacher X: which sounds like a really, really bad idea

Former Teacher Q: No, I only worked three weeks. Then I just taught a few students. But that was mostly going out to dinner with them in restuarants composed of Soviet-style concrete blocks, or at their homes, composed of Soviet style concrete blocks.

English Teacher X: Did you eat Soviet Style concrete blocks?

Former Teacher Q: I might as well have. It seems the Ukrainians have managed to genetically splice a Soviet style concrete block with the local beet.

English Teacher X: Let's get down to tacks -- did you poke any Ukrainian girls?

Former Teacher Q: Yes...little Misha. That's why she invited me into her home in the first place.

English Teacher X: She a typical slavic flower, legs all the way up to her neck?

Former Teacher Q: Oh, my sweet little slavic charmer. I still remember buying her the razors and shaving her legs for her...

English Teacher X: good lord, really?

Former Teacher Q: She was such a pixie...

English Teacher X: man, these girls here haven't got a hair on their lower bodies anywhere
English Teacher X: they're maniacal about it,

Former Teacher Q: I'm in the Post soviet sticks here....she did shave, but not to my exacting standards.

English Teacher X: And what was your general impression of Ukranian people?

Former Teacher Q: I taught her the Brazil.
Former Teacher Q: Those poor bastards. They were both depressed and happy...

English Teacher X: Like so many of us

Former Teacher Q: Depressed, because of the thought of how glorious they might have been if not for the decades of submission to the Soviets

English Teacher X: You mentioned once some toughs threatened you on the street
English Teacher X: and that's why you bought a gun

Former Teacher Q: And mildly cheered by the thought of a better future to come.

English Teacher X: things couldn't get much more drab and colorless, that's for damn sure

Former Teacher Q: Remember when those guys tried to rob you in the bathroom in Spain?

English Teacher X: it was something like that?
English Teacher X: it was just one guy, really, if I ever told you it was a bunch of guys, and he was about 5 foot 2

Former Teacher Q: Yep. Incompentence itself. If it had been NYC, I'd have been a corpse with an empty wallet.
Former Teacher Q: But I thought "What if I hadn't been drunk enought to brazen it out?"

English Teacher X: god watches out for drunks and little children
English Teacher X: so you decided to shoot the next guy that tried some shit, good for you

Former Teacher Q: That's when I noticed the thriving black market in cheap East European pistols.

English Teacher X: did you have a good time there, or was it mostly just grim?

Former Teacher Q: Typically, it was grim, but I personally had a good time. If I can find it, I'll send you guys a picture of me and Misha with her family and brothers.

English Teacher X: does she ever write you asking for money?

Former Teacher Q: Oh, I did get to meet some of the cleanup crew at Chernobyl. Can you say "patchy hair loss"?

English Teacher X: oi, better than keloid scars and huge tumours

Former Teacher Q: No, when hotmail cleared my email addresses, I lost hers, and she hasn't replied to the mail I've sent.

English Teacher X: how were her teeth?

Former Teacher Q: Well, she could have used some orthodontic work...but she had most of them.

English Teacher X: And one last question

Former Teacher Q: Yeh...

English Teacher X: Do you think you'll ever teach english again?

Former Teacher Q: hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahah
Former Teacher Q: How much will you pay me?

English Teacher X: Was that a hysterical laugh, or a sort of a Ming the Merciless sort of laugh
English Teacher X: me personally?

Former Teacher Q: To be honest, yes, I would teach English again.
Former Teacher Q: It was fun

English Teacher X: better than sucking dicks for crack any day

Former Teacher Q: And it's an interesting way to get into the local culture.

English Teacher X: better than starving to death, no doubt
English Teacher X: well, meet local people, anyway

Former Teacher Q: I'm still thinking about teaching in the Middle East...

English Teacher X: you and every other lamer on the internet, jack

Former Teacher Q: But I want, perversely enough, to teach in Iraq.

English Teacher X: yeah, that sounds like a good idea. Or maybe in Afghanistan

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