aspergers, autism, culture, education, health, ideas, living abroad, psychology, travel

School is Out, Class Dismissed

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
Photo by Pixabay on

My Last Year in the Classroom

Earlier this year, I opted to stop teaching in the classroom. I decided it was time to move on. I did nothing wrong with my last company. They were a great agency overall. My departure with them was amicable. I left with two letters of recommendation and a Teacher of the Year nomination, one of my greatest feats yet. My first two years teaching were the hardest. I got somewhat better during my third. That said, it was time to cut all my losses and move on. I realized halfway through my third year I was swimming against the tide. The classrooms had way too many students. Most had at least forty if not fifty. The lowest number to my recollection was in the low thirties. These were public schools in Vietnam. Some of the spaces themselves were too small for that many. They were like puppies in a kennel. I’d make them sit boy-girl-boy-girl in every row and have them fill in the seats from the front as they entered the class. I’d been doing this long enough to know the slackers and cut-ups wanted to sit in the back and hide while the Chatty Cathys would sit together in another section. That wouldn’t happen on my watch.

I’m Not a Babysitter

Of the seven classes I taught, two were a lost cause. When we start teaching, we all have this grandiose idea that we’re going to change lives and save the world. That fantasy becomes short-lived when we’ve been bunked through the system after awhile. The schools and agencies are convinced that I as a Westerner will go in there, pull my magic wand out of hat, work up miracles, and the kids will learn English overnight. It wasn’t until my third year I realized it’s a hit or miss. There’s going to be good classes and bad ones. Time and again, you’ll have kids who don’t want to learn, goof off during the lessons, and won’t stop talking. You’ll even have incompetent TA’s who don’t do jack. I’ve had a few of those as well. How naughty or well-behaved the students were was how I could tell how well or poorly managed the school was. My two lousy classes were in awful schools with faulty administrations and inadequate facilities. I gave up on Thailand after my first year when I realized I was nothing more than a glorified babysitter. There they pass the students to the next grade regardless of their performance. The kids figure this out by the time they reach sixth or seventh grade and think they can skive because they know Western teachers can’t discipline them.

Under the Bus We Go

It’s not much better in Vietnam. One of the primary reasons I quit teaching is because I was tired of having to rig grades. This is not uncommon in Asian schools. The reason they did this was all about keeping face. The agencies like to cook the books and juke the stats to get more funding from the schools. Education is run like a corporation here. If it were up to me, I would’ve flunked half the kids, but I wasn’t given that authority. They wanted me to cover their tracks so the students wouldn’t have to answer to their parents for their lackluster performance. Whenever the children get bad grades, it’s always the teachers’ fault; especially, if he’s a Westerner. That creates double trouble. Foreign teachers are the most expendable ones of the bunch. I was fired from my job with Major Education in Saigon before Tet holiday 2017. I did my duty the best I could. I didn’t do anything that would warrant termination in my book, but they didn’t see it that way. The school in District 7 where I taught was underperforming. They needed a scapegoat, and yours truly got thrown under the bus because I was a foreign teacher getting paid ten times as much as the locals. I was there just a few weeks after being transferred at the start of the new semester. Once again, the officials assumed a white person is infallible, not prone to mistakes, and supposed to build an empire overnight. They then threatened to cancel their contract with Major if the agency didn’t fire me, so I got the ax. A lot of Vietnamese companies pull this cute routine before Tet to cut down on their overhead not just schools.

The Asian Evasion

The job was doomed from the get-go. I’m not angry about it, anymore. I found a better paying gig not long after and moved on. I had a great year with EMG, but I’d decided to pursue another career plan that suits me better. The real problem is many teaching agencies in Asia overpromise. They tell you what you want to hear but fail to live up to their end of the bargain once you’re under the contract. This I suspect is why overseas teaching jobs have a high turnover rate. Many expats are disingenuous as well. It’s not uncommon for someone to work for a few months and split because they want to travel or whatever. I knew a guy who did a midnight run out of the country and landed in Oman. I had another colleague who flew back to Ireland on holiday and wound up in Australia. The agencies don’t care. We’re just a number to them. Their rationale is they can find someone to replace us within a week. This is why I’ve chosen other venues. Now I don’t have to worry when is the right time to tell someone I have Asperger’s. I miss my students (most of them anyway,) but I don’t miss the politics and unnecessary drama. Thus, I’ve opted to teach online to hold me over until I make the transition. I can live wherever I want and no longer deal with the hogwash I did teaching in the classroom or the agencies.



Leave a Reply