I have made it through my first week of teaching in Cambodia! I’m alive, the children are alive = success! I work at Sovann Komar full time so I am there from 8am until 5pm. Which is a long day but I only teach for six hours (still a long time in my opinion). Already I have established a steady morning routine which depressingly starts at 5:45am. 50 lengths in the over-chlorinated pool at VIP Sports Club before a rushed shower and breakfast, an iced coffee from a street vendor and and 7:30am I’m ready to be picked up by the van which Sovann Komar sends to collect children for school.
When I first worked at SK the only children who attended the Orange Elephant school were the orphanage kids themselves. Now however, these children attend an international school, Beltei, where they receive English, Maths, Science, Social Studies, and Khmer lessons. Cambodian children usually attend school in either the morning or the afternoon. Therefore the SK kids are split into two groups, one set attends in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I teach the onsite kids English on Thursdays and Fridays and I have to say these are by far my favourite days of the week. It’s so amazing to see how much these children have blossomed over the past five years and they all have fantastic personalities. I have to contend with many larger than life personas but they are all very good natured and usually quieten down when I threaten to write their name on the naughty list! It is obvious from their English proficiency that they have benefitted immensely from the steady stream of native English speaking volunteers, although the numerous Americans means that I have to explain that “grey” and “gray” are both correct spellings and they need to put their “crisp” not “chip” wrapper in the “rubbish bin” not “trash can”. The kids range from Grade 3 to Grade 6 which ensures I never get bored of teaching the same content and am kept on my toes working out which activities are suitable for which age group/ability. Here are a few snaps of my first two days back with the little monkeys I fell in love with back in 2009:
Since sending the orphanage kids out to learn at Beltei, SK have opened their gates to the wider community and now operate Sovann Komar School, catering from Nursery up to Grade 4 and now have 200 students! On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I teach Grade 3 and Grade 4 English – for three hours each! Have you ever tried to hold the attention of eight and nine year olds for three hours not in their native tongue? It’s hard! But they’re a good set of students and in many ways are easier to control than the SK kids – seemingly the orphanage children all remember how they used to use me as a human climbing frame when they were six years old and therefore my authority is somewhat lacking!
Despite not having taught for two years, I feel that I have slipped back into being “Teacher Ruth” relatively quickly and convincingly. It helps that my lessons for Monday – Wednesday are laid out, step by step in a book, but there is ample room for improvisation and adaptation. I have really enjoyed getting back into the classroom and the children seem to have taken to me rather well, especially those from the outside community. They see me as a teacher rather than a volunteer whereas the SK kids have a more friendly, casual relationship with me. I don’t mind this as it allows me to have more fun with my lessons, and as long as I accomplish them what I am supposed to, I don’t see a problem with this! For example, Noah may have been joking around with the task of writing sentences in the future tense but at least the grammar is correct!
I teach from 8am to 11am and then 2pm to 5pm which leaves me with a three hour lunch break. Three hours! And I don’t even need to use this time to plan lessons because I am teaching from a syllabus. Luckily for you lovely blog readers, I can write more blog posts and therefore am hoping to keep the momentum of “Lemon in Cambodia” going, writing not only about my life but also my thoughts on current affairs here and anything else which inspires me! And if you were wondering what I eat during my three hour lunch break, I am lovingly cooked a feast every day by the wife of the director, Srey Mom, and pay just $1.25!
So week one has been completed, only forty nine more to go (Cambodian kids enjoy just a two week holiday next August!). Bring it on!!!!