This is going to be a pretty drastic departure from my usual flippant (and brief) self… but bear with me for a few minutes on this, because it bothers me so very much and I really need to get it off my chest. I’m writing this because I’m genuinely worried about what work is doing to my dad.
My dad’s an old Chinese teacher who’s near retirement age. He’s been Chinese-educated all his life, and never quite managed to get the hang of English. He’s been teaching for at least 25 years by now – I’m honestly not sure when he started – and I sincerely believe he’s done his job to the best of his ability.
In the last couple of years, he’s been facing what must be an unbearable amount of pressure at work. From his (naturally one-sided) perspective, he’s been given some of the worst classes, and yet he’s been consistently chewed out when his students graduate with B3s and C4s. He’s been assigned non-teaching duties that he just can’t seem to perform well in – just today, four days into the new academic year, he was yelled at by one of his bosses (so loudly his ears rang, he says) for not writing a good emcee script… in English. For this, his boss threatened him with a D performance grade (i.e. no performance bonus) for the year. Four days into the year. This hasn’t been the first time he’s faced such threats and humiliation, either – it’s been this way since last year, and it’s made him so worried about his performance bonus that he slogs extra hard just to get things right. Which, as today proves, hasn’t turned out very well.
I’ll be the first to admit he’s not necessarily easy to work with, especially at this age. He can’t hear well, he has trouble adapting to new situations, he can’t really figure out his computer beyond email and photo management, and he can be awfully stubborn about things. I’m sure that, in the eyes of school management, he doesn’t hold a candle to young teachers who can come up with innovative teaching strategies and who can truly click with the students and who can drive their students to do their very best in their academic and sporting competitions. Worse, he’s probably paid nearly twice as much as one of these amazing young teachers.
But… this doesn’t seem right. I know, it’s all meritocratic, so maybe he’s truly under-performing at work – that wouldn’t be too surprising, given some of his traits and maybe the language barrier. But is this how you motivate one of your 60-year old staff – by tearing apart his dignity and heightening his stress levels until he becomes a bundle of nerves? According to my dad (again, one-sided, entirely biased, all that), the same boss drove one of his peers to quit the service after he got D’s two years in a row, before turning her attention to my dad. I’ll stop here and not insinuate anything about his boss’s personnel management strategies with regards to older staff, but his story really disturbed me.
Of course, I’m only hearing his side of the story. Well, not only his side – I’m also hearing my mum’s side of the story, where she tells me how my dad yells at night from recurrent nightmares, and how he talks to himself all the time but doesn’t realise it, and how he’s so constantly wound up about his performance at work and just comes home looking so defeated every single day. She asks him to just leave the job, but he can’t give up his salary, he can’t give up the retention bonus at the end of the year, he’s even worried about how this will impact me as a young MOE employee. We try and tell him it’s okay, it’s just a month’s salary, we don’t need it to get by. But my dad is the way he is, and he won’t just give up and do something badly, and he’s going to push himself even harder and I’m just so afraid that, at his age, he pushes himself too hard and snaps.
My mum’s asked him to speak to another of his bosses, who’s been fairly neutral about this, and we’ll see how that goes and hope for the best. She’s ready to march down there and slap someone, which is what I love about my mum (happy birthday, mum!). As for me, I just really needed to get this out there, and for someone to read it, and if you have any advice to offer to me or my dad, I’d love to hear from you – please email me directly. Thanks for reading. I hope I’m over-reacting, I really do.
Afternote: And people wonder why I don’t want to stay in service. I mean, if I did, I could be a principal one day! Ick.
Posted from Posterous