Part 44. In Terror of the TBI Teacher’s Room

How do you think TBI Head Office feels about TBI expat teachers?

I think they’re afraid of them.

That’s interesting. What makes you say that?

That’s how they act. They’re scared of what they might do or say. The mere mention of a teacher’s complaint has been known to send them into paroxysms of fear.

Who do you mean by ‘them’?

Mariam Kartikatresni, Ashley Platts……Luke has learned to use this fear reflex to his own advantage, of course. Sometimes they over-react to the most minor of complaints. They are scared to uphold their own policies and procedures. They are basically in terror of the teacher’s room.

Can you give our readers an example of this fearful attitude towards their own teachers?

The first time I encountered it was when I was working with Chris Needham. He was very afraid of an Australian teacher, CC. CC had gone for the Actel position at the same time I did and when I got the position, he pretty much stopped talking to me and then went into a downward spiral generally. There were thought to be serious substance abuse issues involved. He fell asleep in class several times and burst into tears in the classroom once. He was clearly going through a rough patch and needed special consideration. I understood that. But the clumsy way it was dealt with was highly disruptive to the whole school. The problem, at the core, was that CC’s special relationship with Mariam Kartikatresni had Chris Needham running scared.

What was the nature of CC’s relationship with Mariam Kartikatresni?

According to Chris Needham, CC had done his CELTA in the same group as Mariam Kartikatresni. Mariam and CC had hit it off. Chris Needham was scared that CC had a powerful friend and protector in Mariam and was terrified to do anything, knowing that CC was likely to go straight to Mariam and complain about the injustice of it all.

How did Chris’s handling of CC work out?

Chris instructed me not to deduct sick leave no matter how many days CC had off due to his ongoing breakdown. The problem with this was that CC had requested to call in every day or so and tell me if he felt ‘up to it’. As time went on, he felt like it less and less. In his last four weeks working for TBI he did not complete a single day of work. This was a logistical nightmare. As Actel I had to do all scheduling because Needham thought it was beneath him to do his own job. So each morning CC would ring in at 9 am or 10 am and say, “Sorry Cam, don’t think I’m up to it today. Still feeling fragile“. Then I would have to merge all his classes or transfer them to a Non-Native teacher or re-arrange the schedule. This is fine for a day or two but after a week or more the rest of the staffroom were getting frustrated. No one wants to teach a merged class every day. No one wants to be rung up three times a week and told that their schedule has been rearranged. By not showing up at work for a whole month, CC was impacting the whole school and complaints from students and teachers were flooding in. It was completely unfair on others; I needed to hire someone else if he was unable to do his job for a while, but then they wouldn’t allow me to do that either. I’m sure most TBI employees have no idea how hard it is to juggle something like that without annoying everyone. This whole situation happened because Needham was scared of annoying Mariam’s buddy.

Did Chris have any reason to fear Mariam’s friendship with CC?

About a week before Luke Preece commited fraud in terms of my alleged resignation, I finally had lunch with Mariam, and we discussed CC. She denied that she was nepotistic and said she wouldn’t have interfered due to friendship. She said Ning Anhar was neptistic, and certainly had been in the case of Wati, but she wasn’t. But really what do Mariam’s denials mean? She denied being nepotistic but appointed her own friend as the Head of Academics when, according to one of the franchise owners, the woman was incapable of even passing her CELTA Young Learners.

How did the whole CC situation play out?

He went back to Queensland. It was clearly for the best. I don’t think Jakarta is a good place for an expat to tackle substance abuse issues.

What did the CC affair teach you?

A valuable lesson. I learned that Ashley and Chris were terrified of what Mariam might do and say. She is the Director and people are expected to pander to her whims. Or at least that’s how Chris perceived it. It also taught me that TBI teachers who are noisy and have a history of making complaints up the ladder will receive better treatment than hard-working ones who just get down to business. CC was paid a whole month’s pay for teaching he didn’t do. This was not due to compassion but due to fear. CC had compalined loudly before about perceived injustices in timetabling and so forth. In this sense CC was very much like Matthew France, who came later. If you whinge a lot, you will get payments no one else does.

Why do you think they offered both Matthew France and CC extra payments and sick leave and so on?

You have to remember TBI Bogor. In 2007 TBI had been in the Jakarta Post and the Indonesian press for illegally employing teachers. These teachers were then arrested and deported, along with an Iraqi gigolo (according to the press reports), when TBI Bogor had assured them they had legal permits. Yet TBI is like Teflon, nothing sticks to them. By eighteen months later you could find people on Dave’s ESL Cafe recommending TBI Bogor as a good employer. In reality, it had the same owner who had sacrificied two expat teachers rather than pay a bribe. There are short memories in this industry, because people are always coming and going.

TBI did not want another scandal after TBI Bogor. Ashley Platts who had recommended using business visas to illegally employ teachers at TBI Bogor and Kuningan was still around. The last thing they wanted was a reputation as a rogue employer. Also they are afraid of Indonesian authorities because they are engaged in illegal activities. They had got away with the TBI Bogor Immigration raid with their reputation only a little damaged. Since then they have tried to make sure people go quietly. They do not want a bad reputation as an employer with expats, because their whole business model is based around having bule faces in their high-profile schools. They are in terror of what angry former teachers might reveal about them. They are in fear of being unmasked.

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