The ESL Teacher: A Short Story

One of my first attemps at capturing star movements. This photo was taken with a 3 minute exposure, ISO 100, a Nikon D200 and a 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens. Part of the XinBeitou Library Series.

I finished writing this story this week and decided to post if after editing it a bit. This is a fictional story, like all my stories. However, contrary to my other stories, it isn’t fantasy or science-fiction.

I used to write a lot of short fiction, but got out of the habit. I decided a few months ago to start again. I started with a funny story about a mouse (Eine Mouse In Einem Haus) and moved onto other things. This story isn’t that funny but it was fun to write. I hope you enjoy it.

The ESL Teacher: A Short Story

You’ll never be anything but a 650$ an hour teacher; you will never amount to anything more!

She screamed at him, when he looked up from his desk. He didn’t understand what the problem was now. She always had something up her arse this one; she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She was so negative all the time. She didn’t give him the time of day anytime, but as soon as a minuscule detail was wrong, she barged in, stomped her feet and screamed her head off at him. He wondered what was the matter with her. Maybe she wasn’t held enough as a baby. Who knew? Assholes are everywhere.

He looked up, not understanding her condescending fury. His teaching director sometimes acted like a spoiled brat or a five year old screaming for his candy. This happened when people with absolutely no management training ended up being bosses. In fact, he had been a boss before of no less that 7 people. He could giver her some tips, but would she listen? Not a chance, she was too caught up with her own egomaniacal power trip. This is what happened in Asia. Most of the foreigners teaching here got local bosses, who took a perverse pleasure in making the teacher jump through crazy hoops and bureaucracy. Who could have known that foreigners would be just as bad? That was something that no sane person would wish on anyone else. Most of the kids he taught were spoiled rotten, as proven by their rotten teeth. Who had ever seen babies of 4 years old with 10 cavities in their baby teeth?

He had never seen this before and wondered why the children didn’t learn how to brush their teeth. He noticed that all of the children brushed their teeth in school. Maybe that meant that the problem was back at home. The problem was that the parents expected the teachers to raise their children and to discipline them. Something that was hard to do when there was no discipline at home. Absent parents, over-booked children, what was the world coming to?

She didn’t know that he had been paid a lot more per hour than 650$ and that teaching had become his passion. In fact, he had been paid 1600$ an hour recently to run his own classes. It worked out well and he enjoyed it. The only problem was that he didn’t think that the teaching he was doing at his school was worth any real effort; the mind numbing repetitiveness was boring him to smithereens. Instead of teaching them, the kids repeated their lessons over and over again, in military fashion. If they got a detail wrong, he had to correct them and scream at them. He had been told by her that making the kids cry was not a problem. In fact, she demanded it. He had a quota each week. Was any money worth this type of behavior? Maybe for power-tripping sadists. But not for him.

She was fat. What else could he say? She was fat and mean. A mean fatty, like they sometimes are; gorging on food whenever she thought that no one was looking, stuffing herself at any occasion, a filthy and disgusting human being. She was tinged by regrets and opportunities past. Maybe it was the lack of sex, who knew? He didn’t know any man who would fancy shagging her, not sober anyway.

Every time he came into the office, she was stuffing herself with something; from fast food, to donuts and tarts; all disappeared into her voluminous mouth and belly. She was also glued to her computer, IM her friends when she thought no one was looking.

In fact, he noticed that most so-called managers in Asia weren’t really managers. They were just passing shit from upstairs down to them, passing the buck of responsibility. He wondered how many of these managers got any managerial training. Not a lot, at least none of the managers that he had met. The schools tried to attract teachers who had problems with local management by promoting foreign managers. But in the end, it was the same shit in a different pile.

There was a way of managing people efficiently which they seem to have completely overlooked. Employee happiness wasn’t important here, which is why so many schools had such a high teacher turnover ratios. The locals liked to say that the teachers weren’t serious, but that wasn’t always the case. Sometimes, they just messed them to the best of their abilities. No wonder so many young Asians here thought that lying was alright.

He had rarely seen a manager compliment a teacher; that sort of thing never happened and he had been teaching for over 2 years here. It was funny, because that was one of the first things you learned as a manager back home; how to successfully manage your employees. Happy employees are good employees. If they aren’t happy, then there is a problem with management. But in a world were teachers are so easily replaceable to satisfy the needs of the parents, things didn’t happen like that.

At the end of the day, he didn’t want to stoop to her level. He took the high road, never insulting her and never saying anything when she screamed at him for no apparent reason. Her condescension was transparent, but he didn’t budge. He took it and continued working through it. In her mind, she was the best teacher and manager in the world. She knew how to handle the laowai better than anyone else, even though she wasn’t a local herself. At the end, he just took his money and left. He took the money and got rid of a headache that had been burning in him for the past year, a dull ache that seemed to be part of his being. Surprisingly, it disappeared the day he left. He was no longer upset, but pitied her now, he took pity of the week and jaundiced and had comfort in his heart again. It felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He was able to live once again.

Towards the end, he just started working at a new place which welcomed him. He still got some shit, but it was never as bad as before. It was funny how he went from one bad situation to another, but then again it was temporary. It wasn’t long before he found a better place. Reliable teachers were in demand, and the school didn’t like hiring travelers; they wanted people who would turn up each day.





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