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Teaching: a quick overview of the brats that make me happy

K1’s Walking in their lines from their homeroom to my classroom

Now that I’ve been teaching for 2 months, it’s about time to weigh in on the pros and cons of the job.

I feel like I haven’t really had time to think about what I’m doing, let alone reflect on whether or not I’m actually enjoying myself. I’m kept busy, that’s for sure, with sometimes up to six classes in a day and as little as three on others. Some days I come home so exhausted that I can’t even be bothered to go out for dinner and literally scrounge for food in my apartment.

Some of the pros include the adorable, adoring children who behave and participate and genuinely seem to want to learn.

Then there are those kids who come to class, talk, fight, and generally misbehave with their friends. Even they have their cute moments, despite sudden and short urges to wrap my hands around their throats.

I enjoy the lessons, which are simple question and answer patterns taught through games that are sometimes a giant hit (dodgeball… God help me) and sometimes fizzle out before they’ve even begun. Learning how to deliver the lessons has been a hit and miss experiment that I’m still working out.

While I feel like I have a favourite in every class, there are certain levels that I just despise teaching. Kindergarten 1 (aged 3-4) when we first started was usually just a giant gong show of kids crying, peeing and puking. While they still want to cry, sometimes simply rubbing their back or getting them involved in the game or song is enough to make them forget their tears. However, I’ve gotten used to them and now find them too adorable to be angry at. My P1’s have stopped being scared of me, and are warming up to being the babies in the school again, while my P6’s are all on the ball. They know the format of the lesson, they understand what I want to teach them, and they know that if they’re not quiet, they really won’t get to play a game, so threatening (sometimes) actually works with them.

My P5’s, however, all seem to be at an age where they couldn’t give a bigger hoot if I did jumping jacks or ran laps around the room instead of actually taught them a lesson. Also, they don’t seem to actually care about playing games, so short of threatening to kill them and wanting to follow through on it, I haven’t quite figured out how to make them stop fighting / talking / screaming / running wild. Instead they’ll just shout “not fair” as if it’s some kind of joke that I’m actually angry with all of them. It’s almost as much of a gong show as the first month of K1 lessons, without all the bodily fluids. (Unless you count my tears)

There are definitely days when I want to strangle half the children I come across, but the majority of days I just want to sweep them all into my arms in a giant bear hug and never let them go.

I think as time goes on, the kids will be more receptive or I’ll just figure out a way to force it into them, whether or not they realize it. Then again, in every level, I have always had at least one “ah ha” moment when I’ve been trying to explain something and then they just GET it. I forget all about the ones that I wanted to strangle, and I just feel overwhelmingly proud of how smart they are, and that I’ve actually taught them something.

It’s an indescribable feeling that makes all the sweat and tears worth it.

C.E.S.H.E School in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After sorting out rooms and dropping off our bags, we headed out for our initial wander of the area we stayed in Siem Reap in search of dinner. On our way to popular Pub Street, we were stopped by a Spanish guy holding flyers. My initial response was to ignore him and his donation jar, but I’m glad we didn’t because it turned out that he was offering us a chance to visit the school where he volunteers.

The board out front

In August 2010 Cambodian English Teacher, Rure Rady, established the Cambodian English School of Higher Education (C.E.S.H.E) to provide free English classes and materials for students in the eight surrounding villages. Currently they have 270 students between the ages of 4 and 27 enrolled, 4 part-time Cambodian teachers and more recently a handful of travelers volunteering their time and English-speaking or book-keeping abilities.

At the time of our visit, which was only the second ever of a group of foreigners, there were two tuk-tuks full of people headed out to the school 7km outside of Siem Reap town. When we got to the school, the driver of one of the tuk-tuks turns around and introduces himself as the founder of the school. Our first lesson about the school; they receive no government funding and rely solely on donations and Mr. Rady’s income driving a tuk-tuk.

Rure Rady, founder and director, in front of the school

The children there were truly adorable, and while they had Cambodian teachers they were really anxious to learn English from a native-speaker. Something I’ve learned recently is that it really is best to learn a language from a native speaker, they understand the nuances of the language and it’s easier to model the proper pronunciation off them, picking up their accent at the same time. I’m still amused by this, but it makes perfect sense; they’re mimicking the way you say it. I still won’t forget Sam’s practice teaching classes where he had the kids mimicking his Australian accent.

What Rady Rure and his team of volunteers is doing is truly remarkable, offering free classes for village children who desperately want to learn English in a country where tourism is one of their largest source of income. We were given a chance to sit in on one of the highest levels and helped a row of children reading, pronouncing and understanding the meaning of the words.

How happy do I look?

The dedication these kids show, some attending three different schools in a day, well into the evening, just so that they can get a well-rounded education. For some of the students, however, this is the only education they receive, the only reprieve from their family farm. The school also acts a recreation centre, where village kids can come to stay out of trouble, play baseball with the volunteers, or simply hula hoop themselves into oblivion. They were all really happy to see us, and even happier to have their picture taken with foreigners. One picture turned into 100 as the kids were showing off their kung-fu, making funny poses for the camera and hugging us close as we posed for giant group pictures.

What they’re working on now:

Since they’re expanding quicker than their current space allows, they’re raising money for bricks to build another classroom 6×8 metres in size. They currently have 3 classrooms, meaning that the students can only attend 1 and a half hour lessons throughout the day. They have one toilet, a library with three computers and an open space for a playground.

One brick costs $1 and when I was there, they only needed $952. I’m happy to say that most of my Riel went into their donation box, and I truly hope that you, my loyal readers, can also see the value in this.

The entire cost of the project is broken down as follows:

2 tonnes of cement = $190
200 bricks = $200
2 cubic metres of sand = $80
3 buckets of paint = $90
10 8 metre long steel posts = $80
15 boxes of tiles = $90
12 sheets of metal roofing tile = $72
Paying labourers for 10 days = $150

They have more people willing to help than they can accommodate for; charging their volunteer teachers for only the basic room and board also makes it an appealing volun-tourism option. If I have a break from school and time, I would love to go back and help them build the classroom, or teach the kids English, or anything really that would be of any help. It broke my heart when almost every student hesitantly asked “see you tomorrow?”

How to reach them:

I know that I have friends, family and readers who care about causes that are real, who care about the well-being of children and who are passionate about bettering the lives of those less fortunate. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the causes worth donating to, and even then there is the question of whether or not the money will actually do the desired action. I can promise you that this is something well worth helping. As you can see, they don’t need much, and they’re trying as hard as possible to be completely transparent by outlining where all the money goes. (Even by taking pictures of the receipts of purchases made and uploading them to Facebook!)

Of course, the need doesn’t stop there. Since the classes and materials they provide are all free to the students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend classes, they are in constant need of money to purchase books, writing utensils and simply to provide electricity for those later evening classes when they can’t work by the light of the sun.

If you want to see for yourself, their facebook page is here: Ceshe Cambodia
The C.E.S.H.A website , AND another: Teaching English in Siem Reap

Rure can be reached by e-mail here:

Money can be deposited directly into the school’s account, named Rady Rure at ACLEDA Bank Plc. # 3475-01-051075-15, Bic Code: ACLBKHPPXXX

Or sent through Western Union to Rady Rure, Thnol Chak Village, Kiensange Commune, Sotnikum district, Siem Reap Provice

Or, if you have an account, sent through PayPal, all you need is his e-mail,

Make sure that you drop Rure an email to let him know about your donation so that they can put your name on the donors’ wall.

Student Profiles – Day 1 & 2 in the classroom

Teaching in general is not going to be an easy task, that is something that I was never counting on.

But what I was counting on was how rewarding it would feel when a student learns something and can display it in class with you. The last couple days I’ve spent in a classroom doing one-on-one teaching with a student. As soon as we get off what we’ve started calling the “farang mobile” because it’s carrying us (literally – “foreigners”) and says in big letters across the front “TEFL SCHOOL,” the students chose one of us and led us into the classroom where we sat down and started our lesson for the day.

Day one was kind of a shock. Not only did neither our trainer or trainers assistant join us on our trek to the school, but as soon as we got there, we started. We sat down, introduced ourselves and got right into the lesson. My student, Wannisa, or short-name Tal, was really shy and hardly spoke to me on the first day and it was like pulling teeth trying to make her comfortable enough to share her interests and daily activities with me. By the end of the lesson we were able to laugh with each other and I got most of what I had planned done, so it wasn’t a total bust.

The second day, we had to go through a number of assignments and have our student comfortable enough speaking that we could record a spoken sample from them. By the end of the lesson, she was talking comfortably and I felt really good about everything that we had packed into an hour. The students then gave us these super cute bookmarks with pictures that the teacher took the day before. I was really touched, but Renee was so happy about it she burst into tears of joy. It was a really sweet moment, and I’m going to cherish the memento.

This past week has been a lot of grammar work, like I expected, with some phonology and tips on getting a job and what a resume should look like. Next week and the week after we’re going to be going to a school every day to do one-hour lessons for our teacher practices and I’m going to have to practice my drawing skills so that I can get my point across. Not only do we have to draw on the blackboard (or whiteboard) but I have to make 9 picture cards that will be handed out to the kids to illustrate some vocabulary that they’re going to be learning.

As you can tell, I’m more stressed about the drawings than the actual teaching. What does that say about me? I’m not sure, but once I have my drawings down pat and my lesson planned out, it should (hopefully) go relatively smoothly.

Through the eyes of a teacher

Lately I’ve been looking at things through the eyes of an English teacher. I’m worried about lesson plans and how I’m going to come up with them and if I’ll be able to pull lessons out of thin air that will not only be educational but fun at the same time. Games that I wouldn’t normally think of are going to come in handy here, and I have a feeling that I’m going to be taking a lot of inspiration from board games that I played as a child (and drinking games as an adult). Comparison games like Scattegories, word games and even classics like Pictionary and Charades.

I’m excited and nervous to teach English. It’s funny how I haven’t really talked that much about teaching in general, because I’m currently focused on the adventure that is going to be the entire experience and not what I’m going to be doing. I’m overwhelmed at the concept and seriously worried that I’m not going to be good at it. Then again, I can’t be as bad as all those teachers I had in school, right?! I know that I have experience training people on things that I know, and making it easy to understand a process that needs to be done, but that’s all been in English and people understand what I’m saying!

That’s what the course is for. I just have to go in with an open mind and be ready to make a fool of myself trying new things!

If anyone has any advice or knows any lesson plans that have worked for them, I’m all ears. I want to go into this prepared to succeed.