TLG Firings

My last post apparently generated a lot of heat for TLG. That was not my intention.

I spoke with a TLG official recently. She told me at that time that TLG was undertaking performance reviews and that firings would occur because a number of people had not been taking their jobs seriously. So in a way, I should have been prepared for the news that people would be getting fired, and shouldn’t get bent out of shape just because two of them happen to be my friends.

After my last entry TLG contacted me again because they felt that I had not presented a fair and balanced story in my last entry, which was motivated in large part by my feelings about who was fired and how they were fired. I offered to clarify TLG’s official position and distinguish it from my speculations.

First, I was told that these firings are in no way political or connected to any political issues. According to TLG the firings were entirely based on the teachers’ performance, as measured by reports from school administrators and the teachers themselves. Additionally, I was told that these volunteers were not filling out their mandatory weekly and monthly reports. These reports are one way that TLG tracks the teachers’ performance and progress with their students. They’re a sign that the teachers are taking the job seriously.

I was also told that the party atmosphere of Tbilisi TLGers has been detrimental to the program because people are too focused on their social lives and not enough on school. I was also told that a number of TLGers have been embarrassing to the program due in part to their behavior and in part to cultural clashes. Finally, I was told that there may be factors at play that were not up for public debate or discussion – in other words, TLG had good reasons for firing these people, but will not disclose them to the public (which is, of course, reasonable).

Therefore, TLG says these firings are taking place because teachers need to be held accountable for their results and responsible for their behavior. They will help to serve as an example to prevent problems from future teachers. I was also told that this is a very important project and that since government money was at stake, TLG needs to demonstrate that it is taking corrective action when it encounters problems.

As to the timing, it seems like it’s an unfortunate coincidence – the teachers were fired now because now is when the results from last semester were all in and have been checked over. It would of course be better if TLG could have kept up to date on these reports and didn’t lag a month behind, and didn’t fire teachers just as they were about to get on planes, but TLG is (in my opinion) understaffed and overworked, and things take time. TLG also made it clear that staffing changes would continue to be made as new information comes in and existing information is assessed. In other words, it seems likely that some more teachers may be getting fired, perhaps even after they come back. (Again, I’m hoping that I’m not one of the people who gets to go home, but I suspect I’ll know that soon enough).

I asked TLG whether those who were fired were given any warnings or given a chance to rectify any problems. It still seems to me that they were not given adequate warnings, but I am of course not aware of exactly what communications took place between TLG and these volunteers prior to their being fired. Generally speaking, I would consider “adequate warnings” something like, for example, an email saying “hey, we haven’t been getting weekly reports from you. You need to send those to us because if you don’t you could get fired.” But, again, here I am editorializing. The fact is, I don’t know what warnings were given or what constitutes adequate warning according to TLG standards or how communications were received or understood by the teachers in question. So again, I still think this is disturbing, because it still seems like any of us could be fired without warning or without being given a chance to fix whatever problems TLG or our individual schools have with us.

So again, to be totally clear: officially, these teachers were not fulfilling their obligations to TLG, and were let go as a result. In my opinion, the way the firings were handled was bad, for the reasons I laid out before – it erodes our trust in TLG if teachers are fired while they are out of the country and possibly without having been given a chance to address the issues that led to their firing.

I guess that the situation is totally what you would expect: those who were fired, and their friends, feel wronged. The employer stands behind the story that the firings were justified. There are at least two sides to every story.

And I have to say that I am glad that TLG contacted me to provide their side of the story. I don’t consider this blog to be a journalistic project, and I don’t call people for quotes or official statements – and let’s face it, I work for TLG so “reporting” on them as a journalist would be a fantastically obvious conflict of interest – but I do strive, nevertheless, to provide the most complete picture of my experience here that I can, and I feel that that picture is made more complete by hearing from TLG about these issues.

I also want to make clear that I am not the only person speculating about why the firings occurred when and how they did and wondering why one person got fired while another did not. These discussions have been ranging all over facebook, and I imagine they could hit the footprints forums and other internet venues any time, and of course email and phone and personal conversations abound. Anytime someone gets fired, there’s always speculation, and the official story never really satisfies anyone. And since we in TLG all work in different schools, none of us can really know what goes on when we’re not around, how another teacher actually teaches, and that information gap is always going to leave room for doubt and speculation. You know, it’s like I always say – don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Everyone is biased, every story has two or more sides, and we all have to form opinions based on imperfect information. I’m just blogging about what I experience and how it feels. If today I feel like my job is in jeopardy and my friends have been unfairly taken from me, that’s what I write about, but the truth is always going to be somewhere between what I say and what everyone else says. That’s the wonder of human subjective experience.

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18 Responses to TLG Firings

  1. Kam says:

    I definitely respect you for acknowledging the fact that there are two sides to every story and that we have no way of knowing everything that went into these decisions, but I still cannot trust them. Too many things that have been done or said (and still are being done or said) have long since destroyed any inkling of a belief I may have had that things are been handled professionally and reasonably. I am tired of holding back my opinion about it because, honestly, everyone prospective volunteer has the right to know what others have been experiencing so they can make an informed decision about their participation.

  2. Kam says:

    I definitely respect you for acknowledging the fact that there are two sides to every story and that we have no way of knowing everything that went into these decisions, but I still cannot trust them. Too many things that have been done or said (and still are being done or said) have long since destroyed any inkling of a belief I may have had that things are been handled professionally and reasonably. I am tired of holding back my opinion about it because, honestly, every prospective volunteer has the right to know what others have been experiencing–the good and the bad–so they can make an informed decision about their participation. I don’t feel like TLG wants that, which is not right.

  3. Nicole Bedford says:

    I like your blog post but what TLG told you is utter bullshit! I was fired apparently for facebook post or some shit….I was doing my job but dare I say TLG is unprofessional on facebook then I’m fired….that is nonsense! I will try to forward you the exact email and you can feel free to quote it in your blog. In November I blocked all TLG staff from seeing my facebook content and maybe that is why I was fired…they were worried they couldn’t see if I was saying anything “derrogatory” as they said about them.

    • JR says:

      Unfortunately, no matter where you live, you must be careful what you say about your employer; whether it be on facebook or verbally. I have heard of other instances of people being fired based upon what they said about their employer, outside of work. People think of facebook as private but it’s not and you can be held liable for your comments.

  4. When I worked on a large scale government project in the past, my direct supervisor and I were required to fill out forms by certain dates specified by the governing body that managed the project. In the digital world there was / is no reason why it can’t be done efficiently. Supervisors who “stalled” where also held accountable.

  5. JR says:

    I find it very interesting that TLG watches this blog for feedback. Why not have an online survey (surveymonkey.com) with questions and ratings that people could submit anonymously, at the end of orientation and later a month into the program and at the end of a semester. This would then show the effectiveness of the orientation and if people are becoming disillusioned and help pinpoint the problems.

    I think there are major problems with TLG. Basic communication is one of the major issues. This is creating problems which essentially becomes the TLG staffers word against the teacher. Most of the time they do not respond to TLG teachers e-mails. Verbal communications are not documented (as they should be) so that a track of issues could be reviewed. The emergency contact person can barely understand English much less deal with the problems. Communications are ignored or even “lost.”

    Unfortunately, I feel that TLG is going through major growing pains and does not have a handle on all the personnel and really running the program properly. Some of that may be due to the small staff that TLG is working with. They need to utilize the teachers to volunteer and help apply basic business organization to the program. Experienced TLG teachers understand what it is like working in the field and methods to help new teachers transistion. They can also understand and work as a liasion between the TLG staffers and the teachers on problem disputes. The TLG staffers are so understaffed, they are lucky if they can even get the airfare and orientation right, much less supervise the employees (teachers). It is customery for an employee to have a boss which they can go to with their concerns or difficulties and for assistance. Who is the assigned boss and contact person for TLG. Why not a TLG teacher liason? I’ve not heard of anyone other than the hotline. Many of the school administrators have a totally different viewpoint than TLG. Who is really in charge?

    Unfortunately, Georgians are also culturally biased and not up front with the employees. This causes misunderstandings. One of the goals of the program is to help bring western ideas to Georgia. If there is a cultural issue, then the Georgian is always right. For example: a western idea is that students do not pass unless they do the work and achieve the standards. A Georgian idea is to pass the students regardless so the teacher is not blamed for inadequacies.

    Essentially, regarding the firings, they need to go back to the contract and spell out what are the requirements. In addition, how much notice needs to be given if fired, etc. If they want weekly reports, then they need to specify this to the teachers, in writing. If need be, add an addendum spelling out EXACTLY what is required of the teachers; not only how many classes but how the classroom setting is to be handled; who will be teaching; Georgians are always right so what happens when their is a dispute. A series of steps should be set down, if there are disputes regarding housing, classroom situations, etc. Overall, Georgians need to apply good business management to the program. Without good business mangement there will continue to be many issues.

    Georgians don’t think like others but general rules of a contract are that the written rules apply. Many were unaware that written reports were a requirement. If they were not received, a simple e-mail of please send in the report, in a timely matter, would help clarify that the teacher was aware of the requirement not just ignoring it.

    It also seems that Georgians will say anything to save face. They will lie (not just a little bit) to make the TLG teachers look bad instead of themselves. Once again, some of this is communication. Part of it is that the TLG staffers are so overworked that they never respond to the issue until it becomes a major problem. TLG needs to specify a set of rules for disputes and have both TLG staffers and TLG teachers follow the dispute rules. For example: submit a written e-mail to their “boss” at TLG detailing the problem. Then TLG would need to respond within 5 days along with an English translater. If not resolved, move up the ladder, etc. They need to have an English speaking person working with the staffer to help resolve the dispute. A committee could review the complaints initially and input by Georgians and English teachers could help resolve many issues which occur due to cultural difference. I would suggest when there are issues and they come to the point of firing, there should be a panel (of TLG staffers and TLG teachers) to come to a final decision on the dispute. Why not have a TLG volunteer teacher help man the hotline so that the Geogrians and teachers can work together for the overall good of the program.

    Paperwork and reports need to be reviewed weekly and responded to in a timely manner. No-one is perfect; Georgian or English teacher but with better organization and communication, many of the issues could be worked out without the major problems that have occured.

    During a discussion to resolve a dispute, Georgians will argue overtop of the TLG teacher and not let them specify the problem. How can things be resolved if the actual problem is not addressed.

    The Georgians have deemed that they want English speaking help their citizens to learn Western business practices, English and capitalistic ideas. Why not utilize those volunteers in running the program. If the Georgians and English teachers work as a united group, it will help both groups of personnel to learn and understand and work out viable solutions for all.

  6. Do a good job. Exceed expectations. Be flexible. Be culturally sensitive. Be professional. It is basic stuff.

    Organizations don’t fire people unless there is a valid reason, especially one that recruits volunteers. It is our responsibility to communicate any problems we may have in a timely (relative to where you are) fashion.

    Effective communication can be challenging in overseas projects. Things aren’t always handled the same way as they may be in your home countries. I never heard of anyone losing their job because they were good at it, culturally sensitive, and professional. Perception can also be a problem. Being popular doesn’t always work in your favor, you can be targeted and you get a lot more attention.

  7. pasumonok says:

    u know what? i am almost 100% sure that they knew before the teachers left georgia. but they wanted to avoid confrontation. it is very typical, if u ask me. but who asks me?

  8. Robin Carlisle says:

    I just wanted to add some thoughts to those already expressed…. (Inhale…. Exhale….) and with all the love in my heart, I have some gifts for Nicole in London. I hope they find her heart full of love there, too.

    First, I really enjoyed these three delightful girls in Georgia. Their Facebook pages were always such fun whirlwind touristy guides to enjoying Georgian life — wore me out just watching these gogos go! And I don’t know what I would have done without Nicole. She always turned out to be such a lifesaver for me when I needed one over there in Georgia. She was an effervescent jewel that always brightened my day. A big-hearted, caring lady, to say the very least. I just adore her and I wish her all the happiness in the world. From her latest stranded-in-London-but-now-loving-it reports, it looks like life is leading her quickly on to an even more adventurous future. Sometimes better things await for those who can quickly let go of a stressful past that holds them back. Kudos for Nicole! You so deserve to be happy, girl!

    Secondly, I think Steve summed up and quelled the job-fear part of all this very well: “Do a good job. Exceed expectations. Be flexible. Be culturally sensitive. Be professional. It is basic stuff. ”

    And though I’d like to just leave it at that, I’m struggling with whether or not to add something to it… or not. Let me try to explain. Please forgive me if my words end up stabbing you or someone you love in the heart… as that’s not my intention to cause hurt feelings, though I’m acutely aware that that may well be the result for some. (The word “you” here is directed generally only to those of “you” TLG teachers to whom this may specifically apply, and not to any one person, except at the end of these comments).

    I’m just trying to express something… to remind you of something… that I feel in my heart really needs to be said. I guess from my heart to yours, I need you to know that some of your words have stabbed me in the heart… repeatedly. And it’s not because I took offense personally. No, it’s because I really loved those Georgian children. I still do. And I’m still trying to find ways to help them learn English… and will be doing so long after the TLG 3-year program is over. That’s my choice. It’s a promise I’m making to myself, but it’s not one you have to make. Just mine. So now that I’m back in America, that’s what I’m working on and will be for years to come…. Just trying to find ways to help Georgian children learn English.

    Anyway, once upon a time we were all invited as “volunteer” employees (whatever that really means), as citizen diplomats from our respective countries, to help Georgia’s children. Specifically, to help Georgia’s children learn English in the next three years. That’s the goal. That’s our mission. That’s TLG’s mission.

    So just some thoughts here…. When you can’t figure out what to do next, go help, teach or learn from a child. When you can’t get your phone to work, go help, teach or learn from a child. When you can’t get hold of someone at TLG, go help, teach or learn from a child. When you get angry at your coteacher or principal, go help, teach or learn from a child. When you’re waiting for an answer from TLG, go help, teach or learn from a child. Or go help another teacher help, teach or learn from a child. Whatever your problem or obstacle while in Georgia, just go help, teach or learn from a child. Good things usually happen to those who not only help themselves, but help others… especially children. So whatever happens, while you’re waiting for whatever you’re waiting for… just go help, teach, or learn from a child. Everyone’s life will be the better for that.

    TLG teachers, I know just how easy it is to get distracted from the mission you were hired to complete in Georgia. Obstacles are everywhere. Georgia is NOT like your home country. You know that. And to some of you, it’s OK if you went to Georgia on your extended vacation… the one you thought you would take to get away from whatever it was you left behind… or the one you thought you would take to open up new doors and new possibilities for a better future… for YOU. That’s OK. That’s good. Nothing wrong… and actually… everything right about that. It got you to the place where you could truly be extremely useful to someone else — to a child. To a Georgian child.

    You had a very specific skill — your English — that Georgian children needed… and still need. They need to talk to YOU. And that is exactly the point… the ONLY point. If you’re not talking to a Georgian child, helping them communicate better in English or helping their Georgian English teacher communicate better in English, then the Georgian government — your employer — does not need you. Your mission and theirs no longer coincides and there is nothing you have to offer each other. The traditional and respectful kiss goodbye would be a nice parting touch, but I would never expect that from any employer, anywhere, for any reason. That is, until time heals all wounds, which years of experience usually teaches that it does.

    I think Steve made another very good point about being too popular, getting too much attention, and getting targeted because of it. The employees who were let go were very close to TLG staff members, befriending, socializing and partying with them from the day they arrived. They all hit it off! Friendship is a good thing and these fun-loving ladies were loved by all — a very endearing and photographic group of gals. Their circle of friends, including TLG staff members, will be crying over this for a long time.

    My instant fear upon hearing that these girls’ contracts were terminated was that some TLG staff might be so upset that they might quit because of their personal pain in the matter. I quickly chatted with one TLGer online and urged her to think of the children… focus on the children… and don’t take her eyes off them. Feel the pain, the loyalty of friendship, but remember her mission with TLG — help the children. I did NOT want those staff members to walk away from TLG — from the children — over this. I knew all the TLG staff would be hurting. And I’m sure they will for a very, very long time.

    Too many TLG teachers keep writing about “TLG” like all those incredible staff members aren’t individuals — more like some Big Brother group without names. We all know it is not really like that. We joke about it, but we know everyone by name and I don’t know a single cold heart at TLG. I know lots of communication problems and cultural differences wreak havoc often, but I know all those hearts are truly in the right place. As far as the lawyer who wrote the termination letter, all lawyers write lawyer letters. That’s all they do… no warm hearts involved… only hard cold law.

    The TLG program had several serious problems from the very beginning that have not been resolved. One hasn’t even been mentioned. And it really needs mentioning.

    One simple universal rule in educating children in every formal school system everywhere in the world has not even been addressed. This is not an age-related bias problem as too many would like to think or argue about. I have never heard one TLG staff member tell any teacher to stop using profanity… especially the “f” word… or else they would be fired. Profanity and adult discussions are inappropriate on teacher blogs. Period.

    What place does the “f” word have in taxpayer-supported education? Especially in a country like Georgia? And can anyone tell me the school system in America that tolerates that kind of language at school, with fellow teachers, in the community, in a teacher blog or on Facebook? Let’s get real here… there is NO such school system in America. It’s not tolerated. Not for long or forever, at least. There are teacher ethics laws against it and if a school or school system won’t deal with it, a parent or other complainer can go to the state teacher licensing board and get that teacher reprimanded or have their license revoked for unprofessional behavior or worse. Teachers can’t teach without licenses in most schools in America.

    Why should the standard of teacher behavior be different in Georgia, a culture far less liberal? No teacher who feels differently could ever get or keep a professional teaching job in America. If by chance they do, they should be fired. I would feel that way even if the f-spouting teacher were my very best friend or family member.

    A good rule to follow is if you can’t say something to a child, just don’t say it in Georgia…. It’s just a matter of being respectful and professional in a country where YOU have CHOSEN to teach. And ultimately, it’s a matter of wanting to keep your job as a teacher anywhere. As appalling and ridiculous as this may sound to some, if you want to take offense by that, you might also seriously want to consider quietly going home or choosing a different vocation or audience where your choice of adult words would be more acceptable.

    It is all a matter of choice. For me, I’m choosing to tell you this because I think most TLG teachers are awesome, but some truly have not chosen to recognize it, wrap their brains and hearts around it and respect this universal rule at all.

    If it hasn’t gotten you in trouble yet, it most certainly will at some point — whether in Georgia or back in America. I mean, exactly how do YOU explain the meaning of the “f” word you just used to describe the Georgian girl in your class who gave you a hard time that day? I mean how do you define it for that girl’s mother and father? It boggles my brain, stabs my heart for that student and her parents, while my heart truly goes out to you in your unempathetic, non-self-reflecting ignorance. Makes me want to scream, “What is wrong with you,” but don’t because I know you just don’t get it! So frustrating!

    So I have only one thing to add to Steve’s list: Do a good job. Exceed expectations. Be flexible. Be culturally sensitive. Be professional. Keep the “f” word and other “adult words” to yourself. Basic stuff. Powerful stuff.

    Or look at it this way. If YOU want to be fired: Don’t do your best job. Don’t meet your employers’ expectations. Be stubborn and defiant. Be insensitive to and mock, demean and insult the local culture, your host family, your peers, your employers, and/or your students. Be unprofessional. Spout and scrawl profanity, cursing the hands that feed you. Stressful, complicated, anger-provoking stuff. Powerful stuff.

    Calm, peaceful reflection should turn all TLG eyes and hearts, both current and alumni, back toward the children we all wanted to and still want to help. They’re the ones that need TLG teachers and volunteers. Help a child. Empower THEM. Give no more power to stressful, complicated, anger-provoking stuff. Debating about and defending your right to choose to use adult words outside of your classroom but still in public view is only perpetuating stressful, complicated, anger-provoking stuff. How futile and frustrating.

    It’s time to help everyone move forward with more peaceful, positive, empowering and less potty-mouth goals.

    I like you so much, Nicole. How could I not? But we had this same conversation before you left the Bahamas to go to Georgia last July. We pert near stayed up all night one night waiting, waiting, waiting for TLG to get those plane tickets to us. We were tired, frustrated, and getting worried. You chose then to let loose a tirade of language that did not go unnoticed then by TLG, your prospective employer. I know I tried to stop you, to reason with you, to help you see yourself through your prospective employers’ eyes even if they were being frustratingly unreasonable with their perpetual state of “wait.” Their resulting negative response made you openly retract some of your FB statements, many of which were unprintable and mean-spirited rambling profanities directed at TLG. This is the part that you’ve been leaving out when telling your sides of these stories! I’m not sure why you chose to forget or ignore the obvious universal teacher rule either then or now, but you did unceasingly, and you are still doing this. TLG most certainly did strand you in London. Shocking! Unthinkable and unforgivable! Those are the two huge wrongs that have been done here by both sides. So now what?

    TLG should most certainly pay for your return to the Bahamas. If you choose to stay in London or go on to work in another country, then TLG in the end has helped you pay for your flight to do just that. But you could truly help heal a whole lot of hearts here, and quell a whole lot of fear, if you would let go of any more need to “get back” at TLG. After all, all you are doing is lashing out at your friends and those who love you, and at this point, causing so many teachers unnecessary stress and confusion and worry. It’s not TLG, some perceived invisible Big Brother organization with no physical body to hold accountable that needs you to do this. No, it’s the teachers and students you left behind who are surely tormented by both your shocking airborne termination and your angry vengeful words at this point.

    Please put this into true perspective and let this be the lesson of love you leave behind to your fellow TLG teachers and students.

    Nicole, you made some mistakes… and for that you have paid dearly… even if unjustly… and you now have a unique opportunity to find a way to love those who made you angry, instead of choosing to feed your fury and fill other bystanders with the fear you felt. Truly, TLG is not your enemy. Your words, however, have been swords drawn against its mission to help Georgia’s children. I pray you can see and understand this difference. Please find a way, in writing, to help heal all these open wounds. If you are the loving person I truly think you are, you will do that. With all the love in my heart, girl, I’m asking you to put those children and teachers first.

    Words are gifts we give away too often without thinking, my friend. In the future, please gift your words with great care. This is not censorship; this is love. And I so hope you choose love.

    So, where have all the good people gone? One’s in London. Hopefully choosing her loving gifts as carefully as they are choosing her.

  9. Nicole says:

    Robin are you kidding me? First of all I did not forget the comments I made on the Expats and Georgia page when we hadn’t received the tickets and I first received heat from Data from TLG. I mentioned that in my termination blog post.

    Secondly I think your memory has failed you. I never once posted anything with profanity in it about TLG publicly on facebook. I may have said it TO YOU while I was chatting with you but I never once made a post that had profanity. EVER!

    Thirdly subsequent to that first incident I never made any post about TLG directly and the acronym TLG never appeared in a post I made. I did however make post about how children were rude to me, racist to me, which they did send me phone calls and ask me to remove because I shouldn’t call 16 year old racist boys that on Facebook.

    I thank you for you kind words in the beginning but everything else you said about me is incorrect. Please be informed that I never publicly used profanity or derrogatory words about TLG.

    The only I ever said about them and I never called their name, I made a post on expats in Georgia before we arrived and I said “What ever happen to professionalism, promptness, consideration….” Other people began commenting and I think you did to.

    Do not make statements about me that are false I do not appreciate it.

  10. Ilyk Eyaj says:

    No offense to anyone who was let go…….but I’m not surprised that TLG teachers were terminated. I was actually expecting it to happen after the first week of orientation. What is surprising is the passive-aggressive way that TLG went about terminating teachers. I’m wondering how much of that can be attributed to culture? I know that many cultures use passive-aggressiveness as a means of communication and it is a way of avoiding confrontations. Recently someone suggested to me that countries which have been heavily influenced by the former Ottoman emire and Persian empire tend to be more passive-aggressive and they can also be coupled with having a high-context culture. Just some thoughts….

    • Anonymous says:

      WOW, you hit the jackpot on this one. This is something i just pieced together because i am familiar with that….

  11. Robin Carlisle says:

    I would not have wasted my time writing what I wrote if I didn’t think there was a chance that something positive for YOU would come out it.

    Nicole, in life… always look for the grain of truth in everything… especially when you disagree on a matter… then find the positive outcome that can improve the lives of everyone… It will ensure your future happiness as well as make other lives happy.

    For me, I keep a little saying on my refrigerator door.

    It says: “The quality of my life is NOT the result of what happens to me. The quality of my life is the direct result of HOW I RESPOND to what happens to me.”

    Attempting to block your internal feelings about external events has become a major and very public life block for you. Your public confusion is hurting people other than you. You think Facebook has given you a nifty tool in order to do this… Block them out, they won’t see, they can’t hear me, I can hide here, I’m with friends, no matter about everyone else, I’m gonna do, say, vent whatever and whenever I want… Block em, Block em, Block em, They can’t see me, lol, lol, lol…

    I think it’s apparent to everyone who understands the technical side of Facebook that you can NEVER completely block anyone on Facebook, nor in real life. It’s a myth.

    I’m only telling you this because I care for you and want you to have a happy, healthy and less stressful future. I understand you don’t want to hear any of this. It doesn’t go along with the stories you’re telling yourself so far. But my friend, I fear life will continue to slap you down until you do understand. If your close circle of friends is not saying the same things to you right now, they are probably just choosing to love you through this crisis and avoid any unpleasantness.

    The thoughts you think can only be noted by the words that come out of your mouth, the words you write. This is called attitude. Public perception picks up on attitude. Public perception trumps truth. And truth can be different for everyone. Everyone sees truth through the filter of their hearts and emotions. Facts, however, are eternal and always subject to being uncovered. Debating truth is futile. Debating facts becomes irrelevant and ceases to be discussed at the exact moment when the fact is known to be an absolute 100% truth.

    English teachers teach this in writing class. This is part of the curriculum for writing persuasive essays. To graduate from high school in America, most students must master at least the basic form of this kind of writing and pass their high school graduation writing test. They read a writing prompt, take a particular attitude or position on the subject, and write their little hearts out supporting or opposing that position.

    You’ve been writing your attitude, your position, on TLG out loud on Facebook since before you got there. But, Nicole, YOU are TLG. And it’s been quite weird and sad to watch you denigrate yourself in public. Wasting such a talent. Withering your beautiful heart. And never once thinking that maybe your words were causing true harm to others. Never once so far.

    From the bottom of my heart, Nicole, I wish you a fun-loving, peaceful, prosperous, happy life. The reflective wisdom you need to get you there will come with experience and in time… whenever you choose.

    YOU can CHOOSE to drop the word “publicly” from your vocabulary today. “Please be informed that I never publicly used profanity or derrogatory words about TLG.” Focusing all your thoughts, feelings, and efforts on what was public or private truly negates the point.

    The day you can write “Please be informed that I used profanity and derrogatory words about TLG,” about myself as a member and part of TLG, is the day you will set all your friends, coworkers, students, teachers, TLG staff members and yourself free from the duty to lie for you in order to remain your friend. Bottom line, that’s what you’re asking your friends and everyone else to do for you.

    So far, you’ve chosen how YOU will react to what happened TO YOU. You chose to lie to yourself and publish that lie.

    I’m just asking you to consider how your reaction has impacted your friends and others in a place where isolation and fear can quickly rule the lives and days of teachers who keep reading your words. I’m not there in Georgia right now so it doesn’t affect my life at all, except to feel great sadness for you and to pray you will choose another path… one that will help quell the fear and isolation you are stirring up in teachers who desperately need to feel hope and ecouragement in that country. Nicole, you set up the teacher hotline number. I called YOU for help at that hotline and you helped me. YOU have an extra duty to quell the fears you are now stirring. YOU, more than any other TLG volunteer, put yourself in the middle of any TLG crisis by volunteering to be the goto person to help solve that crisis. To whom much is given, much is expected. You asked for the extra responsibility and they gave it to you.

    Nicole, I can’t say I have no earthly idea why your contract was terminated. All I can say is that I’ve always had a great idea as to how to keep it from being terminated then… as well as in your future as a teacher.

    I can only suggest to you that you choose to write the second edited sentence and publish it for all to see. Obviously, it would take a lot of trust and courage on your part. Trust in doing the right thing. Courage to go through the pain regardless of how bad it feels. But I think the rewards for you will return a thousand fold. It would certainly and instantly provide spontaneous release from the lie-bond you’ve placed on all your fellow TLG teachers, friends, students, and others. It’s a gift of words only you can give. It’s a simple one word edit.

    And that’s my gift to you. Peace, be still, my friend. I’m telling you only what someone told me when I was your age. It was so insignificant to me at the time. I brushed them off, but I have never forgotten their words. Nicole, you must find a way to rebuild the bridges you have burned. It matters not the egregious nature of what you perceive the other side has done to you. Forgiving is for giving. Giving to the other side without asking for something in return. It only sets YOU free from the pain of the past. It’s what YOU do to release yourself from being tied up in and tied to a lie in any situation that gets out of your control. Forgiving is for YOU. It’s what sets YOU free. It’s what allows you to do the right thing regardless of what the other party ever does.

    Whatever path you choose, I know you’ll remember these words long after I am gone…. You’re already talking about it. But it’s the action you take, how you respond to what’s happening to you right now at this moment, that will determine the quality of the rest of YOUR life.

    Befriend your future, Nicole. Befriend yourself. Make the one word edit. Publish it. And set your other friends free…

    This wasn’t a waste of my time. But I won’t spend any more time talking or writing about this. I just thought you were worth it. I hope the deepest parts of your heart and mind understands this. One word….

  12. OMG! Who is Robin! Is she Nicole’s mother? Woah!
    How condescending you sound. Your kindness towards Nicole?? Oh yeah we believe you.. Haha! And you make all these comments publicly.

    BTW I don’t know anyone in this site. Am an American girl coming to Georgia soon.

  13. Neal thanks for your site! It’s been very helpful to me. I’m coming to Georgia soon. I think you have been very fair in your descriptions. I think outsiders in America get you. We know that you aren’t trying to put Georgians down. You are just describing what you see and how it might affect Americans. Am coming to Georgia with open eyes. Not with the romantic views I had a month ago. Still t’will be an adventure. Like you’re having!!!

  14. maria moore says:

    I’m currently just arrived in the newest wave of TLG teachers. Would it be possible to get together for tea? I have some questions…….

    Thanks
    Maria

  15. pogidaga says:

    I agree with the comments by Steve and Robin that being professional, exceeding expectations, remembering the TLG mission, and thinking of the Georgian children first is the best way not to get fired. But what do i know? I’m just sitting in the US reading blogs about TLG because i’m thinking about applying. And maybe i’m just old-fashioned but i have been shocked at some of the potty words i’ve seen written by school teachers in blogs that could be read by anybody, including Georgian school children and TLG staff members.

    I’m only a web surfer from thousands of miles away, but i have to wonder how much the harsh words from TLG teachers aimed at the TLG program are warranted and how much is just the pitiful whining of spoiled, narcissistic, entitlement addicts. That was harsh, sorry. But as Neal pointed out in an earlier post, people in the US like to complain a lot, and no amount of economic reality checks will stop them.

    I hope more TLG teachers will take to heart Robin’s words about considering the feelings of TLG staffers. As Neal has pointed out more than once they are doing the best they can to implement a novel and ambitious program with limited resources. And managing a thousand horny, thirsty westerners must be harder than herding epileptic cats.

    Of course, it could be the case that most TLG teachers are happy campers and it’s only the unhappy minority that say bad things online. I guess i’ll never know unless I go find out for myself.

    And finally i don’t want to comment on the Robin-Nicole dialog because of all that she-said/she-said stuff, except to say you two should get together and collaborate on a screenplay. Seriously, call it “Rashomon Of Words In Georgia”. Can i get a co-writer credit if you use that title?

    P.S. Great blog, Neal. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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