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An Inspector Calls

OK folks, stand by your beds

Put yourself in the place of the average Thai teacher for a moment. What’s the most terrifying, heart stopping panic inducing, event that you can imagine. Judging by all the recent stress creating activity at St Judas’ Academy for Serial Underperformers, then, without a shadow of a doubt, it must the invasion of the government inspectors.

Forget cheering practice, if anything’s truly worth cancelling several day’s classes for then this is it. All hands on deck, there’s work to be done. If it can be moved, lift it and clean under it. If it can’t, then tidy it and make it appear that, whatever it’s function may be, it’s doing it efficiently and more importantly appears ‘riap roy’ to the casual observer. Never has so much energy been misdirected in so many ways.

When teachers start preparing ‘child centred activities’ you know that something’s up. It’s as though the the 11th academic commandment was handed down from on high to the poor muddled masses scurrying around on the frontline:

“Forget everything you ever taught in the last 20 years and come up with something that actually interests the students (or we’ll be up the creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle)”

On the inconvenience scale it’s right up there with having your family die in a car wreck. As we all know fixing the car, if you aren’t comprehensively covered, is a hell of a hassle.

Luckily I.D.1 (Inspection Day 1) went well. The opening day of the inspection concentrated on evaluating the overall running of the school, rating the welcoming ceremony and assessing the servitude of the teacher’s paraded before them. The general appearance of the school is also taken into consideration.

Tree huggers will be happy to know that over the course of last weekend the assorted collection of withering plant life which masqueraded as an ornamental garden metamorphosised and rose, like a phoenix from the ashes, into an incarnation of a Japanese style garden, complete with white stone rockery and enough bamboo to keep a pair of pampered pandas pacified.

Teachers are pulling out all the stops in an effort to convince the men from the ministry that the school is doing more than merely trading on past glories. It goes without saying that some are beginning to crack under the pressure. The science master in particular has been unusually active in his efforts to involve the students more in practical experiments. You know, the kind you can try at home.

A display entitled ‘Chlorine gas. Friend or foe?‘, complete with happy smiling ‘Mickey Molecule’ diagrams now adorns the wall of the lab. Underneath sits a stoppered bottle of green mist, a note on the outside invites students to decide whether Charlie Chlorine is a best buddy or arch enemy of Larry Lung.

Taking a break from real life and actually participating in real life science experiments has been such an eye opener for the students that there were no shortage of volunteers wanting to participate in the experiment designed to illustrate Newton’s Laws of Motion. The idea was to measure the displacement of force and see how the idea of every action having an equal and opposite reaction could be simply illustrated.

The original premise was good I thought, but the idea of proving the point by using an experiment that was designed to see what thickness of cardboard could stop a round from an M-16 seemed a little O.T.T.

“Targeting the students is what it’s all about” the Science master answered when asked by the man from the ministry. “So, is it child centred ?” enquired the inspector. The teacher, ignoring the grammatical error, looked into the sights and replied, “Yes, the child is centred.” And gave the order to fire. “There, dead centred” he quipped, placing an overstrong emphasis on the first word.

In the background openmouthed kids looked on dumbstruck with one exception. Young Kanit was already on his third page of calculations and had his hand up wanting to know if the teacher was going to accept gravity as 9.8m/s or 9.81m/s and whether the resistance of a white cotton shirt should be taken into account when calculating the impact velocity.

Noting that the man from the ministry had now been joined by several men in brown uniforms, the teacher informed Kanit that the beauty of child centred learning is that the kids are free to make their own decisions. He then informed the rest of the class the answer was ‘B’ and was promptly transferred to a non-active position by his superiors.

Then, as quickly as it all began it’s over. The discipline master, following the science teacher’s lead is busy looking for a few good WWF moves to teach any young charges who step out of line. (Choke slams aren’t mentioned anywhere in the ban on corporal punishment) As for young Kanit, he has been expelled for the heinous crimes of exposing classmates to an intolerable amount of loss of face and daring to question a teacher in public.

Well Kanit, at least you learn’t something about reality, the first rule being “If you want to get on, keep your mouth shut.”