This is just Asia in general, but I hate the way we are expected to be mind readers here. I don’t know whether it is something to do with the deep superstitious roots in these parts of the world, and the reliance, even today, on fortune-telling and card readings. Numerology and astrology are still used by all those in major positions of power in order to advise them on how they should act. So, of course they (the local people) should presume we do the same…
Maybe this is why they feel we should know things without being told? Why I should know that I can’t use a red pen to write names in Korea, and that I have to give English homework at precisely 12.40 on a Monday in Thailand?
Maybe this is why they expect us to instinctively know the days we have to dress particularly formally, and the days we have no classes. Maybe this is why I am expected to know when I have to teach my class dances or songs to perform at ceremonies I’m expected to know are happening. Maybe this is why I am expected to be able to teach Thai social studies. After all, though I know nothing about Thai history, culture or Buddhism, I’m a mind reader aren’t I?
Maybe I shouldn’t blame my bosses or my schools for not telling me things, I should just find the answers buried somewhere inside my brain. Or consult a crystal ball. Maybe I should just start looking for signs to do random actions. Someone said hands? That must mean I should measure the length of my students hands in case they’ve grown? I have a dream about being free – must mean no class tomorrow?
While I resent this, I also quite like it. If I don’t do something, it’s because of pure ignorance that I was meant to be doing it. If I’m not told, and I genuinely don’t know about something, how can I do it? I know it’s terrible, but I often use this to my advantage with things I’ve heard through the grapevine that I may have to do, but haven’t been told officially by anyone of any authority. I know I should probably seek out this information if there is a hint of it. Also, the sheer amount that I am never told reduces what my workload should supposedly be by quite a lot. Today, it was assumed I knew I was supposed to give homework after my lesson. English day, apparently. Obviously I had no idea whatsoever, but when I was informed later on, I said I would find something to give them. The class had lessons all day – I assumed I could give the homework quickly between lessons. Oh no, not allowed. I had to give it at lunch time (again, I was told this after lunch). Well, I’m sorry but I go out for lunch and I was totally unaware. Subsequently there was no time to give homework, and so no homework for me to mark tomorrow. I’m not complaining.
A coworker of mine has also been told she has to find extra time before and after classes to teach her students a dance and song for a ceremony in November. Well, I haven’t been told this, and November is far too far away. There’s no way I’m unnecessarily staying behind after school to teach a dance on the off-chance I’m meant to be doing it. If I find out that the class do need to perform and have nothing to perform closer to the time, well, we can learn it in November. It’s not going to take them five months to learn a dance routine like the Cha Cha Slide. I’m not assuming I should be doing it just because it’s been briefly mentioned to my coworker: that is not sufficient instruction for me.
So, although I know I should be embracing and accepting the local cultures, traditions and ways of life (and generally, I am), this is one aspect of culture where I’m sticking to my western values. If you want me to do something extra and unpredictable, I have got to be made aware.